Bakers Arms

Bakers Arms, Waltham Forest

A local shopping centre focused on a crossroads on the Lea Bridge Road where High Road Leyton meets Walthamstow’s Hoe Street

Master Bakers' benevolent institution gate

Accord­ing to the Vic­to­ria His­to­ry of the Coun­ty of Essex (Vol­ume 6) the estate called Knotts, lat­er the Poplars, may have orig­i­nat­ed in the estate in Ley­ton and Waltham­stow inher­it­ed by William Knott from his father Thomas before 1451. The estate was at least part­ly bro­ken up in the sec­ond half of the 16th cen­tu­ry and its var­i­ous parts passed through count­less hands there­after.

The Knotts estate almost cer­tain­ly gave its name to Knotts Green, which is locat­ed just north-east of the local­i­ty now called Bak­ers Arms (for­mer­ly Ley­ton Cor­ner) and was dom­i­nat­ed in the 19th cen­tu­ry by Bar­clay Park, the bank­ing fam­i­ly’s estate.

Ley­ton Cor­ner’s two grand hous­es were Ley­ton Hall on the south side of the junc­tion and the Poplars to the north. With its 17 bed­rooms, the Poplars was described as one of the largest and finest hous­es in Ley­ton in the lat­ter part of the 19th cen­tu­ry. It pos­sessed land­scaped grounds that extend­ed almost up to what is now Claren­don Road (specif­i­cal­ly to what was then the divid­ing line between the dis­tricts of Ley­ton and Waltham­stow – note the present-day Bound­ary Road, which runs west­ward from the oth­er side of Hoe Street), with a green­house not­ed for its col­lec­tion of odon­toglos­sum orchids, among oth­er exot­ic flo­ral vari­eties.

Between 1857 and 1866 the almshous­es of the Lon­don Mas­ter Bak­ers’ benev­o­lent insti­tu­tion were built in an elab­o­rate Ital­ianate style by Thomas Knight­ley, who also designed St Paul’s church, West­fer­ry Road, around the same time. The homes fill three sides of a quad­ran­gle encom­pass­ing a well-kept gar­den, set back from the north side of the Lea Bridge Road. The name of the Rank fam­i­ly of flour millers fea­tures promi­nent­ly in the homes’ roll of hon­our.

Hidden London: The London Master Bakers' benevolent institution

The area began to change rapid­ly after the con­struc­tion of the Tot­ten­ham and For­est Gate Rail­way was autho­rised in 1890. In 1892 the Poplars and eight acres of grounds were put on the mar­ket as a build­ing estate. Plans for the estate’s lay­out were approved with­in a year or two, and the Poplars was demol­ished.

The rail­way opened in 1894, but no halt was pro­vid­ed on the Lea Bridge Road. The near­est sta­tion was Ley­ton (now Ley­ton Mid­land Road), while Waltham­stow (Queens Road) lay a lit­tle far­ther away in the oppo­site direc­tion.

Ley­ton Hall was also soon demol­ished and a horse tramway ran up from Ley­ton High Road and in both direc­tions along Lea Bridge Road. A tramway depot was sit­ed oppo­site the Mas­ter Bak­ers’ benev­o­lent insti­tu­tion. Named in hon­our of the almshous­es, the Bak­ers Arms pub­lic house was built at the west cor­ner of the junc­tion.

The present-day street pat­tern was in full exis­tence by the out­break of the First World War and the local­i­ty was almost entire­ly built up with ter­raced hous­ing.

Art-deco influ­enced swim­ming baths were built in 1934. The main pool was drained and cov­ered over for the win­ter months, and events such as box­ing match­es, dances and con­certs were held. The Kray twins boxed here and the Bea­t­les and Rolling Stones both per­formed here.

Trol­ley bus­es replaced the trams and in 1952 they were replaced by bus­es. The old tramway depot became a bus garage – and lat­er a ware­house.

In the late 1960s the Greater Lon­don Coun­cil con­vert­ed the almshous­es into one-bed­room flats, after a change of heart over their demo­li­tion for road widen­ing. Plans by Tesco to build a super­mar­ket on the site were also resist­ed, with the help of Eng­lish Her­itage, which has ensured that all ren­o­va­tions have been in keep­ing with the orig­i­nal design and mate­ri­als. This includ­ed an insis­tence that stolen iron gates be replaced with crafts­man-made repli­cas. How­ev­er, some inter­nal parts have since suf­fered from dete­ri­o­ra­tion and would ben­e­fit from fur­ther invest­ment in the preser­va­tion of this excel­lent group of build­ings.

Foiled in its plan to destroy the almshous­es, Tesco instead demol­ished Ley­ton baths in 1994 and opened an unsight­ly super­store here.

A short dis­tance to the south, Ley­ton leisure lagoon became the prin­ci­pal local ameni­ty. This was revamped in 2013 and reopened as Ley­ton leisure cen­tre.

Though the Bak­ers Arms pub has been con­vert­ed to a book­mak­ers, Wether­spoon’s The Drum is locat­ed a few doors to its west. A KFC now occu­pies the site of the tramway depot.

Com­mis­sioned by Waltham For­est coun­cil, a £370,000 regen­er­a­tion project result­ed in some styl­ish improve­ments to the cross­roads’ street-fac­ing prop­er­ties and the pub­lic realm in 2013–14.

Accord­ing to the 2011 cen­sus, the res­i­den­tial pop­u­la­tion of the Bak­ers Arms local­i­ty is eth­ni­cal­ly diverse, with no sin­gle group con­sti­tut­ing a major­i­ty. The most pop­u­lous sub-group is Pak­istani or British Pak­istani, rep­re­sent­ing about 30 per cent of the total. Res­i­dents of white British, Pol­ish and oth­er East­ern Euro­pean, African, Caribbean and Viet­namese her­itage are also rel­a­tive­ly numer­ous.

Postal districts: E10 and E17
Population: 1,865 (2011 census: the four output areas converging on the Bakers Arms crossroads)