I chose this area for a walking tour because for many years it was a quiet backwater, unloved and certainly forgotten by the respective boroughs. During the last two years its profile was raised as being of interest to then prospective house buyers thinking of living in Hackney and Walthamstow but pushed out by the escalating prices. The houses are solid old-builds with gardens and basements and are near train stations, schools, nurseries and Wanstead. The average house price fluctuated around £480,000 compared to £600,000 and above in favoured areas east.
Recently some Up Your Street folk visited the Shirley Estate in Stratford beginning at Vernon Road which is very similar in its rise into desirable residence as enjoyed by The Lanes E7.
This is the route and interest.
Meeting at Dames Road Off-Licence, a shop which existed in 1905 and which opens every day including Christmas Day. In 1905 there was a parade of shops next to the now Off-Licence. There are no longer shops but homes with ugly exteriors facing straight onto the public pavement by a bus stop.
Walk down to the Holly Tree, a pub dating back to 1870 which is about to be sold and retained as a pub. It is very popular every day and despite the five star food rating, no longer serves food. It does however offer its WC to public passers-by, On New Year’s Eve it lights up the road and the swing park opposite.
Vansittart Road is named after Baron Nicholas Vansittart, once Chancellor of the Exchequer. The odd numbered houses are within Waltham Forest. The other side belongs to the London Borough of Newham and as such is in Forest Gate. The houses were built in 1860 by the Conservative Land Society, a society comprised of landowners and industrialists, rich merchants and parliamentarians who built homes for all types of men. In that time many working men were occupied as cab-men and their wives as piece-working seamstresses. In times before the Conservative Land Society trustees started developing the area, traders from Spitalfields had erected weekend huts so that they could use them during market- produce trading along Dames Road. The buildings are not uniform at all and evolved from makeshift dwellings.
The first modern building on Vansittart Road is a care home on the site of what was Lake House School. Its bushes and trees are hiding places for foxes. Ex-pupils are mostly living in Essex.
Number 107 was once the home of Herbert Smith aged 55 who was a joiner like his father and father-in-law who came down from Lancashire and who was killed by the 27th July 1944 Dames Road bomb (doodlebug) which hit a tram killing many people and caused havoc and destruction, To keep morale high the incident was not broadcast. Genealogist Mary Barnham traces the history of the previous residents of houses in The Lanes. The roads are parallel to Ramsay Road, the first built Lane. What’s poignant is reading internet pages where people are looking for stories of their ancestors who lived down The Lanes.
Number 123 was sold to a Mr Arthur in 1860 and he was told not to build a water closet. Someone disobeyed Mr Cobbold. M.P. and to date the outside loo annexe still stands minus the furniture. The old larder and scullery stand too. As a local builder once said, “These houses will stand forever if you leave the walls alone”.
Number 81 belonged to an Up Your Street grandmother over fifty years ago. We went to see it last November and she was astonished. Three mature sycamore trees were standing tall in the garden not evident when she was bringing up her sons and guarding them from falling on the typical narrow stairs. She trod on the concrete path she helped to build by working the cement-mixer and she saw the same L-shaped kitchen in which she boiled meat from the Upton Road butcher’s. We took a photo of the brick wall her husband had built out front.
Those histories put extra life into the old buildings many of which are converted into two flats or rented rooms. The London Boroughs of Waltham Forest and Newham councils own a number of houses in the seven roads.
The older residents never called the roads off Dames Road The Lanes. That is a name given by estate agents during the pre-Brexit and pre- Crossrail lucrative rush of 2018. I have read local social historians describe the area as the scruffiest part of Forest Gate. The Wanstead Tap, Burgess and Halls, and The Arch Rivals, all newly set up food and drink outlets have flourished despite negative predictions.
The railway above Vansittart, Pevensey, Thorpe and Ramsay Roads was supported by John Chevalier Cobbold who built houses around it. Cobbold Road off Cann Hall Road is named after him as was Cobbold School1901 which became Tom Hood School and now Buxton School. He was a brewer in Ipswich as well as being an MP.
Under the bridge going from Winchelsea Road into Station Road in The Arches is the Wild Goose Bakery opened in 2018. A neglected but used pillar box stands at the junction of Station Road and Talbot Road. Baron Talbot has been immortalised here. Opposite is a tower block. The old Fowler Road was bombed away and some people see newer builds as obvious 1940-1950 developments on bomb-destroyed sites.
Walk down Talbot Road and search for the Victorian features on old old houses. Most homes have been extended if not heightened. Turn left into Dames Road and look down at the walls. A parish marker from 1890 still stands.
Cross over Dames Road and walk on towards Wanstead Flats. In 1901,the Flats were scrubland on the edge of Epping Forest and by an emerging mass of housing for men connected to the railway. Cann Hall Road was Cann Hall Lane running by Cann Hall Farm years before 1901 when unemployed men were made to plant lines of trees as the boundary between the Dames Road surface and nature. Those mammoth plane trees are now one hundred and eighteen years old and are rooks’ habitats.
[This account is copy writ by Gillian Lawrence at Up Your Street].
The Wanstead Flats have housed a prisoner-of-war camp, space for fairs, and toy boats on the pond and a platform for infamous and famous soap-box militants and preachers.
When you reach the crossing to get back to the start, after the geese have looked at you and the swans ignored you, you’ll see a huge and remarkable old and clean building converted into flats. On a seventeenth century map this is The Lodge and other historians call it Forest Lodge.
Dames Road is named after Dames, a rich sugar magnate who owned much of the area in the eighteenth century. It’s believed his house was where the Anna Neagle House now stands.
Last year, Up Your Street as a small group , enjoyed a late afternoon walk exploring Dames Road from end to end and touching on a couple of architectural sites of interest. It was bitterly cold as the sun went down and the Wanstead Flats disappeared into the darkness. We dispersed without having a deserved cuppa.
I’m cancelling March 21st because of the lack of interest. My book “Down The Lanes” will be an e-book this year. Thank you for having signed up anyway.
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