Inventory Site Record

Ray Park (Redbridge)

Brief Description

This is a fragment of a large C16th estate that is now divided by the M11 to form two distinctive parks, Ray Park to the west and Ashton Playing Fields to the east. The C16th house was razed in the early C19th, replaced in 1846 by a smaller house to the east. An artificial slate factory was set up in the grounds from c.1770 to c1811, built by Sir James Wright who used techniques he had seen in Italy to manufacture clay-based products. The public park dates from the early C20th and has notable cedar, sycamore, horse chestnut, lime and oak, with a number of rose beds in the area of the house. The James Leal Centre, built on the site of the C19th house and stable block, opened in December 2009. Within the park is an octangular late C18th walled garden.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Ray House
Site location:
Snakes Lane East/Ray Lodge Road/Oxford Road, Woodford Green, Essex
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
Tues-Sun 8am-dusk (check site owner for closing time); closed Christmas Day
Special conditions:
Café, playing fields, children's playground, basketball, cricket pitch, tennis, outdoor gym
Public transport:
Tube: Woodford, (Central). Bus: 275, W14.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.redbridge.gov.uk

Full Site Description

Ray Park is a fragment of a large C16th estate, formerly the seat of the Clevelands and Hannots, later owned by Sir James Wright, diplomat, one-time Governor of Virginia and part owner of the Fountain sugar plantation in St Kitts, who purchased the estate in c.1770. The estate is now divided by the M11 forming two distinctive parks, Ray Park to the west and Ashton Playing Fields to the east, and has been developed on its north and west fringes. The C16th house was razed to the ground in the early C19th and replaced by a smaller house in 1846 to the east.

An artificial slate factory was located in the grounds of the estate from c.1770 to c.1811, built by Wright who had been a British minister in Venice before moving to Ray House and who used techniques he had seen in Italy to manufacture clay-based products, exporting large quantities to the West Indies. Daniel Lysons, in his ‘Environs of London’ (1796) mentions that 'the buildings where the manufacture [of slate] is carried out are of this slate, and were erected about thirty years ago'. In 1999 this presented a grey, rather dilapidated building with nearby hedged shrubbery and seating area but since then it has been demolished following a fire, although the stables survived.

The late C18th octagonal walled garden formed part of Wright's improvements in his creation of a ‘Brownian’ estate. His then great friend, the former Prime Minister and plant collector Lord Bute, had a walled garden of the same unusual shape at Luton Hoo, suggesting the Woodford garden to be the product not only of Wright’s wealth and ambition but also made in emulation of Bute’s Bedfordshire garden. The Woodford garden is first depicted on the Chapman and André map, where the south facing wall is seen to extend northwards to form an alcove at its central point, suggesting it as the position of a greenhouse or hothouse. The map also depicts two lengths of additional walling projecting from the north side of the garden’s south-east facing wall. These align with an area of additional cultivation to illustrate a serious and perhaps experimental approach to horticulture. The early C19th map by John Doyley shows the garden without its additional walls and belonging to Ray Lodge rather than Ray House.  A number of trees near the walled garden today can probably be associated with Wright’s plant collection. 

Ray Park became a public park in the early C20th. Ray Lodge was a house on a site to the south-west where Ray Lodge School is now. An asphalt road leads beside the school grounds from Snakes Lane East into the park, which has notable cedar, sycamore, horse chestnut, lime and oak trees but otherwise largely provides playing fields and a children’s playground.

The James Leal Centre, built on the site of the C19th house and earlier stable block, opened in December 2009. Its main objective is to increase public access to the Roding Valley and Ray Park and to offer high quality training at low cost to voluntary groups. It also houses the LB Redbridge Nature Conservation Team who offer talks, events and information on the nature and history of this locality. During 2009 Ray Park Play Area was upgraded and features mounds, tunnels, a sand pit with fossils, a space net and a bridge, almost all made from natural materials. Reeds will be planted by the sand to create the impression of a dried river bed and there are quieter areas and planter seats for a more sensory experience. Older equipment also remains providing an extensive play area. In January 2010, the new adiZone outdoor gym was opened next to the James Leal Centre, inspired by Olympic and Paralympic sports.

The walled garden, which has long been inaccessible and by the late C20th was being used as a vehicle store and nursery ground by Redbridge Council is now being transformed into a community garden, following a successful crowd-funding initiative by local gardening group, Woodford Greeners in 2022. Their plans include installing mains water, creating a planting area for perennial flowers that will later be moved to public planters in the Woodford Green neighbourhood, creating a small medicinal garden and erecting a gazebo where workshops for the local community will be held. It is anticipated that the new Ray Park Community Garden will be completed in 2023.

Sources consulted:

Edward Walford, 'Village London, the Story of Greater London, Part 2 - North and East', first published 1883/4 (1985 ed., The Alderman Press); Peter Lawrence and Georgina Green, Woodford, A Pictorial History, Phillimore, 1995; Notes provided by Stephen Smith. Information about Ray Park Community Garden: https://woodfordgreeners.uk/#fundraising

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ417920 (541750,192050)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Redbridge
Site management:
Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure Ltd
C17th; C19th; early C20th
Listed structures:
LBII: C18th Walled Garden Walls
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - (part) strip east of Roding River
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

Ray Park

Ray Park - James Leal Centre - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 31/05/22 14:16

Ray Park, c.1960s. Courtesy Redbridge Local Studies & Archives.
Ray Park, c.1950s. Courtesy Redbridge Local Studies & Archives.
Extract from 'Plan of the Manors of Wanstead, Woodford, Ruckholt and Aldersbrook etc.' 1815, showing Ray House, Ray Lodge and the walled garden.

Click a photo to enlarge.

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