The north-east London suburb of Walthamstow is the kind of place that people pass through on the way to somewhere else, driving along traffic- clogged roads lined with nondescript shops.
This doesn’t do Walthamstow any justice, because tucked away to the east of Hoe Street is one of London’s most charming villages. Here there is a fine church, almshouses, cottages, a 15th century timber frame house, an 18th century workhouse, now a museum, and on Orford Road there are cafés, pubs, restaurants and interesting independent shops. It is a tranquil and peaceful oasis.
Walthamstow — the name is reputed to mean welcome place — has an arty side, too. The E17 Art Trail has just completed its sixth year. This community-run event celebrates Walthamstow’s Arts and Crafts with more than 200 events at 120 venues over 10 days at the beginning of September each year.
Walthamstow is also a mecca for bargain-hunters throughout north-east London thanks to its famed street market, which runs for nearly a mile between Blackhorse Road and Hoe Street. A recent addition is a farmers’ market on Sundays in the town square.
All these features, plus affordable house prices, some good schools and a fast journey into central London on the Victoria line, or to the City by train, are all luring people to the area.
Properties: With the exception of the village, most of Walthamstow is Victorian, with late-Thirties houses in Higham Park. The best places to look are in Walthamstow’s conservation areas. Houses in Walthamstow village and the nearby Orford Road conservation areas command a premium of around 15 per cent over the rest of Walthamstow.
The roads to the west of Lloyd Park, north of Forest Road, are popular with first-time buyers and young families. These are the “Warner” houses built in the 1880s by the once powerful local Warner family. Mostly purpose-built flats, the houses are attractively designed and well built with bold red-brick details, gables and recessed porches. One-bedroom flats sell for about £150,000 and two-bedroom flats for around £220,000.
There is another pocket of “Warner” houses, in the Leucha Road conservation area to the west of St James’s Street. North of the North Circular Road, the Highams Park conservation area has interesting semi-detached Twenties houses also developed by the Warner family.
The area attracts: Everyone from single artists to first-time buyers to families.
Staying power: A mix of different sizes of properties means that people tend to stay, because it is easy to move up and down the property ladder, especially if they live in the village area.
The lure of E17
Postcodes: Most of Walthamstow is the E17 postcode, made famous by the Nineties boy band East 17; north of the North Circular it becomes E4, the Chingford postcode.
Best streets: Rectory Road, in the village area, has large Victorian houses that sell for between £400,000 and £500,000. Other popular roads with house prices ranging between £350,000 and £400,000 are The Drive and Prospect Hill.
Up and coming: The property market in Walthamstow has recovered the ground lost in the slump. The exception is the Coppermill area, west of St James Street station, where there are still bargains to be had. Here, there is easy access to the cycle path along the River Lea, making it popular with cyclists who work in the City.
What’s new: There are plans for a huge mixed-use regeneration project in Blackhorse Road that will clear away industrial buildings to create a new piazza by the station, a riverside park and 2,000 new homes. Some homes in Paper Mill Place have already been built, although the total Blackhorse Road project will take 10 years to complete. Housing Association L&Q (0844 406 9800) has five two-bedroom shared- ownership flats left in a block called Origami in Stirling Road, with prices starting at £73,500 for a 35 per cent share of a two-bedroom flat with a market price of £210,000. Telford Homes (020 8523 3768) is selling 66 flats on the open market in a block called Vellum in Sutherland Road, with prices ranging from £145,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £240,000 for a two-bedroom flat.
Schools: Greenleaf in Greenleaf Road, Henry Maynard in Addison Road, and Roger Ascham in Wigton Road are three primary schools judged “outstanding” by Ofsted. Walthamstow Girls School is a popular girls’ comprehensive school to age 16, judged “outstanding” by Ofsted; Higham Park (mixed, ages 11 to 18) is judged “good with outstanding features”. Sir George Monoux is a large sixth-form college where many Walthamstow pupils take their A-levels, but is judged only “satisfactory” by Ofsted. Forest School is a successful academic private school in its own conservation area near Snaresbrook. It has a prep school from age four to 11; girls and boys are educated separately between the ages of 11 and 16, but come together again in the sixth form. Bancroft’s School, a private school in Woodford Green that takes boys and girls from age seven to 18, is also popular.
Shops and restaurants: The thriving market street has a Sainsbury’s, and the Selborne Walk Shopping Centre has high-street names such as Asda, BHS, Boots, River Island and Topshop. For interesting local independent shops, cafés and restaurants, visit Orford Road where there is a toy shop, butcher and flower shop. Also on the street there is Penny Fielding, an interiors shop and art gallery. Neighbourhood restaurants include Eat17, for modern European food, Orford Saloon, for tapas, and Trattoria Ruga, for Italian food. The Nag’s Head and the Queen’s Arms are the local pubs. The Lock at nearby Tottenham Hale is the best local restaurant.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF WALTHAM FOREST:
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Open spaces: Walthamstow is sandwiched between the River Lea and Epping Forest, giving access to miles and miles of walking and cycling. Lloyd Park in Forest Road is embarking on a £4.4 million restoration, funded by the lottery and the local council.
Leisure and the arts: There are council-owned swimming pools at the Waltham Forest Pool in Chingford Road and the Leyton Leisure Lagoon in Leighton High Road. Swimming is also available at private clubs Bannatyne’s in Morrison Avenue and Bancroft’s School in nearby Woodford Green. The Vestry House Museum is a local museum with a charming garden in the village; and in Forest Road, the William Morris Gallery, in the house where he once lived, is a museum of national importance. There is no cinema in Walthamstow, but McGuffin, the local film society, is fighting to get the listed Walthamstow Granada reopened.
Transport: Most of Walthamstow is in Zone 3 (annual travel card £1,208) and the area has good Tube and railway connections to central London. Walthamstow Central and Blackhorse Lane are on the Victoria line and are 22 minutes and 20 minutes respectively from Oxford Circus. Highams Park, Wood Street, Walthamstow Central and St James Street are on the overground to Liverpool Street. The journey from Walthamstow Central takes 18 minutes. Blackhorse Road and Walthamstow Queen’s Road are on the North London overground line to Barking.
Council: Waltham Forest (Labour controlled), band D council tax for the 2010/11 year is £1,152.
One-bedroom flat £149,000
Two-bedroom flat £182,000
Two-bedroom house £241,000
Three-bedroom house £267,000
Four-bedroom house £327,000
One-bedroom flat £650 to £975 a month
Two-bedroom flat £800 to £1,000 a mth
Two-bedroom house £950 to £1,400 a mth
Three-bedroom house £1,000 to £1,500 a mth
Four-bedroom house £1,300 to £1,800 a mth
Photographs by Barry Phillips