The land where Belgrave Road now stands was once part of the grounds of Grosvenor House. The whole estate, once home to City merchants and MPs, was bought up by the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway Company in 1891. Once the work started on this very late addition to the railway network began, the house itself and the excess land were sold for development.
Much of the land was bought by Henry Casey, a prosperous City merchant tailor who, although he worked on a smaller scale than Courtney Warner, was one of those who made a fortune from the development of Walthamstow. By 1901 Casey, his wife and children were living at the Priory, Forest Road – a large house with extensive gardens, where they employed a nanny for the children and a cook, parlour maid, housemaid, coachman and gardener.
The plots of land that make up Belgrave Road were sold in the 1890s, and built on as soon as possible. The houses were almost all constructed to one of only two patterns; those in the southern section of the road had black and white paths and stained glass sections in their front windows; those in the northern section had multi coloured paths and fruit and flower patterns in the plasterwork around the front doors. The houses had a front parlour, a kitchen with a Kitchener range, a scullery, outside lavatory and most had three bedrooms upstairs. All had small front and long back gardens.
By the time of the 1901 census, Belgrave Road was complete and most of the houses were lived in. We know that perhaps nine out of ten of them were rented out – they had been built as buy to let investments. Some of the landlords were professional developers who kept the houses so as to get the best return – as the years went on, some of these houses were offered to tenants to buy. Many others were local people who might buy three or four houses, live in one and rent out the rest.
The people who came to live in the houses were a mixture of commuters and whose who were working locally. In Belgrave Road in 1901, there were clerks in businesses from a stockbroker’s to railway offices, shop workers, a silk weaver, a journalist, a scattering of teachers and a number of printers. A few worked in the building trades – there was a carpenter, a bricklayer and a plasterer. There were few unskilled labourers, and only one person in the area had a live-in servant. The vast majority of households consisted of a married couple and their children, with up to ten people living in a three-bedroom house. Wives stayed at home, but adult daughters went out to work.
One local couple, Len and Babs Finney, live in the house where Babs grew up; her grandparents were living two streets way in 1911 – several neighbours live in the houses their parents or grandparents moved into early in the last century. Another lady, now a widow, lives in the home she came to as a young bride from Cyprus in 1947.