Woodford is a district in the London Borough of Redbridge, in East London. It is divided into the neighbourhoods of Woodford Green, Woodford Bridge, Woodford Wells and South Woodford. The town is situated 9.5 miles (15.3 km) northeast of Charing Cross.
In the Middle Ages, it was a string of agrarian villages surrounded by what is now known as Epping Forest but was then called Waltham Forest. From about 1700 onwards, however, it became a place of residence for moneyed people who had business in London.
As part of the suburban growth of London at the turn of the 20th century, Woodford significantly increased in population, becoming a municipal borough with neighbouring Wanstead in 1937 and forming part of Greater London since 1965.
|# no census was held due to war|
|source: UK census|
Woodford appears in the 1086 Domesday Book as Wdefort, although its earliest recorded use is earlier in 1062 as Wudeford. The name is Old English and means 'ford in or by the wood'. The ford refers to a crossing of the River Roding, which was replaced with a bridge by 1238; this led to the renaming of part of the district as Woodford Bridge by 1805. The old Saxon road, that followed the valley at this point. and utilised this ford, skirted the forest (which was to the north). The Saxon Road eventually reached north of the Forest and branched East and West at that point. Woodford by this chance was on the trade route to the further parts of Essex.
The beginnings of Woodford can be traced to a medieval settlement which developed around the ford. Woodford was never a single village, rather it was a collection of hamlets, and has retained to some extent its portmanteau nature. London has been central to Woodford's development. The easy access to Epping Forest, a large forest near London where members of the royal family traditionally hunted has made it attractive to Londoners since the Fifteenth Century, when wealthy Londoners started to build mansions there. As a consequence, many of the recorded inhabitants would have been servants, and there is even evidence of Africans ('negroes') living in Woodford in the eighteenth century. In fact the domestic servants and wealthy Londoners may have quickly outnumbered the remnant of the local, original rural folk.
An example of the kind of grand house typical of pre-19th century Woodford is Hurst House, also known as 'The Naked Beauty', which stands on Salway Hill, now part of Woodford High Road. Its central block was completed in the early 18th century, and its side wings were added later on in the same century. It was restored in the 1930s, only to be damaged by fire a few years later. The central block was again completely restored, with the minor wings you can still see added on.
Historians have pointed out Woodford's historic roads as evidence of its 'residential nature', as these roads provided reasonably easy access to Woodford, but no further on. There were two roads to Woodford, the 'lower road' (now Chigwell Road) and the 'upper road' (now Woodford New Road). The 'lower road' was often beset by flooding from the Roding, as it still is today, and was continually considered to be in need of repair. In fact one of the illustrious persons to be inconvenienced by the road was King James I. The 'upper road', being less used than the 'lower road' was probably in a worse condition, and the Middlesex and Essex Turnpike Trust undertook its repair and overhaul in 1721, and extended it to Whitechapel. The Trust did such a fine job it was given responsibility for the 'lower road' as well. In 1828, the Trust built the 'Woodford New Road' from Walthamstow to Woodford Wells, and was soon after connected to the newly built Epping New Road.
The ancient parish of Woodford, also known as Woodford St Mary after its parish church of St Mary's, formed part of the Becontree hundred of Essex. It was suburban to London and formed part of the Metropolitan Police District from 1840. For administration of the Poor Law it was grouped into the West Ham Union in 1835. The parish adopted the Local Government Act 1858 in 1873, setting up a local board of nine members. The Local Government Act 1894 reconstituted its area as Woodford Urban District, governed by Woodford Urban District Council. In 1934 the urban district was abolished under a county review order and its former area became part of the Wanstead and Woodford Urban District. Wanstead and Woodford was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1937. The population of the Woodford parish was 2,774 in 1851, and had grown substantially to 37,702 in 1951. In 1965 Wanstead and Woodford, together with Ilford, were grouped together to become the London Borough of Redbridge.
The beginnings of the actual modern suburbanisation of Woodford, however, can be traced to the opening (in 1856) of the Great Eastern Railway Line from Stratford to Loughton, on which Woodford became accessible by two stations, at Snakes Lane and George Lane. The new convenience of transportation encouraged the growth in number of the daily commuter that is typical of the Woodford resident today. Woodford soon became the residence of the well-to-do city worker, as attested by John Marius Wilson in his Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, written between 1870 and 1872
- The increase of pop. arose from erection of houses consequent upon railway communication with London....[t]here are many fine mansions, and numerous good villas.
