Woodford, London

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St Mary's church, Woodford.jpg
St Mary's Church, the parish church of Woodford
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Location within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ405915
  Charing Cross 9.5 mi (15.3 km)  SW
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district IG8
Post town LONDON
Postcode district E18
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
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List of places
51°36′17″N0°01′47″E / 51.60475°N 0.02979°E / 51.60475; 0.02979

Woodford is a town in East London, England, within the London Borough of Redbridge. It is located 9.5 miles (15.3 km) north-east of Charing Cross. Woodford historically formed an ancient parish in the county of Essex. It contained a string of agrarian villages and was part of Epping Forest. From about 1700 onwards, it became a place of residence for affluent people who had business in London; this wealth, together with its elevated position, has led to it being called the Geographical and social high point of East London. [1] Woodford was suburban to London and after being combined with Wanstead in 1934 it was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1937. It has formed part of Greater London since 1965 and comprises the neighbourhoods of Woodford Green, Woodford Bridge, Woodford Wells and South Woodford. The area is served by two stations on the Central line of the London Underground: Woodford and South Woodford.



Woodford (parish) population
1941war #
# no census was held due to war
source: UK census


Woodford appears in the 1086 Domesday Book as Wdefort, although its earliest recorded use is earlier in 1062 as Wudeford. [2] The name is Old English and means 'ford in or by the wood'. The ford refers to where a minor Roman road from London crossed the River Roding, [3] which was replaced with a bridge by 1238; this led to the renaming of part of the district as Woodford Bridge by 1805. The old Saxon road, that followed the valley at this point and utilised this ford, skirted the forest (which was, and is, on the high ground west of the Roding). The Saxon Road eventually reached north of the Forest and branched East and West at that point. Woodford by this chance was on the trade route to the further parts of Essex.

Part of the district, in a similar fashion, gained the contemporary name of Woodford Green by 1883. [2] An earlier name which has acted as an alternative to this was Woodford Row.

Economic development

The beginnings of Woodford can be traced to a medieval settlement which developed around the ford. [4] Woodford was never a single village, rather it was a collection of hamlets, and has retained to some extent its portmanteau nature. The parish was controlled from Saxon times up to the 16th century by the Abbot of Waltham and the first known reference to a church in Woodford dates from the 12th century. [3] After the dissolution of Waltham Abbey in 1540, the monastic lands passed to laymen. [3] London has been central to Woodford's development. The easy access to Epping Forest, a large forest near London where members of the royal family traditionally hunted has made it attractive to Londoners since the Fifteenth Century, when wealthy Londoners started to build mansions there. Woodford provided attractive estates for London merchants and retired East India Company officials who built large houses there. [3] As a consequence, many of the recorded inhabitants would have been servants, and there is even evidence of Africans ('negroes') living in Woodford in the eighteenth century. In fact the domestic servants and wealthy Londoners may have quickly outnumbered the remnant of the local, original rural folk. [4]

An example of the kind of grand house typical of pre-19th century Woodford is Hurst House, also known as 'The Naked Beauty', which stands on Salway Hill, now part of Woodford High Road. Its central block was completed in the early 18th century, and its side wings were added later on in the same century. It was restored in the 1930s, only to be damaged by fire a few years later. The central block was again completely restored, with the minor wings you can still see added on. [4]

Historians have pointed out Woodford's historic roads as evidence of its 'residential nature', as these roads provided reasonably easy access to Woodford, but no further on. There were two roads to Woodford, the 'lower road' (now Chigwell Road) and the 'upper road' (now Woodford New Road). The 'lower road' was often beset by flooding from the Roding, as it still is today, and was continually considered to be in need of repair. In fact one of the illustrious persons to be inconvenienced by the road was King James I. [4] The 'upper road', being less used than the 'lower road' was probably in a worse condition, and the Middlesex and Essex Turnpike Trust undertook its repair and overhaul in 1721, and extended it to Whitechapel. The Trust did such a fine job it was given responsibility for the 'lower road' as well. In 1828, the Trust built the 'Woodford New Road' from Walthamstow to Woodford Wells, and was soon after connected to the newly built Epping New Road. [4]

