E4 is Chingford, which has the distinction of being the most northerly London postcode (even though it is an E postcode). It is also the only London postcode to include an area which is not within the administrative district of Greater London, more of which anon. I am grateful to fellow guide and resident Chingfordian, Joanna Moncrieff for sharing some of her extensive knowledge of the area.
We start our walk at Chingford Post Office which is at 104 Station Road, E4 6AP. Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is just along the road opposite the Station.
Stop 1: Doric House – site of a cinema
This dull looking building on the corner of Station Road and Connaught Avenue replaced a cinema. When the cinema first opened in October 1920, it was called the Chingford Pavilion. It was re-named Chingford Cinema in late 1929 after it had been equipped to screen sound films.
It was renamed Doric Cinema in May 1941, closing in July 1957. It reopened under new owners in January 1959, as the New Doric Cinema but closed for good in 1961 to be demolished for offices. Today there is a Driving Test Centre operating from the building.
Our next stop is right opposite.
Stop 2: Chingford Station
The railway arrived in Chingford in 1873. The Great Eastern Railway’s plan was originally for a line to High Beach in order to serve Epping Forest. Initially the line was built as far as Chingford.
The first station in Chingford was in Kings Road (then called Bulls Lane) near the junction with Larkshall Road (then called Hale End Road). But in 1878 the line was extended about 600 yards towards the Forest and the original terminus was replaced by a much grander station on the edge of town, overlooking the forest.
The relocation of the station was actually less convenient for those who wanted to go to Chingford. This was all about encouraging leisure travellers to visit the forest and to stimulate suburban growth in what were then fields. But the way the station was built does suggest the plan was for the line to go further, as they did not put the station building across the end of the tracks.
Well the line to High Beach never happened because by the 1870s there was quite a movement to stop Epping Forest land being enclosed for agriculture or being built on. This lead to the Epping Forest Act 1878 which halted the loss of forest land. Epping Forest ceased to be a royal forest and the City of London Corporation took over as Conservators. They still perform this role today, as we shall see.
And this explains why the built up area of Chingford stops so abruptly here.
Now turn right out of the station forecourt and follow the main road, which is Station Road and then becomes Rangers Road.
Note the road going off to the left (Bury Road)
Seems odd to see a sign for Epping Forest with a City of London crest and a street sign showing a London postcode.
Keep walking along the main road. You will need to use the left hand path (the forest side) as the right hand path does not go all the way.
Our next stop is just as the road bends.
Stop 3: Former Royal Forest Hotel
The first hotel was built here in 1881 but it was much rebuilt in 1925 after a fire.
As you can see it is a huge building – testament to the fact that this was a destination. This building was here to capitalise on the visitors who came on the train for a day out in Epping Forest. Not sure how many of them would have stayed the night but it does seem to have been a hotel as well – rather than just for serving daytrippers with refreshments.
How sad it is now a Premier Inn, with a Brewers Fayre catering facility (I hesitate to call it a restaurant).
But at least it has not suffered the fate of Jack Straw’s Castle on Hampstead Heath which we saw in NW3.
Our next stop is just next door.
Stop 4: Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge
The Royal Forest Hotel may be fake Tudor but here we have the real thing.
This is called Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge even though it was built for her father King Henry VIII in 1543. It is apparently a unique example of a surviving timber-framed hunt lodge.
It was built so that Royals could shoot deer from the first floor rather than go to the inconvenience of having to chase them round the forest. Note the whole building is whitewashed, which is how it should be, as opposed to what one usually sees where the structural timbers are painted black.
The building, like Epping Forest itself, is run by the City of London Corporation. The lodge is open to the public and has displays on Tudor food and fashion. (There is also a building between the Hotel and the lodge which is called The View and contains a display on the history and ecology of Epping Forest. That is where you go to ask for access to the Lodge if its door is locked)
Inside it is clearly geared up for the school/children audience but it is still worth venturing in to find out more about the building.
That chap in the fireplace gave me quite a turn. He is rather good at keeping totally still.
Do go upstairs for the view.
Obviously these deer are sitting targets, being made of wood.
Whilst you are here do have a look at the building just a little further along past the green.
This is called “The Butlers Retreat”. Today it is a cafe serving lovely food but it was originally a barn built in the mid 19th century. It is named after John Butler who lived here in the 1890s. It is one of the few remaining Victorian retreats within the forest. Retreats were promoted by the Temperance movement and so served only non-alcoholic refreshment.
