Tuesday, March 22, 2016


As I stepped off the tube train at Leytonstone, it seemed an uninspiring station in need of a repaint.
It was only as I walked down the subway to the exit that the station's attraction became obvious. Leytonstone was the birthplace of the film maker, Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) and in his honour a series of mosaics lined the walls .
The 17 mosaics displayed were chosen by local people and were designed and made by artists Steve and Nathan Lobb, Carol Kenna, Claire Notley and Julie Norburn. I have chosen a couple of my favourites to share with you.

Hitchcock at work, directing the film Skin Game with Margaret Lockwood and Ingrid Bergman

Possibly the most famous and frightening scene of its time  - the shower scene from Psycho (1960). Who can forget that music.

The Birds (1963)

Young Alfred sitting on a horse outside his father's greengrocers shop on the High Road, Leytonstone  c1906

I was now keen to see what other interesting places were awaiting me. I realised that this was a much busier station than the majority of the ones I had so far visited. The statistics tell me that 11.05 million people used this station during 2014. To put that in perspective, of the 19 stations so far visited 15 had less than 5 million visitors during 2014 and the other 3 were between 5 and 7 million. As I get closer to the centre of  London I expect the numbers to increase.

The buildings close to the station had an art deco look about them so I presume they were built in the 30s and 40s.

This is Leytonstone library on Church lane. Built in 1934 above a Woolworths store and electrical appliance shop, it was awarded Grade II listed status in 2014 for its beautiful art deco interiors. Photos of it were used as propaganda during the war to show how ordinary people could easily access literature, science and philosophy books in public libraries as a contrast to Nazi book burning.

It was reopened in 2015 after a 1.5 million refurbishment. Delighted to see that some of our libraries are being well cared for and well used by the community.

Across the road from the library is the church of St John the Baptist. The church and churchyard were established in 1833 and the churchyard was once filled with 19th C tombstones. Many were destroyed when a landmine fell here in 1940. No-one was injured in the attack but other attacks in this area claimed the lives of  60 people with another 70 seriously injured.

This is the Red Lion on the High Road. This road began as a Roman track from London to Epping forest and became an important route for the long distance coaches, market carts and waggons from the 14th C onwards. There was a pub on this site from 1670  called the Robin Hood later renamed as The Red Lion in 1754. It was rebuilt in 1891 and since then has had a chequered history with various name changes and closures. It reopened as the Red Lion in 2011 and now seems to be a popular eating and drinking establishment.

Just behind the High Road is this group of Georgian Terraced houses erected for the wealthy merchants and businessmen.
Close by is the statue known as Leaf Memory. Created by Stephen Duncan it was inspired by the legends of the Green Man a theme that is found in a couple of places in Leytonstone with the Green Man roundabout at the top of the High Road.  The Green Man pub is featured in one of the Hitchcock mosaics in the station subway.

Close to the High Road, the Browning Road Conservation area consists of six terraces of modest early 19th century cottages. All have features of interest which contribute to the unique character and charm of the area.
Whilst none of the buildings in Browning Road are of sufficient interest to merit being listed, the area as a whole is of considerable historic and architectural interest in a Borough that had become dominated by 19th and 20th century patterns of housing. The style of these cottages and their informal layout were characteristic features of domestic country living. These simple two up, two down buildings were let on a yearly tenancy and unfortunately their date of construction hasn't been recorded although it is thought they were built around the 1840s.
By 1766 some 50 to 60 wealthy merchants and business men lived in the fine houses and employed many servants and small tradesmen and it is thought that these houses were erected to house them.

This is Leytonstone House, built in the 18th c as the home of the Buxton Brewing family. It was sold to the Bethnal Green Poor Law Guardians for £9,500 in 1868 and opened as a school for the Juvenile Poor the same year. Children between the ages of 3 and 14 who had been orphaned or whose parents were in prison or ill were sent here. Initially 370 children were housed here. The home closed in 1936 and reopened in 1937 as Leytonstone House hospital for mentally disabled patients. By the end of WW2 the hospital housed 220 female patients from all over England. By the 1980s care for the mentally ill had greatly changed and gradually residents were relocated back into the community. The hospital finally closed in 1994.
Most of the site is now a Tesco superstore as well as a health centre, offices and homes. The main building is  used as offices for a chartered accountancy firm. Many of the original buildings remain.

These were the boys cottages

This is looking towards the girls cottages with the building to the right being part of the school.

The back view of the main building.

Leytonstone House is next to the Green Man roundabout which takes its name from a number of inns and pubs on this site. One in particular was a regular stopping off point for Dick Turpin, the Highwayman.

At the other side of the roundabout is the High Stone, a mile marker. The name Leytonstone means the part of Leyton near the stone. This obelisk dates from the 1930s when the original stone was destroyed by a vehicle and had to be replaced. The base is part of the original stone and is thought to be  Roman.

