Approximately 2.5 miles / 4 km (about 1.5 hours).Click on image to go to an interactive version of this map

Starting at Forest Gate and ending at Leytonstone, this linear walk is one of a pair that explore the history of places around the edges of Wanstead Flats. 

This walk includes looking at the locations of and the background to Prisoner of War camps and Fairgrounds on the Flats. In addition, we look at the Model Yacht Pond, Cann Hall, the Fred Wigg and John Walsh Towers, Evelyn's Avenue, the Lakehouse, the Quaker Meeting House, Leytonstone House, the Green Man, Leytonstone Village, Georgian Houses in Leytonstone High Road, Bearman’s Department Store and St John the Baptist Church.

You can follow the walk directly from your phone. Directions are in black, historical notes are in dark red. There are also links that lead to further information about points of interest.

If you don't want to follow the walk on your phone, you can download a printable PDF version of this walk guide




WAY POINT 1 - Forest Gate or Wanstead Park Station

If arriving by train, you can start the walk from either Forest Gate Station or Wanstead Park Station.

From Forest Gate Station, turn left and cross over Forest Lane.  Walk down Woodgrange Road. Pass Sebert Road on the right then Wanstead Park Station. Continue in the same direction.  The road becomes Woodford Road and passes Chestnut Avenue on the right, then passes Dames Road on the left.  Continue on until you reach Capel Road on the right.  On the corner of Wanstead Flats you will see an unused stone drinking fountain.  Walk over to it.

Historical Notes
This drinking fountain is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Fry, who died in 1896, aged eighty seven. Joseph Fry was the son of the Quaker social and prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry.  It is an appropriate object to dedicate to Fry, because he was a chairman of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association

Link to more information about Elizabeth Fry and her family

The avenue of trees that you have walked along parallel to Capel Road and the avenue that goes along Woodford Road (which turns into Centre Road further up over the Flats) was referred to, in Edwardian times, as the ‘Monkey Parade’. 

This was a place that young people would dress up, and then parade up and down to meet with the opposite sex. In addition ‘courting couples’ would also meet there. There was also a bandstand near here to provide musical entertainment.  The pond (called Angell Pond after the council engineer who built it) is still there, but originally was much bigger, and had benches all around it.

Link to more information and photographs of the Monkey Parade and Angell Pond

An excellent history web site that some of the links in this walk lead to, and which gives lots more in-depth historical information about this area is www.e7-nowandthen.org -  Well worth exploring!

Also worth looking at are some old photographs of this area in the early 20th century on the newhamphotos.com web site so that you can compare them to how it looks now. See links below.

Tram Terminus, Forest Gate

Trams Forest Gate and the Flats

Forest Gate Station

Manor Park Station


Cross over Woodford Road on the pedestrian crossing and then turn right. Continue on, passing Bective Road, and then Forest Road on the left.  At the point that the buildings end, by a 40 mph sign, turn left on to a path. Keep to the main track and don’t fork left. Follow the path as it curves around a stand of trees on your left. Near to a wooden, white topped post, a slightly larger track joins you from the right. Keep going in the same direction, and just before you reach the playground, fork right towards the Jubilee Pond. As you near the pond, a sandy path crosses yours, going around the pond.  Turn right and follow the sandy path anticlockwise around the pond.

Historical Note - Prisoner of War Camps 
This area of the Flats, surrounded by Centre Road (the road that you were just on, Dames Road (behind the pond on the left) and Lakehouse Road (behind and to the right of the pond) is where the Prisoner of War camps were built towards the end of World War Two. 

The camps held mainly Italian prisoners when first opened, and then mainly Germans later on. After Operation Overlord (the Allied invasion of Europe), which started in June 1944, thousands of Germans were captured and held prisoner. Wanstead Flats held one of hundreds of camps which were set up across the United Kingdom. Some of the prisoners continued to be held there until 1946. 

Link to e7-nowandthen.org for more in depth information and photographs of the PoW camps on the Flats

Historical Note - Fairgrounds 

There is a history of Horse Fairs on the Flats. These became Fairgrounds and Circuses on this part of the Flats in the second half of the nineteenth century. Fairgrounds and Circuses still operate on public holidays here.


Historical Note 

The pond that you are walking around is now called the Jubilee Pond, so named to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2002.

