E11 is Leytonstone. This is a distinct and separate place from Leyton which is E10. Today most people see Leytonstone (if they see it at all) as a bit of a blur as they go along the new A12 road.
We start our walk at the Post Office at 21 Church Lane, Leytonstone, E11 1HG. Turn right out of the Post Office and walk towards the High Road. Our first stop is on the left.
Stop 1: St John the Baptist church
This church dates from 1832 and is by Edward Blore. It replaced a chapel of ease and was an indication of how Leytonstone was growing even before the arrival of the railway in the 1850s.
It was partly financed by William Cotton of Wallwood House, which used to be one of the big houses locally. And if you go into the churchyard almost the first thing you see is the family plot of the Cottons.
The church authorities have put up a number of little plaques, some of which give historical information; others about the plants and wildlife.
If you keep walking round on the far side of the churchyard you will find the family plot of another prominent local family, the Buxtons, which includes Thomas Fowell Buxton social reformer and anti-slavery campaigner, whose blue plaque we saw in E1, by the Truman brewery.
The Churchyard lost many graves in a Second World War bombing raid and one information board describes the war damage and casualties in Leytonstone.
Now go out of the churchyard, turning left into Church Lane and then left into the High Road. Our next stop is immediately to the left.
Stop 2: Site of Bearman’s Department Store
Today there is a Matalan store but once this was an independent local department store called Bearman’s, as noted on the Waltham Forest blue plaque.
This is another example of how once thriving suburban centres are now shadows of their former selves.
The store had been started in 1898 by Frank Bearman, a 27-year-old draper. By 1906 the store had expanded into a nearby furniture shop, and in 1910 opened an arcade. It was known as “The store with the personal touch”.
Frank Bearman had died in 1956, and in 1962 the business was sold to the London Co-operative Society. The Co-operative closed the store in 1982, hardly surprising because at the time the High Road was the main road out of London to get to East Anglia, so not an attractive place to shop..
The building was demolished and replaced by this rather dull modern store.
Here is a link to a local newspaper story about Bearman’s: http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/localhistory/10112446.Bearman_s_department_store_remembered/?action=complain&cid=11070983
Just here was also the site of a cinema, originally called the Rink but later the Granada. As the name suggests it started life as a roller skating rink. But after a couple of years it was converted to a cinema in 1911.
According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it had two entrances, one on the High Road which was adjacent to Bearman’s Department Store that was reached by a long arcade, with an entrance at the rear on Kirkdale Road. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1927 as the Rialto. Although run for most of its time by Granada, it only got renamed in 1967.
The Granada closed in 1972 and was soon demolished. The site was used as a car park for Bearman’s Department Store which was later built over.
Now keep walking along the High Road. Our next stop is on the other side of the road
Stop 3: Numbers 694a – 698a High Road
Just behind the Natwest Bank, off Aylmer Road, is an odd survival of an older Leytonstone.
This late 18th century terrace was built for wealthy merchants and businessmen. Their extensive grounds were largely developed in the 19th and early 20th century. But interestingly the original houses were far enough back from the main road for a whole row of new buildings to be inserted in between. Number 694a once the home of Benjamin Cotton, whose family plot we saw in the churchyard.
Return to the High Road and keep going. Just a little way along the High Road, at the junction with Grove Road is a curious art work called “Leaf Memory” by Stephen Duncan dating from 2001.
I do not know much more about this except to say this use of leaf is a signature feature of this sculptor. When I first saw this I thought it was a depiction of a Green Man which would be fitting here, as just up the way is (or rather was) the Green Man pub – which gave it name to a road junction and subsequently the intersection on the A12. The pub is now a branch of the Irish pub chain, O’Neill’s.
Retrace your steps along High Road and back along Church Lane. Our next stop is right ahead.
Stop 4: Leytonstone station
The original station was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway in August 1856 on the same branch line to Loughton as Leyton. Just before the Second World War, work had begun to incorporate this line into the Central Line.
As part of the works, the station here was reconstructed as a junction with a new branch heading off towards Newbury Park, mostly in tunnel under the Eastern Avenue. The level crossing at Church Lane was replaced by an underbridge.
Work stopped in May 1940 due to wartime priorities; further delays were caused by the station buildings being hit by a German bomb in January 1944.
The station was first served by the Central Line on 5 May 1947. Initially it was a temporary terminus of the line from central London, with passengers changing on to a steam shuttle onwards to Epping. With the opening of Underground services on the new branch towards Newbury Park in December 1947, it became a through station again.
