A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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The town of Loughton lies to the east of Epping Forest and west of the Roding, adjoining Chigwell; it is 12 miles from London. (fn. 1) The ancient parish of Loughton became an urban district in 1900 and in 1933 was united with the Urban District of Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell civil parish to form the Chigwell Urban District. (fn. 2) The area of the ancient parish was approximately that of the present Loughton (North) and Loughton (South) Wards of the urban district, taken together, and in 1931 comprised 3,961 acres. (fn. 3) For ecclesiastical purposes the ancient parish was divided in 1887 by the creation of the new parish of St. Mary, in the south of the town. (fn. 4)
The best approach to Loughton is from the north, by the road through Epping Forest from the 'Wake Arms'. The forest has always formed an important part of the landscape of Loughton. Over 1,300 acres of the forest were within the ancient parish and were preserved by the Epping Forest Acts of 1871-80. (fn. 5) The road leaves the forest about a mile south of the 'Wake Arms', at Goldings Hill and runs south down hill, becoming Church Hill and then High Road and continuing to Buckhurst Hill and London. For many centuries this road, 2 miles long, was the main focus of settlement in the parish. South-east of Goldings Hill is the new Loughton: the large housing estate of Debden, built since 1945 by the London County Council. The estate takes its name from the ancient manor of Debden, which lay at its northern end, around Debden Hall and Debden Green. Debden Green itself does not form part of the estate. It is a pleasant little hamlet of about eight houses, mostly of the 19th century and later, grouped about the ancient green. Loughton Hall, on the site of another ancient manor, is now in the centre of the Debden estate, a mile south of Debden Green. Beside the hall is the little church of St. Nicholas (a chapel of ease to St. John, Loughton) which stands on the site of the original parish church. The Roding forms the boundary of the parish in this direction. There is an ancient crossing at Loughton Bridge a mile south-east of Loughton Hall. The railway from London via Stratford and Woodford, now part of the Central London Line, enters Loughton from the south. After passing through Loughton station it makes a wide arc east and north to Theydon Bois and Epping. Debden (formerly Chigwell Lane) station is ½ mile south-east of Loughton Hall. Rectory Lane, an old path which has become the main road through the new estate, runs from Church Hill south-east to Debden station and Loughton Bridge. Alderton Hall, which like Debden Hall and Loughton Hall was the centre of an ancient manor, is at the south-west edge of the new estate.
An early settlement in the parish was within the forest at what is known as Loughton Camp, about 1½ mile north of the railway station. The camp was a rough oval some 6½ acres in area, enclosed by a single rampart and ditch. It is thought to be pre-Roman. (fn. 6)
In the 11th century there were eight estates in Loughton. The largest were Alderton and Debden, which were probably the main centres of population at that time. (fn. 7) In 1086 there were 18 manorial tenants at Alderton and 11 at Debden and the total number in the parish was 49. (fn. 8) In 1377 the parish contained 44 poll-tax-payers. (fn. 9)
Although the total area of the parish was fairly large, the population was for long concentrated in a small part of it. Many medieval place-names survive and relate almost entirely to High Road and its immediate neighbourhood and to the areas around the three manor houses. Traps Hill, Algers Road, Goldings Hill, Borders Lane, Lyngs Lane (now Pump Hill), Pyrles Lane, Ollards Grove, and Ree Lane (now Englands Lane) have medieval names or the names of medieval tenants who held land in those areas. (fn. 10) There appears to be a specific reference to High Road in 1404 when a tenant was presented at the manor court for throwing the scourings of his ditch upon the highway at Richard Algor's Gate. (fn. 11) The offence was evidently committed in the neighbourhood of the present Alger's Road. (fn. 12)
While the concentration of population along the High Road was probably of medieval origin it was no doubt increased by the construction, early in the 17th century, of the new road through the forest to Epping (see below). In 1671 there were 89 houses in the parish (fn. 13) and there were only 119 in 1801, when the population was 681. (fn. 14) Chapman and André's map (1777) suggests that the appearance of Loughton was not very different from what it had been 100 years before. (fn. 15) It shows houses dotted along High Road as far north as Rectory Lane. There were some houses around Mutton Row (now York Hill) and small groups round Debden Hall and in the centre of Englands Lane. Other roads shown were Smarts Lane, Pump Hill, Clays Lane, Traps Hill, and Borders Lane, Pyrles Lane, and Debden Lane. (fn. 16) Larger houses specifically named were the Parsonage, Loughton Hall, Alderton Hall, Debden Hall, Golden Hill House, Hempstalls (later Borders Farm), 'The Reindeer' (later The Warren) and High Standing, which lay in the southwest of the parish on the edge of the forest. The ancient parish church beside Loughton Hall is, of course, shown on the map.