Originally it was called The Model Yacht Pond or Dames Road Pond. It was used up to the 1960's for sailing model boats, but after that it fell out of use, lost water, and fell into disrepair.

In the late spring of 2002, work started to change the pond into its new form, as a conservation and educational resource, this was completed one year later.

Link to wansteadwildlife.org.uk for more in depth information about the Jubilee Pond

Keep following the path around the pond, passing a sign about the wildfowl that inhabit the pond. Eventually, when you are nearing traffic lights on Dames Road. There is a wooden signpost and a smaller path towards the lights.  Start to go up the smaller path, but fork right towards the Lake House Road. You are going to go over the pedestrian crossing, but look left first to see the top of Cann Hall Road.  This road crosses Leytonstone High Road, on the way to the East Village at Stratford.  

Historical Note 
Cann Hall Road gets its name from the manor of Cann Hall, which is listed in the Domesday Book (1086). The owner of the land then was Hugh de Montfort, who gained the land after the Norman Conquest. In 1121, his daughter Adeline donated the land to the canons of the Holy Trinity Priory in Aldgate in 1121. It is thought that the name Cann Hall derives from the term "Canons Hall".

Holy Trinity was lost to the crown during Henry VIII's 1532 Dissolution of the Monasteries. Bought from the crown by Nicholas Sympson, the manor then changed hands several times. In 1671 it was sold to a William Colegrave.

In the 18th century, Dr John Fothergill, a Quaker physician and botanist, developed what was to become The Ham House estate in this area. In the early 19th century, it was acquired by another Quaker philanthropist, Samuel Gurney. In the middle of the 19th century,  the estate was broken up. The West Ham and Jewish Cemeteries were built on part of the estate land to the south of Cann Hall Road. 

Local roads such as Colegrave Road, Selby Road and Manbey Street have names associated with the Colegrave family. There is also a Gurney Road near the West Ham cemetery. Within recent memory the Colegrave Arms pub was halfway along Cann Hall Road.

Link to further information about Cann Hall

When you get to the other side of Lake House Road on the pedestrian crossing, continue straight on through the gap in the hedge.  Keep on the path that keeps Harrow Road on your left.  Ahead you will see two pale green and cream tower blocks. These are called the Fred Wigg & John WalshTowers. Head towards them, passing Harrow Road Pavilion on your left.  Pass Gate 180 and continue on the path towards the Towers which then curls to the right, passing them on your left. This area of the Flats is called the Harrow Road Playing Fields.


istorical Note 

The John Walsh and Fred Wigg tower blocks near the Harrow Road playing fields are two identical 15 storey blocks, built in the mid 1960s, each containing 117 flats. They are named after two Leyton Borough councillors, Fred Wigg and John Walsh. Councillor Walsh was at that time Chair of the Housing Committee.

In 2011, residents of Fred Wigg Tower suffered a terrible fire. Two dozen people were trapped as firefighters fought the flames. Subsequently the whole block was evacuated to temporary accommodation so that repairs could take place.

Famously, the towers had a missile launcher installed on the roof during the 2012 London Olympics, to counter potential aerial terrorist attacks.

John Walsh Tower was used in the film “The Alf Garnett Saga”, released in 1972. In the story, it showed the Tower as the place that Alf and his family had been rehoused from their Wapping Terrace which had been demolished.

Link to a clip of the ‘The Alf Garnett Saga’ that shows John Walsh Tower

Follow the path with the Towers on your left, walking parallel with the edge of the flats.  You will pass a row of terraced Victorian cottages which face the Flats, and then come to a wooden post with an arrow on it near some trees. Pass the post and enter the trees, then immediately turn left here towards the houses.  

As you reach the houses, before entering Ferndale Road, turn right on to a concrete path running along the very edge of the Flats.  Turn left at the next road that you come to (this is Davies Lane).  On the right is a red brick, three-decker school. 

Historical Note 

This is Davies Lane Primary School, first opened in 1901 by Leyton School Board as a board school.  School Boards were set up compare the number of school places in their areas, with the number of school-age children who lived there. Where there was a shortfall of schools, the boards were responsible for establishing new ones.

In 1948 it became a junior and an infant school, and in 2004 merged into a single primary school. TV host Jonathon Ross is an ex-pupil.