This station lacks the presence of the stations that had been built in the 1920s and 1930s, an indication I guess of post war economies. But it does have nice tiled walls in the subway entrance and an interesting survival of a couple of old advertisements one of which is for Bearman’s store.
It also has a sequence of mosaic murals to commemorate local boy made good, film director, Alfred Hitchcock.
They were commissioned the London Borough of Waltham Forest apparently to honour the centenary of the birth of Alfred Hitchcock on 13 August 1899 in Leytonstone. Work was started in June 2000. The mosaics were unveiled 3 May 2001, so they were a bit late!.
This is my favourite one – Psycho
And just by the entrance to the station ticket hall is this one of Hitchcock directing.
At this point it is perhaps worth a quick peek at the station platforms.
Like the entrance buildings these are less than inspiring – not a patch on what London Transport had been building before the war.
Go under the railway. On the other side there is a bus turn round.
Here you will find another artwork. This is called Time Terminus by Lodewykin Pretor. It is made of brick and features various forms of transport.
What is not immediately apparent is that you are actually standing above the A12 road here. We saw this newish road in E10 also. This was a really controversial road scheme in the late 1990s. However I do think this was a necessary evil. The alternative is that all traffic for East Anglia would be trundling along Leytonstone High Road.
And the fact it runs for a long way along side the Central Line and is below the local ground level for much of the way makes it a lot less obtrusive that say Westway. But you do hear the traffic noise.
As a nod to what was here before, the artist apparently inserted a kitchen sink and a roll of wallpaper into his piece. They were taken from the site of one of the houses demolished in order to make way for the new road.
There is nice planting and some bollards which spell out the name Leytonstone, just here.
Cross over the road. Ahead, you will see Fairlop Road. Go down that. Our next stop is on the right just before Wallwood Road.
Stop 5: Site of Apthorp, Fairlop Road
Today there is a block of flats called Fairwood Court but once this was the site of a house called Apthorp.
This was the birthplace and childhood home of Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey (1909 – 1994), better known as Fanny Cradock.
Note the mis-spelling of her name.
She was a restaurant critic, television cook and writer who mostly worked with her partner Johnnie Cradock. She was married four times but she was unable to marry Johnnie as her husband at the time refused a divorce as he was a catholic. So she changed her name to Cradock, but eventually she was able to marry Johnnie in 1977.
Fanny Cradock became a household name in the post-war years, trying to inspire the average housewife with an exotic approach to cooking, even if it did involve dying food with green colouring or having purple piping as a decoration. She is said to have popularised pizza in England and is also credited as the originator of the Prawn Cocktail.
She and Johnny worked together on a touring cookery show, sponsored by the Gas Council, to show how gas could be used easily in the kitchen. This show transferred to television, where she enjoyed 20 years of success.
Her television career came to a sad end in 1976 on a show called The Big Time where her put downs of a contestant caused great offence. The BBC terminated her contract and she never presented a cookery programme for them again.
Continue along Fairlop Road. At the end do a right into Hainault Road then a left into Essex Road South. Our next stop is soon on the right.
Stop 6: Number 2 Essex Road South
This was the birthplace of actor and director Sir Derek Jacobi (1938 – ). The Notable Abodes site says he spent his entire childhood here only leaving when he went to Cambridge University in 1956. He attended Leyton County School for Boys. Maybe one day this will get a plaque of some kind.
Retrace your steps to Hainault Road and do a right.
Stop 7: Meridian Marks
If you look outside number 84 Hainault Road, you will see this – a ghost of a marker, which indicates the location of the Greenwich meridian.
This is one of over 60 similar marks which were placed along the length of the borough of Waltham Forest as part of the millennium celebrations. They were in the form of compass roses which were on preformed thermoplastic sheets.
They were originally intended to remain in place for the millennium year only, but were never formally removed. Their current condition varies considerably from mark to mark. Indeed there is supposed to be one in the next street Bulwer Road, outside number 5. But that seems to have gone.
But if you carry on down Hainault Road and turn into Cavendish Drive, you will find one in better condition outside number 111.
There is a website where you can check out the locations (or in some cases former locations) of these markers.
Continue along Cavendish Drive. At the end turn left into Grove Green Road, then left into Drayton Road and then right into Fillebrook Road.
Stop 8: Number 21 Fillebrook Road
This was the childhood home of Damon Albarn (1968 – ) a musician and singer-songwriter who is frontman of the Britpop band Blur as well as co-founder of the virtual band Gorillaz. He lived here until 1977. It is marked by a Waltham Forest blue plaque.
Continue to the end of Fillebrook Road. At the end turn right and continue until the pedestrian crossing.