Local government

The parish was controlled from Saxon times up to the 16th century by the Abbot of Waltham and the first known reference to a church in Woodford dates from the 12th century. [3] The ancient parish of Woodford, also known as Woodford St Mary after its parish church of St Mary's, formed part of the Becontree hundred of Essex. [5] It was suburban to London and formed part of the Metropolitan Police District from 1840. For administration of the Poor Law it was grouped into the West Ham Union in 1835. The parish adopted the Local Government Act 1858 in 1873, setting up a local board of nine members. The Local Government Act 1894 reconstituted its area as Woodford Urban District, governed by Woodford Urban District Council. [6] In 1934 the urban district was abolished under a county review order and its former area became part of the Wanstead and Woodford Urban District. Wanstead and Woodford was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1937. [7] The population of the Woodford parish was 2,774 in 1851, and had grown substantially to 37,702 in 1951. [5] In 1965 Wanstead and Woodford, together with Ilford, were grouped together to become the London Borough of Redbridge. [4]

Suburban expansion

The beginnings of the actual modern suburbanisation of Woodford, however, can be traced to the opening (in 1856) of the Eastern Counties Railway Line from Stratford to Loughton, on which Woodford became accessible by two stations, at Snakes Lane and George Lane. The new convenience of transportation encouraged the growth in number of the daily commuter that is typical of the Woodford resident today. Woodford soon became the residence of the well-to-do city worker, as attested by John Marius Wilson in his Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales , written between 1870 and 1872

The increase of pop. arose from erection of houses consequent upon railway communication with London....[t]here are many fine mansions, and numerous good villas. [8]

In fact Woodford doubled its population in the middle and later decades of the 19th century due to the arrival of the railway. [4] A good barometer of Woodford's rapid growth in this period is the erection of three churches in the area, a Congregational, Methodist and Church of All Saints, all built in 1874. [4]

Woodford completed its suburbanisation in the period between the two World Wars of the 20th century. Available land was hungrily built on and the grand houses of the wealthy who had been building them for more than four hundred years were pulled down to make way for the middle class housing estates, typified by the three-to-four bedroom semi-detached house with front and back gardens. In the 1930s, 1,600 houses were being built in Woodford a year on average. [4] The Central line's extension to and past Woodford in the middle of the 20th century, utilising the existing overland train network, solidified Woodford's place in the commuter belt. [9]

Military activity

In the First World War (1914-1918) London was troubled by Zeppelin Raids. A response to this was to place two Royal Flying Corps night-fighter squadrons, 39 and 37 squadrons, with headquarters at Woodham Mortimer and Woodford Green respectively, with up to eight aircraft at each airfield (generally Bleriot Experimental BE2c). They formed part of the London Air Defence Area. 39 squadron shot down the Cuffley airship SL11 in September 1916, and was possibly the more successful in the task, but 37 squadron destroyed the airship L48 over Norfolk in June 1917. [10]

Rural persistence

Woodford, as part of Epping Forest was one of the last places in London where medieval Commoner's rights persisted - with local farmers being allowed to graze their cattle on the common land. These rights were protected by sections 14 and 15 of the Byelaws passed by the Conservators of Epping Forest. Even late into the 20th century cattle were allowed to roam freely on the forest ground (Forest, in this instance being the term applying to the district rather than that area with trees).

The practice became increasingly less well suited to the times, as they occasionally penetrated into neighbouring gardens and roads before being driven back onto the forest land.

The local BSE outbreak during the early 1990s caused the practice to be halted for a while. Their departure, however, meant that grass and saplings grew on the previously well-cropped meadow areas of forest land. When the cattle were reintroduced in 2001 their range was restricted so that there would be less conflict with other interests.


Woodford is divided between three parliamentary constituencies including Chingford and Woodford Green which is currently represented by Conservative Iain Duncan Smith, who was the Party Leader from 2001 to 2003. Chingford and Woodford Green is separated from Ilford North by the Central line, whilst a small part of South Woodford is in Leyton and Wanstead constituency. Previously the local constituency was Wanstead and Woodford (1974–1997) and before that Woodford (1945–1974) which was represented by Winston Churchill between 1945 and 1964. Churchill had previously represented the area (1924-1945) as part of the Epping Parliamentary Constituency - and was therefore Woodford's local MP, both when he was the wartime Prime Minister - and also later, when he served as a peacetime Prime Minister. Churchill is commemorated by a statue on the green at Woodford.

