A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND POOR-RELIEF TO 1836.
Ralph de Tony was holding view of frankpledge in Walthamstow c. 1278. (fn. 1) In 1592 quarter sessions ordered the countess of Rutland to provide ducking stool and pillory, and in 1645 required the constable to set up stocks and whipping post at the charge of the inhabitants, while the lord of the manor was to provide the pillory. (fn. 2) The stocks stood in front of the Vestry House until c. 1850. (fn. 3)
Court books of the manor of Walthamstow Tony survive from 1677 to 1930. (fn. 4) Courts leet and baron were held up to 1895, at Tony (Shern) Hall until 1848 or later, (fn. 5) in c. 1863–8 at the Ferry Boat inn, (fn. 6) and in 1880 at the town hall. (fn. 7) The leet met annually on Whit Tuesday, (fn. 8) attended by 12–15 jurors. It elected constables and aleconners, normally 2 of each, up to 1881. The election of marsh bailiff or haywarden is first recorded in 1759 and annually from 1767; after 1895, however, the bailiff was appointed by the steward out of court. (fn. 9) The leet was still actively involved in parish life in the late 17th century: it regulated the lammas lands and cattle pounds, and apparently exercised some authority over the parish officers, closely supervising the work of the parish surveyors, and in 1736 presenting the churchwardens for failing to keep the stocks in repair. But its influence gradually diminished after the parish reverted to an open vestry. (fn. 10) After c. 1730 it did little more than elect the officers, only occasionally asserting itself, as in 1745–7, when several tenants were presented for selling beer without licence. From 1895 to 1930 all manorial business was transacted out of court, mainly conveyances of copyholds, enfranchisements, and from 1922 extinguishment of manorial incidents.
The two small manors which broke away from Walthamstow Tony played little part in parish government. Low Hall had a copyholders' customary court, for which court books exist from 1693 to 1883. (fn. 11) The Rectory manor held a court baron at irregular intervals, rolls surviving for the years 1535 and 1554–1706, with copies to 1764. (fn. 12) Although courts leet, view of frankpledge, and the assize of bread and ale were included in the grant of the Rectory manor to the Withypolls in 1544, (fn. 13) there is no record of a leet being held.
Peter de Maule and his wife Christine had a court at Higham in 1257, with the right to try pleas moved by the King's writ and judge thieves. (fn. 14) In 1274 and 1285 William Comyn, Alexander de Balliol, and Christine de Maule were said to hold view of frankpledge and the assize of bread and ale at Higham. (fn. 15) Extracts from Higham Bensted court rolls exist from 1353 (fn. 16) and original rolls from 1559 to 1793. (fn. 17) The manor held both courts leet, until 1664, and courts baron. In 1796 the courts formerly held for Higham Bensted were said to be about to be renewed, (fn. 18) but although that possibility was still being explored in 1809 (fn. 19) there is no record of any later courts being held. (fn. 20) The number of jurors attending the leet varied from 11 to 18. (fn. 21) They elected one constable. In 1588 it was said to be customary for the same constable to serve both Higham and Salisbury Hall, chosen by each manor in turn; this was confirmed in 1593. One aletaster was usually chosen, though two were chosen in 1640 and 1650. The last recorded election of officers was in 1664. The leet reported in 1588 that the stocks were broken and in 1640 that both stocks and whipping post were lacking. In 1590 the court was enforcing the statute for wearing caps. Pound breaking was presented in 1657 and keeping 'inmates' in 1664.
Court rolls for Salisbury Hall survive from 1499 to 1507 and court books from 1667 to 1908. (fn. 22) The manor held both court leet and baron. The last leet was held in 1730. A lease of the manor-house in 1658 reserved the right to hold courts there twice a year. (fn. 23) In 1499–1507 the number of leet jurors varied from 11 to 15. In those years apparently a constable was elected annually, but by 1588 in alternate years to serve both Salisbury Hall and Higham. (fn. 24) The last recorded election of constable was in 1730. An aleconner was chosen in 1502 and in 1504–7. In 1501 the lord was presented for allowing his gallows at Rodon (Rowden) Ende and his pillory to fall into ruin.
Walthamstow vestry minutes are only preserved from 1710 to 1820; churchwarden's and overseers' records in broken series date from the mid 18th century. (fn. 25) In 1624 the vicar, a churchwarden, and the inhabitants successfully petitioned the bishop of London to establish a select vestry, to avoid disorder at church meetings. The select vestry, comprising the vicar or curate, the churchwardens, and 17 parishioners, was co-optative, and dealt with the whole business of the church and parish. Meetings were called by the vicar or curate; a quorum of 10 including the minister and churchwardens was required for a full vestry. (fn. 26) The select vestry, no record of whose work survives, still existed in 1706, but by 1710 the parish had reverted to an open vestry. (fn. 27)
The open vestry met regularly in Easter week and in December, or September after 1767, with frequent but irregular meetings at other times as business required. Sometimes it met in the church, but after 1730 usually in the vestry room in the workhouse, with adjournments to the Chequers or Nag's Head. The vicar normally took the chair. Attendances before 1725 varied from 2 to 18, but were usually below 10. After 1782 they were sometimes as high as 36; in 1805 116 were present to elect a beadle. The average in 1800–20 was 16. (fn. 28) The parish did not appoint a select vestry after 1819, continuing, as had been its practice for many years, to appoint committees from time to time. (fn. 29)
Churchwardens and overseers were elected regularly at Easter. The surveyors were nominated separately, later in the year. The vestry did not, except on rare occasions, appoint a constable. (fn. 30) Parishioners were often loath to serve as officers. (fn. 31) Some paid fines, rising from £10 in 1711 to £45 in 1820, for exemption for life. Fines were paid by 5 out of 8 nominated in 1777. In 1780 the vestry complained that some of those elected employed unsuitable substitutes.
