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. Ray Lodge was converted into the James Leal Centre in December 2009. To the north of the house is an octangular late C18th walled garden.
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Ray Park is a fragment of a large C16th estate, formerly the seat of the Clevelands and Hannots, later owned by Sir James Wright. 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 Sir James Wright who had been a Governor of Virginia and 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 it presented a grey, rather dilapidated building with nearby hedged shrubbery and seating area. Since then it has been demolished following a fire but the stables survive. To the north of this is an octangular late C18th walled garden, inaccessible and presently used as a vehicle store and nursery ground by Redbridge Council.
Ray Park became a public park in the early C20th. An asphalt road leads beside school grounds from Snakes Lane East into the park, which has notable cedar, sycamore, horse chestnut, lime and oak trees. There are a number of rose beds in the area of the house, but otherwise the park is rather featureless with playing fields and children’s playground. Ray Lodge has been converted into the James Leal Centre, opening 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.
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.