Elm Park, Havering
A ‘wonder-town of homes’, according to its developers, situated on the south-west side of Hornchurch
With financial support from the Halifax building society, Liverpool-based Richard Costain and Sons began building here in 1934, partly on the site of Elm Park farm. It is claimed that the layout was influenced by the garden city movement, but this is hard to detect.
Costain part-funded the building of Elm Park’s District line station in 1935, after 500 homes had already been completed. It was the last station to open on the line.
A 1937 advertisement promised “space to breathe the clear air of open Essex. Compare these wide, clean avenues with the narrow, dust-laden streets in which many families unnecessarily remain when they could so easily live healthier, fuller lives at Elm Park.” By the outbreak of war the estate was three-quarters complete.
When hostilities ceased the council took on the remaining phase of development – but a planned cinema was never built. More shops were added in the 1950s, and later still came further housebuilding to the south, on part of the former Hornchurch airfield.
Two local schools, Ayloff and Dunningford, merged in 2009 to become Elm Park primary school. The mayor of London opened the school’s impressive new building on South End Road in September 2011, saying, “Elm Park primary school is an inspiration to all of us and what a fantastic place to teach and learn.” Since then, Ofsted has consistently placed the school in the ‘requires improvement’ category.
The locality’s oldest and largest pub, the Elm Park Hotel, closed in 2013 and its south-west wing became a Sainsbury’s Local.
Future developments in Elm Park may include higher density housing, but Hornchurch Residents’ Association has expressed reservations about such proposals, preferring the neighbourhood to retain its traditionally suburban character.
Elm Park is a predominantly white area, with just a few residents from ethnic minorities. At the last census the two largest ethnic minorities here were of African and Indian origin or descent, accounting for just four and two per cent of the population, respectively.
Postcode area: Hornchurch, RM12
Population: 12,466 (2011 census)
Station: District line (zone 6)
Website: Elm Park Regeneration Partnership (not much to report)
William Hogarth’s ‘little country box by the Thames’ in Chiswick is now a museum and gallery.
Camley Street Natural Park is a miniature ecological wilderness just north of St Pancras station.
Junction Road has a gastropub that was restored in 2010 with help from English Heritage.
You can’t go inside Debenham House but even from the street it’s a remarkable sight.