Walthamstow: Worthies and social life

Pages 251-253

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.

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Notable persons who held Walthamstow manors are mentioned elsewhere. (fn. 1) Many prominent City merchants were associated with Walthamstow. George Monoux (d. 1544) of Moons, draper and lord mayor, was one of the parish's greatest benefactors. (fn. 2) William Coward (1648–1738), merchant planter, lived in Marsh Street, where he built the first nonconformist chapel. (fn. 3) The West Ham distiller Peter Lefevre (d. 1751) lived at Winns. (fn. 4) Edward Forster the elder (1730–1812), governor of the Royal Exchange, lived at Cleveland House, where his three sons, Thomas (1761–1825), botanist, Benjamin (1764–1829), scientist and naturalist, and Edward the younger (1765–1849), botanist and philanthropist, were brought up. His grandson, Thomas I. M. Forster (1789–1860), naturalist and astronomer, also grew up in Walthamstow. (fn. 5) Sir Robert Wigram (1744–1830), chairman of the East India Docks, lived at Walthamstow House. Among his sons were (Sir) James (1793–1866), vicechancellor of England, and Joseph (1798–1867), bishop of Rochester. (fn. 6) Sir William Mallinson (1854–1936), timber-merchant and philanthropist, lived at the Limes. (fn. 7)

Among eminent Walthamstow churchmen and divines were its vicars, Thomas Cartwright (1634–89), later bishop of Chester, and the antiquary, Edmund Chishull (1671–1733). (fn. 8) Nonconformist divines who ministered in Walthamstow included Samuel Slater (d. 1704), Hugh Farmer (1714–87), the biblical critic John Simpson (1746–1812), and Eliezer Cogan (1762–1855). (fn. 9)

Public servants who had country houses in Walthamstow included Sir Martin Frobisher (1535 ?–94), the navigator, (fn. 10) Anthony Todd (d. 1798), secretary to the Post Office, (fn. 11) and Sir William Batten (d. 1667), surveyor of the Navy, and Admiral Sir William Penn (1621–70), commissioner of the Navy, who both often entertained Pepys there, probably in Marsh Street. (fn. 12)

Men distinguished in the professions and the arts who were connected with the parish included the poet George Gascoigne (1525 ?–77), whose house in Walthamstow was probably Thorpe Hall. (fn. 13) John Guillim (1565–1621), writer on heraldry, is said to have lived in Walthamstow, (fn. 14) and the composer Martin Peerson (1590–1651 ?) owned property there. (fn. 15) The physician and writer Daniel Whistler (1619–84) was born in Walthamstow. (fn. 16) The blind musician and composer John Stanley (1714–86) lived in Salter's Buildings at Forest Rise. (fn. 17) The philosophical writer Thomas Solly (1816–75) and the physician Sir Richard Powell (1842–1925) were both born in Walthamstow. (fn. 18) William Morris (1834–96) was born in Clay Street at Elm House, and lived at Water House from 1848 to 1856. (fn. 19) The newspaper publisher Edward Lloyd (1815–90) bought Water House in 1857. (fn. 20)

Benjamin Disraeli (1804–81) attended Dr. Cogan's academy at Essex Hall, (fn. 21) as did Samuel Sharpe (1799–1881), the Egyptologist and translator of the Bible, Russell Gurney (1804–78), Recorder of London, and the surgeon Samuel Solly (1805–71). (fn. 22) Julian Marshall (1836–1903), art collector and author, attended Forest school (fn. 23) and Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge (1839–1924), naval author, attended Dr. Greig's school at Walthamstow House. (fn. 24)

An entertainment hall was built in Orford Road in 1866 by the Walthamstow Public Hall Co. Ltd. (fn. 25) After it was sold to the local board in 1876 as a town hall (fn. 26) it was still let for social activities. The Victoria hall, Hoe Street, was built in 1887 by J. F. H. Read, founder in 1867 of the Walthamstow musical society, and John Cropley, a local builder. (fn. 27) In 1896 it became a theatre, renamed King's theatre from 1901 to 1907 when, as Victoria hall, it became the town's first cinema. It was pulled down in 1930 to build the Granada cinema. The twin-towered Palace theatre of varieties was built in High Street in 1903. (fn. 28) It closed in 1954 and was demolished in 1960. The first purpose-built cinema, the Princes Pavilion, opened in 1910 in High Street; by 1914 there were nine cinemas. Six remained in 1951, (fn. 29) but only two in 1965, the Granada and the Regal, Highams Park; two others were still open as bingo halls. (fn. 30) Walthamstow greyhound stadium, Chingford Road, opened in 1931. (fn. 31)