Continue up Davies Lane to a Victorian Building on the left, with a green sign saying ‘The Good Shepherd Building’  

Historical Note  This is the site of The Pastures, a home for 'Fallen Girls' and those 'rescued from persons or houses of ill-fame'. It was set up here in 1876, relocated from an earlier location near Whipps Cross.

It was founded and run by Miss Agnes Cotton (1828-99), a social reformer and philanthropist who was born in Leytonstone. Miss Cotton was known locally as 'Sister Agnes' because she often wore a veil and dressed in black. Her father, William, was an inventor, merchant, philanthropist, and Governor of the Bank of England. Her brother Henry was a judge, and her Grandfather Joseph was a merchant and mariner.

In 1880 The Pastures was expanded (paid for by Miss Cotton) and became an 'Industrial School'.  It was renamed the 'Home of the Good Shepherd'. 

Industrial Schools were set up to give practical training to young people so they had skills to earn a living. The Home of the Good Shepherd trained the girls in laundry work.   

Miss Cotton died in Leytonstone on 20 May 1899 at The Pastures, and was buried with her family in St. John's Churchyard.

Click for a larger image.
The Pastures Industrial School 1896 OS Map. Part of it was a laundry factory, to teach the 'fallen girls' practical skills so that they could earn a living. Davies Lane School is not yet built.

Now return the way you came, along Davies Lane, with the school now on your left.

Just before you reach the concrete path along the edge of the Flats, near the school fence, is an unused Victorian drinking fountain.

Historical Note  This was installed by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. This was set up in 1859, in London, by an MP, Samuel Gurney, and Edward Thomas Wakefield, a barrister and philanthropist. The purpose of the Association was to provide free, clean, disease-free drinking water in public areas for people and animals.

Follow the earth path which is just to the right of the old-style lamp post on the concrete path. It leads ahead and slightly right, on to the Flats and into some trees. 

Pass the first earth path that crosses yours, and continue forward into the trees. 

Turn left here, on to the path which has trees either side of it. This is called Evelyn’s Avenue.

Historical Note 
Evelyn’s Avenue is named after John Evelyn, who was a late 17th century diarist, gardener and the writer of ‘Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber’.  

Evelyn certainly visited Wanstead, and he wrote about the old Wanstead Hall and Park. He was not entirely uncritical of what Josiah Child, the Governor of the East India Trading Company, who had purchased the Hall and Park in 1673, had done with it. Evelyn wrote: 

"I went to see Sir Josiah Child’s prodigious cost in planting of walnut trees about his seat and making fishponds many miles in circuit in Epping Forest in a barren spot as commonly these overgrown and suddenly monied men for the most part seat themselves."

You get the impression that he thought Child, with his new East India Company money and lavish expenditure, was a little bit vulgar.  It is said that Evelyn’s Avenue, originally Sweet Chestnut trees, was planted at Evelyn’s suggestion. Most of the trees in the Avenue are now Lime Trees, and were planted at a later date to retain the avenue.  

It is thought that the very old Sweet Chestnut trees that you saw earlier may have been part of the original late 17th century planting. 

Where there are gaps in the trees on the right, you can see the Lakehouse Housing Estate.

Historical Note 
The Lake House Estate was built in the early 20th century, on the area where the original Lake House was.  The Lake House was built on an island in a lake and was part of the Wanstead House estate. You can see it on the 1746 Rocque's map, beneath the number (9).

In the early 19th century, William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, who lived at Wanstead House and was married to Catherine, was accused by Captain Thomas Bligh (with some cause) that William was having an affair with his wife, Helena. Helena had lived at the Lake House before she was married, and had got to know William and Catherine then.  William had claimed that he had spent a lot of time with Helena because she was his cousin.

Between 1832-1835 Thomas Hood, the English poet and author, lived at the Lake House. It is where he wrote ‘Tylney Hall’, his only published novel. 

The Lake House had originally been built as a banqueting hall for Wanstead House.

After a section of the Avenue where the trees thin out, they start to get thicker again. Continue along in the same direction. Take the next clear path on the left, near a green topped direction sign. The path immediately forks, take the right hand one. Now go over a path that crosses yours, and then straight on, past a lamp post. After a while a clearing opens up and another path crosses yours.  Continue forward into the trees. Pass a wooden green direction post on your left, then pass a small pond on your right. Continue forward. The path finally curves left to emerge onto Bush Road.  Turn left and keep walking along the road, passing the Quaker meeting house on the left side.


