Highams Park Forum
Highams Park history
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Station Approach 1911
Castle Avenue in the early 1900s
Hale End Cottages
The Electric Theatre Hale End Road
Ice skating on the Lake
The British Xylonite factory
The impressive station garden
Highams Park Station in the
Some historical facts about Highams Park
The following article has been kindly submitted by local author and historian, Mary Dunhill.
The history of Highams Park and Hale End is closely associated with Epping Forest and Walthamstow. When the new urban village was built on the Greenwich Meridian at the beginning of the 20th century, at first it was known as Hale End in Walthamstow, Essex. It did not become part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest until 1965.
Chingford postal services were used rather than the Walthamstow post office and subsequently, most of the area, which is now known as Highams Park, has the same post code as Chingford, E.4 but it has never been part of Chingford village. The old Hale End area has the postal address of Woodford Green, Essex.
Hale End, sometimes known as ‘Wood End’, began life as a small Saxon settlement where cows and pigs were kept in a forest clearing above the Ching Brook in the Great Forest of Waltham. Part of that extensive Royal hunting ground remains as Epping Forest.
Historical records show that Vikings sailed up the River Lea and after the Norman Invasion of 1066, the Saxon lord, Haldane, forfeited his lands, which stretched eastwards from the Lea marshes to the highest land in the forest. At the beginning of the 14th century, the renamed Manor of Higham Bensted(e) was divided into two and the smaller manor of Salisbury Hall included Chapel End and Hale End.
The first manor house of the larger Manor of Higham Bensted was at Higham Hill near the River Lea but a new manor house was built in 1786 at the easterly end of the estate and was named ‘Highams’ and its pleasure gardens included the very attractive lake designed by Humphry Repton. This was added to Epping Forest in 1891.
From the Tudor period to the Victorian era, the beautiful surroundings of the forest around Hale End and its proximity to the City appealed to Lord Mayors of London and wealthy Merchant Bankers. The large 18th century houses of Hale End, the farms and the tiny Oak Hill cottages have now disappeared but Hale End Road is still the main route into Highams Park from the North Circular Road. Oak Hill led up to the 18th century Walthamstow Mill and the road climbs up through the forest to Woodford High Road, which runs along the eastern ridge above the Lea Valley.
When the railway came in 1873, the first wooden station was called ‘Hale End’ but it was surrounded by farmland and was 3/4 of a mile from Hale End hamlet. In 1894 the name of the station was changed to ‘Highams Park (Hale End)’ by the Great Eastern Railway to encourage day trippers to visit Highams Park Lake and Epping Forest.
Instead of rapid development of the area, little use was made of the rail route into Liverpool Street, London, except by a local dairyman, who took advantage of the railway to transport churns of milk up the line. A speculative builder bought up a few fields on the hill above the station in 1880 but, instead of the expected dense development of rows of small houses, prosperous city gentlemen quickly bought up several adjoining plots for quite large houses, which had fine views of Epping Forest and across the fields to Larks Wood.
The reason for the lack of interest in smaller houses was simple – cheap workmen’s tickets to London could not be bought from Hale End station. The new urban village of Highams Park did not begin to develop until after the internationally renowned British Xylonite Co. came with most of its workforce from Homerton and bought Jack’s Farm near Hale End station. A plastics factory was built there in 1897 and among its many useful products, it supplied all the ‘ping-pong’ balls in the world.
After the arrival of the BX Co., affordable houses, shops and schools were built near the station for factory workers. City clerks, journalists and printers, also came to live in the renamed urban village of Highams Park and used the trains into London, which ran throughout the night. A lively community had been created.
A notorious incident, which occurred while the flurry of building was in progress in January of 1909, was a bit too lively - but it put Hale End into the national newspapers. It was known as the ‘Tottenham Outrage’ or ‘Walthamstow Tram Chase’ in which two Latvian revolutionaries attacked and stole a large amount of money from a pay clerk in Tottenham and, shooting and killing as they went, were pursued across the marshes of the River Lea by police and the public. They hid behind a haystack at Salisbury Hall, commandeered a tram and then a greengrocer’s horse and van and headed for Highams Park. Because of the building site fences, escape under the railway bridge was too much for one of the injured criminals, who shot himself, but the other man ended his life in one of the Oak Hill Cottages, after taking two small boys hostage. The money was never found.
Some famous people of Highams Park and Hale End. Roger Ascham and George Gascoigne lived here in the Elizabethan era and later, John Gurney Fry, the eldest son of the prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry, lived in the so-called ‘Manor House’ at Hale End. Highams Park has had a great influence on the history of aviation: Sir George Edwards, designer of Concorde, and Lt. Col. Vincent C. Richmond, the designer of the ill-fated Airship 101, were both pupils of Selwyn Avenue School in Highams Park. Some other well-known men, who attended the boys’ school and went on to the Sir George Monoux Grammar School, were Sir Jack Cater, who worked to counter corruption in Hong Kong, the musician, John Dankworth, and Cricketer, Doug Insole. Sir Fred Pontin of Holiday Camp fame lived in Forest Glade, Highams Park, and the Footballer, Teddy Sheringham and Badminton Champion, Darren Hall went to Selwyn as boys. The author of ‘Shangri La’ and ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips’, James Hilton, lived near Oak Hill and Chris Moncrieff, one of the best-known political journalists of our time has chosen to live in the Hale End area.
M.L.Dunhill - author of ‘A History of Highams Park and Hale End’.
Highams Park War Memorial website: www.highamsparkwarmemorial.co.uk