Two churchwardens were chosen, both by the parishioners. One was usually re-elected the following year, becoming 'head' or 'senior' warden. (fn. 32) Two overseers were appointed, dividing the year between them. In 1809 the vestry complained that people in office for only six months could not become competent in their duties. The workhouse master, or beadle, often acted as assistant or extra overseer, but from 1820 a full-time paid assistant overseer was employed. (fn. 33)
Up to 1766 two surveyors were appointed in December, one for the marsh side or lower division, and one for the forest side or upper division. From 1767 a paid surveyor, nominated in September, was appointed, (fn. 34) but after 1825 the parish reverted to the annual election of two substantial householders as unpaid surveyors. (fn. 35)
A beadle was first appointed in 1739, to deal with strangers, vagrants, and beggars. He soon became the messenger and servant of the vestry and its officers, dignified from 1742 by uniform. The duties of the post were detailed in 1779.
The parish clerk, entitled to an annual pension under the will of George Monoux (d. 1544), (fn. 36) by 1724 also received a salary from the vestry. From 1749 a salaried vestry clerk was also employed. This new office soon exceeded in importance that of parish clerk. The duties of Richard Banks, appointed vestry clerk in the parish reorganization of 1779–80, included making the rate books and collecting the parish rates and rents. Two or more of the offices of vestry clerk, parish clerk, workhouse master, beadle, constable, and assistant overseer were sometimes combined.
The rateable value of the parish in 1713 was £4,362. In 1781 it was £8,290, rising to £11,846 in 1808 and £17,568 in 1830. (fn. 37) In the early 18th century the churchwarden was reimbursed by an annual rate for his expenditure on both church and poor, while each overseer had a separate poor-rate, assessed half-yearly, to pay pensioners. After about 1743 the overseers' half-yearly rates usually met the cost of workhouse, pensioners, medical attendance, and casual poor. From 1779 a combined half-yearly rate was levied and apportioned between church and poor. A 1d. constable's rate is mentioned in 1717 but the constable's expenses were normally paid from the church or, later, the poor-rate. Occasional surveyors' rates were raised, but by 1806 regular annual compositions for statute duty, assessed on rental values, were being levied. (fn. 38)
Digging, carting, and spreading gravel formed the main element in Walthamstow's highway maintenance until the late 19th century. From the late 16th century the work was done by statute labour. (fn. 39) Defaulters were frequently presented at quarter sessions between 1601 and 1662; in 1647 no fewer than 46 cart days and 231 days' labour were lost through default. (fn. 40) In 1760 the vestry advised the new surveyors to insist on local dignitaries paying their full due for their carriages, and to prosecute those who refused to pay their share for the highways. This suggests that by then money compositions were replacing statute labour, though this was still the basis of Walthamstow's highway maintenance in 1796. (fn. 41) In 1780 the assistant surveyor was ordered to employ the poor on the roads whenever possible. Exceptionally large payments for pauper labour were made in 1828–30, during the construction of Woodford New Road.
In 1765 a watch-house or cage was built against the workhouse east wall. It was pulled down in 1912. (fn. 42) From 1819 to 1831 a police committee supported by subscription employed armed night patrols in winter. They were augmented by day patrols during the unrest of 1830–1. (fn. 43) The vestry adopted the Lighting and Watching Act (1830) in 1831, appointing inspectors who levied a rate and employed a sergeant and squad of constables. (fn. 44) When this arrangement ceased in 1833, the police committee was revived, raised a voluntary rate, and hired patrols until 1835, when the vestry adopted the Lighting and Watching Act (1833) for watching only, in the parish south of Clay Street and Hagger Lane. The small police force then employed was disbanded in 1840. (fn. 45)
In 1771 Ralph Fresselicque gave the parish a fire-engine. The vestry bought a better one in 1791. Repairs carried out in 1815 were paid on the churchwardens' rate. (fn. 46) In 1831 the vestry's lighting and watching committee became responsible for its maintenance, the police sergeant acting as engine keeper. (fn. 47) Fire arrangements after 1836 are described below. (fn. 48)
Walthamstow's poor benefited from many endowments, including alms-houses. (fn. 49) In the early 18th century the parish supported regular pensioners including children; in 1710 there were 20 of them. In 1711 spinning-wheels and reels were to be provided to employ them; some were also to twine silk. The children were later apprenticed, usually to Londoners. In 1764 the beadle was ordered twice a year to visit all children put out. Casual relief included payments for rent, house repairs, medical care, midwifery, London hospital charges, and clothing; also provision of the tools and materials of trade, and money to redeem articles from pawn.
In 1725, besides 13 alms-people, Walthamstow's poor comprised 94 widows, single poor, and labourers with families. In the next year, to remedy the increasing cost of the poor and save paying pensions and rents, the vestry rented a house in Hoe Street for 3 years as a workhouse. Some pensions, however, continued to be paid. A workhouse was built at Church End in 1730–1. In 1741 the vestry required all those receiving relief, with their families, to be badged; this order appears to have lapsed, for it was renewed in 1760. The cost of poor-relief continued to rise and pensions to be paid. When the workhouse was enlarged in 1756 pensions were intended to cease, but by 1759 they were costing £112 a year. In 1742 a shilling rate for the year was sufficient for both church and poor; by 1763 the rate for the poor alone was 1s. 8d., by 1798 3s., and by 1818 4s. The total cost of the poor in 1763–4 was £584; in 1815 it was £1,725. In 1779, when pensions were costing over £6 a week, the increase in the number of poor was attributed to the departure of so many men for military service. A determined attempt that year to discontinue pensions and bring all those capable of work into the house still left a pension list of 36.