Historical Note 
This area is marked as The Butts on old maps,and before becoming a Quaker Meeting House in 1870 was home to the Becontree Archery in whose Assembly Rooms Dickens gave readings. The current building  dates from the 1960’s. The gravestone of Elizabeth Fry (the 19th century prison and social reformer) is in the meeting house graveyard.  It was moved here from the Barking Quaker Burial Grounds where she was originally buried.

Carry on walking down Bush Road and cross Browning Road. Continue past Henry Reynolds Park on your left. 

Historical Note 
This area was once the Green Man Pond, made from a former gravel pit. Henry Reynolds Park was created in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Cross over Bush Road at the crossing, and continue going straight onto the pedestrian and cycle path ahead, that slopes down. Go ahead where the first path crosses yours, then under the road. Turn left when the next path crosses yours. The path slopes upwards. At the top of the path, cross over Hanbury Drive and walk a few metres along the pavement.  On the left is Leytonstone House.


Leytonstone House is the Georgian building, bottom right.  Behind it are buildings that were part of the Industrial School and later Leytonstone Hospital.  Behind those buildings, and connected to it, is a Tesco supermarket.

Aerial view courtesy of Google Earth

Historical Note 
Leytonstone House was built around 1800 and originally was the home of Sir Edward North Buxton and his family. He was a partner in the London brewing firm of Truman, Hanbury, & Company.  He was a Justice of the peace, and a Deputy Lieutenant for Essex.

In 1868, when the family moved out, the house and its grounds were sold to the Bethnal Green Poor Law Guardians who established an industrial school there. Industrial Schools were set up to teach boys who were orphaned or were destitute, practical skills to enable them to make a living. The Hall of the school is now insideTesco’s supermarket as its pharmacy department.

The school developed into the Leytonstone Children's Home, and in 1930 it's running was taken over by the London County Council.

In 1936 it became Leytonstone House Hospital to house mentally handicapped patients. It was enlarged, and by 1954 it housed 220 female patients. In 1948 it joined the NHS.

Leytonstone House was listed as a Grade II building in 1954. By 1964 there were 370 patients and the Hospital had become overcrowded.

In 1992 the Hospital, with 223 beds, transferred to the control of the Forest Health Trust.  The wards were gradually vacated and the staff redeployed.

The Hospital finally closed in May 1994. Most of the site is now a Tesco superstore. The Grade II listed buildings remain behind Leytonstone House and serve as offices and a few small shops. 

Walk back along the pavement towards Leytonstone High Road.  When you get to the pedestrian crossing, go over the High Road towards the O’Neil’s Pub.

Historical Note 
Leytonstone as a small village has existed here since the early 14th century. The name Leytonstone was originally ‘Leyton-atte-Stone' and derives from the distance marker called the "High Stone". Walk 3 visits the remains of the High Stone, if you want to see it.

Leytonstone High Road is part of an ancient highway from London to Epping. 

The pub O'Neill's was originally called The Green Man.  The current building dates from the late 1920's but there has been a Green Man coaching inn in this locality since at least the mid 17th century. The pub was named by Daniel Defoe in one of the volumes of his accounts of his travels, "Tour through the Eastern Counties of England", published in 1722. Defoe wrote: "...the great road passed up to Leytonstone, a place by some known now as much by the sign of the Green Man, formerly a lodge upon the edge of the forest..."

Walk left with the pub on your right.  Pass Forest View, and immediately turn right in front of the modern houses with the Green Man mosaic on the end wall. Walk down here (it's called John Drinkwater Road), and at the end, turn right into Browning Road.  Stay on this road as it narrows and then curves around to the right. Go past a Victorian style lamp post on your left. This area is known as Leytonstone Village.


Historical Note 
Browning Road is lined with a number of 19th century cottages. 

The North Star pub on the right was originally two cottages. It was made into a pub in the late 1850's. The bar was built in the right cottage, with a serving hatch going through to what was the other cottage on the left. 

The name of the pub derives from the name of a sailing boat that an early landlord, Frederick Wildsmith had sailed in.

