Wanstead Park

Wanstead Park, Redbridge

A public park and the name used by estate agents for the neighbouring residential locality, situated to the south-east of Wanstead tube station

The Temple by Roger Jones

Wanstead Park was the site of a Roman vil­la and Wanstead manor house lat­er stood on the north side of what is now the golf course, near the parish church. The house was orig­i­nal­ly a small build­ing called Wanstead Hall but was enlarged in 1499 so that it could serve as a roy­al hunt­ing lodge.

The park was formed by enclos­ing part of Epping For­est in the mid-16th cen­tu­ry. Sir Richard Child, lat­er Vis­count Castle­maine and Earl Tyl­ney, inher­it­ed Wanstead House (as it became known) in 1715 and rebuilt it in 1722 on a mag­nif­i­cent scale.

St Mary's church, Overton Drive
St Mary’s church, Over­ton Dri­ve*

In the 1760s the grounds of the house were adorned with an elab­o­rate grot­to and a Tus­can fea­ture orig­i­nal­ly called the Pheas­ant House and lat­er known as the Tem­ple, which was incon­gru­ous­ly extend­ed to pro­vide liv­ing accom­mo­da­tion for the estate’s groundskeep­ers.

St Mary’s church was rebuilt in 1787 at the expense of Sir James Tilney. The medieval church­yard was recon­fig­ured at the same time and has since been extend­ed twice. A small shel­ter was built in the church­yard to mark the grave of the sculp­tor Joseph Wilton and it served as a sen­try box for a guard employed to keep watch for body-snatch­ers.

Wanstead House was demol­ished in 1834 after its con­tents had been sold to pay off the debts of the spend­thrift William Pole-Welles­ley, nephew of the Duke of Welling­ton. Two gateposts bear­ing the mono­gram of Sir Richard Child sur­vive at the junc­tion of Over­ton Dri­ve and Blake Hall Road, orig­i­nal­ly the end of the dri­ve lead­ing to the house.

The Cor­po­ra­tion of Lon­don acquired the grounds in 1880 and opened them to the pub­lic two years lat­er. Most of the grot­to was destroyed by a fire in 1884.

Wanstead golf course was laid out on and around the site of the man­sion in 1893.

The park’s land­scaped grounds were allowed to grow wild but some more for­mal ele­ments have recent­ly been rein­tro­duced. The many ponds and islands, fed by the Riv­er Rod­ing, are a haven for birds. Shown in the pho­to­graph* at the top of the page, the Tem­ple has an exhi­bi­tion devot­ed to Wanstead Park’s his­to­ry that is open at week­ends and on bank hol­i­days.

Wanstead Park and a select few hous­es on its doorstep are des­ig­nat­ed a con­ser­va­tion area.

In 1717 James Bradley and his uncle James Pound set up one of the world’s largest telescopes in Wanstead Park. Pound and Bradley were respectively rector and curate of St Mary’s church and the latter subsequently became the third Astronomer Royal. The telescope was presented to them by Isaac Newton and mounted on a maypole brought from the Strand.

Postal district: E11
Population: 11,543 (2011 census)
Station: Central line (zone 4)
Website: Wanstead Wildlife
Further reading: OS Dawson, The Story of Wanstead Park, Thomas Hood Memorial Press, 1995 (reprint of an 1894 publication)
and William Addison, Wanstead Park, Corporation of London, 1973
* The picture of The Temple at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Roger Jones, and the picture of St Mary, Overton Drive, is adapted from an original photograph, copyright John Salmon, both at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse of either image is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.