In fact Woodford doubled its population in the middle and later decades of the 19th century due to the arrival of the railway. A good barometer of Woodford's rapid growth in this period is the erection of three churches in the area, a Congregational, Methodist and Church of All Saints, all built in 1874.
Woodford completed its suburbanisation in the period between the two World Wars of the 20th century. Available land was hungrily built on and the grand houses of the wealthy who had been building them for more than four hundred years were pulled down to make way for the middle class housing estates, typified by the three-to-four bedroom semi-detached house with front and back gardens. In the 1930s, 1,600 houses were being built in Woodford a year on average. The Central line's extension to and past Woodford in the middle of the 20th century, utilising the existing overland train network, solidified Woodford's place in the commuter belt.
Graham Smith's Book "Essex Airfields in the Second World War" (ISBN 1-85306-405-X) reported the surprising fact that Woodford Green once had an airfield. In the First World War (1914-1918) London was troubled by Zeppelin Raids. A response to this was to place two Royal Flying Corps night-fighter squadrons, 39 and 37 squadrons, with headquarters at Woodham Mortimer and Woodford Green respectively, with up to eight aircraft at each airfield (generally Bleriot Experimental BE2c). They formed part of the London Air Defence Area. 39 squadron shot down the Cuffley airship SL11 in September, 1916, and was possibly the more successful in the task, but 37 squadron destroyed the airship L48 over Norfolk in June 1917.
Woodford, as part of Epping Forest was one of the last places in London where medieval Commoner's rights persisted - with local farmers being allowed to graze their cattle on the common land. These rights were protected by sections 14 and 15 of the Byelaws passed by the Conservators of Epping Forest. Even late into the 20th century cattle were allowed to roam freely on the forest ground (Forest, in this instance being the term applying to the district rather than that area with trees).
The practice became increasingly less well suited to the times, as they occasionally penetrated into neighbouring gardens and roads before being driven back onto the forest land.
The BSE outbreak of 1996 caused the practice to be halted for a while. Their departure, however, meant that grass and saplings grew on the previously well-cropped meadow areas of forest land. When the cattle were reintroduced in 2001 their range was restricted so that there would be less conflict with other interests.
Woodford is divided between three parliamentary constituencies including Chingford and Woodford Green which is currently represented by Conservative Iain Duncan Smith, who was the Party Leader from 2001-03. Chingford and Woodford Green is separated from Ilford North by the Central line, whilst a small part of South Woodford is in Leyton and Wanstead constituency. Previously the local constituency was Wanstead and Woodford (1974–1997) and before that Woodford (1945–1974) which was represented by Winston Churchill between 1945-64. Churchill had previously represented the area (1924-1945) as part of the Epping Parliamentary Constituency - and was therefore Woodford's local MP, both when he was the wartime Prime Minister - and also later, when he served as a peacetime Prime Minister. Churchill is commemorated by a statue on the green at Woodford.
Woodford has connections with major cultural figures. The first is the celebrated writer, artist, craftsman William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a nineteenth-century revivalist movement dedicated to restoring England's artisan traditions. As a child he lived at Woodford Hall between 1840 and 1847. Woodford Hall (demolished at the start of the 20th century) stood on Woodford High Road on the site where the Woodford Parish Memorial Hall now is. Another writer who lived in Woodford is James Hilton, who wrote the novels Goodbye Mr Chips and Lost Horizon (in which he coined the term Shangri La) in a semi-detached house at 42 Oak Hill Gardens, which however was in Walthamstow borough. A blue plaque commemorates his residence at the house.
The Clergyman Sydney Smith was born in Woodford in 1771. Smith became a vicar and prominent Reformer, but he is now most famous as a great wit of the early nineteenth century. He was a part of the brilliant intellectual circles of his day, and once said of the historian Macaulay, [He] has occasional flashes of silence, that make his conversation perfectly delightful. On his position as a Clergyman in Yorkshire, he remarked My living in Yorkshire was so far out of the way, that it was actually twelve miles from a lemon. He compared marriage to a pair of shears, so joined that they can not be separated; often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them. Moreover, Smith published several recipes; his rhyming recipe for salad dressing (Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl/And, scarce suspected, animate the whole) makes him a household name in America to this day.