Notable people

Woodford has connections with major cultural figures. The first is the celebrated writer, artist, craftsman William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a nineteenth-century revivalist movement dedicated to restoring England's artisan traditions. As a child he lived at Woodford Hall between 1840 and 1847. Woodford Hall (demolished at the start of the 20th century) stood on Woodford High Road on the site where the Woodford Parish Memorial Hall now is. [11] Another writer who lived in Woodford is James Hilton, who wrote the novels Goodbye Mr Chips and Lost Horizon (in which he coined the term Shangri La) in a semi-detached house at 42 Oak Hill Gardens, which however was in Walthamstow borough. A blue plaque commemorates his residence at the house. [12]

The Clergyman Sydney Smith was born in Woodford in 1771. [13] Smith became a vicar and prominent Reformer, but he is now most famous as a great wit of the early nineteenth century. He was a part of the brilliant intellectual circles of his day, and once said of the historian Macaulay, [He] has occasional flashes of silence, that make his conversation perfectly delightful. [13] On his position as a Clergyman in Yorkshire, he remarked My living in Yorkshire was so far out of the way, that it was actually twelve miles from a lemon. [13] He compared marriage to a pair of shears, so joined that they can not be separated; often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them. [13] Moreover, Smith published several recipes; his rhyming recipe for salad dressing (Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl/And, scarce suspected, animate the whole) makes him a household name in America to this day. [14]

Woodford also has connections with the leading Suffragette, peace campaigner and anti-fascist Sylvia Pankhurst. Pankhurst was a longtime resident on Charteris Road, close to Woodford Station. She had been introduced to the area by George Lansbury, co-founder of the Labour Party and grandfather of Angela Lansbury. Previous to her residence in Charteris Road, Sylvia Pankhurst had challenged the moral codes of her day by living in sin with an Italian radical on 126 High Road, opposite the Horse and Well Pub. She renamed the cottage Red Cottage in homage to the leftist activities she carried out from there. She erected an anti-air-warfare monument in protest to the bombing of the people of Ethiopia under the orders of Benito Mussolini on the site of the cottage (the cottage was pulled down in the 1930s). [15]

Richard Warner, who occupied Harts at Woodford Green, cultivated the first gardenia to flower in England and who in 1771 compiled Plantae Woodfordienses - A Catalogue Of The More Perfect Plants Growing Spontaneously About Woodford In The County Of Essex [16]

Other notables


Nearest places


Public transport

The London Underground Central line serves Woodford, South Woodford and Roding Valley. Trains link the area to Epping, Loughton, Chigwell and Hainault to the north. Southbound services run directly to Stratford, The City, The West End and West London. [17]

The London Overground serves nearby Highams Park station between Liverpool Street and Chingford. [17] [18]

London buses 20, 123, 179, 275, 549, W13 and W14 call at Woodford. Buses link the area directly to Debden, Wood Green, Ilford, Chingford, Walthamstow and Leyton. [19] [20] [21]

Night bus N55 links the area to Oxford Circus via Hackney and Shoreditch overnight. [19]


The A104 runs north–south through Woodford between the North Circular Road and Epping. This once formed part of the A11 trunk road, before being renumbered in the 1980s to discourage use in favour of then new M11.

The A113 passes Woodford to the east, between Wanstead and Abridge or Chipping Ongar.

Other main routes include the A121 to Loughton, the A110 towards Chingford and Enfield, the A1009 towards Chingford Hatch, the A1199 to Wanstead, and the A503 towards Walthamstow.

These roads fall into the Low Emission Zone for the most polluting heavy diesel vehicles. [22]

The A406 North Circular Road divides Woodford from South Woodford. The road forms the Ultra Low Emission Zone boundary for the most polluting light vehicles, which only applies in South Woodford. [23]

The M11 motorway begins in Woodford and bypasses the town to the east en route to Harlow, Stansted Airport and Cambridge.

