Saxon kings and long-necked birds: More stories behind Redbridge’s place names

A depiction of Wanstead House as it was before it was demolished in 1824. Picture: Geraldine Roberts

A depiction of Wanstead House as it was before it was demolished in 1824. - Credit: Geraldine Roberts

Cranbrook, now a ward to the north west of Ilford town centre, is a name with a long association with this area – and it all stems from birds.

A version of the name first appears on maps in 1233 as Cranebroc, meaning a brook full of cranes.

Similar to herons, with long necks, legs and bills, cranes were at one time abundant in southern England, before they were hunted to near extinction here by medieval falconers.

Another name linked to the history of Ilford is Valentines.

This owes its prominence to Christopher Valentine, who resided in a manor house here during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. At the time, it was something of a halfway house between Ilford and Hainault, and was still surrounded by the trees of Hainault Forest.

The house stood where Valentines Mansion stands today, but was replaced in the 1690s.

Hainault's name comes to us from the Anglo-Saxons, and roughly translates from the words "higna" meaning a parish or similar community, and "holt" meaning woodland.

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This is probably linked to the fact the woods in that area would have belonged to Barking Abbey back then, and the name Hyneholt appears in 1221 and again as Hineholt in 1323.

We also have the Saxons to thank for Seven Kings.

Historians agree the most likely origin of the name is "Seofecingas", which translates as the settlement of Seofeca's people.

The earliest recording of the name as we now know it is back in the late 1280s.

There is also a legend, hard to prove but equally hard to disprove, that seven "minor kings" of ancient Saxon kingdoms would meet here to water their horses.

The high number of kings in a relatively small area could perhaps be explained by travelling royals from Havering and further east, but no documentary evidence exists to confirm such a group ever came together there.

And as for the borough's name?

Redbridge first appears on local maps back in 1735, on a plan of Wanstead House and its parklands drawn by Jean Rocque.

It referred to a bridge over the River Roding dating back to the 1650s which was made of red brick and stone.

The bridge connected Ilford and Wanstead, and was located where the A12 now crosses the river.