Woodford also has connections with the leading Suffragette, peace campaigner and anti-fascist Sylvia Pankhurst. Pankhurst was a longtime resident on Charteris Road, close to Woodford Station. She had been introduced to the area by George Lansbury, co-founder of the Labour Party and grandfather of Angela Lansbury. Previous to her residence in Charteris Road, Sylvia Pankhurst had challenged the moral codes of her day by living in sin with an Italian radical on 126 High Road, opposite the Horse and Well Pub. She renamed the cottage Red Cottage in homage to the leftist activities she carried out from there. She erected an anti-air-warfare monument in protest to the bombing of the people of Ethiopia under the orders of Benito Mussolini on the site of the cottage (the cottage was pulled down in the 1930s).
- Clement Attlee, former Labour Prime Minister (Woodford Green)
- Derek B, a pioneer of British hip-hop and the third-ever rapper to appear on the BBC music programme "Top Of The Pops". Grew up in Woodford.
- Nick Berry, actor born 1963
- Sanjeev Bhaskar, comedian and actor (South Woodford)
- Terry Chimes, former drummer with The Clash, Black Sabbath & Hanoi Rocks
- Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister, MP for Epping Constituency (which included Woodford) 1924-1945 and, subsequently, Woodford 1945-1964
- Vince Clarke, founder member of Depeche Mode and member of Erasure and Yazoo (born in South Woodford)
- J.M. Dent, publisher, founder of Everyman Library and friend/member of Joseph Hocking's congregation at Woodford Union Church (Woodford Green)
- Joe Dever, author and games designer (Woodford Bridge)
- Richard J. Evans, historian and author
- Lynn Fontanne, leading 20th century Broadway actress with Alfred Lunt.
- Charles Christian Hennell, author and Christian apologist
- James Hilton, author (Woodford Green)
- Joseph Hocking, novelist (who was Methodist minister of Woodford Union Church in Edwardian times (1901-1910) (Church became known as Woodford Green United Free Church from 1946 )
- Professor Ralph Ambrose Kekwick FRS (1908-2000) Biochemist who did pioneering work human plasma fractionation including first production of Factor VIII.
- Louisa Leaman, actor (Woodford Green)
- Russell Lissack, Bloc Party guitarist (both he and Okereke attended Trinity school in Woodford Green)
- Carli Norris, actress
- Kele Okereke, Bloc Party vocalist and guitarist (Woodford Green)
- Coventry Patmore, poet and critic (born in Woodford)
- Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragette (Woodford Green)
- Ruth Rendell CBE, author (South Woodford)
- Tony Robinson, actor and TV personality
- Wilfrid Percy Henry Sheldon KCVO, physician-pediatrician to Queen Elizabeth II
- George Edmund Street, a leading English architect of the Victorian Gothic Revival
- Meera Syal, comedian, writer and actress (South Woodford)
- Charles Harrison Townsend, a leading English architect - designed Woodford Union Church, which opened April 28, 1904
- Nigel Travis, the CEO of Dunkin' Donuts
- Christine Truman, Wimbledon-level tennis player (as were sister Nell, brother Humphrey, also) - resident at Woodford Green
- Kate Williams, actress, Woodford resident during the making of the TV series Love Thy Neighbour (Woodford Bridge)
- Nearest places
- Mills, A.D. (2001). Dictionary of London Place Names. Oxford.
- Powell, W.R. (Edr.) (1973). Woodford: Introduction, A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Victoria County History. British History Online. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
- Great Britain Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Woodford parish (historic map) population. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
- Great Britain Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Woodford UD. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
- Great Britain Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Wanstead and Woodford UD/MB. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
- Woodford Essex through time | Local history overview for the place
- "Central line facts". Transport for London. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
- J. W. Mackail, Life of William Morris, 2005, Chapter 1, Electric Book Company
- Heritage plaques in Waltham Forest
- A Memoir of the Rev Sydney Smith By his daughter Lady Holland, 1855
- How to Use Over 130 Spices, Herbs, Condiments, Flavorings to Enhance All Your Dishes and Add Zest to Any Menu, 1955
- "Sylvia in Woodford". The Sylvia Pankhurst Festival. Retrieved 24 December 2009.