Walking and Cycling

Intermittent cycle lanes are provided along Wanstead New Road (A104) between Waterworks Corner (the North Circular Road) and Buckhurst Hill. North of Buckhurst Hill, the route continues to Epping. At Waterworks Corner, a shared-use underpass links Woodford to cycle routes and footpaths southbound towards Leyton. [24]

The A1199 features cycle lanes between Woodford and Snaresbrook. [24]

The Roding Valley Walk is a shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists which begins in Woodford and continues to Ilford. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ilford</span> Human settlement in England

Ilford is a large town in East London, England, 9 miles (14 km) north-east of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Redbridge, Ilford is within the ceremonial county of Greater London. It had a population of 168,168 in 2011, compared to 303,858 for the entire borough.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chingford</span> Town in east London, England

Chingford is a town in east London, England, within the London Borough of Waltham Forest. The centre of Chingford is 9.2 miles (14.8 km) north-east of Charing Cross, with Waltham Abbey to the north, Woodford Green and Buckhurst Hill to the east, Walthamstow to the south, and Edmonton and Enfield to the west. It had a population of 70,583 at the 2021 census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snaresbrook</span> Area of East London

Snaresbrook is a district in the London Borough of Redbridge, in East London. It is located eight miles east of Charing Cross.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wanstead</span> Area of East London

Wanstead is an area in East London, England, in the London Borough of Redbridge. It borders South Woodford to the north, Redbridge to the east and Forest Gate to the south, with Leytonstone and Walthamstow to the west. It is located 8 miles northeast of Charing Cross.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">London Borough of Redbridge</span> London borough in United Kingdom

The London Borough of Redbridge is a London borough established in 1965.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leytonstone</span> Area of East London

Leytonstone is an area in East London, England, within the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It adjoins Wanstead to the north-east, Forest Gate to the south-east, Stratford to the south-west, Leyton to the west, and Walthamstow to the north-west, and is 7 miles (11 km) north-east of Charing Cross.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hainault, London</span> Area of east London

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Epping Forest</span> Ancient woodland and former royal forest in Essex and Greater London

Epping Forest is a 2,400-hectare (5,900-acre) area of ancient woodland, and other established habitats, which straddles the border between Greater London and Essex. The main body of the forest stretches from Epping in the north, to Chingford on the edge of the London built-up area. South of Chingford the forest narrows, and forms a green corridor that extends deep into East London, as far as Forest Gate; the forest's position gives rise to its nickname, the Cockney Paradise. It is the largest forest in London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Woodford Green</span> Human settlement in England

Woodford Green is an area of Woodford in East London, England, within the London Borough of Redbridge. It adjoins Buckhurst Hill to the north, Woodford Bridge to the east, South Woodford to the south, and Chingford to the west. Epping Forest runs through Woodford Green in the west of the area, 9.4 miles (15.1 km) north-east of Charing Cross.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chigwell</span> Human settlement in England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Epping Forest District</span> Non-metropolitan district in England

Epping Forest District is a local government district in Essex, England. It is named after the ancient woodland of Epping Forest, a large part of which lies within the district. The district covers northeastern parts of the urban area of London, including the suburban towns of Epping, Loughton, Waltham Abbey, Chigwell, and Buckhurst Hill, as well as rural areas beyond it. The district is situated in the west of the county, bordering north-eastern Greater London.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Woodford</span> Suburb of London, England

South Woodford is an area of East London, England, within the London Borough of Redbridge. It adjoins Woodford Green to the north, Walthamstow to the west, Snaresbrook and Wanstead to the south and Redbridge to the east, and is 8.9 miles (14.3 km) north-east of Charing Cross. Epping Forest runs adjacent to South Woodford in the west of the area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">River Roding</span> River in Essex and Greater London, England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sewardstone</span> Human settlement in England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chingford and Woodford Green (UK Parliament constituency)</span> UK Parliament constituency since 1997

Chingford and Woodford Green is a constituency in North East London represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament by Sir Iain Duncan Smith of the Conservative Party since its creation in 1997.

Epping was a parliamentary constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament from 1885 to 1974. It elected one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Woodford Bridge</span> Human settlement in England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Epping, Essex</span> Town and parish in Essex, England

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