When exceptional distress followed a bad harvest in 1800 and corn was scarce, a general meeting of inhabitants decided to cultivate Markhouse common field (68 a.). (fn. 50) The owners and occupiers undertook to pay the overseers 10s. an acre for bread for the poor as soon as the corn was carried. The inhabitants also resolved to supply the poor with potatoes and cured herrings at a reduced price.
The annual cost of the poor was £2,807 in 1819 and never thereafter fell below £2,000. The average weekly cost per head in the workhouse, about 3s. in the late 1770s, was 6s. in 1821. The annual poorrate was 5s. 3d. in 1829. The cost of the outdoor poor soared in 1830–1, £782 being paid out to those incapable of work, and £690 to those who worked. Stringent means of economy, including discontinuing payment of rents, reduced the rate from 5s. in 1834 to 3s. 6d. in 1835. That year the poor-rate met a total cost of £2,436, which included, besides the county rate (£262) and the management of the workhouse, £513 for pensions, £109 for illegitimate children, and £85 for lunatics. In 1836 the parish's responsibility for the poor was taken over by the West Ham poor law union.
The workhouse, later called the Vestry House and Armoury, now the museum, was built in 1730–1 on an acre of land in Buryfield. The cost was met by a loan and by the sale of the capital of the Turner and Compton charities. (fn. 51) Sir Henry Maynard in his will, proved 1738, left £50 to make the workhouse more comfortable; (fn. 52) this was spent on a brewhouse built soon after 1743. A large workroom with a loft room over it was added to the workhouse in 1756. The vestry room by the main south entrance was extended into the front yard in 1779. (fn. 53)
From 1726 to 1754 the vestry employed a salaried master and mistress. From 1755 to 1780 the poor were usually farmed to contractors at weekly rates varying from 2s. to 3s. a head. In 1762 an agreement to farm the poor on the product of two 7d. rates was short-lived, the contractor surrendering the agreement after 3 months and being reappointed at 2s. 4d. a head. From 1780 the vestry employed a qualified salaried master and mistress, supervised by the parish officers and a regular visiting committee. The 1780 rules required the men and boys to garden, pick oakum, and spin hemp or flax; the women and girls to do the domestic work, and spin flax for sheeting, hemp for sacks, and yarn for stockings to be knitted for the house. The master appointed in 1785 proposed to employ the poor in winding cotton for the tallow-chandler. The problem of employment was, however, never solved. In 1828 a visiting committee found the inmates with no occupation but household and garden tasks. When they were again found idle in 1831 the able-bodied men were sent to work in West Ham workhouse (fn. 54) and the women and children were given materials to knit and sew. In 1834 oakum was ordered. The diet laid down in 1780 was second bread, beer, and meat 3 times a week, with no stint of other things, but no waste. Some teaching was provided for the children in the house. (fn. 55) A parish doctor was being elected annually by 1739; from 1804 two were sometimes appointed. (fn. 56) A dispensary was established in 1828.
From 1747 to 1753 the number of inmates averaged 31, mainly women and children; men below 60 were rare unless sick or incapacitated. In 1779 there were 37 occupants, though there were beds for 50 and, since the enlargement of 1756 room for 80 if more beds were provided. In 1828, when there were 48 in the house, it was described as much too small, in bad condition, and incapable of holding more, but by 1834 there were 80 inmates. In 1836 the house was taken over by the West Ham guardians, who kept it open, with those of Woodford and West Ham, to serve the union until the new union house at Leytonstone was completed. In 1841 there were 77 inmates awaiting transfer. (fn. 57)
After their transfer the workhouse building was divided. The vestry and parish officers, and later the local board, occupied the older part of it until the town hall was built, (fn. 58) while the 1756 extension became the Metropolitan police station. The building became vested in the Walthamstow charity trustees, who let the Vestry House from 1882 to 1892 to the Literary and Scientific Institute and then to private tenants. In 1930 Miss C. Demain Saunders gave the remainder of her lease, which the trustees extended, to the corporation, so that the Vestry House might become a museum of local history and antiquities, which was opened in 1931. (fn. 59) The police continued to occupy the extension until 1870; after 1870 it was let for a time as the headquarters or armoury of the Walthamstow volunteers and later as a builder's workshop. The corporation acquired the lease of the armoury also in 1933, and opened it as an extension to the museum in 1934. (fn. 60) In 1944 the charity trustees sold the whole building to the corporation. (fn. 61)
The museum is a dignified two-storey building of brown stock brick with hipped tile roofs. Its plan is irregular as a result of the extensions of 1756 and 1779. The south front was originally symmetrical and of five bays, with segmental-headed sash windows and a central doorway. The vestry room extension of 1779 destroyed the western end of the fa¸ade. The doorway survives with, above it, a stone tablet inscribed 'This house erected An. Dom. MDCCXXX if any would not work neither should he eat'; it was executed by Samuel Chandler of Wanstead (fl. 1721–41), a statuary of contemporary note. (fn. 62) The site of the former cage against the east wall of the building is marked by an inscription. Some original 18th-century panelling and staircases remain, but the Tudor and Jacobean panelling and chimneypiece in the former armoury came from Essex Hall after its demolition in 1934. The late-18th-century doorcase with half-round pilasters, flat hood, and copper-framed fan-light now in the east wall of the armoury came from Church Hill House, demolished in 1932. (fn. 63)
In 1565 the parish owned a house adjoining the churchyard. Waste on either side of it was granted to the parish and churchwardens in 1568, and by 1670 the churchwardens held in trust for the poor buildings on both sides of the south gate of the church, (fn. 64) shown on a map of 1699. (fn. 65) By the early 18th century they comprised 5 cottages, which were encroaching on the churchyard. In 1713 the vestry ordered their back doors, opening upon the churchyard, to be stopped up, and decided that when the cottages became vacant or the occupants could be moved to the Monoux alms-houses, they should be demolished and the south side of the churchyard fenced. These conditions were satisfied in 1721, when the cottages were pulled down. (fn. 66)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AFTER 1836.
