A little-used name for what is basically the northern part of Clayhall
The De la Clay family lived here in the Middle Ages and it’s not clear whether the family brought its name from elsewhere or gained it as a result of living here. If the latter, it’s still unclear whether the place was named after the terrain and then gave its name to the family or vice versa. This kind of uncertainty crops up with several London place names and is enough to put anyone off the whole subject.
In the 19th century Claybury Farm stood where Claybury Broadway now runs parallel with part of Woodford Avenue (beneath the bottom left corner of the map below). To the north was Claybury Hall and its surrounding parkland, laid out in 1789 by Humphry Repton for the owner, James Hatch.
On the edge of the park the justices of the County of Middlesex built the palatial Claybury mental hospital (originally ‘lunatic asylum’) in 1888–93, as a self-supporting community with capacity for 2,500 residents. At the same time, Claybury Hall was extended and converted into a private asylum.
By the 1930s Claybury hospital had become world renowned for the treatment of mental illness. Capacity had expanded to 4,000, and the hospital had its own operating theatre, radio rebroadcasting system, bank and post office.
In the 1960s staff here pioneered a ‘therapeutic community’ approach to psychiatry and Claybury continued in use as a mental hospital until 1997.
Property developer Crest Nicholson subsequently converted the hospital to housing, with the aid of an enabling grant. Claybury Hall, which had latterly served as the headquarters of the Waltham Forest health authority, was also restored and converted into apartments.
Like other adaptations of Victorian hospitals, Repton Park – as it was rebranded – also includes new homes in the grounds, in this case mews and town houses. A health club occupies the hospital’s restored Great Hall, with a swimming pool in the chapel – shown in the photograph on the right.*
Most of the hospital’s grounds have become Claybury Woods and Park. Now owned by the London Borough of Redbridge, the park has wildflower-rich meadows, rare acid grassland and ancient oak and hornbeam woodland, shown in the photograph at the top of the page, with the former hospital’s water tower (now a private residence) protruding into the lowering sky.*
Postcode area: Ilford IG5; Repton Park is in Woodford Green IG8
Website: Repton Park Residents Association
Further reading: Eric H Pryor, Pictorial Review of Claybury Hospital, Forest Healthcare Trust, 1996