The area was the site of a Roman villa, whilst Wanstead Manor was a Saxon and Norman manor. It formed part of the Municipal Borough of Wanstead and Woodford in Essex from 1937 until 1965, when Greater London was created. The town has a largely suburban feel, containing open grasslands such as Wanstead Flats, and the woodland of Wanstead Park, part of Epping Forest. The park, with artificial lakes, was formerly part of the estate of a large stately home Wanstead House, built by Richard Child, 1st Earl Tylney, one of the finest Palladian mansions in Britain and the architectural inspiration for Mansion House, London. It was subsequently demolished to pay the gambling debts of a relation of the Duke of Wellington.
The place name is probably of Saxon origin and is first recorded in a charter of 1065 as Wenstede. The first element appears to mean "wain" or "wagon", but the meaning of the full compound is not clear. An alternative explanation by the English Place-Names Society is that it derives from the Anglo-Saxon words Wen, signifying a hill or mound, and Stead, a place or settlement.
In 1707 the astronomer James Pound became rector of Wanstead. In 1717 the Royal Society lent Pound Huygens's 123-foot focal length object-glass, which he set up in Wanstead Park. Pound's observations with it of the five known satellites of Saturn enabled Halley to correct their movements; and Newton employed, in the third edition of the Principia, his micrometrical measures of Jupiter's disc, of Saturn's disc and ring, and of the elongations of their satellites; and obtained from him data for correcting the places of the comet of 1680. Laplace also used Pound's observations of Jupiter's satellites for the determination of the planet's mass; and Pound himself compiled in 1719 a set of tables for the first satellite, into which he introduced an equation for the transmission of light.
Pound trained his sister's son, James Bradley, and many of their observations were made together, including the opposition of Mars in 1719, and the transit of Mercury on 29 October 1723. Their measurement of γ Virginis in 1718 was the first made of the components of a double star and was directed towards the determination of stellar parallax.
In 1727, Bradley embarked upon a series of observations using a telescope of his own, erected at the rectory in Wanstead, now the site of Wanstead High School. This instrument had the advantage of a large field of view and he was able to obtain precise positions of a large number of stars that transited close to the zenith over the course of about two years. Combined with observations from his friend Samuel Molyneux's house at Kew in Surrey, this established the existence of the phenomenon of aberration of light, and also allowed Bradley to formulate a set of rules that would allow the calculation of the effect on any given star at a specified date.
The George public house
Although The George is not a particularly old building, there has been a pub on that site for hundreds of years. Set in to the side of the pub is a plaque dating from 1752 which was formerly part of an older pub building. The plaque is inscribed with the eccentrically spelled verse:
- In Memory of
- Ye Cherry Pey
- As cost 1/2 a Guiney
- Ye 17 of July
- That day we had good cheer
- I hope to so do maney a Year
- R C 1752 D Jerry
There are various local legends explaining this curious plaque, including a tale of the theft of a cherry pie by local workmen who were caught and fined half a guinea (52.5p). However the most likely explanation is that it was placed there by the landlord of 1752, David Jersey (corrupted by centuries of repainting and re-cutting the inscription to D Jerry on the plaque), commemorating a feast which included a huge cherry pie. Monstrous pies were a feature of 18th-century Essex rural festivals; the Galmpton Gooseberry Pie Fair in Devon is still in existence, and other inns around the edge of Epping Forest were famed for pies (rabbit pie at The Reindeer, Loughton, now Warren House, and pigeon pie at The King's Head, Chigwell). Wanstead was well known for its cherry orchards as late as the 1830s, when they were mentioned by poet Thomas Hood, who lived in Wanstead 1832-5.
Schools and Education
The Royal Commercial Travellers Schools were sited in Wanstead from their foundation in 1845 by John Robert Cuffley until their move to Pinner in 1855. The schools at Wanstead provided housing, food, clothing and education for up to 130 children of commercial travellers who had died or became unable to earn their livelihood.