Very few of the houses then existing have survived to the present day. Loughton Hall, (fn. 17) which had been rebuilt about 1616, was burnt down in 1836, and Debden Hall has been twice rebuilt since 1777. (fn. 18) Golden Hill House, shown on the map as the residence of Richard Lomax Clay, stood on the north side of Clay's Lane at its junction with the main road. It was the centre of a small estate built up by R. L. Clay and his father Richard Clay, a London draper. The estate included the White Lion Inn, which was demolished by R. L. Clay in 1777. (fn. 19) Golden Hill House was rebuilt on a large scale early in the 19th century. It had three stories and the view from it was said to be 'exceedingly rich and extensive, including most of London and much of the intervening district of suburban villas in Chigwell, Woodford, Walthamstow etc.' (fn. 20) After the fire at Loughton Hall in 1836 W. W. Maitland, the lord of the manor, moved to Golden Hill (Goldings) and lived there until his death. (fn. 21) In 1940 the house was destroyed by a German land mine. (fn. 22) The former stable block escaped destruction and has now been converted into a house called Stanmores. A small modern house of red brick called Goldings Manor Cottage has been built on the site of Goldings. (fn. 23)
Alderton Hall, which dates from about 1600 is the only one of the three ancient manor houses which has survived. (fn. 24) North Farm, at the south of High Road, is of the 16th century. It has two stories and attics and is timber-framed and plastered. The north part has three gables, the central part of the house projecting and supported over the ground floor on posts.
Willow Cottage, High Road, about ¼ mile north of the farm also dates from the 16th century. It consists of two stories, timber-framed with painted weatherboarding. There are gabled cross-wings at each end of the front.
Beech House, High Road, bears the date 1648 and the initials RWM (probably William and Margaret Rutland) and IR Age 4. It is a two-story brick building, altered externally but with some oak panelling of c. 1648 inside.
No. 363 High Road was built late in the 18th century. It is of two stories, in stock brick with three sash windows. A group of cottages in Pump Hill, Nos. 20, 22, and 24, date from the 17th century. They are of two stories with painted weather-boarding. Rose Farm, Traps Hill, is of the same period or somewhat later. It is of two stories with painted weather-boarding and small casements. In York Hill there is a group of cottages (Nos. 107-19 inclusive) most of which date from the 18th century and are probably those shown on the map of 1777. Some are of red brick, others weather-boarded. Algars at Debden Green dates from the 17th or 18th century. It is a two-story weatherboarded building having grouped chimney-stacks and a pedimented doorway with architrave and shaped brackets.
The population increased steadily after 1801. By 1821 it was 979 and there were 166 inhabited houses. (fn. 25) In 1831 there were 1,269 inhabitants, but the population subsequently remained stationary until the 1850's when the railway was built. (fn. 26) The construction of the new by-pass road from Woodford to Epping (see below) may have been partly responsible for halting the growth. The tithe map (1850) shows the parish just before the coming of the railway. (fn. 27) The general picture had changed little since 1777. There were a few more houses at the east end of Smarts Lane, in the York Hill area and along High Road. Albion Hill was now clearly marked as a road and some cottages had been erected at Baldwins Hill. Hatfields, in Rectory Lane, had been built in 1799. It consists of two stories and attics and is of stock brick. There is a central cemented Roman Doric porch. The date is on a rainwater head.
