An addition to the Ex-Warner Archive

An addition to the Ex-Warner Archive

Black and white image of the back of a Warner half house in Hitcham Road

From 2014-2017 we undertook a major research project looking at the social history of Warner Estate housing in Waltham Forest. The 19th and 20th century housing estate, which is spread across Walthamstow, Leyton and Woodford in North East London, was originally built by Thomas Courtenay Warner and the Warner Estate Company and took the form of high-quality houses and half-houses. The results of the project are an archive at the Local Studies Library at Vestry House Museum, an exhibition, a book, a walking tour app and map.

Lockdown has given one of the former residents, Michael Wood, the time to dig out some photographs of his families life and he’s shared these and his memories with us here.

Michael’s aunt lived at 2 Hitcham Road and his grandparents at number 12 since shortly after the war. Michael also lived there until he was about two when his parents moved into a flat on Fleeming Road.

Then they moved to a flat in Lea Bridge Road situated between Markhouse and Hibbert Roads, up until Michael got married in 1984.

His dad worked for the Warner Estate for a while painting doors and window frames. His mother had grown up in a Warner flat on Chewton Road and can remember when a V1 rocket landed there. Michael tells us that occasionally a piece of glass from the blast works its way to the surface of her skin.

Interestingly Michael says his mum can remember when Warner doors were varnished wood rather than the green and cream paint, which she thinks was introduced after the war.

“I seemed to spend the whole of the summer holidays over my grandad’s allotment (at Low Hall Farm), nan would hang a newspaper out of the window so we knew it was time for dinner, I remember being pushed down the road in a wheelbarrow to Lidens furniture factory (where Aldi now is), to collect off cuts of wood which they provided for people to burn on their fires. I recall the heavy doors and cast iron guttering, the snow once brought one crashing through my bedroom window.

“I often wonder now what the original tenants thought of the properties 100 years ago, when I was young most people, well at least the ones we knew, appeared to have an enormous down on them, they were cold, cramped, damp, leaked, you name it.

“Looking back they had already survived two world wars, general strike and just to be topical a pandemic, I think by the time we reached the sixties people were looking for new horizons, The Drive, Priory Court and the like were by then built and offered much larger accommodation, central heating and a new way of life. I remember Mum drooling over the Chingford Hall and Cathall Road Estates at the time, a move we fortunately never made.

“People moved out and the buy to let investor moved in and most became neglected, add to that the stone cladding, pebble dash, painted brickwork and UPVC, they began to take on a rather sad appearance.

“As a kid, I don’t think I ever appreciated them for what they were, and in fairness probably very few others did too, all appeared the same which as you have since highlighted is far from the actual fact.

“Then along came the latest wave of custodians and saw them for what they were and have breathed new life back into them and certainly, your project has highlighted this and bought it to a lot more people’s attention than otherwise would have.

“I look closer now and realise just how diverse the properties are, in that I mean down to the slightest individual feature that perhaps next door lacks, they are truly works of art, I enjoy searching out that old original green and cream paintwork that can still be seen, you could never match it up even back then, they must have bought it by the lorry load, bright green for about a month and then faded to a matt finish within the year.

“To be honest I actually think that the Warner Project has only begun to scratch the surface.

“Where exactly you can now take it to now, I don’t have an answer, but it is truly remarkable all you have pieced together already, so whether it be yourselves or someone else, at least the foundations have been laid, and a few of the memories recorded and documented.”