Higham Hill, Waltham Forest
The disadvantaged north-western part of Walthamstow
Saxons made a clearing in the forest here and the manor of Higham is recorded in Domesday Book. The original Higham House was located here, near present-day Sutton Road. The house was subsequently rebuilt in the far east of the manor, facing Woodford Green.
The manor went through several subdivisions and reunifications and this part was later called Higham Benstead. It was in the hands of the Heron family for many years but was at one point seized by the crown because of a marriage to the daughter of the ‘traitorous’ Sir Thomas More. The hill itself was common land with grazing rights permitted to local parishioners.
A bridge across the River Lea was said to have been in existence in 1594, when a moderately large hamlet had evolved. The population then went into a decline until the enclosure of the common in 1850, which led to some tentative suburban development in the 1870s.
By the end of the 19th century parts of Higham Hill had been densely built up, and some of the housing became overcrowded.
Walthamstow council began the first of its many slum clearance and rebuilding projects here after the First World War, in Millfield Avenue. Among the other schemes were the Higham Hill estate of 1920 and Priory Court, begun in 1946 and subsequently rebuilt.
Successive phases of redevelopment brought tower blocks in the 1960s and 1970s and large sums have been spent on neighbourhood renewal programmes in recent years.
Unemployment levels are relatively high, while the largest proportion of men and women work in wholesale, retail and car repair activities. Around half of residents rent their homes, most from the council. Islam is the second most predominant faith after Christianity.
According to the website/blog London Street Gangs, Higham Hill is known locally as Grimehill and its dominant youth gang has for some while been the Priory Court Boys (or some renamed incarnation of the same outfit).
Postal district: E17
Population: 13,194 (2011 census)
* The picture of Mayfield Road at the top of this article is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Marathon, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse of the image is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.
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.