The Warren (formerly 'The Reindeer') had been rebuilt early in the 19th century. 'The Reindeer' was a resort of wealthy visitors and famous for its rabbit pie. About 1800 it was converted into a private house and became the home of General (later Field-Marshal) Thomas Grosvenor (1764-1851), a friend of the Duke of Wellington. The house is of two stories, in Roman cement. To the rear is a weather-boarded wing of earlier date. The front looks north over a field containing a 'monument' said to have been erected by Grosvenor to the memory of his favourite horse, which had carried him at Waterloo. (fn. 28) The monument consists of a plain square pedestal above which is an obelisk resting on ball feet. (fn. 29)
Other buildings erected between 1777 and 1850 were the original National School at the corner of Staples Road (on the site of the present Ashley Grove flats), the British School in Smarts Lane, and the Whitaker Almshouses. (fn. 30) A directory of 1848 spoke of the 'many genteel houses' of Loughton. (fn. 31) Meanwhile, in 1846 a new parish church had been built in Blind Lane (now Church Lane) nearer to the main road, and there was also a police station.
Between 1851 and 1871 the population doubled, and there were considerable changes in the landscape of the parish. (fn. 32) The railway was the most important new feature. The line from Woodford and London was followed within ten years by an extension to Epping and Ongar, which looped north-east in order to avoid hills and the forest. The station was placed at the south-east end of the town. On the south side of Albion Hill a number of large houses were built, and the land between them and Warren Hill was inclosed to form their gardens. This was the wealthiest part of the town. Farther north Upper Park Road and Lower Park Road were laid out although not yet built up by 1871. Forest Road had also been made, and it was there and in Smarts Lane that much of the new building had taken place. The houses in these two roads were of cottage type, in short terraces. Another new road was Staples Road, which had a few small houses. Old Station Road had been made, but was not built up, and the present Station Road was marked out. Many smaller houses had been built at Baldwins Hill. Some of the new building on the west of the town took place on land inclosed from the forest, but expansion in this direction was stopped by the Epping Forest Acts of 1871-80. (fn. 33) There was also some new building in High Road, including St. Mary's Church and the present Union church.
Loughton grew very slowly between 1871 and 1881, but between 1881 and 1911 the population rose from 2,851 to 5,433. The progress of building was watched with a critical eye by William Chapman Waller (1850- 1917) who lived at Ash Green at the top of York Hill. His articles in the parish magazine of St. Mary's and the entries in his manuscript notebooks provide valuable information about this period. (fn. 34)
The new building after 1881 took place mainly on several small estates along or near the main road. The 'Queen's Park' estate, consisting of 14 acres bounded by York Hill, Pump Hill, and Church Hill, was broken up for building in 1886 after the death of the last owner, George Burney. (fn. 35) Building was much slower than had been expected. (fn. 36) By 1895 there were some 25 houses along the Church Hill front of the estate, but in Queen's Road, which had been built parallel with Church Hill to the west, only about six had so far been built. (fn. 37) There was further building in Queen's Road up to 1914 but parts of the road remained empty until the 1930's.
The Uplands estate, which lay opposite the Queen's Park estate to the east of Church Hill, consisted of 18 acres, (fn. 38) centred on a large house which had been a private residence and later a children's convalescent home. (fn. 39) The estate was sold in 1902 for £5,250 and the house was demolished. (fn. 40) By 1914 a number of small houses had been built along the Church Hill side of the estate, Uplands Park Avenue (now The Uplands) had been made and there were several houses there. (fn. 41) But there, also, building was not completed until after the First World War.