Continue on Browning Road until it emerges onto Leytonstone High Road. Turn left here.  Pass a McDonald’s on the right, then The Walnut Tree pub. 

Opposite to the Walnut Tree, in the walkway to Grove Road, is an interesting sculpture of a seated figure called ‘Leaf Memory’, made by Stephen Duncan in 2001. The sculpture references The Green Man Inn. 

Continue along until you see a Barclays Bank on the right.  On the left side of the road here is Aylmer Road.  Walk a few meters down Aymer Road, and on the left hand side you can see the entrances of 694A, 696A and 698A High Road. 


Aerial view courtesy of Google Earth

Historical Note
These are Grade II listed Georgian houses. There is a Waltham Forest blue plaque on the wall that describes them. 

The terrace was built in the mid 18th century. The front porticos were added a little later, to match the fashion of the early 19th century. Until the very late 20th century, the houses have always been rented, and have had a number of tenants. The blue plaque mentions one of them, Benjamin Cotton, a member of the well known and well off Leytonstone family, the Cottons (see later section about St John’s Church).  Carlton House, the building nearest to Aylmer Road, was from the later part of the 19th century and well into the 20th century, the Salisbury Club.

For the first century or so of the terraces’ life, it stood among fields.  Leytonstone was rural up to the late 19th century.  It’s population consisted of a few minor gentry, city merchants, as well as farmers and their workers. In 1856, when the Eatern Counties Railway Company built a line through Leytonstone, development started and soon rapidly increased. By the turn of the century, the terrace was surrounded by new houses.

Between about 1918 and 1921, the tenants of the terrace all agreed (for a rent reduction) that new buildings could be erected in their forecourts / front gardens.  These included a shop, a small cinema (the Leytonstone Palace) and a branch of the London County Westminster and Parrs Bank.

Return to the High Road and turn left.  Just after Matalan on the right is St John the Baptist Church.  If you look back up the road you can compare it to how it looked in Edwardian times, as shown in the picture below.


Historical Note - Bearmans and the Grenada Cinema
Looking up Leytonstone High Road,on the left, where Matalan is now, is the site of a famous Leytonstone department store “Bearmans”.  Opened by Frank Bearman in 1898, it remained a family run store until 1962.  It finally closed in 1983.

Behind Bearmans was the Granada Cinema, formerly the Rialto Cinema. The Rialto opened in 1911 and closed as the Granada Cinema in 1974.  It was demolished in 1976. The slope of the seating down to the screen can still be seen in the angle of the ground in the Matalan car park.

Historical Note - St John’s Church
The original version of the church of St John the Baptist was consecrated on 31 October 1833.  It was built to replace a small 'chapel of ease' (an extra church or chapel built in large parishes to be easier for parishioners who live a long way from the main church to get to). The design was the Early English Gothic style. Large contributors to the cost were Joseph Cotten and his son, William Cotton.

A ring of bells was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and donated by William Davis, a parishioner. The six bells are named after female members of the Davis and Cotton families.

The Cotton family grave is in the churchyard. 

The arrival of the railway at Leytonstone in 1856 caused social change in the district. Wealthy families sold their estates and streets of terraced houses were built. This brought about a large increase in the population in the following decades. Other churches were built in Leytonstone, and in 1910, a new south aisle was completed. This was extended in 1928 to form a side chapel and a flight of steps leading to the tower door was built.

St John's Church was given Grade II listed building status on 24 February 1987

Link to more information

After the church, Church Lane goes right.  Walk down it to get to Leytonstone Tube Station. It is worth looking at the mosaics depicting scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s films, and his life, in the tunnel leading to the station.


Historical Note
Alfred Hitchcock was a film producer and director of films such as Psycho, North by NorthWest and Rear Window.  During a long career, he made ten silent films and forty six sound films, as well as various numerous television programmes.He was born at 517 High Road, Leytonstone on August the 13th, 1899. His family lived there, above the family's greengrocers shop. Hitchcock died on 29th April 1980 (aged 80) in Bel Air, California, U.S.A.

Link to further information about the Alfred Hitchcock mosaics




Send us your feedback!
Link to feedback form

Let us know if you enjoyed the walk and if you have any other feedback we could use to improve it.

Russell & Paul