A History of Walthamstow

September 18, 2015

Walthamstow is an area that we at Waltham Estates hold in high regard. We have a huge fondness for the people, attractions and communities that make up this diverse and vibrant part of East London. We are proud to be taking care of properties in this area and to be working closely with local landlords, to continue that spirit of togetherness and cohesion, that has characterised the place known to the locals simply as the ‘stow.

The word Walthamstow is derived from “Weald” meaning – wood, “Ham” meaning – a manor. Over the centuries, Walthamstow has undergone many transformations.

In the ninth century, evidence suggests that the River Lea may have been at least a mile wide flanked by marshland and dense woodland, stretching out across the whole area. This is the landscape that the vikings would have experienced as they sailed up the river to invade Hertford.

Until the mid 19th century it was a country parish, famous for its woodland and majestic views across the marshes to bustling London. Later in the 19th century it became a satellite town, where industry was the key focus. Indeed, the section from Blackhorse Lane to the river was renamed Coppermill Lane to commemorate the Copper Rolling Mills, where many locals were employed in the eighteen hundreds. Within two years of the copper company arriving, Walthamstow’s population increased by a third. The mill was run by William Foster & Co., until its closure when the machinery was dismantled and taken back to Swansea. After it’s closure it was purchased by The East London Water Company, who started building reservoirs on the marshes. The mill house was finally demolished in 1941.

By 1861 the gentry were slowly vacating the area. Indeed, delays in extending the railway into Walthamstow halted the areas growth in the 1860s, but despite this hindrance the opening of the railway line to Shernhall Street and the radical introduction of discounted fares for women, combined with the completion of the line to Chingford in 1870, meant that development was still going on, even if people weren’t moving in their numbers to the area. By 1876, the development of Higham Hill common had begun, backed by much public support. Notably around the same time, in 1877 to be precise, the Walthamstow Building Society was founded and a branch of the London and Provincial bank was opened in Orford Road in 1880.

Walthamstow became an urban sanitary district in 1873 and a municipal borough in 1929. In 1965 it was combined with Chingford and Leyton as the London borough of Waltham Forest.

These days ,Walthamstow is the vibrant home to over a hundred thousand people. From its image on the sleeve of Blur’s 1995 Album Park Life, to it’s postcode borrowed by 90s boyband E17, the stow has always been at the forefront of British culture.

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