Walking back to the station I decided to pop into this book shop/cafe for a sandwich. It was an unexpected surprise. The food was all homemade (including the bread) and delicious.

The walls and ceiling were decorated with posters and other bits and pieces.

A blackboard listed an interesting number of events that were happening this month from book clubs, wine tasting to quizzes.

I returned to the northern entrance of the station which is also a bus terminus. There are two bus stations at Leytonstone tube station, one on  each side of the station.This terminus was constructed over the top of the A12 dual carriageway.

 Standing in the middle of the bus terminus is this sculpture is called 'Time Terminus' and is made up of three buses from different periods of time.

Although I have now visited 19 stations there are still 30 more to see on this line. I wonder what else there is to discover.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Wanstead is the last of the 10 stations on the Central Line loop and the 18th I have visited so far on the Central Line.

It has taken me weeks to visit all the stations on the loop and write about them. If I had walked from station to station it would have taken me about 2 hours but I wouldn't have found much of interest to show you. Wanstead is another station designed by Charles Holden. The individual letters on the tiling and the ceramic roundels in the tiles are typical of his designs. 

The platforms are below ground so a more familiar looking exit from the Underground. I think this is the first station I have visited so far  that has escalators.

Holden wanted to have an illuminated glass tower at this station but post WW2 shortages meant that, as with Redbridge, it ended up as a smaller brick tower. The station is at a very busy junction of Wanstead High Street and the A12. I was expecting a very built up area but first impression on leaving the station is one of space as The Green is just opposite with its Victorian Fountain.

In the early Victorian era this was a rural village but once the railway arrived in 1857 the population began to increase.
This drinking fountain was erected in 1897 to commemorate the 60th year of Queen Victoria's reign. The fountain has been moved on a number of occasions as the road has been widened.

This is the George Hotel rebuilt in 1904 to replace the George and Dragon Inn. There has been a coaching inn recorded on this spot since 1752. It is now part of the Weatherspoon chain of pubs and stands directly opposite the station.

In the early to mid Victorian times the High Street was the site of a number of large houses owned by wealthy merchants. Only the Manor House, which is now a restaurant, still looks as it did then.

The present High Street has a number of independent shops, cafes and restaurants and not so many charity shops which is perhaps a good indicator of the wealth of the community. It also has a village feel to  it probably because there is a large green on one side of the street which leads you to the  War memorial

Just off the High Street overlooking the green is Wanstead library. I don't know when it was built but it looks quite modern. Inside it is filled with light from  the long narrow windows that reach from the floor to the ceiling.

This is Christ Church designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1860. The designer's name was familiar and when I read a little more about him I discovered that his grandson was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who designed Battersea Power station, Liverpool Cathedral and the iconic red telephone box. This Gothic styled church looks very grand surrounded by the Green.

It was now lunch time so I stopped at this unusual cafe which is a bungalow with a marquee attached and enjoyed a bit of a fry up!

After lunch I walked South of the station towards Wanstead Park

Church of St Mary the Virgin, There has been a church on this site for over a thousand years. The present one, designed by Thomas Hardwick was consecrated on 24th June 1790.
During the 1830s guards were employed to keep watch for body snatchers. Medical schools were only allowed to dissect the bodies of executed criminals so bodies were in short supply. As a consequence hospitals and medical schools would pay large amounts of money for corpses hence the need to guard against grave robbers. In this churchyard there is supposed to be a stone shelter that was used by the guards but I didn't find it.

At the junctiom of Overton Drive and Blake Hall Road are two stone pillars that marked the entrance to the drive of Wanstead House. At the top of them you can still see the monogram of their builder Sir Richard Child.

Wanstead Park was originally the site of a medieval manor house and then a Tudor mansion. Then in 1715 Sir Richard Child demolished the house and replaced it with a Palladian style mansion. After years of neglect Wanstead House was demolished in the 1820s. A large part of the land surrounding the house was bought by the Corporation of London and dedicated to the public whilst the rest was made into a golf course or sold for development.

There are a number of ornamental lakes in the park and on the edge of one is the remains of a grotto

Built in 1761 the grotto had a small inlet behind and was later used as a boat house. There was a fire in 1884, two years after it had been opened to the public when it was almost totally destroyed. In its prime it had 'a domed roof encrusted with pebbles, shells, crystals and glass'

This is the only part of Wanstead House that still remains. Known as the Temple it was a place for resting and taking refreshments whilst enjoying the splendour of the gardens.

Leaving the beautiful Wanstead Park I walked through the surburban streets back to the station. Outside one house was this Little Free Library with a notice saying Take a book, Return a book, Donate a book.
What an attractively painted box in which  the books are displayed