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Local History Month: Woodford and Wanstead societies preserving 'fascinating' histories for posterity

PUBLISHED: 14:30 18 May 2017

The level crossing at Woodford station. Picture: Woodford Historical Society

The level crossing at Woodford station. Picture: Woodford Historical Society

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The borough's thriving heritage scene includes groups dedicated to protecting, and sharing, tales from the past. Here the Woodford and Wanstead historical societies share insights into their varied activities.

Winston Churchill outside the then municipal offices next door to St Mary’s Church. Picture: Woodford Historical SocietyWinston Churchill outside the then municipal offices next door to St Mary’s Church. Picture: Woodford Historical Society

John Lovell, chairman, Woodford Historical Society

Historic houses, influential members of the East India Company, the effect of the introduction of the railway, Barnardo’s Boys’ Home, the development of the suburbs, William Morris, Sylvia Pankhurst, Clement Attlee, Sir Winston Churchill – our one-time Member of Parliament – Woodford has a fascinating history.

Woodford Historical Society has come a long way since the first meeting at the Wilfred Lawson Temperance Hotel in March 1932, when the title of the very first talk was simply ‘Woodford’. Over the years since its formation, the society has undergone a number of name changes until in 1983 the present name was decided upon.

The society aims to encourage interest in the history of Woodford and its locality. The scope of the society is as wide as the interest of its members and we welcome suggestions for new speakers and topics. Our aim is to provide a friendly atmosphere with interesting subjects.

A postcard of Woodford Green written on August 3, 1904 at 9am. Picture: Woodford Historical SocietyA postcard of Woodford Green written on August 3, 1904 at 9am. Picture: Woodford Historical Society

A newsletter is issued to members twice a year, with details of meetings and outings, news from the committee and short articles from members about specific buildings, people or other topics with a Woodford connection.

The society has published occasional ‘Transactions’ containing the results of original research, which are thought to be worthwhile recording for posterity and are of interest to our members.

2012 was the year of our 80th anniversary and members contributed their memories to the illustrated publication ‘Woodford – 80 Years of Memories 1932-2012’.

From September to April we arrange monthly evening talks of historical interest and in the summer months visits are arranged to places of historic interest both in our local and the London areas.

The Broadway Woodford Green. Picture: Woodford Historical SocietyThe Broadway Woodford Green. Picture: Woodford Historical Society

Our talks are held at Trinity Catholic High School (lower site hall), Sydney Road, Woodford Green, beginning at 7.45pm, and are generally held on the third Monday of each month from September to April. We are delighted that we attract audiences of approximately 100 to each of our meetings.

For further information, please visit our website woodfordhistoricalsociety.co.uk or e-mail woodfordhistoricalsociety@hotmail.co.uk.

John Smith, publicity officer, Wanstead Historical Society

The Wanstead Historical Society was founded in 1961. The aim of the society is to foster interest in the local history of Wanstead, the surrounding district and history in general. The society presents a series of monthly lectures on all aspects of local history and, occasionally, wider issues of historical interest.

A Hercules statue from Wanstead House grounds, now at Waddesdon ManorA Hercules statue from Wanstead House grounds, now at Waddesdon Manor

Conceived by Jack Elsdon Tuffs and Brian Page, its first president was Winifred Eastment, author of Wanstead Through the Ages. Its functions included encouraging the preservation of items of special historical interest, accepting items of local interest for preservation, organising exhibitions, arranging outings and issuing publications of interest to members.

Since its foundation, the society has seen the locality’s inclusion into the new London borough of Redbridge, the upheaval brought about by a new trunk road through its heart and very many other changes resulting from numerous developments.

Throughout these processes the society has actively campaigned for the conservation of Wanstead’s heritage and continues to monitor proper protection of its valuable environment, rich history and safe record.

The society is keen to monitor and, wherever possible, participate in research and recording of findings and changes taking place in the locality.

Jack Elsden Tuffs, a founder and first chairman of Wanstead Historical SocietyJack Elsden Tuffs, a founder and first chairman of Wanstead Historical Society

Wanstead includes parts of Epping Forest. It contains evidence of Roman settlement, the Great House and its huge estate. Conservation areas and many listed structures lie in Wanstead, which includes Redbridge’s only Grade I building, St Mary the Virgin parish church.

The society has many times actively participated in archaeological research. It has contributed to a very large extent to the local history records maintained by the local authority. The society’s publication, the ‘Wanstead Record’, free to members, is published annually and illustrations shown here are taken from the immense number of past journal articles.

Regular meetings are held on the third Thursday evenings of months September to May in the Churchill Room at Wanstead Library.

Recent meetings have included presentations on The Wanstead Kinema, City Livery Companies, Shakespeare’s life, the First World War in Redbridge, prisoners of war on Wanstead Flats, London museums and galleries, and Chelsea Physic Garden.

An 1804 engraving of Wanstead HouseAn 1804 engraving of Wanstead House

At our next meeting, tonight (Thursday), which includes a brief AGM, Janet Seward will entertain members and visitors with the presentation: ‘Dick Turpin – From Zero to Hero’. This famous highwayman’s activities were of course a significant part of Wanstead’s local history.

Membership is currently open to applicants. A small charge is made for visitors to the society’s meetings and to whom the society’s present chairman, Doreen Golding, will extend a particularly warm welcome. Call 07949 026212 for more information.

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