Now retrace your steps back to just past Bury Road. Now the development is on both sides of the road. You will see a path striking off on your right along side the golf course running parallel to the edge. Go down this. Or alternatively you can walk along the road (called with startling originality “Forest View”). This street has not been adopted by the local authority and it shows.
You might complain about your local council’s road maintenance but public roads never ever get this bad!
If you are on the road hop back on the forest side path when you get to Eglington Road. Keep on walking up the hill in a roughly straight line and then when you get near the crest turn left. You should be able to see our next stop.
Stop 5: Pole Hill
We are on Pole Hill and you can see there is a stone obelisk.
This was was erected in 1824 under the direction of John Pond then the Astronomer Royal and it was to mark true north for the telescopes of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.
It was placed on high ground along the line of the Greenwich Meridian. This was recalibrated later in the 19th century, at which point it was determined that the obelisk was actually 19 feet west of the revised meridian line.
The nearby triangulation pillar marks the modern line, but that is apparently a co-incidence.
But there is another plaque on the obelisk.
This records that the land here was conveyed to the City of London by T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in 1930. He had originally intended to build a house here with his friend Vyvyan Richards in which to print “fine books” (!?!).
Head down the hill towards the road you can see. This is Mornington Road. Our next stop is just ahead on the right.
Stop 6: Arabia Close
Now here is a nice little touch. The land here was also owned by T E Lawrence and so that is why the street is named as it is.
Sadly it is somewhat dull.
Continue along Mornington Road and cut through a pedestrian bit and turn right. Our next stop is just here.
Stop 7: Chingford Assembly Hall
This is the Chingford Assembly Hall built in 1959.
At the far end is a mosaic, installed for the Millenium
Note the picture of Winston Churchill, at the bottom on the left. He was the local MP for many years, as Chingford came under the Epping constituency. Churchill was MP for Epping from 1924 to 1945 and then there was boundary changes and so he became MP for Wanstead from 1945 to 1964.
I think Chingford stayed within the Epping constituency so Churchill ceased to be the local MP in 1945. Chingford became a constituency in its own right in 1974. Since then has had two very high profile MPs: Norman Tebbit (1974 – 1992) and Ian Duncan Smith (since 1992).
Walk by the green ahead of you keeping the church to your left. Our next stop is just past the junction with traffic lights, on the right.
Stop 8: Kings Head pub
According to Joanna, this is where a certain David Ivor Davies played the piano when he was stationed at nearby Chingford Aerodrome in the latter part of the First World War. He was a not too successful probationary flight sub-lieutenant. Having twice crashed a plane, he was moved to an office job and out of harm’s way for the duration of the war. But his real contribution to the war effort was his song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” for which he wrote the music in 1914. He of course became better known as Ivor Novello.
Here is a little link to Jo’s blog post about this:
The aerodrome closed in 1919 and reverted to pasture. In 1951 the site disappeared for ever under the William Girling Reservoir (named after the chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board) and it is that you can see if you look down the road in front of the pub.
Now go down the road called The Ridgeway (a left turn at this cross roads).
Stop 9: Former Town Hall
A short way along The Ridgeway is our next stop on the right.
This is the former Chingford Town Hall originally built in 1929. Chingford became an Urban District in 1894 and gained municipal borough status in 1938.
This does seem a strange place to put the Town Hall, not exactly in the main centre of things. And of course today it has outlived its usefulness as offices and has been converted into housing.
It is odd to think we are in the London Borough of Waltham Forest here – it is one of the quirks of the way London boroughs were created that Chingford is in the same borough as the rather more gritty urban Walthamstow and Leyton.
Keep walking along the Ridgeway. As the road bends to the right take a left turn into Endlebury Road. You will see an entrance to Ridgeway Park which is our next stop.
Stop 10: Ridgeway Park
Now this park contains a model railway.
According to the Waltham Forest Council website, there is a rather interesting story about a visitor to it in 1954. In case the link breaks and the text is lost for ever, here is what it says:
“Walt Disney Story as passed down from member to member
Walt Disney was a very keen miniature railway enthusiast and had his own 7¼ inch miniature railway at his home in USA. One day whilst visiting London on business and as he had completed his work asking his chauffeur if he knew of any miniature railways in London, the chauffeur brought Walt Disney to Ridgeway Park in Chingford. That day the park was holding the Chingford Day celebration we believe the year was 1954. Walt Disney drove trains around the track and allowed the press to take some photographs and had a good time.
