E17 is Walthamstow – end of the Victoria line, once home to a dog racing track and artist Grayson Perry’s studios and the place that gave its name to a pop group. In exploring E17, I am indebted to fellow guide, Jo Moncrieff for sharing her notes about Walthamstow.
We start our walk at the Post Office at Number 48 High Street (the one at the western end of the High Street). turn right out of the Post Office and walk along the High Street, which usually has a lively selection of market stalls, selling all sorts of stuff.
Apparently this is the longest street market in Europe at over 1km and it has been around since the 1880s.
Our first stop is at number 76, High Street.
Stop 1: L Manze’s Pie and Mash Shop
This is one of those amazing survivals.
The plaque outside explains that the Manze family were originally from Ravello in Italy and came to England in 1878. they founded an empire of 14 pie and mash shops,. This particular one was rebuilt in 1929.
According to an article I found (Daily Mail dated 30 October 2013):
“The Manze family ran the east London eatery until 1970 before it came into the hands of current owner Jacqueline Cooper.”
Apparently David Beckham’s love of the dish has made it trendy again, the owner says.
There are some other shops with the Manze name elsewhere in London but they are separate businesses from this one.
As I was here, I had to go in and sample the pie and mash.
To be honest this is not the greatest food. It is bland and with little texture. I prefer to have a meat pie where there are visible lumps of meat rather than this style where the meat has been ground into tiny globules.
I am reminded of the advice given by Mrs Lovatt in Sondheim’s version of Sweeney Todd where she is telling the lad Toby how to grind the “meat” for the pies. She explains that the secret for making the pies so juicy is to grind the meat three times. I think it is entirely possible that the meat in Manze’s pies may have been ground a few more times than that.
I did take some pictures of the interior which is lovely, even if the seats are clearly not designed to make you linger. There were quite a few other customers in at the time, but they just cannot be seen!
The shop advertises eels but all the customers I saw were eating pie and mash with the green specked liquor.
Now continue along the High Street. Our next stop is a little way along the High Street.
Stop 2: Palace Parade (site of Palace Theatre)
Heading along the High Street our next stop is on the left almost opposite the indoor shopping mall. There is a row of shops which have the name Palace Parade.
And it is that name that gives away what was once on this site.
This was the location of the Walthamstow Palace, a music hall/variety theatre which opened at the end of December 1903. The Palace was designed by Oswald Cane Wylson and Charles Long who also designed the Palaces at Chelsea, East Ham, Euston and Tottenham. Only the last of these has survived, as we saw when in N17.
For most of its life, it mainly presented variety shows. It finally closed in February 1954 and was soon left abandoned, becoming derelict. It was demolished in 1960, to replaced by this parade of shops with flats above.
Stop 3: the “Awesomestow” sign
Now go into the shopping mall, which goes by the oh so original name of “The Mall”.
The Mall is not particularly interesting – the only surprise is that there is a branch of Waterstone’s in amongst the “economy” shops. If you get to Waterstone’s look back for our next stop, which is above where you have just walked.
This is an attempt to “rebrand” Walthamstow. The fact this neon sign is in such a mall is perhaps not the best way to proclaim the “awesomeness” of Walthamstow. And some people no doubt consider the changes in Walthamstow are not for the best.
Now exit the Mall into a kind of square, turning right into the High Street. Our next stop is across the road.
Stop 4: Empire Cinema
Here we have a new block of apartments which includes a new multiscreen Empire Cinema and some restaurants. It really does look so continental – not English at all. The free standing sign for the cinema is a nice touch.
The cinema has 9 screens and opened in November 2014.
Now walk to the end of the High Street and you will see our next stop ahead.
Stop 5: Central Parade
Across the road is a rather splendid post war building, with clock tower. All very 1950s
I love the wavy canopy facing Hoe Street and then there is this series of crests below the clock.
And in case you were wondering what the shields represent, there is a little key if you look. (It is between the main door and the shields).
But I am none the wiser as to the connections to Walthamstow. They do not seem to be twin towns so I guess they are the crests of families which have had connections with the area. One that jumps out is Warner. Sir Courtney Warner (1857 – 1934) was a local landowner, MP and the first Mayor of Walthamstow. He was responsible for developing substantial amounts of housing in the local area from the 1880s. And from Jo’s notes I guess Maynard might be Sir Henry Maynard. As a result of a bequest of £50 by him, the local workhouse was provided with a brewhouse in 1747 to make it more comfortable!
Earlier this year, the building was converted from council use into what is described as “a mixed use creative hub”, with a variety of retail; workspace and studio space, and bakery cafe. The building will be open for two years whilst the long term future of the site is being decided upon. It would be a terrible shame if the council decide to demolish such a distinctive building.
Now walk a little way along Hoe Street and you will see our next stop.
