Borderlands – a walk around the boundary of Leytonstone

Leytonstone Council Wards

Leytonstone Council Wards

I’d been wanting to walk around the border of Leytonstone for some time – the major obstacle being working out exactly where Leytonstone ended and Leyton/Stratford/Forest Gate/Walthamstow/Wanstead began. Walking around the E11 postcode district wouldn’t work as a big chunk of it is Wanstead and Snaresbrook in the borough of Redbridge. There’s also the potential anomaly that Leyton tube station is in E11 so did that mean it was Leytonstone? Council ward boundaries weren’t much help as they crossed over into areas that are definitely in other parts of the borough. Andrew Stevens suggested using early administrative boundaries for sewage and water works and although it threw up some interesting nuggets didn’t fully solve the conundrum.  I rang the Council who were helpful but concluded that Leytonstone had no recognized boundary.

In the end I sketched out a route using the E11 postcode where it was in Waltham Forest, the areas containing a borough boundary where it couldn’t be anywhere but Leytonstone (see later for where this occurs and falls apart) and added areas that are commonly agreed to be landmarks of Leytonstone – e.g. Whipps Cross, Hollow Ponds, Thatched House, St. Patrick’s Cemetery. That gave a fairly reliable start point and only left a few grey areas that would have to be tested on foot. Although I’ve lived in Leytonstone over 8 years now and walked most streets in the area I couldn’t feel I truly understood where I lived until I’d stalked the entire perimeter in a single perambulation; sticking doggedly to my turf, looking out beyond as much as in.

Newport Road to Whipps Cross

I met Andrew and his son on the corner of Norlington Road (E10) and Newport Road (my brood bailed early on for Abbots Park, Leyton). One side of Newport is apparently in Leytonstone with the other allegedly in Leyton (Jersey Road being the exception where E11 crosses sides). This is a low point in the ground where the Fillebrook gurgles beneath the tarmac through what would once have been open fields and could have been used as a boundary although unlikely as it seems to have cut through one parcel of farmland or estate. From here we followed the blue postcode line on my Knowledge map taking us round Pretoria Road then surprising goes the length of Norlington Road on the school side then loops round to take in the end of Hainault Road E11 where it meets Leyton High Road.

Turning off Hainault Road we would have needed to leap across garage roofs to stick rigidly to the boundary so we took a 20 yard detour into Leyton to pick up the end of James Lane. It was a straight run along the backs of garages – easily imaginable as an old laneway or cart-track when the area was rural. We then turned along Peterborough Road which I’d always assumed was Leyton but it’s marked E11 and the alternative would be to go through the grounds of Whipps Cross Hospital and miss out a small section of roads on the far side. Skirting round the edge of Whipps looking across at the boarded up nurses accommodation block we kept tight to the Leytonstone border through a tidy nest of streets containing a mysterious abandoned-looking Hansel and Gretel cottage coming out onto the small green at Whipps Cross Roundabout where the trams once stopped. What the people of Leytonstone wouldn’t give to revive the old tramlines from here into Whitechapel.

Whipps Cross to the Birch Well

The border skirts the edge of the Whipps Cross Roundabout in a curious corner where Leytonstone, Leyton and Walthamstow meet and exchange harsh words, sledging each other across the road. This leads up to one of Leytonstone’s oddities – the row of Victorian houses beside the patch of open land with pond known as The Forest. First time I stumbled across this isolated settlement I was sure there had to be a pub to round off the image of the perfect village green but all I found was the expensive Forest private school.
Here we had to rely on the borough boundary separating Waltham Forest from Redbridge that cuts through the forest keeping tight to one edge of the Eagle Pond and behind Snaresbrook Crown Court. Here in the trees Andrew’s son spotted a small pool covered in a mat of luminous green algae. It looked like a well with carved stone edging and water around 2 feet deep. I posted the photo on Facebook and within 30 minutes had been told exactly what it was and its history. Philip and Richard responded with both descriptions and sketch maps confirming that this was The Birch Well – an “important source of water” at during times of drought and water shortages.

Leyton Flats to Bushwood

We clambered over an ivy-covered wall so Andrew could show me the ruin of the Chaplainry from the time when the law courts were an orphanage (Andrew wrote a piece on it for 3:AM). Following a dried up ditch that I speculated could be the course of the River Holt we emerged on Holy Bush Hill and walked down to the holiest of holy Leytonstone relics – the High Stone. Although it’s been moved a couple of times over the years this marks one corner of the area – everything around it is Redbridge.
Under the Green Man roundabout and rest-bite in the North Star which is blissfully close to the Bushwood border. There’d been a Leytonstone Jumble Trail that day and a few houses on Bushwood still had scattered items in their front gardens. Across the road from here is neither Redbridge nor Newham but the Corporation of London (get your head round that – although nowhere near as confusing as when you run into the Corporation livery when going for a stroll in Burnham Beaches, Bucks).

Wanstead Flats to Thatched House

We skirted the edge of Wanstead Flats by the iconic Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers and payed homage to the fine Metropolitan Cattle Trough, coming out through the trees onto Harrow Road. As we passed the end of Cann Hall Road headed for the E7 section of Waltham Forest Andrew refused to go further on the solid grounds that ‘no one in their right mind would say that this was Leytonstone’. Fair point. But there is a block of streets from Cann Hall (recognized Leytonstone E11) to Vansittart Road round the edge of West Ham cemetery onto Leytonstone High Road via Janson Road that sit within the boundary of Waltham Forest and surely couldn’t be in Leyton. Andrew argued that simply part of Forest Gate must be in both Newham and Waltham Forest. I did wonder whether he was just tired and fancied cutting a chunk off the walk,  however Cann Hall Road did make more sense.
I’m still raw from the closure of my precious local The Heathcote Arms so walking past the boarded up Lord Rookwood and The Colegrave Arms converted to a mosque, both on Cann Hall Road, topped off by the Thatched House invaded by a bookies, opposite the junction with the High Road, was like a macabre exhibition of the fate that befalls pubs once sold. Let’s hope not eh.

