Hainault, Redbridge

A 20th-century urban creation (plus a country park) situated in the north-east corner of the borough of Redbridge, three miles east of Woodford

geograph-2667749-by-Richard-Hoare - Island on Hainault Forest Country Park

Hainault’s name comes from the Old Eng­lish higna holt, mean­ing a ‘wood belong­ing to a monas­tic com­mu­ni­ty’, in this case the Abbey of Bark­ing. It was first record­ed in 1221, as Hene­hout, and in 1513 it was spelt Heynold. Accord­ing to AD Mills’s Dic­tio­nary of Lon­don Place Names, “the mod­ern spelling, found only from the 17th cen­tu­ry, is due to a fic­ti­tious con­nec­tion with Philip­pa of Hain­ault (1314–69), queen to Edward III.”

Hain­ault For­est once cov­ered a swathe of the coun­try­side here (and stretch­ing as far as Bark­ing­side and Marks Gate) but was sav­age­ly cleared in 1851, when more than 2,000 acres of trees (most­ly oaks) were felled in the space of six weeks. New North Road was cut as a log­ging track for remov­ing the tim­ber, and farms and mar­ket gar­dens were estab­lished on the new­ly razed land, help­ing to feed London’s fast-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion.

In 1902 Edward North Bux­ton, a Wood­ford res­i­dent and verder­er of Epping For­est, per­suad­ed the Lon­don Coun­ty Coun­cil to acquire the remains of Hain­ault For­est and the adjoin­ing land of Fox Bur­rows Farm, which was then replant­ed and reland­scaped. Hain­ault For­est coun­try park, as it is now called, has wood­land, mead­ows, plains, a lake (shown in the pho­to­graph above*) and a pair of golf cours­es, sit­u­at­ed on the east­ern edge of the satel­lite map below. The park is des­ig­nat­ed a site of spe­cial sci­en­tif­ic inter­est. The neigh­bour­ing Hain­ault Lodge local nature reserve is a 14-acre patch of wood­land, rich in wildlife. The lodge itself has gone, but was once a res­i­dence of the high sher­iff of Essex.

In the hope of encour­ag­ing res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment, the Great East­ern Rail­way opened a sta­tion at Hain­ault in 1903 on its new­ly built Ilford to Wood­ford branch line. Very few homes mate­ri­alised, and the com­pa­ny closed the sta­tion five years lat­er as it was being used by few­er than 20 pas­sen­gers a day. Hain­ault sta­tion reopened in 1930, when devel­op­ers were final­ly begin­ning to buy parcels of land for spec­u­la­tive house­build­ing. The first streets of ter­raced and semi-detached dwellings were laid out to the west and east of the sta­tion and Hain­ault free church (lat­er Bap­tist church) was found­ed in 1935.

Hidden London: The north-western end of Manford Way by Robin Webster
The north end of Man­ford Way

In the mid-1930s the Lon­don Coun­ty Coun­cil began to plan one of its ‘out-coun­ty cot­tage estates’ in the part of Hain­ault that was then a rur­al cor­ner of Chig­well urban dis­trict – but the project was delayed by the out­break of the Sec­ond World War. The LCC acquired the land in 1943 and con­struc­tion of the estate began in 1947. Almost 2,800 homes were built dur­ing the fol­low­ing six years, togeth­er with a shop­ping cen­tre on Man­ford Way, Roman Catholic and Angli­can church­es and oth­er com­mu­nal ameni­ties.

The exten­sive munic­i­pal hous­ing ensured the last­ing suc­cess of the reopened sta­tion, which came with­in the Lon­don Under­ground sys­tem in 1948.

At the same time as the cot­tage estate was tak­ing shape, around 200 tem­po­rary, pre­fab­ri­cat­ed hous­es were rapid­ly erect­ed at the junc­tion of Elm­bridge Road and For­est Road, pro­vid­ing what was sup­posed to be short-term accom­mo­da­tion for return­ing sol­diers and bombed out fam­i­lies from Lon­don. In the end, the Elm­bridge Pre­fabs sur­vived for around 20 years. For­est Road recre­ation ground now occu­pies the site of these homes.

South-east of the res­i­den­tial zone, Hain­ault indus­tri­al estate was laid out in the ear­ly 1950s as part of the LCC’s mas­ter­plan. Fol­low­ing a peri­od of decline, a 21st-cen­tu­ry regen­er­a­tion project has made improve­ments to the estate, which is now called Hain­ault busi­ness park. More than 150 com­pa­nies oper­ate here.

On Elm­bridge Road, the Gar­dens of Peace Mus­lim ceme­tery opened in 2002. It is now almost full and a new Mus­lim bur­ial ground is being laid out to the south-east, on Five Oaks Lane. The mul­ti-denom­i­na­tion­al For­est Park ceme­tery and cre­ma­to­ri­um opened on For­est Road in 2005. It was the first new cre­ma­to­ri­um to be built in Lon­don for over forty years.

The For­est Acad­e­my opened on Har­bour­er Road in Jan­u­ary 2012 in place of the (fail­ing) Hain­ault For­est high school, which had been built in 1951. The acad­e­my is spon­sored by Beal high school. Hain­ault has three pri­ma­ry schools: Man­ford (the first school to open on the LCC estate), Cop­pice and John Bram­ston.

Hain­ault res­i­dents have tend­ed to be white and com­par­a­tive­ly old, with low lev­els of edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment. How­ev­er, this is chang­ing as all kinds of Lon­don­ers seek accom­mo­da­tion in rel­a­tive­ly afford­able cor­ners of the metrop­o­lis. The vast major­i­ty of homes are now own­er-occu­pied, with most of the rest rent­ed from the coun­cil.

During the 2012 Olympics temporary accommodation for 4,000 troops and security staff was built on land in Hainault Forest country park. After the games the ‘Snoozebox portable hotel’ was dismantled and the site was restored to its original condition.

Postcode areas: Ilford IG6 and Chigwell IG7
Population: 13,589 (mid-2014 ONS ward estimate)
Station: Central line (zone 4)
Further reading: Georgina Green, The Story of Hainault Forest, Redbridge Libraries, 2002
and Don Hewson, From Ilford to Hainault (Britain in Old Photographs), Sutton, 1996
* The lake was excavated in 1909 by unemployed men from Shoreditch. The picture of the lake is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Richard Hoare, and the picture of Manford Way is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Robin Webster, both 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.