Stop 6: Former Granada cinema
This was one the site of the Victoria Hall which opened in May 1887 and which was used for dances and concerts. It became a live theatre and eventually a cinema, called the Victoria Picture Theatre . It was purchased by Sydney Bernstein in March 1930, and was immediately demolished to be replaced by a brand new Granada cinema which opened in September 1930.
It was the second Granada Theatre of what would become a major chain. It was designed by Cecil Masey in a Spanish Moorish style with an interior design was by Russian theatre set designer Theodore Komisarjevsky, who went on the design the interiors of many more Granada cinemas.
Like many super cinemas of this period, it had stage facilities which were used for things like Christmas Pantomimes and one night pop shows – The Beatles amongst other famous names appeared here, as evidenced on this little blue plaque on the front.
By the way, look at the originator of this plaque – Street of Blue Plaques. More info on this at: http://www.dannycoope.co.uk/street-of-blue-plaques/
Anyhow back to the Granada story – In October 1973, the cinema was tripled. And it continued as a main stream cinema under various names (Cannon, Virgin, ABC) until about 2000. By then ABC had been taken over by Odeon who closed the cinema. They put a stipulation on any sale of the building, that it could never screen English language films again.
The cinema was purchased by an independent operator, and it was re-named EMD Cinema showing Bollywood films. After a court battle, this operator gained permission to screen regular films again. However the EMD Cinema closed in January 2003.
The story since then has been complicated – see the wonderful Cinema Treasures site for the details: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/9397
But the story seems to have moved on. In 2015, Soho Theatre announced it was working with Waltham Forest Cinema Trust and the London Borough of Waltham Forest to create a new comedy, theatre and cinema venue here. The last update on their website is December 2015 so not sure what is happening there.
But the building is starting to be used for entertainment again, as evidenced by the notice boards on the building:
And this website:
If fact, on 31 October 2016, one of the smaller screens was opened for a presentation of Mel Brooks “Young Frankenstein”, the first film to be shown in the cinema for over 13 years.
Hopefully this Grade II* Listed building has a bright future.
Now go back down Hoe Street and turn left by the clock tower into Church Hill. Go along Church Hill until just after the Girls School where you will see a newly laid out mini piazza.
Turn right here and head towards the church
Stop 7: Monoux Almshouses
Just before the church is a pathway.
This is called Vinegar Alley and by it are some almshouses.
These almshouses were founded along with a school in 1527 by local benefactor, George Monoux who was a city merchant and Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1514/1515. He died in 1544.
(By the way, Jo says that the name is pronounced locally as “Monnocks” not “Monnow”)
The school stayed here for over 350 years. It moved to its present site in Chingford Road in 1927. Famous old boys include choreographer Matthew Bourne, jazz musician Sir John Dankworth and footballer Teddy Sheringham.
The eastern end of the almshouses was almost wholly rebuilt in the late 18th century with the western end remaining untouched until being destroyed by a German bomb in 1940. That was rebuilt in 1955.
Now head past the church, which although medieval was renovated in the late 19th century and again after the Second World War having been damaged by bombing in 1940.
Just after the church is our next stop.
Stop 8: The Ancient House
When I saw this I thought: am I actually in Wathamstow? But yes I am. Pevsner says this is “a notably complete timber framed hall house of 15th century.”
Do go down the side street, Orford Road..
The building is not on a hill and there is a fascinating sign which explains why the side wall looks like it does.
Whilst here do have a look down this street at the nearby Nag’s Head. According to the notes from Jo the original pub was opposite the Ancient House and the first record of that is from 1673 in connection with the illegal playing of shovelboard and tippling. That pub became unfit so it was demolished.
The Nags Head was the terminus in the 1850s of a horse bus service operated by the landlord, Francis Wragg. He ran eight times a day to Lea Bridge Station (opened in 1840) for trains to London, there being no railway to Walthamstow for another thirty years. In 1859 the pub was relocated to its present site in Orford Road and a coach house was built alongside. The coach house still stands, but is now residential.
The horse bus service closed soon after 1870 when the Great Eastern Railway arrived at Walthamstow.
More info at:
The railway passes really close by just beyond the Nags Head. Interestingly the station was not put here near the actual village but a little way to the west, at what is now Walthamstow Central.
Now turn left out of Orford Road.
Stop 9: Vestry House Museum
Our next stop is ahead after the Squires Almshouses. This is the Vestry House Museum.
According to Pevsner, this was built by the parish as a workhouse in 1730 and used as such to the 1830s. It became a museum in 1931. There is a stern warning here on a plaque which says “if any should not work neither should he eat”. Unaccountably I failed to take a picture of this!
But I did get a picture of this plaque.
But outside there is something you can hardly miss.
This is from the portico of Robert Smirke’s General Post Office in St Martin Le Grand. When the building was being demolished this was purchased by a local stone mason Frank Mortimer who presented it to the Borough of Walthamstow.
