Leytonstone, Waltham Forest

A Victorian suburb situated between Wanstead and Leyton

geograph-4865457-by-Stephen-McKay - Burghley Road - Leytonstone

Leytonstone takes its name from an old milestone that is now topped by a 19th-century Portland stone obelisk known as the ‘high stone’. It stands at the junction of New Wanstead and Hollybush Hill – and finds itself just inside the borough of Redbridge owing to boundary changes.

The village evolved early as a roadside halt. A Rose Inn was in existence in 1585 and Leytonstone High Road was more important than Leyton’s High Road by the end of the 16th century. A few large houses were built from the late 17th century – including the Pastures, now replaced by a youth centre – but Leytonstone did not gain as fashionable a reputation as its neighbour.

Leytonstone House, built around 1800, is the oldest surviving mansion. It success­ively served as a brewer’s residence, a school and a hospital and has now been converted to offices in the grounds of a Tesco super­store. William Cotton of nearby Wallwood House gave money for the building of the church of St John the Baptist in the early 1830s and Leytonstone became a separate parish in 1845.

This was still primarily a farming village when the first station opened in 1856 and it remained quiet for a further two decades. The Cotton family gave the site for St Andrew’s church when their estate was developed with substantial suburban houses from the mid-1870s.

‘Time Terminus’, a sculpture-​​cum-​​seat at Leytonstone station bus terminus, Grove Green Road*
‘Time Terminus’, a sculpture-​​cum-​​seat at Leytonstone station bus terminus, Grove Green Road*

Nearer Stratford, the district was rapidly built up with two-storey yellow-brick terraced houses in the 1880s, providing affordable accom­mod­ation (and season tickets) for city clerks.

Changes to Leytonstone’s built envir­onment in modern times have mostly been limited to the replacement of groups of Victorian houses with small blocks of flats – plus the construction of the M11 link road (now called the A12) at the end of the 20th century. Anti-road activists estab­lished a protest camp – or ‘autonomous republic’ called Leytonstonia – in February 1994, centred on a squatted house in Fillebrook Road and on wood-framed shelters set up in a grove of nearby trees. The metro­politan author­ities invaded and crushed Leytonstonia on 13 June 1994.

After the link road had been forced through, the affected surroundings were ‘re-greened’ and sprinkled with mosaics, sculp­tures and other install­a­tions, including Lodewyk Pretor’s Time Terminus (1999), shown in the photo­graph on the right.

In 2001 a group of artists set up a delightful community cultural venue called the 491 Gallery, which survived until quite recently.

Despite the outward simil­ar­ities of their convergent housing, Leytonstone and Leyton are demograph­ically disparate. Leytonstone has fewer house­holds with children, fewer residents of African, Caribbean or Pakistani descent and a higher proportion of owner-occupied properties.

The Leytonstone Festival has been held every July since 1995 and brings together a series of arts events at several venues.

Alfred Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone in 1899. His parents ran a modest grocery store in the High Road, on a site subsequently occupied by a petrol station. Hitchcock’s films are celebrated in a gallery of mosaics in the pedestrian underpass leading to Leytonstone tube station.

Other local notables include the actor Sir Derek Jacobi, cricketer Graham Gooch, footballer David Beckham, broadcaster Jonathan Ross and musician Damon Albarn.

Postal district: E11
Population: 12,879 (2011 census)
Stations: London Overground (Leytonstone High Road, zone 3) and Central line (Leytonstone, zones 3 and 4)
Further reading: Alan Simpson, Leyton and Leytonstone: Past and Present, The History Press, 2009
Website: Transition Leytonstone


* The picture of Burghley Road at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Stephen McKay, and the picture of ‘Time Terminus’ is adapted from an original photograph, copyright John Davies, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.