When the public heard that Walt Disney was visiting the railway every body rushed over to see him, just as the Mayor of Chingford was about to open the celebration which he did almost on his own.
Information provided by the Chingford and District Model Engineering Club”
Ridgeway Park also lays claim to another famous connection. In 1979 a man called Peter King founded a football club for local youngsters in the park. He called it called Ridgeway Rovers and local boy David Beckham was once on the team..
Here is an article from the Guardian about the club. http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/jan/08/ridgeway-rovers-david-beckham-harry-kane
Continue along Endlebury Road going over the cross roads, you are now in Simmons Lane. Our next stop is on the left.
Stop 11: Pimp Hall Park
You will see an entrance to Pimp Hall Park. Go through the gates.
This is the land of the 16th Century Pimps Hall. The name derives from Reynold Pympe who was lord of the manor in 1500.
According to Historic England’s website: “The estate has been named after different owners at various times; the Buckerells, Gowers or Pimps. It belonged to the Buckerell family in the 13th century. In the late 15th century it was held by Sir J Gower. At one stage it was held by Henry VIII. In 1538 it was sold to Sir G Monoux. In the 16th century Pimp Hall was a farmhouse. It was demolished in 1936-9.”
Chingford Council bought the Hall and surrounding land in 1934 and the site divided between allotments, a council-run nursery, and this small park.
I am sure the name might lead to all sorts of jokes riffing on pimps or pimples, but I am not going there.
To be honest there is not much to see. But there is a fine view of Chingford down below.
There is a rather interesting old feature in the grounds but I did not spot this until much later.
Return to the street and across the road you will see our next stop.
Stop 12: Friday Hill House
Friday Hill House is a Grade II listed house built in 1839 by the architect Lewis Vulliamy.
It was owned by Robert Boothby Heathcote, who was both the lord of the manor and rector of the local church. The building was used for a number of years as a further education centre, but was put up for sale by the local Council in 2012. It is currently undergoing refurbishment.
At this point, I did a little detour. At the end of Simmons Lane I turned right into Friday Hill and went down the road a little to see this pub.
Today it is called the Dovecot and claims to have the biggest beer garden in Chingford.
Now at one time this pub was apparently called the Sirloin.
There are various stories about Kings using their swords to “knight” a hunk of beef and so name it “Sir Loin”. Sometimes it is King Henry VIII in Windsor, or King James I in Lancashire, but Chingford also has claim to the story – This time with King Charles II. If you follow this link through you will (eventually) find the story which specifically mentions King Charles II and Friday Hill, Chingford.
Of course it is all a bit of fun. In fact the name sirloin is an anglicisation of the middle French term “sur longe” – that is the upper part of the loin. So it is really the story of someone having a play with words.
I decided to hop on a 212 bus back into Chingford, as it is quite a way.
Now as the bus turns left from Friday Hill into Kings Road keep a look out to the left. These are the allotments of Pimp Hall Park and in the distance you can see an old building. This is the Pimp Hall Barn and Dovecot dating from the 17th Century.
(not a bad picture considering it was taken from a moving bus!)
In conclusion I have to mention again that E4 is the only London postcode to include an area outside the administrative boundary of Greater London. This is a place called Sewardstone. There is not a lot there but it does contains the world HQ of the Scout movement at Gilwell Park.
But getting there proved to be too much of a challenge as it only has a sporadic bus service. Route number 505 runs between Chingford and Harlow just six times a day. It is not part of the London bus network and is currently operated by a small independent bus company called Trustybus.
Sadly to get there and back from Chingford involves a wait of at least an hour and a bit, sometimes two hours in Sewardstone. Fascinating though Sewardstone may be I decided not to take the diversion. But one day, I will definitely have to visit the place, just to say I have been!
So that brings us to the end of E4. Even though we did not get to the bit outside Greater London, we have certainly seen a great variety of stuff, with fascinating connections with Tudor royalty, through to Winston Churchill, Ivor Novello, Lawrence of Arabia, Walt Disney and David Beckham. And thanks to Joanna for her info about Chingford.
If you took my advice and got the 212 bus, this will take you back to Chingford station for onward travel. Otherwise it is a bit of a trek from Friday Hill. Retrace your steps along Friday Hill, turn left at Kings Road and then right at Station Road which will eventually lead you to the station.