Warwick Road, Wanstead

by Ellen Smith

Warwick Road was built at the beginning of the 1900’s, when land belonging to the old mansion, Wanstead Grove, was broken up and sold for a development to be called the Grove Estate but for obvious reasons known by Estate Agents as the Counties Estate. Work began at the Leicester Road end, those houses being built about 1907, built I believe by a Mr Clark and Son, Clark senior building in the older Edwardian style with flat bays and sash windows, Clark junior in the newer, rounded bays and casements. Later houses at the Buckingham Road end were built on allotments after World War I.

The houses varied slightly inside, were all painted white, had low close-boarded fences and gates, privet hedges at the front and between each pair, with paths of decorative mosaic tiles to each front door. Front and back gardens were laid up to lawn with fruit trees at the end. The road had chestnut trees planted along it and was gravel, not made up, which wore out pram tyres! All very uniform – it must have looked stunning.

In about 1917, my father-in-law moved his family from Oak Hall Road to Warwick Road. Mr Clark told him he had built the houses to sell, for about £450 pounds I believe, but they were too dear so he had to rent them out. They now sell for the same figure – but in thousands, not pounds! The family rented for a few years, and were possibly around the second or third tenants, with the landlord paying for the materials when you wanted to redecorate, but the tenant supplying the labour. Eventually my father-in-law got a mortgage and became the proud owner at a cost of £750.

Inside, the walls were also painted white and with everyone burning coal this meant constant cleaning, but most people had a daily or live-in maid.  A kitchen range was in the breakfast room for cooking, a coal-fired brick copper for the washing, and a shallow sink in the scullery. If desired, a lady would collect dirty linen and return it clean and ironed for a reasonable sum.  Most tradesmen delivered – by horse, bicycle or barrow, as no-one had a car, and always down the side-way to the back door. Nuns came down the road three times a day delivering milk from the farm – breakfast milk, pudding milk and afternoon tea milk – ladling it out in your own jug. No-one had a refrigerator.

Chimney sweeps were a frequent sight. A knife grinder came down the road to sharpen scissors and knives, a schoolgirl would whiten the stone edge to your front steps before school for sixpence a week, and a woman called once a year to mend doormats (binding edges, etc.). It was a friendly road, you knew all your neighbours because they all had to walk to the shops, church or to catch at steam train from Snaresbrook Station. If carrying luggage a horse-drawn cab (‘The Growler’, my father-in-law called it) could be hired from Snaresbrook Station. About two-thirds of the way down Warwick Road, a stream which had run across the road to a pond in Buckingham Road was piped underground but in heavy rain it still sometimes flooded the cellars. However this did not matter because they were full of coal which soaked it up. Nowadays those houses have had pumps installed in their cellars. Originally the houses were lit by gas. Electricity came in the 1930’s and about that time the houses were numbered, previously they had individual names.

Mrs E M Smith lived at 28 Warwick Road until 1995.

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