Stop 9: Bridge over the A12
The A12 is well hidden here behind a brick wall but you can hear it.
You will see a path and cycleway across the road which leads you to a bridge over the road and also the Central line. Go down here.
From this bridge you can see Canary Wharf towards the left.
And if you look to the right you can see the City. The view is not straight on but to the right of the road which somehow seems wrong. I guess the road is heading more south than west here.
Go down the steps at the end of the footbridge. Turn left and then go right along Vernon Road. At the end of Vernon Road you will find yourself at the High Road. turn right here. You will see the railway bridge going over the road. Go under that and take the first turning on the right.
Stop 10: Leytonstone High Road Station
Leytonstone High Road station is on the modern day Gospel Oak to Barking Line, between Leyton Midland Road and Wanstead Park. Like the other stations on this line it has lost its old buildings and has little more than a metal shelters on the platforms.
Although the railway crosses over the London Underground’s Central line almost immediately north west of the station, there is no direct interchange – Leytonstone tube station is about a 10-minute walk away. But this is another of those “out of station” interchanges recognised by the Oyster system so you are charged for a single journey even though you leave one station, walk down the street and go in another. I somehow doubt many people would make this particular change.
I should have mentioned the odd history of this line when we were in E10. The station opened on 9 July 1894 as part of the Tottenham & Forest Gate Railway and was built as joint venture between the Midland Railway and the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway.
The line was authorised at the request of Sir Courtenay Warner (1857 – 1934) who was an MP and a property developer who owned land in Walthamstow. He later became the first mayor of the Municipal Borough of Walthamstow after its incorporation in 1929.
The route crossed many existing roads and already developed areas, so the line was built on top of a long brick viaduct. Many houses were demolished to make way for it and there was considerable local opposition to the railway.
But of course the usefulness of this line was somewhat limited by the fact it was an orbital route rather than a line that went into central London. It proved more useful for freight than passengers.
Until recently it also had rickety old diesel trains that only ran every half hour. However TfL has transformed the line with new trains and increased frequency to a train every 15 minutes. And now there is more investment in the form of a long overdue electrification which is why there is a temporary closure.
Retrace your steps to the High Road and turn right. Our next stop is a little way along the High Road on the right.
Stop 11: Former State cinema 615 High Road
Surviving as a banqueting hall, this was a cinema which started out life in June 1910 as the Premier Electric Theatre.
Noted cinema architect George Coles was employed to reconstruct in the modern Art Deco style, and it re-opened in December 1938. At some point it was renamed the State.
The State Cinema closed in July 1961 and it was converted to a bingo club. In 1979 it became a snooker club which lasted until early 2006. It was unused for time but found a new use in 2008 as a banqueting hall, now known as Imperial Venue.
Continue walking along the High Road.
Stop 12: Site of Number 517 High Road, Leytonstone
Number 517 High Road was the birthplace of film director Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980). The house no longer stands but his connection to here is remembered in this Waltham Forest heritage plaque.
But just before at the corner of Lynn Road is this rather wonderful decoration on Numbers 527 – 529 High Road – a nod to his 1963 film “The Birds”.
We saw his “proper” blue plaque when we were in Cromwell Road SW5 where he lived from 1926 to 1939. And of course there are the mosaics at the tube station here in E11.
Well that brings us to the end of our E11 walk. It is a place that perhaps is somewhat better for having the long distance road traffic taken off its High Road. And we found some interesting connections from film director Alfred Hitchcock to pop star Damian Albarn via actor Derek Jacobi and cookery writer and broadcaster Fanny Cradock. Plus the site of an old Department store and a couple of old cinemas.
For onward travel you can get a bus along the High Road back to Leytonstone or on to Stratford.
But as a postscript I should just mention we are round the corner from the childhood home for footballer David Beckham (1975 – ). According to the Notable Abodes site, this was Number 155 Norman Road, E11. If you go back along the High Road and turn left down Southwell Court Road. Go to the end and turn right into Mayville Road and right into Norman Road.
David Beckham has retired from playing professional football but he has played for Manchester United, Preston North End, Real Madrid, A.C. Milan and Los Angeles Galaxy, as well as the England national team. He is of course married to former Spice Girl Victoria.
So that really does bring us to the end of E11. If you do not want to retrace your steps to the High Road, you can take a little footpath which is just along Norman Road. This takes you over the Central Line and the A12 and gets you to Grove Green Road where you can pick up local buses.
Fascinating and so beautifully written. Perfect Sunday afternoon reading. As always, thank you.