September 11, 2015

Markets, Music and Machines: A Warm Welcome to Walthamstow

The East London district of Walthamstow began its life as a sleepy rural village. The area is steeped in history; records from as early as 1075 show Walthamstow on the map. At that time it was known as Wilcumestowe, meaning ‘the place of welcome’.

With its friendly village community still intact, Walthamstow is just as welcoming today, but it has grown a little from its original population of 82 residents.


Historically, Walthamstow formed part of the county of Essex. It remained a rural village until the area was urbanised in the nineteenth century. The district became a municipal borough in 1929 and was incorporated into Greater London in the 1960s.

Walthamstow Village itself is now preserved as a peaceful community conservation area with the Old Town Hall still standing in Orford Road.


Walthamstow the market town


Walthamstow manages to successfully combine its strong middle-class village vibe with a thriving traditional East End market scene.


It is home to two markets. The Walthamstow Wood Street Indoor Market was once the site of a cinema and is filled with unusual local traders offering an eclectic mix of vintage clothing, handmade crafts, antiques and art.


The second market, simply named Walthamstow Market, was established in 1885 and is the longest street market in Europe, stretching approximately one kilometre along the main high street. It is a much more traditional East End market that offers clothes, household goods and an array of food, from Caribbean street fare to jellied eels.


Local architecture


The architecture in Walthamstow is as diverse as its market scene. The neighbourhood hosts a broad mixture of Edwardian and cottagey terraces among 1920s deco-style semis and post-war urban redevelopments.


The most surprising piece of architecture may be the Lighthouse Methodist Church, which dates back to 1893. It’s not often you see a church with a lighthouse attached, especially when you’re 35 miles from the sea, but this unique structure blends in delightfully with the area’s quirky charm.


Walthamstow is the birthplace of designer, poet and socialist William Morris, and his former house serves as the William Morris Gallery, a museum dedicated to his work. The grounds form a relaxing public open space (Lloyd Park) with adjoining recreational facilities that include a bowling green, tennis courts and a skatepark.



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Walthamstow’s heritage of transport


Vestry House, a workhouse built in 1730, became a police station in the 1830s, an armoury in the 1870s, and today serves as the Vestry House Museum, which houses the very first British motor car. And it’s not just cars: Walthamstow has famous links to buses and planes. In the early twentieth century, the town became known for manufacturing the first mass-produced London buses and was home to the first all-British aircraft known as the ‘Yellow Terror’.


A welcoming scene


There are numerous ties to the music industry here too. Blur’s album ‘Parklife’ features photographs of Walthamstow Station and (although some locals might prefer to not mention it) 90s boy band East 17 named itself after the area’s postcode and titled their debut album ‘Walthamstow’. Today, the district is a hub for the grime music scene and, thanks to the E17 Arts Trail, the neighbourhood is becoming a magnet for a younger, more arty crowd.


Good schools and the Hollow Ponds (the start of Epping Forest) are close by, providing Walthamstow residents with a superb city escape right on their doorstep. It’s no wonder then that the area is increasingly attracting young families too. Get in touch with our Wanstead branch for more information.

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