The district council's High Street baths (1900) were adaptable as a public hall in winter. (fn. 32) The public library (1909), High Street, included a lecture hall, used for that purpose until 1920, when the hall became the reference library. (fn. 33) Lloyd Park Pavilion, built by the borough in 1937 and modernized in 1965, includes a small theatre. The Assembly hall, Forest Road, was opened by the borough council in 1943. (fn. 34) In 1947 the first of an annual series of borough musical festivals was organized. (fn. 35) Municipal encouragement of the arts includes maintenance of the William Morris gallery (1950) at Water House, where the Morris collection, the Brangwyn Gift of pictures and sculptures, and the Mackmurdo Gift of furniture and textiles, are housed. (fn. 36)

An association for self-improvement which was founded in 1840 to form a circulating library and provide lectures (fn. 37) had 1,000 books in 1855 and 80 members in 1865; it seems to have ceased by 1870. (fn. 38) Walthamstow working men's club and institute, originally called St. James's club, was founded in 1862 in Marsh Street, moving in 1872 to its present (1971) site, nos. 82 and 84 High Street, where a hall was built and in 1890 additional club premises with two shops for letting in front. (fn. 39) The literary institute founded in 1882 is described elsewhere. (fn. 40) A co-operative society formed before 1898 was taken over in that year by the Stratford Co-operative and Industrial society. (fn. 41) The Walthamstow antiquarian society, founded in 1914, had published 48 monographs by 1970, besides other publications. (fn. 42)

A Walthamstow cricket club existed in 1816. (fn. 43) The Walthamstow cricket and lawn tennis club, founded in 1862 as an activity of the Walthamstow volunteer rifle corps (formed in 1860), was virtually independent of the corps by 1884; it still existed in 1971. (fn. 44) In 1907 there were about 20 cricket clubs. (fn. 45) The Rectory Manor tennis and bowling club, which was founded in 1897, was an enlargement of the Walthamstow lawn tennis club which existed in 1895. The club ceased in 1971. (fn. 46)

Walthamstow Rugby football club, formed c. 1865, was among the leading London clubs in the late 19th century. Clubs formed later included the Walthamstow Alberts and the Saracens. (fn. 47) Walthamstow Avenue Association football club, founded in 1901 by former pupils of Pretoria Avenue school as Avenue United and renamed in 1903, won the F.A. Amateur Cup in 1952 and 1961. (fn. 48)