The vestry's most important civil responsibility after 1836 was the care of parish roads. (fn. 67) At first the vestry continued to choose two surveyors each year, but by 1845 it was delegating its responsibility to a committee, described by 1851 as a highway board. (fn. 68) This mode of management so impressed the Leyton vestry that in 1851 they followed Walthamstow's example. (fn. 69) The board met in the old workhouse, as did the vestry, and employed the vestry clerk as its clerk, also an assistant surveyor, a rate collector paid on commission, and an engine keeper. One of its members acted as treasurer.
The spread of speculative building in the 1850s soon presented the vestry with sanitary problems, and a nuisances removal committee was appointed some time before 1857, comprising the members of the parish highway board with additional members elected by the vestry. This committee appointed an inspector and was attended, unpaid, by the clerk to the highway board. In 1862 the vestry combined the two authorities by forming an enlarged highway board at whose monthly meetings the nuisances and highway business was dealt with in turn. In 1866 the clerk advised the board that in view of the Sanitary Act, 1866, he considered their powers as nuisance authority to be at an end, since they had become vested in the West Ham guardians. For two years the guardians appointed a small nuisance removal committee, (fn. 70) which continued the inspector's appointment, employed a rate collector on commission, and was attended unpaid by the highway board clerk. In 1868 the vestry constituted the south-east corner of the parish, roughly eastward of Church End and Pig Alley (now Beulah Path), a special drainage district. Later in the same year, following the Sanitary Act, 1868, the vestry resumed its powers as sanitary authority, annually thereafter electing a committee composed of the members of the highway board to exercise them in the whole parish outside the special drainage district. The committee might not, however, borrow money without the vestry's consent. The highway board maintained some 21 miles of road on an average rate of 6d. The cost of sewers laid by the board was met by special rates levied on the roads served. During an outbreak of cholera in 1866 the board met weekly, and appointed a temporary highways assistant to enable the assistant surveyor, who was also the nuisances inspector, to concentrate on his sanitary duties.
In 1873 the special drainage district was dissolved and the civil parish constituted as an urban sanitary district, excluding the Walthamstow Slip, which became incorporated in the Leyton urban sanitary district. (fn. 71) The small detached portion of Walthamstow in Chingford, south of Chingford Hall, was merged in Chingford in 1882. (fn. 72)
The district was governed by a local board of health of 12 members, increased to 18 in 1891, when the district was divided into 4 wards. (fn. 73) A well-balanced board was elected in 1873, comprising three each of farmers and builders and the rest businessmen and gentry; among them were four experienced members of the parish highway board, one of whom, Ebenezer Clarke, became the first chairman. (fn. 74) The board met in the Vestry House until 1876, when the public hall in Orford Road, built in 1866, (fn. 75) was bought and enlarged as a town hall. Another wing was added in 1890–1. The ornate mid-Victorian front of the town hall still survives as part of Connaught Hospital. (fn. 76)
The vestry and highway board clerk, William Houghton, became the local board's part-time clerk. (fn. 77) His son, Gilbert, succeeded him in 1879, on the same terms, after a proposal to appoint a full-time clerk had been defeated. Some clerical help was authorized in 1885, and in 1887, when the clerk became also solicitor to the board, a full-time assistant clerk and accountant was appointed. But the clerk continued to act part-time and to be entitled to various fees and costs. A majority on the board consistently opposed a full-time appointment. W. G. Cluff, its chief advocate, in 1893 mustered only 3 supporters. The resistance may have been influenced by regard for the Houghton family and their long professional association with local affairs. (fn. 78)
A part-time professional surveyor was appointed in 1874; but the parish surveyor employed full-time by the vestry and parish highway board since before 1845 (fn. 79) continued with the local board as inspector of nuisances until 1880 and as assistant and road surveyor until 1891. When the part-time surveyor resigned in 1879 the board, urged by Cluff, appointed in 1880 a resident, full-time surveyor, who also took over the post of inspector of nuisances. Responsibility for the district's sewerage schemes led to redesignation of the appointment as engineer, surveyor, and inspector in 1884, when a full-time assistant inspector was authorized and office staff provided. From 1886 the engineer was relieved of the inspector's duties entirely, and a separate appointment made. The engineer's office was reorganized in 1891, to administer the growing direct labour force.
The board's rate collector was paid on commission. A second collector was appointed from 1889, and in 1894 fixed salaries replaced payment by commission. A part-time medical officer was appointed from 1874. A bank manager acted as treasurer to the board.