Farther south the development of the area between Smarts Lane and Upper Park Road had begun. By 1895 High Beech Road, Forest View Road, Connaught Avenue, Junction Road (now Connaught Hill), Ollards Grove, and Park Hill had been laid out, though as yet there were very few houses there. (fn. 42) As elsewhere in Loughton this area was built up gradually. In 1914 there were a number of houses in Ollards Grove, Connaught Avenue, High Beech Road, and Park Hill but none had been built. in Forest View Road or Connaught Hill. (fn. 43)
On the east side of High Road near the railway station Meadow Road and Algers Road had been laid out by 1895. Meadow Road was half built up but development had been slower in Algers Road and in Lower Park Road, which lay between the two new roads. (fn. 44) South of Algers Road was then the Beech House estate, consisting of Beech House, Newnham House, and 117 acres land. In 1899 this estate was put up for sale with the suggestion that it might be built upon. (fn. 45) By 1914 The Avenue, The Crescent, and Spring Grove had been laid out on the north side of the estate and there were houses at the north end of The Avenue. (fn. 46)
The areas mentioned above were those in which most of the town's development took place between 1880 and 1914. A few houses were also built between 1895 and 1914 on the north side of Alderton Hill, and there was some new building in the older streets of the town, where there were still many vacant sites. There were also some new public buildings. Religious needs had been met by the formation of a new Anglican parish in south Loughton and by the building of a Wesleyan church and three mission halls. The Lopping Hall and the Loughton Club, both in Station Road, provided centres for secular activities. A new elementary school had been built in Staples Road and the High School for Girls in Alderton Hill. Many of the new buildings erected before 1899 were designed by Edmund Egan, a local architect who died in that year. (fn. 47)
By 1914 Loughton had changed from a village to a residential town, though still a very small one. The preservation of Epping Forest had prevented any expansion westward. (fn. 48) To the east of the town much of the parish was owned by J. Whitaker Maitland (d. 1909), rector and lord of the manor, who rebuilt and lived at Loughton Hall. It may be supposed that he would hardly have welcomed any great expansion of the town on this side, and since he was also rich he had no need to sell any of his land for building. Social and economic factors also checked the development of the town. Loughton was mainly an upper-middle class residential area, and its inhabitants (of whom W. C. Waller was probably typical) were jealous of its amenities. There was no large-scale industry to attract workers and Loughton was not one of the suburbs to which population was drawn from London by cheap workmen's fares. (fn. 49) A sale catalogue of 1912 quotes the rates for season tickets to Liverpool Street: £4 3s. 9d. a quarter first class and £3 4s. 3d. second class. (fn. 50) These were not rates to attract lower-paid workers.
Before 1914, therefore, building was confined to a comparatively small part of the parish and even there it proceeded slowly. (fn. 51) The population of Loughton in 1921 was 5,749, little more than it had been in 1911. By that time, however, building had been resumed, and between 1918 and 1939 it went on steadily. Among the new streets laid out and built up were Priory Road, Brooklyn Avenue, Brook Road, Tycehurst Hill and Spareleaze Hill, all to the east of St. Mary's Church, Woodland Road and Habgood Road on the other side of the main road, and Hillcrest Road (near Newnham House). New houses were also built in The Drive, Englands Lane, High Beech Road, Forest View Road and in Connaught Hill, Connaught Avenue, and Upper Park Road. Several blocks of flats-a novelty in Loughton-were built at the south end of High Road and in York Hill. Development also took place to the east of the railway between Loughton and Buckhurst Hill, in Roding Road, Valley Hill and district. Debden Hall, at Debden Green, was demolished in 1929 and replaced by a modern house of red brick. (fn. 52) Council houses were built in England's Lane, Goldings Road, and Woodlands Road. (fn. 53) The most important new public buildings were the Council Offices in Old Station Road and the post-office in High Road, a Roman Catholic Church in Traps Hill and a Secondary Modern School in Roding Road. The north end of High Road was transformed by the building of new shops, including an impressive block called Brooklyn Parade. In 1939-40 the railway station was rebuilt. (fn. 54) The population in 1931 was 7,390 and by 1939 had increased well beyond that figure.
Since 1945 the landscape of Loughton has been transformed by the building of the Debden London County Council estate, which occupies most of the parish to the east of the old town. There are now (1953) 4,321 dwellings on this estate. (fn. 55) The urban district council has also provided over 1,000 houses (including prefabricated bungalows and shops), many of which are in the Loughton wards. Apart from the Debden estate most of the new building has been in the Roding Road area. Along Oakwood Hill to the east of Roding Road are many prefabricated houses, some of which have been built by the L.C.C. and some by the local council. About 200 houses and flats are also being built by the Chigwell council on the Hilly Fields estate, in the England's Lane area. (fn. 56) The population of Loughton is now (1953) estimated at 29,974. (fn. 57) Factories are being built on the Debden estate so that it will be more than a dormitory suburb. A number of schools and churches have been built and others are projected. Loughton Hall, now in the middle of the estate, is used as a community centre. The main shopping centre, now almost completed, is in the Broadway.
Planning has preserved some of the rural landscape at Debden. Both here and in the old town open spaces and many fine trees survive from Loughton's village days. Most of the houses built in the town during the past 150 years are of red or yellow brick, some of which was probably made locally (see below, Industries, also Chigwell). There are a few 19th-century weatherboarded houses in High Road, Smarts Lane, and elsewhere. In general the houses are well built. Even in the poorer streets they look solid and in good repair.