  • 1. See pp. 253 sqq.
  • 2. G. F. Bosworth, Walthamstow charities (W.A.S. viii), 8–13, 51. George Monoux, the man and his work (W.A.S. xvii), and Original documents relating to the Monoux family (W.A.S. xix, compiled jointly with C. D. Saunders).
  • 3. D.N.B.; E.R.O., T/M 252; Gent. Mag. viii. 221. His portrait at New College, Hampstead, is reproduced in H. D. Budden, Marsh Street Cong. ch. f.p. 16.
  • 4. E.R.O., D/DU 257; Bosworth, More … houses, 29; Barns, Walthamstow Deeds, 1595–1890, 30. See also above, p. 93.
  • 5. Essex Journal, iii. 119–42; Bosworth, Some … houses, 23, More … houses, 33–4, Some more … houses, 25–8. There are articles on all the Forsters in D.N.B.
  • 6. Bosworth, Some … houses, 3 sqq., More … houses, 5–8. There are articles on James and Joseph Wigram in D.N.B.
  • 7. Sir W. Mallinson, A sketch of my life; Bosworth, Some more … houses, 15–16.
  • 8. D.N.B.
  • 9. Ibid.; Budden, Marsh St. Cong. ch., 13–16, 22–36.
  • 10. D.N.B.; G. E. Roebuck, Walthamstow armorial (W.A.S. xxvi), 13; Moore Smith, Fam. of Withypoll, 55.
  • 11. Bosworth, More … houses, 18.
  • 12. Diary of Samuel Pepys (ed. H. B. Wheatley), passim; E.R.O., Q/RTh 1; D.N.B. Batten's widow married in 1671 the Swedish envoy, Sir James Barkman Leyenberg, who was rated in Marsh Street in 1676, where Lady Penn was also rated. As Sir William Penn's daughter Margaret married Anthony Lowther of Marske in Cleveland (Yorks. N.R.), Clevelands in Marsh Street may have been a Penn family house: Barns, Walthamstow Deeds, 1584–1855, 30; E.R.O., T/P 75, Q/RTh 9; tablet in St. Mary's parish ch.; Diary of Samuel Pepys, i. 266 n., vi. 130 n.
  • 13. D.N.B.; Roebuck, Walthamstow armorial, 10; Moore Smith, Withypoll family, 56–8; Reaney, Walthamstow Place-names, 39; Bosworth, Some … houses, 30; Roebuck, Story of Walthamstow, 63.
  • 14. Lysons, London, iv. 228; D.N.B.
  • 15. D.N.B.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Ibid.; V.H.M., Illus. Colln., Vestiges, no. 13.
  • 18. D.N.B.
  • 19. Ibid.; J. W. Mackail, Life of Wm. Morris (1922 edn.), 2, 4, 12, 19, 26; Bosworth, Some … houses, 25.
  • 20. D.N.B.
  • 21. See p. 311.
  • 22. D.N.B. (s.v. B. Disraeli, R. Gurney, S. Sharpe, S. Solly); G. F. Bosworth, Essex Hall, Walthamstow, and the Cogan associations (W.A.S. v).
  • 23. D.N.B.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. This paragraph is based unless otherwise stated on W. G. S. Tonkin, Showtime in Walthamstow (W.A.S. Occ. Pub. ix). There is a picture of the public hall in V.H.M., Illus. Colln.
  • 26. See p. 280.
  • 27. Bosworth, Some … houses, 18; Hatley, Across the years, 39.
  • 28. See plate f.p. 188.
  • 29. Walthamstow Off. Guide (1951), 48.
  • 30. W.A.S., The Record, no. 2, p. 6.
  • 31. V.C.H. Essex, v. 88; Walthamstow Off. Guide (1951), 46; Waltham Forest Off. Guide (1968), 119; Walthamstow Guardian, 29 May 1931 (correspondence).
  • 32. Tonkin, Showtime, 6, 23–4.
  • 33. Ibid. 23–4. The voluntary town lectures committee's minute book, 1915–22, is in W.R.L.
  • 34. Tonkin, Showtime, 23–4.
  • 35. Walthamstow Forward, i (2), p. 6; A. D. Law, Our town (2) (W.A.S. Occ. Pub. vii), 34.
  • 36. S. K. Ruck, Municipal entertainment and the arts in Greater London, 66, 80; V.C.H. Essex, Bibliography, 331.
  • 37. Its minutes 1840–3 are in W.R.L.
  • 38. V.C.H. Essex, Bibliography, 321.
  • 39. Hatley, Across the years, 93; A. G. Barker, Seventy years a club (1933).
  • 40. V.C.H. Essex, Bibliography, 321.
  • 41. V.C.H. Essex, v. 60.
  • 42. W. G. S. Tonkin, Our Town (1) (W.A.S. Occ. Pub. vi); Hatley, Across the years, 97–8; W.A.S., The Record, no. 9, p. 2.
  • 43. R. G. C. Desmond, Our Local Press (W.A.S. N.S. iii), 51.
  • 44. S. A. Couzens, Walthamstow Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club: the first hundred years (1962); inf. from W.R.L.
  • 45. V.C.H. Essex, ii. 611.
  • 46. W.R.L., File of reports, rules, fixtures, etc., of the Rectory Manor Tennis and Bowling Club (1896–1919); inf. from W.R.L.
  • 47. V.C.H. Essex, ii. 613; W.A.S., The Record, no. 5, p. 3; Hatley, Across the years, 90; S. A. Couzens, Walthamstow Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club: the first hundred years, 4–5.
  • 48. Walthamstow Off. Guide (1963), 57; Walthamstow