The press were admitted to the board's meetings from the first. For five years the board's minutes record nothing but harmony among its members. But after the election of W. G. Cluff (fn. 80) in 1879 its meetings were seldom without controversy. Cluff proposed publication of the board's accounts, proper custody of its records, and admission of ratepayers as spectators at board meetings. He pressed for legal action against builders contravening the by-laws, and for the use of direct labour on the board's own work. As returning officer in 1883 he criticized mal-practices at a local election. Cluff had a considerable following outside the board. In 1879 a public meeting of ratepayers endorsed the course adopted by him and his two most constant supporters; yet in 1883 the board's chairman, W. B. Whittingham, condemned them as a minority aiming to 'usurp the authority which must repose in the majority'. Nevertheless, by 1894 Cluff's persistence had secured acceptance of all the most important matters raised by him, except the appointment of a full-time clerk.
The board inherited from the parish highway board the unmade roads and poor drainage of earlier unrestricted developments, notably in the Church common area, and on the Tower Hamlets estate. At the same time speculative building was accelerating. The product of 1d. rate, £190 in 1877, rose to £425 by 1887. The number of houses in the district rose from 2,079 in 1871 to 7,970 in 1891. (fn. 81) The population doubled in two successive decades, 1871–81 and 1881–91. (fn. 82) The board's first by-laws, adopted in 1874, required approval of building plans. By 1894 the board had considered some 2,500 applications, the largest one for 108 houses in Leucha Road in 1892. Over 500 houses a year were being built by 1886, falling to about 300 a year by 1892. (fn. 83) Some builders ignored the by-laws, and in 1880 the board ordered that no new house be occupied until certified by the surveyor. Differences between the board and builders came to a head in 1887–8, when the surveyor reported persistent breaches of the regulations. Notices were served on 31 builders; discussions with them followed, minor adjustments of the by-laws were agreed, and from 1890 the surveyor reported improved standards.
The board's schemes for sewage disposal are described below. (fn. 84) They accounted for about three-quarters of the money borrowed by the board. The £2,000 debt taken over by the board from the South-Eastern special drainage district in 1873 had risen to £116,008 by 1895. (fn. 85) Apart from loans for sewerage and public buildings the rest of the debt was mainly attributable to road works. By 1890 the board was responsible for over 50 miles of roads. Between 1881 and 1891 20 miles of gravel paths were replaced by asphalt or flagged pavements. (fn. 86)
The board bought a site for an isolation hospital, provided a public library, reorganized the fire service, increased recreation space, and took the first steps towards providing baths, technical education, and a local electricity supply. It initiated the use of direct labour in refuse collection and other municipal works, and by attacking the use of polluted wells and pressing for their replacement by mains supplies reduced the incidence of typhoid. (fn. 87)
The district's rateable value rose from £61,000 in 1873 to £177,000 in 1895; but with the mounting cost of public services in the same time the poundage of the general district rate doubled, from 1s. 6d. to 3s. 1d. The board's estimated expenditure in 1873 was £3,138; its expenditure in 1894–5 was £58,185, including £16,810 for loan charges. (fn. 88)
Under the Local Government Act, 1894, the local board was replaced in 1895 by an urban district council of 18 members representing 4 wards. The membership was increased to 22 in 1897 when a fifth ward was created, to 27 in 1905, and to 33 in 1913, when the number of wards was increased to 6. (fn. 89) The council was constituted the electric lighting authority in 1895. (fn. 90) In 1903 it became the local authority for elementary education (fn. 91) and in the same year was empowered to construct and operate municipal tramways. (fn. 92)
By the 1890s local elections were being fought on party lines. From 1894 to 1921 the U.D.C. was controlled in turn by the Ratepayers' Association, later called the Moderates (1894–7, 1901–4, 1913–21) and the Radical and Progressive Association (1897–1901, 1904–13). (fn. 93) The Progressives were led to victory in 1897 by J. J. McSheedy (councillor 1894–1904), a fiery young Irishman who was editor of the Walthamstow Reporter, and who was the storm centre of local politics at that period. (fn. 94) Socialist or Labour candidates contested U.D.C. elections occasionally from 1894 and regularly from 1905, but without success before 1919. The Walthamstow Guardian, supporting the Moderates, exploited the fear of Socialism engendered by contemporary events in West Ham. Lack of local support for Labour before the First World War is shown by the Osborne case of 1908. (fn. 95) In 1919 the Socialists won 4 seats. They increased their representation in 1920, and in 1921 gained control of the council. They never lost it, though their majority was sometimes very small. They were assisted by the failure of shifting opposition groups to maintain a common front against them.
The council continued to meet in the Orford Road town hall, which was again enlarged in 1900. The education committee took over Clevelands in High Street from the school board. (fn. 96) In 1911 offices were provided for the public health and school attendance departments at the Water House in Lloyd Park.
When Gilbert Houghton retired in 1895 the post of clerk became full-time; but Houghton remained solicitor to the council until 1902 when C. S. Watson was appointed clerk and solicitor. (fn. 97) An accountant's department was created in 1899, but a bank manager continued to act as treasurer until 1927, when the accountant became treasurer. The engineer's and surveyor's functions were separated in 1899, and two departments created. These were reunited in 1923. The medical officer's appointment became full-time in 1906.
