The Domesday Book records that Walthamstow at the time of the Norman Conquest was composed of four separate village settlements, in forest clearings connected by tracks. The parish at the time was called Wilcumestou’, probably Old English for ‘the welcome place’, and comprised two manors. The larger of the two was held by Waltheof the Saxon Earl of Huntingdon, who married King William’s niece Judith in 1070. Waltheof was executed in 1076 for plotting against the King, and through the marriage of his daughter Alice and Ralph de Toni in 1103 the manor passed into the hands of the de Toni family, where it remained for the next two hundred years. Ralph became Lord of the Manor, renamed Walthamstow Toni, and is credited with founding the current church.
In existence by the 12th century, St.Mary’s Church raised the status of the Church End settlement, and today it is the only one of the original settlements still recognisable as a village nucleus. As the ‘centre’ of Walthamstow the Church End area prospered and grew. The Manor House of Walthamstow Toni was built on the edge of Berry Field where the Ancient House stands today. The Ancient House itself is a timber framed ‘hall’ house dating from the 15th century and was erected after the new manor house ‘Toni Hall’ was built in Shernhall Street. In 1730 Walthamstow Vestry (the Local Government of the time) erected a simple eight roomed house on a one acre site, formerly part of the Church Common, for use as a Workhouse and for Vestry meetings. The building was enlarged in 1756, 1779 and 1814 and has had a multitude of uses: Walthamstow police station, armoury, builders yard, private house and since 1931 a local museum.
The village inn (the original Nags Head) was established on the adjacent corner to the Ancient House sometime during the Tudor period, as were the Monoux Almshouses and school to the north of the church. George Monoux is an important figure in the history of Walthamstow and he was a great benefactor to the area. He was a wealthy city merchant of the Tudor period, a member and master of the Drapers Company, Lord Mayor of London 1514 and 1528, and MP for the City of London in 1523. He lived much of his life at ‘Moones’, his estate in what is now Billet Road, and was responsible for both the Almshouses and school that bears his name, a causeway and two early bridges over the Lea, and the major restoration and extension of St.Mary’s Church in which he is buried.
In the 18th and early 19th century Berry Field, part of which was the Church Common, was gradually being encroached upon, with the erection of the Workhouse (now Vestry House Museum) in 1730, the Squires Almshouses in 1795 and the National School in 1819. St.Mary’s Infants School was built in 1828 on the Vicars Glebe, the remainder of which is still recognisable today as the site of Walthamstow Girls School, a Grade II Listed neo-Georgian building of the early 20th century. In 1830, 10 Church Lane was built on land that had been part of the gardens of the Ancient House. It is a typical late Georgian house and was occupied until the early years of the 20th century by the Reed family of builders. The original Nags Head remained on the corner of Orford Road/Church End until the erection of the new pub in 1859, when both the Inn and the adjacent 18th century cottages were demolished and replaced by a grocers shop and four houses. The four houses survive today but the grocers shop was demolished in 1959.
The year 1850 saw the start of a dramatic transformation in Walthamstow as the Church Common south of Vestry House was first enclosed then split up for building purposes in 1853. The arrival of the Great Eastern railway in 1869/70 accelerated the already rapid urbanisation of the area as fields, commons and the grounds of the great houses were transformed into the terraced streets of Walthamstow that we know today. By the late 1870’s the Orford Road area with its new Town Hall, shops, school and later hospital and church hall had become the centre of town, and the old village was already a relic of the past. That the village survived this dramatic period of change largely unscathed is remarkable, and it is rightly regarded as the most important Conservation Area in the Borough.
The above text is from the LB Waltham Forests’ Walthamstow Village conservation area leaflet.
There are 2 conservation areas in Walthamstow Village:
- the Walthamstow Village conservation area was designated by Waltham Forest Council in December 1967 (this was the first area so designated in the Borough). Download the council’s Walthamstow Village conservation area leaflet.
- the Orford Road conservation area, which was designated in 1990. Download the council’s Orford Road conservation area leaflet.