Inventory Site Record

Wanstead Golf Course * (Redbridge)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Wanstead Golf Course contains remnants of the once extensive landscape gardens of Wanstead Park, developed between the C17th-C19th. Wanstead Park Golf Club was founded in 1893, initially leasing the site from Lord Cowley, owner of Wanstead Park, and purchasing it in 1920. The Clubhouse was set up in the late C18th stables of Wanstead House; the house was demolished in 1823/4 but its site remains as a large indentation in the ground. The C18th Octagonal Basin and part of the C19th gardens designed by Humphry Repton also survive. The club was renamed Wanstead Golf Club in 1920 when Wanstead Sports Ground Ltd was formed to secure the future of the golf course.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Wanstead Park
Site location:
Overton Drive, Wanstead
E11 2LW
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Private Open Land, Garden Feature Remnants
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Clubhouse can be booked for private events (see website)
Public transport:
Tube: Wanstead (Central). Bus: 66, 101, 145, 308, 551, W13, W14 (then walk)
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.wansteadgolf.org.uk

Full Site Description

Wanstead Park, including Wanstead Park, Wanstead Golf Course, Blake Hall Sports Grounds, Bushwood and Wanstead Flats west of Lake House Road: Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

Wanstead Golf Course contains remnants of the once extensive landscape gardens of Wanstead Park (q.v.), which were developed from the late C17th until 1822, when the estate began to be broken up. Wanstead Park Golf Club was founded in 1893 on land was leased from Lord Cowley, then owner of Wanstead Park, whose Estate Manager, R Adam-Ellis, was one of the founders of the club and its honorary treasurer. Initially a course of 9 holes was laid out to designs by Tom Dunn, but it was soon extended, and now comprises 18 holes. In 1914 the trustees of the Cowley Estates had plans to sell off the land for housing development and, in order to secure the future of the golf course, a group comprising founder member and lawyer Herbert Vincent and others formed Wanstead Sports Ground Ltd. They raised c.£40,000 to purchase the site in 1920, enabling them to provide sports facilities for golf, cricket, tennis and later bowls, and the golf club was then renamed Wanstead Golf Club. Sir Winston Churchill, who was MP for Wanstead and Woodford from 1924 to 1964, was an Honorary club member, among whom there have been a number of leading figures including 3 Ryder Cup Professionals and the winner of the 1946 Ladies Open Championship.

The golf course contains some of the only surviving late C18th outbuildings to Wanstead House in the form of the old stables, in which the Clubhouse was set up in 1893. It was refurbished in 2005. Wanstead House itself was demolished in 1823/4 but the site of the house remains as a large grassed indentation on the golf course. The Octagonal Basin, created from two earlier ponds, dates from the mid-C18th layout and here the golf club has provided two floating islands. Remnants of the early C19th gardens designed by Humphry Repton also survive.

Wanstead Hall, as the house was then called, was built c.1550 some 300m south-east of St Mary's Church (q.v.) set in its hunting park, which was created when part of the royal hunting forest was enclosed in 1545. After the Restoration in 1660 Charles II granted the Wanstead estate to Sir Robert Brooke, after whose death in 1667 the estate was put up for sale. In 1673, together with the estate of Stonehall, it was acquired by Sir Josiah Child (1630-1699), Governor of the East India Company and very wealthy. The early landscaping of Wanstead Park by Sir Josiah included fish ponds reputedly costing £5,000, and extensive plantings of trees. In March 1683 John Evelyn, who may have advised Child on the creation of his baroque gardens, wrote in his diary of the 'lines of Walnut trees and fish ponds many miles circuit'. The development of the estate in the early C18th was undertaken for Richard Child, Viscount Castlemaine and later created 1st Earl Tylney of Castlemaine, who had inherited from his half-brother in 1704, the latter having briefly inherited from Sir Josiah. Wanstead Hall was demolished in c.1714-20 when a much larger house was built for Sir Richard, designed by Colen Campbell and described as 'second to Holkham' in Norfolk. The early C18th garden was laid out from 1706 by George London in part, one of his last undertakings, and included formal parterres, canals, a pair of mounds created from the spoil of water excavations with spiral paths to temples at the top, rides leading to Epping Forest, an oval bowling green with an ironwork screen. Grottoes, seats and statues were on the perimeter of the bowling green and important buildings included a Banqueting Hall near the bowling green and an Orangery overlooking the parterres.

This layout formed the basis of a less formal but equally ambitious layout of c.1724 onwards and shown in John Rocque's map of 1735. This saw some of the formal gardens grassed over, more serpentine paths, but retention of the two mounds and amphitheatres; a sham fortress with battlements was created on an island in one of the lakes. The 2nd Earl Tylney succeeded in 1750 and continued to develop the park, building the Temple, the Great Lake and the Grotto, built on the site of earlier earthworks. Fragments of the two schemes survive, particularly the ponds, canals and related waterworks, including the Octagonal Basin within the golf course. In what is now the public park survivals include a section of the east-west canal forming part of the long principal lake with islands, woodland along its banks and the site of the Grotto; three separate ponds, Shoulder of Mutton Pond, Heronry Pond and Perch Pond; and the C18th Temple.

The 2nd Earl held extravagant parties at Wanstead, attended by high society, and sometimes royalty. After his death in 1784, the estate passed to his sister's son, Sir James Long of Draycott Cerne in Wiltshire, who took the name Tylney-Long. The stables and the rebuilding of St Mary's church date from this period. He died in 1794 and eventually his daughter Catherine Tylney-Long of Draycott inherited the estate in 1812, possessor of a great fortune. In the same year she married William Pole-Wellesley, who was related to the Duke of Wellington, and at that time penniless; under the marriage contract he took his wife's surnames and became William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley. In 1814 advice was sought from Humphry Repton and further alterations were made to the park particularly the water features and tree planting. There are survivals of Repton's picturesque landscaping and his technique of planting a number of trees in a single hole so that the trunks would fuse together. His parterre in front of the house is still visible at the golf course. In 1818 an American Garden designed by Lewis Kennedy was planted. However, by 1822 Wellesley had squandered his wife's fortune and as a result of his bankruptcy, the house was demolished in 1823/4 and sold off for building materials to a consortium of builders from Norwich, who had to get rid of everything by 1825. The house contents went to public auction, the considerable collection of statuary was dispersed, and the estate fell into disrepair although Wellesley continued to own the land at Wanstead until his death in 1857 and it was subsequently owned by Henry Wellesley, Earl Cowley.

Following the sale of the house, the land was let for grazing, trees felled for timber and the gardens became overgrown. In 1882 the Corporation of London purchased part of the estate from Earl Cowley for the public park, which opened to the public in 1882.

Sources consulted:

See Wanstead Golf Club website for historical notes by Alex Wilkinson, and also Wanstead Parklands website (www.wansteadpark.org.uk). Carter, Goode & Laurie; Wanstead Report; Edward Walford, 'Village London, the Story of Greater London, Part 2 - North and East', first published 1883/4 (1985 ed., The Alderman Press); Wanstead Official Guide; W V Phillips, 'Wanstead through the Ages' (1946, 1966 ed); Ian Dowling and Nick Harris, 'Images of London: Wanstead and Woodford', Tempus Publishing 2003

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ410877 (540812,187495)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Wanstead Sports Associations Ltd
Site management:
Wanstead Sports Associations Ltd
C18th; C19th; early C20th
George London; Humphry Repton; Lewis Kennedy. Golf course: Tom Dunn
Listed structures:
LBII: Wanstead Golf Club
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II*
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:
Conservation Area name:
Wanstead Park
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Octagonal Basin
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.