The rate of building increased sharply in 1896, to reach its peak in 1898–1902; in those five years some 8,800 plans were passed. Between 1891 and 1901 the number of houses rose from 7,970 to 16,083 and the population from 46,346 to 95,131. (fn. 98) In 1899 Walthamstow was described as one of the largest municipal areas in the country, expected to achieve a population equal to West Ham. (fn. 99) The chairman reported in 1898 that council business was becoming very heavy, but it is clear from his successors' reports that the council, like the local board, welcomed the growth of the district and worked hard to keep pace with it. By 1905 the council had built public baths, an isolation hospital, an electricity generating station, and a refuse destructor; (fn. 100) it had inaugurated municipal tramways, (fn. 101) established a technical institute (fn. 102) and a professional fire brigade, and laid out a public park. (fn. 103) Direct labour was increasingly employed on every kind of municipal work. The district's death-rate was consistently below the national average, and infant mortality, which averaged 151.5 per 1,000 live births in 1896–1900, was halved by 1916–19. By 1909 the medical officer reported that typhoid had been practically banished. In 1910 among the country's 77 'great towns' only five had a better health record than Walthamstow. The problem of sewage disposal, (fn. 104) one of the council's most pressing anxieties in its early years, was finally resolved in 1928 when Walthamstow's sewage was diverted into the London system. In 1912 the council prepared a town planning scheme and secured the co-operation of the Warner and Salisbury Hall estate companies in laying out their developments on town planning lines.
Between 1895 and 1929 the council spent nearly £17 million to provide the spreading district with all necessary services. (fn. 105) Consistently from 1900 to 1920 the heaviest expenditure was required for road works. (fn. 106) By 1929 the council was responsible for 82 miles of highway and 16 miles of tramway. (fn. 107) From 1918, however, the council regarded the postwar house famine as its most urgent problem. Advances under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, 1899, had been made since 1902, but from 1920 council house building became the largest item of municipal expenditure. In 1920–4 the council bought 154 a. of land for housing. (fn. 108) By 1929 more than 800 houses had been built, over half of them by direct labour, and nearly £900,000 of the district's debt of over £2 million was attributable to housing. (fn. 109)
Municipal incorporation was publicly discussed as early as 1892. In 1907–8 the council considered transfer to the county of London, as a metropolitan borough. (fn. 110) After the First World War the Walthamstow Guardian led the movement in favour of incorporation which preceded a petition to the Privy Council in 1920. The decision, delayed by a succession of royal commissions on local government, was again postponed in 1926, when the council, under pressure from its employees, to ensure the maintenance of essential services agreed to cut off the supply of electricity to local factories during the General Strike. The fine subsequently imposed at Stratford Court for this 'neglect of duty' was negligible, but the government's displeasure delayed the grant of borough status until 1929. (fn. 111)
The borough council comprised 36 councillors, representing 6 wards, and 12 aldermen. The charter mayor was the lord of the manor of Higham, Col. Sir Courtenay Warner. The Socialists retained control, usually with a large majority, throughout the life of the borough council. (fn. 112) During the 1930s the opposition was again weakened by its own divisions. In 1947–51 the Conservatives reduced the Socialist majority to 4, but it rose again thereafter.
The Orford Road town hall, with additional offices at the Water House in Lloyd Park, (fn. 113) was used until 1941. In that year a new town hall was completed on a site to the north of Forest Road, next to the recently built South-West Essex technical college. The architect was P. D. Hepworth and the town hall formed the central block of what was planned as an impressive civic centre. Faced with white stone, it has a central portico rising through all three storeys. The front is dominated by a tall square clock turret, sheathed in copper and surmounted by an octagonal lantern. In style the building, with its wrought iron balconies and decorative sculpture, reflects the Swedish influence of the inter-war years. The forecourt is laid out on formal lines with a central circular pool and fountain. An assembly hall flanking the forecourt to the east was completed to the original design in 1943. A court house on the opposite side was in course of construction in 1971. Its design by K. Krumins breaks away from that of the earlier buildings, the architectural emphasis being horizontal rather than vertical. (fn. 114)
A separate cleansing department was inaugurated in 1933 and a building works department in 1938. In 1945 a borough architect's department was created. The engineer and surveyor's department was merged in this in 1952, as were the cleansing and building works departments in 1959. In 1960 all these functions were divided between two departments, a borough architect's, with building works, and a borough engineer and surveyor's, with cleansing.
Walthamstow Corporation Acts were obtained in 1931, 1932, and 1934 (fn. 115) enabling the council, inter alia, to control street trading by licences and by-laws (1932) and to acquire the remaining lammas lands (1934). The Walthamstow Savings Bank, Ltd., was incorporating in 1932, its trading activities restricted to lending money to the corporation. (fn. 116)
In 1932 Walthamstow was the highest populated non-county borough in the country; most of its houses were small artisan dwellings built before the First World War, 83 per cent of them with a rateable value under £20. (fn. 117) Though part of the administrative county of Essex, Walthamstow came under the operational control of the London civil defence region in the Second World War, during which 1,288 out of 32,000 houses were destroyed, 3,707 badly damaged, and 25,152 slightly damaged. (fn. 118) The council's predominant task after the war was to replace destroyed, damaged, and outdated houses. Between 1945 and 1960 the council bought 158 a. of land for housing. The Walthamstow Corporation Act, 1956, (fn. 119) strengthened the council's powers to control building and improve defective premises. The council's own schemes are described below. By 1964 the council was responsible for 106 miles of road maintenance. (fn. 120)
In 1965, under the London Government Act, 1963, Walthamstow was combined with Chingford and Leyton as the London borough of Waltham Forest. (fn. 121) The town hall in Forest Road became the administrative centre of the new borough.
