Lindsay Collier Explains a Brief History of Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest Coat of ArmsMayor of London

The London Borough of Waltham Forest was created in 1965 when the four urban district areas of Chingford, Leyton, Leytonstone, and Walthamstow merged into one.

The name of Waltham Forest derives from an institution that managed deer in south west Essex. To the east and the north of the Borough is the remainder of the former Waltham Forest. Three out of the four Boroughs had a coat of arms with Leyton and Leytonstone sharing one.

Today Waltham Forest has just one. Written below is a brief history of the Boroughs' historical past which developed into the Waltham Forest as we know it today.

Map of Chingford 1964 (1964)Mayor of London


Chingford is situated to the north of the Borough and borders Epping Forest. Chingford got its name from the River Ching which runs through the area and a settlement called Cingefort which dates to 1066 AD. However, it was also close to several crossings on the River Lea to the west, called fords.

Today the west of Chingford is dominated by a series of reservoirs which provides much of London with its water supply.

Opening of the Forest by Queen Victoria (1878)Mayor of London

Epping Forest can be found north of Chingford, the ancient woodland was given to the public in 1882 by Queen Victoria. Queen Elizabeth’s hunting lodge, which is sited a bit further north in the forest, was built for King Henry VIII in 1543.

Queen Elizabeth Hunting LodgeMayor of London

It is stated that Queen Elizabeth received the news of the defeat of the Spanish Armada when out hunting in the forest, whilst staying at the lodge.

The coming of the railway in 1873 gave its residents a direct link to the City of London which also in the late 1800s saw the start of other modes of transport service come to the area. This resulted in many new homes being built which has shaped Chingford as we know it today.

Famous people associated with Chingford include Lawrence of Arabia, Dick Turpin, Queen Boudicca, and Winston Churchill.

Map of Leyton & Wanstead (1965)Mayor of London


Leyton derives its name from the river, as a farmstead on the River Lea. The River Lea once also formed the boundary of Essex and Middlesex, the first forms of early settlements go back to the Roman period in Leyton.

This was a Roman encampment close to Temple Mills which has a huge historical background especially in the field of early railway development. The name of Temple Mills derives from a mill once owned by the Knights Templars. Other early settlements were situated around St Marys Church and Ruckholt.

New Housing at Leyton GreenMayor of London

It has also been stated that the Romans built several roads in Leyton that have been sadly destroyed by constant local development. The first road bridge over the River Lea connecting Leyton was at Lea Bridge and was constructed in 1757.

The coming of the Northern and Eastern Railway in 1840 to Lea Bridge and the Midland Railway in1856 changed Leyton dramatically which resulted in many new houses being built.

A notable former resident of the area was Harry Charles Beck, who designed the Underground map, and was born in Leyton.

Map of Leyton's & Leytonstone's TramwaysMayor of London


On the borders of Epping Forest to the east is Leytonstone which has existed since the early 14th century. It formed part of the parish of Leyton which was then in the county of Essex.

The name Leytonstone was originally ‘Leyton-atte-Stone' and comes from a distance marker called the "High Stone". The High Stone, which stands at the junction of Hollybush Hill is a restored 18th-century obelisk set up on an earlier stump, which has been traditionally described as a Roman milestone.

One of the Borough’s most famous residents was the film director Alfred Hitchcock, who was born in Leytonstone in 1899.

Leytonstone tube station is adorned with 17 mosaics that depict scenes from various Hitchcock movies to mark his connection with the area.

Welcome to Walthamstow MuralMayor of London


Walthamstow is recorded in 1075 AD as Wilcumestowe ( A Place of Welcome) and in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD as Wilcumestou. Most people would associate Walthamstow with William Morris, the Boyband E17, the High Street, or its famous Greyhound Stadium nicknamed just The Stow.

Like most areas of the United Kingdom which grew from the coming of the railways, Walthamstow was no different with the first trains arriving at Lea Bridge in 1840.

Walthamstow has also four museums or sites of interest, the Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum, Vestry House Museum, William Morris Gallery, and the Wetlands. Today Walthamstow’s Town Hall is situated in Forest Road.

Credits: Story

Text by Lindsay Collier, Author, Regional and Borough Historian

For more information about Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019 please visit

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