The Aldersbrook area and Aldersbrook Wood

The Housing Estate

The Edwardian housing estate of Aldersbrook lies sandwiched between Wanstead Flats to the south and Wanstead Park to the north, with the City of London Cemetery to the east. The estate was created mostly between 1900 and 1910 from the purchase of land associated with the Wanstead House estate and of Aldersbrook Farm. The estate roads were set out, then plots and parcels of land were sold with a clearly stated expectation that the housing should be of 'villa' style.The houses retain much of the character of that time. (photo)

Strangely, very few amenities seemed to have been built to serve the houses. There is a row of shops along the Aldersbrook Road at the very perimeter of the estate; in the early part of last century this was the terminus of the trams from East Ham and the docks. (photo) The parade of shops, as shown in the photograph, had a cafe and tea shop (called Mecca then, but Swan Lake when it eventually closed some years ago), next to which was a Post Office. With the closure of the Post Office in 2004, the parade in 2007 presented a somewhat dismal appearance. Above the shops is a hotel - but this hardly serves the local community.Aldersbrook Primary School originated in 1908. There is a small library - opened in 1950 - in Park Road. (photo) It occupies an old garage once used to house the local milk dray. Nearby in Aldersbrook Road is Aldersbrook Bowls Club with a hall which also provides a venue for community events.

At the east end of the Edwardian estate, housing of very different character has been built since the 1970s. The first residents moved in in October, 1971. This occupies the land between Clavering Road, an area of woodland known as Aldersbrook Wood, a riding school and stables, Empress Avenue Allotment Plots and, to the north, the City of London Cemetery. The Aldersbrook Wood and Aldersbrook Riding School are on the site of a former infectious diseases hospital, on part of which was later constructed a Civil Defence building - a war room known as "sub-regional commissioner's offices". This subsequently became known locally as the "Nuclear Bunker". (photo). The bunker was demolished in 2000, and housing was built on the site. This has been referred to as "Bunker Villas"!

Aldersbrook Wood

The woodland just north of these houses - which might conveniently be called Aldersbrook Wood - is part-occupied by a wooden building belonging to the Woodford District Horticultural Society. There is a gated access road from the east end of Northumberland Avenue, by which is an isolated two-story house with a more modern vintage than the Edwardian estate, but older than the modern development nearby. (photo) The aspect presents a somewhat rural feel to the neighbourhood, with the forest-land of Wanstead Park immediately beyond the fence to the north. The fence - an open construction about 4ft high - divides the forest from the woodland, but brambles and other plants may easily find their way through. Part way along is an un-gated access between the two, leading from the parklands across the wood and out through an unpleasantly narrow gap between high metal fences into the new Aldersbrook estate. Such a shame that this piece of land is not managed as part of Epping Forest so that its untidy aspect might be controlled. Nevertheless, it has a variety of plants, and is certainly the home to foxes which doubtless find cover in some of the brick and concrete remains of buildings which once stood on the site and now lie partially covered with vegetation. At its eastern end, and partially to the south, lies the grounds of the riding school.

For a list of plants that have been found in Aldersbrook Wood, click here

Churches

The Parish Church of St. Gabriel the Archangel, Aldersbrook. At the junction of Aldersbrook Road and Park Road. Designed by Charles Spooner, of red brick in Neo-Perpendicular style and completed in 1914. The associated church hall in Park Road is the centre of a number of activities that serve the local community. The foundation stone was laid in 1927. (photos) A tradition that has been followed for many years takes place on Palm Sunday where a service is held by the mound on Epping Forest near the junction of Ingatestone Road and Northumberland Avenue. Following the service there is a procession, carrying palms and singing, back to the church. (photos)

Aldersbrook Baptist Church, Aldersbrook Road/Dover Road. The church was erected in 1909, bombed during the Second World War, and completely renovated. The adjacent church hall in Dover Road is slightly older, having been built in 1902. Sadly, the church is no longer functional, although the church hall is and services are held there. (photos)

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