The development of gas, electricity, and water supplies, and of sewerage, has been outlined elsewhere. (fn. 122) The South Essex Gaslight and Coke Co.'s works at Lea Bridge supplied part of Walthamstow with gas from 1854. (fn. 123) The company's successors (fn. 124) continued to supply Walthamstow, the whole parish being included in their limits from 1864. By 1900 their mains had reached Hale End. A small portion of north-east Walthamstow was supplied by the Gas Light and Coke Co. (fn. 125)
An electricity generating station in Exeter Road built by the urban district council opened in 1901. It closed in 1968 and was demolished in 1969. (fn. 126)
Walthamstow was included in the area of supply of the East London Waterworks Co., one of the predecessors of the Metropolitan water board, from 1853. (fn. 127) The company's intake was moved from Lea Bridge to the Copper Mills in 1854 when an aqueduct was completed. Between 1853 and 1904 the company built one reservoir at the junction of Hagger Lane and Woodford New Road, and twelve covering over 360 a. of the Walthamstow marshes. The Racecourse reservoir was converted to filter beds in 1968–9. (fn. 128) In 1874 the company's mains had not reached Higham Hill or Chapel End, and even where mains were laid many households still depended on unsatisfactory pumps and wells. In 1876 only 5 of 70 houses in the St. James Street area, with mains near by, had water laid on. Cases of typhoid in the 1870s were usually traced to polluted water supplies. The local board unremittingly urged on owners to connect their properties to the mains, and on the company to extend its mains, improve pressure in the higher parts of the district, and provide a constant supply. (fn. 129) The mains supply was constant by 1911 (fn. 130) and by 1914 every house was connected to it. (fn. 131)
In the mid 19th century Walthamstow's sewage drained into ditches and watercourses which flowed either into the Phillebrook at Tinkers Bridge or into the Dagenham brook on the marsh, and so through Leyton to the Lea. As building spread after 1850 lengths of ditch which caused local offence were bricked over or piped. In 1859 Leyton's first complaint of fouling of the Phillebrook was dismissed on the grounds that the drainage was 'following the ancient course'. (fn. 132) In 1868 the south-east corner of the parish was constituted a special drainage district. (fn. 133) In 1875–7 under pressure from the Dagenham commissioners of sewers, the Lee conservancy, and the Leyton local board, which in 1875 secured an injunction restraining Walthamstow from passing sewage into the Dagenham brook, Walthamstow local board bought Low Hall farm and built outfall works. These treated the sewage by chemical precipitation and broad irrigation. In 1876 a small scheme was completed to drain north-east Walthamstow's sewage into tanks at Hale End. The sewage from the south-east was diverted westwards from Tinkers Bridge to Low Hall in 1880, and the works were enlarged in 1885 to take the north-eastern sewage from Hale End. (fn. 134) For some years the Low Hall works were not entirely successful and in 1895 Leyton threatened to reopen legal proceedings. That year the urban district council applied for permission to drain into the L.C.C.'s northern outfall sewer, but were refused because the sewer had insufficient capacity. The Low Hall works were satisfactorily modified, but the application to join the L.C.C. system was renewed in 1904 and subsequently. (fn. 135) Agreement was reached in 1925 and in 1928 all Walthamstow sewage except storm water was turned into the L.C.C. system. (fn. 136)
The local board inaugurated domestic refuse collection in 1874 under contract. The work was taken over by the surveyor's department in 1891, (fn. 137) and a refuse and sludge destructor built at Low Hall farm in 1904. (fn. 138) Refuse disposal extensions were opened in 1937. (fn. 139)
Selbourne Road recreation ground (4 a.) originated in 1850, when 2 a. on Church common were allotted for public recreation under an inclosure award. This land was sold in 1869 to the Great Eastern railway company and the Selborne Road site bought with the proceeds. The vestry handed over the ground to the local board in 1876. After excavating the cutting the railway company conveyed what was left of the 2 a. as a playground for the Orford Road National school; it survives as the Vestry Road children's playground. (fn. 140) The Higham Hill (12 a.) and Queen's Road (2 a.) recreation grounds originated as the gravel pits on Higham Hill (4 a.) and Mark House (2 a.) commons allotted to the parish surveyors for road maintenance under the inclosure award of 1850. When the pits were exhausted in the 1890s the local board fenced and levelled them for recreation. In 1906 the Selborne Road, Higham Hill, and Queen's Road grounds were laid out by the unemployed, under local distress relief schemes. They also laid out 8½ a. adjoining Low Hall farm, opened in 1910 as St. James's Park. (fn. 141) The Higham Hill common (Green Pond Road) and Markhouse common (Queen's Road) allotments also date from 1850 when the inclosure award set aside 10 a. at Higham Hill and 6 a. on Markhouse common for the labouring poor. (fn. 142)
In 1898 the family of Edward Lloyd (1815–90) (fn. 143) gave the urban district council Winns or the Water House, once the home of William Morris, with 9½ a. of grounds, on condition that the council bought the adjoining 9¾ a. Lloyd Park was opened in 1900. About 16 a. of the adjoining Aveling Park estate were bought in 1912 as an addition to the park, and laid out in 1921. (fn. 144) The small Stoneydown gardens were opened in 1920. (fn. 145)
In 1920 Walthamstow was estimated to have 40.5 a. of parks maintained by the council. (fn. 146) In addition, there were 358 a. of open forest within the urban district and some 30 a. more in Highams Park controlled by the forest conservators; the local board had contributed towards the purchase of Highams Park by the conservators in 1891. (fn. 147) Under the Walthamstow Corporation Act, 1934, the corporation bought about 100 a. of the remaining lammas lands for recreation. (fn. 148)
A disused sewage tank at Low Hall farm was opened as a swimming bath in the summer of 1889 and 1890. (fn. 149) The High Street baths adjoining the library opened in 1900. They were enlarged in 1923 and demolished in 1968. In 1966 new baths were opened in Chingford Road. The Whipps Cross Lido, managed jointly by Walthamstow and Leyton, is treated under Leyton.
