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Fascinating history of Wanstead Park revealed in republication of 106-year-old guidebook

Gill James, Ralph Potter, Richard Arnopp, Paul Ferris, Jo Fensome, Alan Cronish and Janet Cornish from the Friends of Wanstead Parklands Gill James, Ralph Potter, Richard Arnopp, Paul Ferris, Jo Fensome, Alan Cronish and Janet Cornish from the Friends of Wanstead Parklands

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
9:07 AM

The rich heritage of a park which has been shaped by figures including a Tudor lord chancellor, is the subject of a guidebook, being reprinted for the first time in 106 years.

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Wanstead and its Park is a new edition of a guide by Oliver S. Dawson, which explores the estate’s history alongside contemporary photographs and illustrations.

The book, compiled by the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, is the first full reprint and features an additional account of Dawson’s life.

Editor Richard Arnopp, 51, of Halstead Road, Wanstead, said: “This idea has been knocking around for quite a while, but it was just a matter of finding time to do it.

“We felt it would fill a gap as there is a lot of local interest, but no other similar publications.”

The guide, first printed in 1894 as a booklet, was published in instalments in the Home Counties Magazine during 1907 and 1908.

Although the 1894 text was republished by the Wanstead Historical Society a few decades ago, the more comprehensive guide was not.

The first Wanstead House was built by Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor Richard Rich in the 1550s. It was demolished in 1715 by Sir Richard Child, who replaced it with a palatial mansion more in the fashion of the time.

Its downfall was brought about by William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, nephew of two-time prime minister the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon.

Long-Wellesley ran up so much debt that he demolished the mansion in the 1820s, “for the value of its building materials”.

Despite this, two original features remain – the 1760 Temple and ruined grotto. Mr Arnopp believes the park is still a sight to behold.

“It is remnant of a great landscaped garden,” he said. “The lakes and wooded areas would still be recognisable to someone from the 18th century.”

The book is available for £9.99 from wansteadpark.org.uk. Postage is 90p for areas outside Wanstead.

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