Inventory Site Record

Wanstead Park * (Redbridge)

Brief Description

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

The public park, Wanstead Park, contains remnants of the formal gardens, landscape park and lakes created for Wanstead House. Since 1882 it has been a public park managed by the Conservators of Epping Forest. Wanstead Hall was built c.1550 in the hunting park created when part of the forest was enclosed. In 1667 it was acquired by Sir Josiah Child, who laid out formal gardens. In 1715 the old Tudor house was replaced by the palatial Wanstead House and the parkland and gardens were extravagently developed throughout the C18th for the Earls of Tylney. Catherine Tylney Long, who inherited in 1812, and her husband William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley sought advice from Humphry Repton resulting in new water features and planting. Following Wellesley's bankruptcy in 1822 the house was demolished and the estate fell into disrepair. Among historic features that remain in the park are The Temple and The Grotto boathouse by the lake.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Wanstead Hall
Site location:
Warren Road/The Avenue, Wanstead
E11 2LT
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park, Garden Feature Remnants
Open to public?
Opening times:
unrestricted. The Temple opens Sats and Suns 12-5pm (Summer) and 11am-3pm (Winter)
Special conditions:
Seasonal fishing on Perch Pond and Ornamental Waters, The Temple, refreshment kiosk
Various events, see website
Public transport:
Tube: Wanstead, Redbridge (Central). Bus: 66, 101, 145, 308, W13, W14
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk; www.wansteadpark.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 Park is the remains of formal C18th gardens, landscape park and lakes, which since 1882 has been part public park within Epping Forest (q.v.) and part private Wanstead Golf Course (q.v.), totalling 100ha, although the estate at its most extensive was c.200ha. The land slopes down towards the River Roding, which flows along the eastern boundary. In Tudor times, 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. Wanstead Park was subsequently developed through the C17th and C18th, and the early landscaping by Sir Josiah included fish ponds reputedly costing £5,000, extensive plantings of trees including walnut trees and sweet chestnuts, some of the latter surviving in Bush Wood. 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 the work of 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 for Sir Richard by George London in part, one of his last undertakings, and is shown in Kip and Knyff's view of c.1715. The landscaping 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 possibly the work of Tijou. 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, increased serpentine paths, but retained the two mounds and amphitheatres, and 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 boathouse Grotto built on the site of earlier earthworks. It had an elaborate façade with geological specimens and minerals but suffered a fire in 1884. Fragments of the two schemes survive, particularly the ponds, canals and related waterworks. The large Octagonal Basin, created from two earlier ponds survives in the Golf Course land as does 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 also survive as does the C18th Temple. The 2nd Earl held extravagant parties at Wanstead, attended by high society, and including 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 that survive as Wanstead Golf Club 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 terms 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 extensive tree planting, including 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. Part of the estate was eventually purchased by the Corporation of London following the passing of the Epping Forest Act in 1878, the Corporation having made a settlement with Earl Cowley, exchanging 34 acres of Aldersbrook Manor and £8000 for the lakes and woodlands of Wanstead Park. It opened to the public on 1 August 1882, managed by the Conservators of Epping Forest. Various facilities were provided, including tennis courts and a refreshment pavilion. Heronry Pond, which was restored and later given a concrete base, was popular for its annual regattas and swimming galas from the 1920s - 40s. The park has extensive areas of grassland and boundary belts and areas of mature trees.

The Corporation of London's management plan for Wanstead Park is slanted to conserving rather than restoring the landscape. In 1992 the avenue of sweet chestnuts leading up to the Temple was replanted, following loss of trees in the gales of 1987, as well as a very large number of elms to Dutch Elm Disease. Other works include creation of new Vistas towards Long Walk and restoration of the Boathouse Grotto. Friends of Wanstead Park was established in 1980 and in 2005 Wanstead Parklands Community Project was formed 'to preserve and where possible improve for posterity our inheritance of Wanstead Parklands, and to educate and re-awaken local interest and awareness'. Although features of the historic designed landscape survive they are in poor condition, such as the designed cascade lake system. A steering group of stakeholders was convened in May 2013 in order to promote positive conservation management.

Sources consulted:

See Wanstead Parklands website. Lecture by Sally Jeffrey, 25 September 1999 for 'The Gardens of Wanstead, A Study Day' (London Parks & Gardens Trust, conference proceedings published 2003); Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames excluding the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1972); 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 'The Rise and Fall of Wanstead House 1667-1857 (Wanstead Parklands Community Project, 2008)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ413876 (541483,186387)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Conservators of Epping Forest (City of London Corporation)
Site management:
Conservators of Epping Forest (City of London Corporation)
Late 17th onwards
George London; Humphry Repton; Lewis Kennedy
Listed structures:
LBII*: Gate piers on Blake Hall Road/Overton Drive; LBII: The Temple; The Grotto. Local list: The Fortification
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 (part)
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:
Heritage Land (part)

Wanstead Park *

Wanstead Park - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 18/04/09 15:44

Wanstead Park, one of the ornamental lakes of the former Wanstead House, c.1907. Courtesy of Redbridge Local Studies & Archives
Fourth Lake, Wanstead Park, c.1900. Courtesy Redbridge Local Studies & Archives.

Click a photo to enlarge.

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