Until piped supplies were available water was often scarce in Loughton, and pumps were valuable property, separately assessed to the rates. (fn. 58) Piped water was first supplied by the East London (later the Metropolitan) Water Board in 1866. (fn. 59) Part of south Loughton was sewered about 1871. (fn. 60) These improvements were overdue. Since 1848 there had been several Nuisance Removal Committees which tried to improve sanitation by the threat of legal proceedings against householders. In 1865 it was decided that a main sewer should be built for the Smarts Lane district but the matter had later been shelved. (fn. 61) A sewerage scheme for north Loughton was carried out in 1890 by Epping Rural District Council, from plans by Edmund Egan, at a cost of £6,500. (fn. 62) The town was supplied with gas from about 1873, by the Chigwell, Loughton and Woodford Gas Co. (fn. 63) Electricity was first supplied in 1926 under the Woodford and District Electricity Special Order (1925). (fn. 64)
Loughton became part of the Metropolitan Police District in 1840. (fn. 65) There was a police station by 1845. (fn. 66) In 1882 there was an inspector in charge. (fn. 67) In 1902 there were a station sergeant, three sergeants, and eleven constables. (fn. 68)
During the Middle Ages Loughton was an isolated parish dominated by the forest to the west. There were no roads through the forest from Loughton, though no doubt tracks existed. Until the 17th century the roads to both Epping and Waltham Abbey led through Theydon Bois. There was a road south to Buckhurst Hill and one to Chigwell over Loughton Bridge. The earliest reference to the bridge is in the 13th century. (fn. 69) In 1422 it was reported that the road near the bridge had been flooded for a period of two years. (fn. 70) In the early 17th century there were the usual disputes concerning responsibility for repairing the bridge. (fn. 71) By the end of the century it had been accepted as a county bridge and there are records of various sums spent on its repair. (fn. 72) In 1780 it was decided to rebuild it at a cost of £471. (fn. 73) In 1809 it was destroyed by floods. (fn. 74) The bridge which replaced it was badly sited and lasted only until 1824. (fn. 75) The present bridge was built soon after and tunnels were inserted under the causeway on the Chigwell side to facilitate the passage of flood water. (fn. 76)
Early in the 17th century (probably between 1611 and 1622) a road was constructed through the forest from Loughton to Epping. (fn. 77) This was of more than local importance, for it provided a new and shorter route through west Essex to Cambridge, Newmarket, and East Anglia. It was the subject of Acts of Parliament from the reign of William and Mary onwards and in 1768 came under the control of the Epping Highway Trust. (fn. 78) Between 1770 and 1774 the trust remade the road at Goldings Hill in order to reduce the gradient. (fn. 79) Soon after this the road between Loughton and Buckhurst Hill was also remade. (fn. 80) Finally in 1830-4 the trust built a new road through the forest from Woodford to the 'Wake Arms', running along the western boundary of Loughton parish and by-passing the village. (fn. 81)
In 1791 a daily coach ran from Loughton to London, and a wagon on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. (fn. 82) In 1817 a daily coach from Loughton called at the 'Three Nuns' and the 'Bull', Whitechapel, and the 'Pewter Plate', Gracechurch Street, London. (fn. 83) In 1839 there were coaches to London and Epping twice a day and carriers' wagons to London every weekday except Friday. (fn. 84) The services remained unchanged until 1856, when the railway from Stratford and London was opened. (fn. 85) By 1863 there were twelve trains a day to London; coaches still ran twice a day to Epping. (fn. 86) The extension of the railway from Loughton to Epping and Ongar was opened in 1865. (fn. 87) By 1892 there were 42 trains a day to London. (fn. 88) The line from Woodford and London was electrified in 1948 and that from Loughton to Epping in 1949. (fn. 89) This had been planned before 1939. It is now possible to travel direct from Loughton to central London. A bus service from London started in 1915, and in 1920 was extended to Epping. (fn. 90)
Loughton had a postal receiving house in the early 19th century. The delivery was extended in 1815 (fn. 91) and a new receiver was appointed in 1828. (fn. 92) A subpost-office was set up by 1867. (fn. 93) Loughton now has a central post-office and sub-post-offices at Goldings Hill, Roding Road, and The Broadway. Telegraphy was introduced in 1871 (fn. 94) and the telephone in 1906. (fn. 95)