Today at last, I made it to the “Stroll around the Georgian Remnants of Wanstead” library-organised walk. What a dismal day weather-wise but we anoraks were out in a score! Coincidentally, in keeping with the essence of royalty and fiscal richness which permeates the very coffee-scented leafy air of Wanstead the news came out that Meghan of the Markle is expecting the first bi-racial heir to the British throne. Well, during Black History Month 2018 some may beg to differ about that first, knowing the documented ancestry of Queen Charlotte. All Wanstead stuff as that Queen made it to Wanstead House a couple of times in the 1600s.
I was expecting some stone blocks of ruined palaces, some obelisks and a smattering of bronze statues. No, it was all maps and linked up past glories mingling in with C20th reminiscences and facts. Good. The guide competed with noisy territory-guarding ring-necked parakeets high up in the sweet chestnut branches in Wanstead Place and booming leaf-hoovers being employed by work men in the Counties part of Wanstead Village or its Conservation Area. Those chestnuts are fit for gathering but I didn’t want to be the only scavenger in the company of reserved English walkers.
What did I learn considering just lately I have done much research about Wanstead House, and Samuel Pepys and that crowd of unwashed who had fingers in every money-making pie and especially the goings on at the East India Company? The money topping up those rich landowners came from the misery imposed by them on their subjugates.
I learnt that the grassland in Wanstead is bogged down with water and remembered the state of the grass in July. I learnt that M&S Food is tucked away by the famous The George pub and that Redbridge Museum in the Central Library has an art collection with some paintings of The Grove gardens and that the Wanstead Library is built on a plant nursery which was there in the 1930s.
And on and on after seeing massive mansions tucked away and likely turned into flats, and hearing about an observatory in the C17th and being interested in Mobs something, an area way back when which sounded a bit like Soho in the sixties.
The first time I visited Wanstead was when I was researching West African Literature at a time when Longmans was publishing everything Black. I was invited to interview an African author and wondered even then what a black man was doing in white Wanstead. He’s big in theatre now.
Was a great afternoon, folks, and then I came in to see Whitechapel Gallery inviting Up Your Street seniors to a design and architecture workshop.