Woodford, Redbridge

‘The geographical and social high point of east London’, situated to the north-east of Walthamstow, from which it is separated by a sliver of Epping Forest

Hidden London: Outside Woodford Station by Des Blenkinsopp

Wood­ford’s exis­tence was first record­ed in 1062 and it takes its name from a wood­land ford across the Riv­er Rod­ing, which was locat­ed at present-day Wood­ford Bridge. Like Ching­ford to the north-west, the dis­trict was for cen­turies a col­lec­tion of sep­a­rate ham­lets in for­est clear­ings.

Even before the Restora­tion, wealthy Lon­don­ers had begun to build grand hous­es here, and oth­ers lat­er rent­ed rooms for the sum­mer. In the mid-18th cen­tu­ry these rooms were said to be more expen­sive than in the cap­i­tal itself. By the time Wood­ford was defor­est­ed in the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry there were so many man­sions with large gar­dens that there was hard­ly any room for agri­cul­ture.

Sev­er­al grand hous­es sur­vive from Wood­ford’s hey­day, includ­ing the glo­ri­ous Hurst House (c.1714) at the south end of Wood­ford Green, Elmhurst (per­haps 1760s), on the South Wood­ford side of St Mary’s, and Wood­ford Bridge’s Gwynne House (1816, lat­er a Barnar­do’s home and now the ridicu­lous­ly named Hall­mark Hotel Lon­don Chig­well Prince Regent).

Before the open­ing of the sta­tion in 1856 Wood­ford was cen­tred on the Church End local­i­ty – the vicin­i­ty of St Mary’s church, which was found­ed here in the 12th cen­tu­ry. The present-day church is shown in the pho­to below.

Hidden London: St Mary’s church, Woodford

In addi­tion to St Mary’s, Wood­ford has three oth­er archi­tec­tural­ly notable church­es: St Paul’s Wood­ford Bridge (1854), All Saints Wood­ford Wells (1874) and Wood­ford Green Unit­ed Free Church (1904).

The com­ing of the East Coun­ties Rail­way brought sub­ur­ban devel­op­ment, but not of the dense­ly ter­raced kind so com­mon else­where, because the rail­way com­pa­ny did not offer cheap fares for work­men. The coun­cil also con­spired to keep out the low­er class­es by refus­ing to per­mit tram ser­vices here.

The British Land Com­pa­ny bought the Wood­ford Hall estate in 1869 and laid out new roads west of the church. A series of sim­i­lar devel­op­ments in the grounds of old hous­es fol­lowed over the next 60 years and almost the whole of mod­ern Wood­ford was built up by the out­break of the Sec­ond World War.

The pri­vate­ly devel­oped estates were often of the high­est qual­i­ty, espe­cial­ly in the west. More afford­able prop­er­ties were built in South Wood­ford and east of the rail­way line, togeth­er with some post-war coun­cil estates, the largest of which is Broad­mead, com­plet­ed in 1968.

The cen­tral part of Wood­ford has two main shop­ping streets: Snakes Lane, which is split in two by the rail­way, and Broad­mead Road. The Broad­way, with its curved ter­races of attrac­tive­ly detailed three-storey shops nuz­zling up to the sta­tion, is now one of Woodford’s many con­ser­va­tion areas.

Fur­ther east, Ray Park was for­mer­ly the grounds of the 17th-cen­tu­ry Ray House. Iron­i­cal­ly, nego­ti­a­tions for its pur­chase by Bryant and May were abrupt­ly halt­ed when the house was dev­as­tat­ed by fire. The com­pa­ny used the grounds as a sports facil­i­ty in the mid­dle decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry. Ray Park now offers a vari­ety of activ­i­ties for fam­i­lies, with facil­i­ties that were enhanced in 2009-10.

St Mary’s church was also dev­as­tat­ed by fire, in this case caused by arson in Feb­ru­ary 1969. The inte­ri­or and east front were after­wards recon­struct­ed.

By Lon­don stan­dards, Wood­ford is an eth­ni­cal­ly homoge­nous sub­urb. More than 60 per cent of res­i­dents are white British and no oth­er eth­nic group accounts for more than 10 per cent of the total. After Eng­lish, the most wide­ly spo­ken lan­guages are Pol­ish, Urdu, Lithuan­ian, Gujarati and Turk­ish, but each of these is spo­ken by few­er than one per cent of res­i­dents. Liv­ing stan­dards are high across Wood­ford, espe­cial­ly in the north and west of the dis­trict.

Postcode area: Woodford Green IG8
Population: 45,640 (Bridge, Church End, Monkhams and Roding wards, 2011 census)
Station: Central line (zone 4)
Further reading: Peter Lawrence and Georgina Green, Woodford: A Pictorial History, Phillimore, 1995
See also: Woodford Green
* The scene outside Woodford Station at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Des Blenkinsopp, and the picture of St Mary’s church is slightly modified 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 is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.