In 1908, the London Olympics took place at the White City, the first major suffragette rally was held in London, and Orford Road, Walthamstow in Essex was a thriving place to shop.
Those new to the area and those familiar with the ever-changing face of Orford Road may be interested to know how Orford Road looked at the turn of the 20th century. There have been shops and businesses on Orford Road since the mid 19th century when it was the heart of old Walthamstow and the earliest records I could find at the Vestry House Museum are listed from 1886. I was happy to discover that there is almost exactly the same number of active outlets in Orford Road now as over a century ago.
For much of the 20th century, Orford Road was dominated by the Connaught General Hospital which closed in 1977 and demolished to make way for Holmcroft House, the sheltered accommodation between the old Town Hall and Orford Road railway bridge. At various points over the decades, the Waltham Forest Asian Centre (formerly St. Mary’s National School) housed the Pathology Laboratory, Hayward House (next to the Nag’s Head, now residential) was the Nurses’ Home. The Outpatients Dept. was at the top of Beulah Road (now the Turning Point social care centre) and the Public Dispensary was at number 35, now also residential. The old Town Hall became the main entrance for the hospital in 1959.
Looking at local pubs, both the Nag’s Head and the Queen’s Arms date back to the 19th century but newcomers to the area may be surprised to know that The Village pub is a relatively recent addition and through the 1970s and 80s it housed Solmedia, Laboratory Supplies and prior to that an undertaker’s and cabinet maker.
The Orford Road Post & Money Order & Telegraph Office & Savings Bank (to give its full title) was listed in 1886 at no. 29 which remained a Post Office until closure in 2008 (with a brief spell being relocated to what is now Spar in the early 1900s). A wool shop owned firstly by the Misses Coleman and then Mrs. Bessie Lindley was in the adjacent shop to the Post Office at 29a through the 1950s (good to know that we still have a wool and yarn shop in Beulah Road).
Desborough’s the newsagent at no. 61 has held the same name for over fifty years but in an earlier life in 1900 it was a registry office for servants (I would imagine where they registered for work rather than where they got married!).
Frank Ison Ironmongery and Oil Store was established in 1870 and only ceased trading as a hardware shop relatively recently in 2004 with its splendid shop sign frontage which still lives on. The bakery (now The Village Bakery) dates back to the 1880s with only a few name changes. The New Mandarin Chinese take-away was a fishmonger’s through to the 1970s.
The corner of Eden and Orford Roads, site of the Village Square garden was once two shops, nos 43 and 45, formerly a linen draper through the 1900s and in the 1950s a radio and electrical repair shop. Similarly, on the paved corner opposite the Ancient House, once stood the Ajax Tyre Service.
The Labour Party office at no. 23 started life in 1886 with George Berry, a china and glass dealer followed by a confectioner’s, a watchmaker and a printer.
Penny Fielding’s Gallery and Interiors at no. 34 has been a range of outlets over the years – a draper, a dairy, a cleaner’s, a ladies hairdresser and self-service supermarket.
Below is a ‘snapshot’ of some of the Orford Road outlets in 2014 and over a hundred years ago.