It was first placed in Lloyd Park (close to the William Morris Gallery) but was transferred to its present position in 1954. https://londonhistorians.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/posties-and-the-capital/
Now retrace your steps back past the church and the mini piazza. Cross over Church Hill and head up The Drive which if you carry straight on(ish) becomes Hurst Road. Our next stop is at the end of the street – ahead across Forest Road.
Stop 10: Walthamstow Civic Centre
This impressive Civic Centre was built by Walthamstow Municipal Borough Council in the 1930s. Pevsner explains that the Borough had been created in 1929 and held a competition for a new Civic Centre in 1932. By the time the scheme started in 1937 it had been simplified and only two of the three planned buildings were begun. Their fit out was limited by wartime restrictions.
The civic centre is set back off the road along a drive and beyond a circular fountain pool. You can see why after the new borough of Waltham Forest was created in 1965, they opted for this as their main location rather than Leyton Town Hall which we saw in E10.
To the right is the Assembly Hall which was completed in 1943.
The Assembly Room has this worthy slogan across the front: “Fellowship is life and the lack of fellowship is death”
To the left are the Courts.
They were only built in the early 1970s and so are in a different style to the other buildings in this group. Pevsner describes the Courts as “firmly of its time, a tough nephew beside a maiden aunt”. They sort of complete the set piece but sort of don’t.
Now go along Forest Road as if you had turned left out of Hurst Road. Our next stop is at the junction with Hoe Street known locally as Bell Corner (named after a pub).
Stop 11: Former Empire Cinema
This sad looking building on the corner has all the signs of being a cinema. And indeed it was. It started out as the Empire Cinema which opened in February 1913. It went through a number of owners and by 1937 it was being run by Clavering and Rose. In March 1961 it was re-named Cameo Cinema. Closed as a regular cinema in August 1963, it became a bingo club.
Clavering and Rose had been taken over by Classic Cinema, and this building was reincarnated as a cinema under the Tatler name in April 1970, screening uncensored sex films as a members only club. The Tatler Film Club closed in August 1981.
The building was converted into an amusement arcade, and then it became a snooker club. But even that is no longer operational.
It is unclear what fate lies ahead for this building. In January 2016 a planning application to demolish the building was refused.
It may not be pretty, nor is it a great example of an early cinema building, but it would be sad to see it go. However given there is a modern nine screen cinema down the road and the rather more interesting Granada cinema is likely to return to entertainment use, it is hard to see how this building could be brought back to life.
Now continue along Forest Road. Our next stop is just on the right.
Stop 12: William Morris Gallery
Set back off the road is this lovely house.
There is a blue plaque which tells us that William Morris (1834 – 1896) lived here from 1848 to 1856. We saw his house in Hammersmith W6 and also his works in Merton Abbey Mills in SW19.
Pevsner debates on the age of the house saying the front looks later 18th century but suggests there is evidence of this being an older house which was remodelled.
But the reason this house is preserved and now houses the William Morris Gallery is done to the descendants of a later occupier, one Edward Lloyd.
Edward Lloyd (1815 – 1890) was a London publisher. He published serialised fiction, known as Penny Dreadfuls. One such was called “A String of Pearls – a Romance” published in instalments between November 1846 and March 1847. This was the tale of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. Meat Pies again!
In 1842 he started a Sunday publication which was a newspaper in all but name. He tried various rouses to avoid stamp duty which was payable on newspapers at the time. But in the end gave up and it settled down to become Lloyd’s Weekly and be the only newspaper to reach a circulation of one million in the 19th century. He later created the Daily Chronicle.
As I noted when in E8 at the blue plaque for Marie Lloyd, she took her name from Lloyd’s Weekly. She said this was because everyone’s heard of Lloyd’s. But now Lloyd’s Weekly is long forgotten having gone bust in the early 1930s.
By the way do have a look at the Gallery. It is the only public gallery devoted to the life and legacy of William Morris: designer, craftsman, socialist.
It opens 10 until 5 Wednesday to Sunday, so don’t come on a Monday or Tuesday. (Same applies to the Vestry House Museum by the way)
So we are now at the end of our E17 walk. Thanks again to Jo for sharing her notes on E17. We have seen an old pie and mash shop, an old cinema and a new one, the kernel of the old village of Walthamstow, some impressive civic buildings and an important Gallery. Sadly though we did not get to the site of the now defunct dog track, the location of Grayson Perry’s old studio or the former Walthamstow Urban District Council tramway offices.
We are a little way from Walthamstow Central which is probably easiest for onward travel. You can walk there. Go down one of the road opposite the Gallery (eg Ruby Road or Gaywood Road) and that leads you in to Hoe Street which in turn will lead you to the station. Or else go back to Bell Corner and hop on a bus.