Markhouse Lane/ Markhouse Road

Markhouse Road

The Mark House stood on the site of what is now Markmanor Avenue, just to the west of St Saviour’s Church – there was a house there from at least the thirteenth century; it changed hands many times, belonging at one time to the nuns of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate.

The name comes from the word “maerc”, which means boundary – part of the manor was in the parish of Leyton, part in Walthamstow, and the house stood beside one of the boundary stones.

Until the 1850s there were only a few farm labourers’ cottages along the southern part of Markhouse Lane. But with the coming of Lea Bridge Station the area began to be developed – Union and Prospect Roads were built on land that had been part of the common.

Gate to Markhouse Common 1861

Gate to Markhouse Common 1861

As Walthamstow grew, more land to both sides of the lane was sold for the development, the lane became a road, and St Saviour’s Church was built so the new residents did not have to walk all the way to St Mary’s Church on the far side of Hoe Street.

The Lighthouse Church was built, and quickly became a local landmark, in the 1890s.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Markhouse Road was lined with houses, shops and small factories, and had become a busy through road. It had also become one of the poorest streets in Walthamstow, with all the problems associated with poverty.

It is worth noting that there was never a village here.

Hoe Street

Hoe Street / Albert Road 1914

Hoe Street itself was a wide but peaceful road, lined with tall trees. As late as the 1880s, a small boy moving to Walthamstow remembered riding in the furniture waggon and seeing the tree branches meeting overhead.

Most of the houses along Hoe Street were large, set back from the road in their own grounds. The Chestnuts still stands, but has lost all its once-extensive gardens.

Moving north, Grosvenor House  was next, its site now occupied by a church; Grosvenor Park Road now runs along the route of what was once an avenue leading to its door.

Past what is now the turning to Queen’s Road, the Cedars (link) was the first of the mansions to go – when it was demolished, and the huge cedar tree in its garden was felled to make way for houses, people came from miles around to collect a piece of the wood as a souvenir.

With the coming of the railways and Walthamstow’s rapid growth, Hoe Street changed rapidly, and out of all recognition. Most of the big houses and their gardens vanished, making way for development. Hoe Street itself changed in character, becoming mostly a place for shops and premises for doctors, lawyers and banks.

Near the new Hoe Street Station a large hotel, now the Goose pub, was built, and did well providing accommodation for the many business travellers who now visited the town.

The junction between Hoe Street and the Lea Bridge Road became known as the Bakers’ Arms after the pub that opened there in the 1860s, itself called after the newly-built almshouses provided by the Bakers’ Company for members who had fallen on hard times.

By the early twentieth century, Hoe Street had become much as it is today – many of the same buildings still stand. Only the shops are different.

High Street / Marsh Street

Marsh Street

In the 1660s the diarist Samuel Pepys visited his Navy colleague Sir William Batten in his house in Marsh Street. Pepys recorded that Batten had a vineyard in his garden, and that the wine he produced was as good as anything imported from France.

By around 1700 the Chequers pub had opened its doors, and was popular for meetings as well as drinking. In later years, the landlords provided dinners of soup and bread for poor children – the first free school meals.

In the later years of the eighteenth century, Francis Wragg of Marsh Street was running a stage coach commuter service to the City, with seven services running to and from Walthamstow each day. When Lea Bridge Station opened in the 1840s, Wragg’s began to offer a coach between Marsh Street and the station, as it was a longish walk.



Fanny Keats, younger sister of the poet John Keats, lived in Marsh Street in 1819-20, staying in one house and attending an Academy for Young Ladies in another. When her brother visited, he walked from Hampstead, as he did not have the money to take a coach.

In 1870 the railway got to Walthamstow and a station opened at Hoe Street. That was when serious development started and the gentry started selling up and moving away. Some houses in Marsh Street were sold on for other uses such as schools and factories; one became Walthamstow Truant School; others were pulled down and replaced with small houses and shops.

That was when the market came into being. Up until then, Walthamstow had never had a market; by the 1880s street traders were setting up their stalls and doing good business. At first the local authority tried to get rid of them, but soon they were issuing rules for stall holders – the market was there to stay.

Installation image coffee stasll mid 19C

In 1882 Marsh Street officially changed its name to the High Street, recognising that this was now Walthamstow’s main shopping street.

By 1900 the High Street was busy for most of the twenty-four hours in every day. There were shops from fishmongers to a department store to a dolls’ hospital, plus cafes, pubs and a theatre.

St Barnabas Church

St Barnabas Church Walthamstow exterior

In the 1890s, when most of our streets were being developed, it was usual to plan for a church in each new neighbourhood. Henry Casey, owner of much of the local building land, gave the plot for this purpose. Planning began in 1899 – Richard Foster, a rich City merchant, paid not only for the church, but for the vicarage and the hall that is now named after him.

But it was in St Barnabas Road – then called Stafford Road – that the church had its origins. At 44 Stafford Road lived Elizabeth Tracey, her husband and children. And it was Mrs Tracey who, from 1895, began to hold a Sunday School for local children in her house.