The parish highway board appointed the keeper of the fire-engine, and in 1863 had the hand-drawn manual engine adapted to a horse. In 1871 a second-hand manual engine, bought out of the poor-rate, replaced the old one. (fn. 150) After 1873 the local board ran the fire service. In 1883 the engine keeper was authorized to enlist six regular firemen, paid for each fire attended provided they arrived within half an hour of the engine. In 1887 a small curricle engine was bought, a second station established in St. James Street, another engine keeper appointed, and two more men enlisted on the same terms as the other six. In 1892 the curricle engine was moved to a new station in Willow Walk, to be known as the High Street station; the old engine remained at Church End. In 1893–4 the local board initiated a voluntary fire brigade, supported by subscribers and run by a voluntary committee. The board, however, appointed the officers, approved the rules, paid the engineer, and owned stations and equipment. When the volunteer brigade took over in 1894, the firemen previously employed were discharged. A steam engine was bought in the same year and a new High Street station opposite Storey Road was completed in 1895. (fn. 151) The local board had reserved the right to resume control, which the urban district council did in 1897–8. The volunteers were gradually replaced by full-time firemen, until by 1906 the whole brigade was professional. In 1912 two motor combinations replaced the horsed appliances. In 1924 the High Street station was replaced by a new one at the junction of Countess and Forest Roads. (fn. 152)
The urban district council completed over 520 houses at Hale End, Higham Hill, and Forest Road in 1920–2. (fn. 153) By 1938 1,627 municipal dwellings were built including 176 under slum clearance schemes; this was more than in any other borough in metropolitan Essex. The largest schemes were at Higham Hill and in Forest Road. (fn. 154) To relieve the housing shortage after the Second World War 535 temporary bungalows were provided in 1945–8. (fn. 155) The first permanent scheme, Priory Court, off Countess Road, was begun in 1946 and comprised 414 flats mainly in six-storey blocks. This was a departure from traditional municipal housing, for, with little undeveloped land left, in Walthamstow's post-war schemes flats and maisonettes predominated. (fn. 156) In 1954 the council began to clear sites for redevelopment in the Prospect Hill area, and near St. James Street station. (fn. 157) Between 1945 and 1964 5,151 new dwellings were built within the borough and a further 645 on Canvey Island and at Billericay. (fn. 158) In 1964–5 large areas of terrace houses built before 1900 in the vicinity of South Grove and off Boundary Road were demolished for redevelopment. (fn. 159)
A public dispensary supported by subscription was opened in Orford Road in 1873. It moved in 1913 to no. 105 Hoe Street, where it remained until it closed in 1942. (fn. 160)
Connaught Hospital, Orford Road, previously known as the Leyton, Walthamstow, and Wanstead hospital, originated as a voluntary cottage hospital for children founded in 1877–8 in Brandon Road off Wood Street. (fn. 161) In 1880 it moved to Salisbury Road, where it remained until 1894, when the gift of Holmcroft, Orford Road, made its expansion as a children's and general hospital possible. It was enlarged in 1897 and 1903 and by 1925 had 50 beds. Additions made in 1926–7 included completion of the Leyton and Leytonstone war memorial ward in 1927. The hospital was renamed Connaught in 1928, the duchess of Connaught having been patron since 1894. Comely Bank, Orford Road, was bought as a clinic in 1930. The hospital, which was enlarged again in 1934, had 118 beds in 1939. After the Second World War the Orford Road National school building was acquired as a pathology department. In 1958–9 the old Orford Road town hall was also acquired and now forms the main entrance to the hospital.
In 1893, after Plaistow and Highgate hospitals refused to accept any more Walthamstow smallpox patients, temporary isolation arrangements were made at Low Hall farm. An isolation hospital, built by the urban district council in the grounds of Larkswood Lodge, Chingford, opened in 1901. This was enlarged in 1905 and a pavilion for tuberculosis patients opened in 1914. A half-share in the hospital was bought by Leyton in 1938, when it became known as the Leyton and Walthamstow joint hospital. It ceased to deal with infectious diseases in 1953 and is now known as Chingford hospital. (fn. 162) Thorpe Coombe maternity hospital, Forest Road, was opened by the borough council in 1934. (fn. 163) The above three hospitals were all taken over by the N.E. Metropolitan regional hospital board in 1948.
A municipal smallpox hospital was established at Low Hall farm in 1929; it was closed in 1940 after being damaged by incendiary bombs. (fn. 164)
Brookfield voluntary orthopaedic hospital, established at Hale End in 1923, and governed by a council of representatives of Essex local authorities, closed in 1939. (fn. 165) There was a hospital for Jewish incurables at The Berthons, Whipps Cross, in 1899–1900. (fn. 166)
A burial board was constituted in 1870 (fn. 167) and opened a cemetery in Queen's Road in 1872. (fn. 168) The board was dissolved in 1896 when its functions were taken over by the urban district council. (fn. 169)
Walthamstow public libraries and museums to 1955 have been described elsewhere. (fn. 170) The central library in High Street (1909) occupies a 'Wren'-style building of red brick with stone dressings designed by J. W. Dunford. (fn. 171) In 1963 the rebuilding of Hale End branch library at Highams Park was completed, and shops in Coppermill Lane were converted as a temporary St. James Street branch. (fn. 172)
Grosvenor House junior training centre for handicapped children opened in 1970 on the site of Grosvenor House. (fn. 173)