Visit to Wanstead Park by London Parks and Gardens Trust

Geoff Sinclair, Epping Forest Operations Manager, discusses the problems of the lake system and potential solutions.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands were yesterday (9 September 2017) pleased to lead a party from the London Parks and Gardens Trust on a walk around the core areas of Wanstead Park’s former pleasure gardens, plus four surviving buildings associated with the estate. 

The group was led by Friends members Richard Arnopp and Tricia Moxey, and special access was arranged to areas which are not normally open to the public. Some of the latest research into the park’s long history was discussed, along with recent improvement works. The commentary also touched on evolving plans for Wanstead Park's future.

Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Overton Drive (Thomas Hardwick, 1790).

The first stop was at St Mary’s Church, which was closely linked to the Wanstead estate. The present building dates from 1790, and is Redbridge’s only Grade I listed building. Designed by Thomas Hardwick, it was built on land donated by Sir James Tylney-Long, Bt., who also defrayed much of the cost. The building was designed to complement Wanstead House, which stood nearby, in both its style and materials. Now rather hemmed in by the post-1900 buildings of Overton Drive, the church was originally an important feature in the park landscape, which then extended as far north as Cambridge Park.

St Mary's Church, seen across The Basin, as it appeared around 1900.

Thanks to its relatively unaltered Georgian interior, St Mary’s has recently been in demand as a location for filming. Scenes from “Taboo”, with Tom Hardy, and from another production which has yet to be released, were shot there.

The former stables of Wanstead House, now home to Wanstead Golf Club.

The group then moved on to Wanstead Golf Club, which has its club-house in a group of Georgian buildings which were once the stables of Wanstead House. They saw some restored ironwork which may have come from the bowling green which briefly existed in the park in the early eighteenth century, and the site of Wanstead House, demolished in 1824.

Passing through the site of the American Garden, now built over by The Warren Drive and Raynes Avenue, the party reached the public area of Wanstead Park just as the weather took a turn for the worse. Proceeding down the Long Walk to the Ornamental Water, they were given a brief talk by Geoff Sinclair, Operations Manager for Epping Forest, on the long-standing problems with the lake system, and some of the actions which are planned to address them.

The Heavens open, as the party heads down the Long Walk.

The party reached the site of the Grotto ruins, which was opened for them by Geoff Sinclair. They then headed to The Temple, where the official part of the visit ended. Both structures were part of the improvements made to the gardens by John, 2nd Earl Tylney of Castlemaine, and date from around 1760.

Richard Arnopp said –

“We are very grateful to the Parish of Wanstead for opening St Mary’s Church, one of London’s lesser-known Georgian treasures, and to Wanstead Golf Club for giving us access to their site. We also owe thanks to Geoff Sinclair, of Epping Forest - who had to forego his lunch in order to join us - and Sally Prothero of LDA Design, the consultancy which is helping to develop plans for Wanstead Park".

London Parks and Gardens Trust aims to increase knowledge and appreciation of parks, squares, community gardens, cemeteries, churchyards – all those places that form London's open space network. Trust members – amateurs and professionals – provide and enjoy lectures, walks, day trips, children's programmes, a newsletter and journal, research and an inventory of historic green spaces.