Soon the congregation became too many to fit into Mrs Tracey’s front room, and it was going to take many months to complete the new church. So a second hand, iron “pre-fab” church was bought for £40, and services were held there.

St Barnabas Church Walthamstow interior looking east

And the church Richard Foster built was worth waiting for. It was not complete until 1903, and is built on a grand scale, employing some of the best designers and craftspeople of the time. Foster’s taste was for the formal, elaborate, “high church” form of services, and the church building is a very impressive setting for these. Foster’s generosity also ran to stained glass windows, textiles and an organ.

Some people did not approve of this kind of service, and occasionally there was trouble over this – on one occasion a local resident complained because he had attended a service and found candles on the altar and the clergy wearing coloured stoles.

Queen’s Road

The Burial Board bought the land to make Queen’s Road at the same time as buying the ground for Queen’s Road Cemetery.   Mr Innes sold the two plots for £5,000 including the standing timber.   This was only the land to make the eastern section of the road.

It was decided to make the road surface of gravel – a relatively cheap option. All was ready for the opening day of the cemetery in October 1872. At this early stage Queen’s Road was a private road, intended only for use by funeral traffic.

This was to change over the next twenty years. By the time of the 1881 census there were fifteen households listed in Queen’s Road. Ten years later there were 122.

And ten years after that, in 1901, Queen’s Road West, running between the cemetery and Markhouse Road, had been added. By this time there had been yet another change – about half of the houses in the road were being used as shops. With the development of the surrounding streets, Queen’s Road had become a local shopping street, offering everything from coal merchants to bakers to a piano tuner and a cheesemonger. There was a coffee house at number 19, and a doctor living at number 75.

Queen’s Road’s life as a high street was to continue for over 70 years.

84 Somerset Road

Shop at 84 Somerset Road cropped

This is one of the few surviving photographs of local shops. It shows 84 Somerset Road when it was the Somerset Cash Supply Stores, and the information with the photograph says it shows “Mr and Mrs Philpot, with Mr Philpot’s sailor brother”.   The census return for 1911 records a 62-year-old widower, John Philpott, his daughter Alice and son Samuel, both in their twenties. It seems likely that this photograph was taken a few years later, during the First World War, by which time Samuel had evidently married and become father to the small girl shown in the picture.


Before this, in 1901, the shop was run by the Lane family. On census night in April 1901 Mr and Mrs Lane, their five children including a new baby, Mrs Lane’s sister who managed the shop, Mr Lane senior, and the month nurse who had come to help with the new baby were all in the house.


This one picture tells us a great deal about food and shopping at this time.  The shop window is full of advertisements, including for St Ivel cheese, Bovril and Lyons tea (still brand names today), Aladdin Polish and several kinds of dog biscuit.   But the most notable thing is that there are no fewer than five brands of cocoa (Rova, Epps, Rowntree, Clarrico and Lyons) available in one fairly small shop.   Edwardian Walthamstow appears to have been fuelled on cocoa – and it is notable that cocoa (never “hot chocolate”) is always offered in café menus of the day).


It is just possible to see into the dark interior of the shop, where the goods are displayed on floor to ceiling shelves. There would have been a polished wooden counter, where the shop keeper weighed and wrapped everything individually. Nobody was expected to help themselves to goods from the shelves.   The significance of this being a “cash store” is that many shops expected to supply customers on account, and allowed them to pay for their goods at the end of the month. This shop evidently did not.


Corner shops were open very long hours, including Sundays. But there is a notice on the door announcing that Thursdays are “early closing” days – this was usual at the time, and meant that all shops closed at lunchtime on the designated day and did not reopen until the next morning. This might have been inconvenient for shoppers, but at least allowed shop workers one afternoon off.


Older residents remember the Somerset Road shops – in the 1970s number 84 sold electrical goods.   But by the 1980s local shopping was no longer the norm, the shops went out of business and the buildings became houses and nothing more.

27 Chelmsford Road

27 Chelmsford Road

Stephen and Alex look as if they are about nine and seven years old, so the photograph was probably taken in around  1908.   They are dressed alike in woollen suits, shirts with wide collars, narrow ties, and heavy boots.   These were the kind of clothes (link to clothes and fashion page) worn by most boys of their age.   The only unusual thing about them is that they are not wearing hats – most people did not go far out of doors without a head covering of some kind, so they are probably not going far.   Perhaps they have come outside just to be photographed.


Lea Bridge RoadThe house looks tidy and well kept, with iron railings and a carefully trimmed privet hedge in the front garden.   It has the box sash windows that were usual at the time, with wooden venetian blinds half lowered and, behind them, heavy lace curtains. The front doorway is in shadow, so it’s not possible to see whether the house door is open or shut – or any details of what is inside the house (link to houses page).   We do know, though, that the house had a front room, which was probably known as the parlour and kept for best.   In many families the parlour was kept locked and was out of bounds to children. Behind this was the kitchen, behind that the scullery, which had a door to the back garden and outside lavatory. Upstairs there were three bedrooms. Most local houses were still built without a bathroom.


In the foreground of the photograph there is a gas street light. These had to be light every night by a lamplighter who came round with a ladder.