The Royal Merchant Navy School was founded in St George in the East, London in 1827 before moving to Hermon Hill, Wanstead in 1862. The new building provided for 300 orphans of Merchant Navy seamen. It moved again to Bearwood near Wokingham in 1921. The building then became a convent refuge for women and girls and later Wanstead Hospital.
The Royal Wanstead School was by the Eagle Pond, Snaresbrook up to about 1970. It subsequently became the site of a Crown Court.
Wanstead is home to a large comprehensive school, Wanstead High School. Primary schools in Wanstead include Wanstead church school, Our Lady of Lourdes, Aldersbrook, and St. Joseph's Convent School which is an all-girls private school.
Places of worship
The church of St Mary the Virgin, Wanstead was completed in 1790. It is now a Grade I listed building, and contains a large monument to Josiah Child. It was followed in the 1860s by both the Anglican church of Christ Church and Wanstead Congregational Church. Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead the local Catholic Church in Cambridge Park was opened in 1928.
Local flora and fauna
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An area near the A12 beside the section from Blake Hall Road to Selsdon Road was preserved in 2008 by local residents as a Wild-Flower Meadow with a year-round display of wild and naturalised plants, shrubs and trees; starting in spring with oxlip (P. elatoir), cowslip (Primula veris), primrose (P. vulgaris), and meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris), followed by many species including the grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia). The meadow is listed as one of the main Primula species meadows in Greater London. The fauna of the area includes birds, foxes, muntjac deer, and squirrels.
Winston Churchill represented Wanstead as MP when Wanstead was part of the Epping Constituency (1924-1945,) and also, when it was part of Wanstead and Woodford, from 1945 to 1964. During this period he was Prime Minister during much of the Second World War (1940-1945) and again, in Peace Time from 1951 to 1955. There is a bust of him in Wanstead High Street.
The road from Wanstead to Southend was developed between the two World Wars. It has been said that its design influenced the development of the German Autobahn and American motorways.
During the Second World War the tunnels of the as-yet-to-be-commercially-used Wanstead underground station were utilised for aircraft production.
Wanstead Flats was used for Anti-Aircraft batteries protecting London, Barracks for Pre-D-Day troops and a Prisoner-of-War Camp subsequently. Due to terminal moraine (left by glaciers) the soil was relatively infertile.
Transport and locale
- Nearest places
Woodford Green Woodford Wells Woodford Bridge Forest Gate
- Underground stations
- Nearest railway stations
- Wood Street railway station for London Liverpool Street station on the Lea Valley Lines route.
- Leytonstone High Road railway station
- Clive Burr, drummer (ex-Samson/Iron Maiden)
- Charles Bressey, civil engineer
- Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and favourite of Elizabeth I, had a house here, in which he died, much to Elizabeth's intense sorrow, on 4 September 1588, three days before the Queen's 55th birthday.
- Thomas Hood, poet.
- Peter Goddard, physicist and journalist.
- Rodney Gordon, architect
- William Penn, Quaker, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania.
- James Pound, astronomer.
- Max Raison (1901–1988), cricketer
- Richard Sheridan, dramatist, lived in the right-hand house of the Georgian Terrace in the High Street near to the George.
- Mark Stephens (solicitor), lawyer, mediator, writer and broadcaster
- Colin Ward, social historian, writer and anarchist
- Jessie Wallace, actress, lived in Wanstead.
- Paul Hollins, Radio Presenter for Capital, Heart & Smooth
- Tom Watt, actor
- Joseph Wilton, sculptor
- "Redbridge Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
- The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names, 4th edition. Eilert Ekwall 1990
- Plaque details accessed 24 April 2007.
- "History". royalcommercialtravellersschools.org.uk. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
- "British History Online | The core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles". british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
- Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1081008)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
- Pewsey, S (2005), The Wanstead Cherry Pie Stone, Wanstead Historical Society
- Media related to Wanstead at Wikimedia Commons
- Parish of Wanstead
- Wanstead Village Directory