Crownfield Road to the Link Road

While Crownfield Road, E15 seems like a natural border a few small streets to the south appear to be in Waltham Forest. We couldn’t decide at which point Crownfield Road became Leyton and the idea that Leyton High Road was on the border seemed mad so we made an arbitrary turning off Crownfield up Ellingham Road into Downsell Road (the school here is listed as Leytonstone) heading for Langthorne Road – undeniably Leytonstone and taking us past the old Infirmary, St Patrick’s Cemetery (which has Leytonstone on the plaque by the entrance), and the legendary Birkbeck Tavern – a pub saved from being zombied into flats.
There are a series of streets leading down to Leyton High Road here that are in E11 and could be claimed for Leytonstone but it’s unlikely anyone living there, so close to Leyton tube would refer to this as Leytonstone (Leslie Rd, Millais, Frith, Calderon, Webster, Goodall) – but we could well be wrong. After writing off the E7 parts of the borough we were becoming gung ho with our judgments and had no problem dispatching a block of E11. On reflection I think this might have been a mistake.

Grove Green Road back to Newport via Twickenham Road

From here it was fairly straightforward to cross the Link Road via the foot-tunnel, up Grove Green Road, along Francis Road, into Twickenham, St. Anne’s (half of which is Leyton) and up Newport on the eastern side with a detour round Jersey Road E11, to close the loop by Dennis’s shop. In total took us around 4 hours to cover approximately 8 miles.



  1. Martin Stevenson   •  

    Liked your piece on Leytonstone on Robert Elms the other day. Can’t believe the Boundary Commission plan to put my bit of Hainault Road (Whipps Cross end ) in Walthamstow!

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks Martin. Total travesty to transfer you to Walthamstow – resist! (although that may be part of the historic Walthamstow Slip?)

  2. Robert Bailey   •  

    Interesting article, thank you. For as long as we have lived in Frith Road (latter 1960s) we have understood our house is in Leytonstone. In the early days we had Essex as part of our address.

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks for that Robert – for me, how residents describe where they live is the most important factor. Interesting that Essex was still part of the address in the late 60’s

  3. Gillian lawtence   •  

    Loved it all

  4. Mr FOLAYAN Babalola   •  

    Downsell road is in LEYTON!

  5. Terri   •  

    I as born in Oakdale Road in 1960. My birth certificate states this as South Essex. Oakdale Road is now in Leytonstone, the borders changed in the early 60s

    • DP   •  

      I lived in Oakdale Rd from 1967? to 1979? I believe the boroughs of Waltham Forest were Essex until 1965 when Waltham Forest was created. I had a book called something like ‘London’s lost Essex’ which stated that when the chunk of Essex was transferred to London, Essex lost 2/3 of its population to London.

      I missed the alleyway when it closed that was a shortcut through the churches in Elm road to Francis road and the newsagent there. There was also a small sweetshop on the corner at the Elm road end that closed very early in my childhood. I believe the lady retired and used the shop as a living room or something. Should bring back some memories for you.

  6. Terri   •  

    Hi DP. I remember the alleyway, it is now part of the Gurdwara Sikh temple. The shop in the corner of Elm and Oakdale was called Hardcastles, I remember going there to buy cigarettes for my dad, I was five years old! Thank you for the memories

  7. DP   •  

    Hardcastles – name doesn’t ring a bell though I lived opposite. I remember the building changing to a Sikh temple. There was so me kind of party at the time which I went to with some friends from the nursery in St Marys Road – maybe Dr Rayan’s children. At some point some green space to the left of the alley was turned into ‘The Vicarage’ (looked up on Streetview as I don’t remember details) which I felt even at a young age spoilt the view and looked nasty.

    Once a year the alley was locked off and my mum explained that they did it to prevent it becoming a right of way.

    While living in many places since, for whatever reason I have the strongest sentiment for Oakdale & environs.

    While most things look smaller when returning to childhood places as an adult, the trees definitely look much bigger.

    Funny, most of the roads there had little corner shops where the owner lived above. They all seem to be converted badly into flats now. On the corner of Ashville and Elm there was a – food shop of some sort. Biscuits and ham sliced to order is all I remember. A nice lady called I think Vera owned it but they moved away I think.

    Looking at Google Earth i see they filled in the blank space on the corner of Central Ave and Ashville. As kids the rumour was that there was an unexploded bomb or a bomb blew the house up. Not so far fetched as in WW1 a Zeppelin passed over and blew something up at the top end of Oakdale plus some other roads. . I think they were aiming for the (now named London Overground. i also think, looking at old maps that the corner plots of Oakdale, Pearcroft & Ashville were built some time after the rest and perhaps they just didn’t get around to building something.

    Trying to think of anything else of note that you might remember. There was I think a bank robbery where the getaway car, a blue Mk2 Cortina was abandoned in grove Green Rd at the top of Elm Rd. Passed it on the way to school while it was taped off.

    Do you remember by any chance what was at Sidmouth Park before it became a park?

  8. Terri   •  

    Hi DP,
    when I was a child my friend lived in Huxley Road, the garden backed onto the now Sidmouth Park. At this time it was covered in rubble, I believe as a result of a wartime bomb. My friend’s garden had a gate into the waste ground and we spent many happy hours playing there. No Health and Safety then. The park was created in 1970.
    Council houses were built on the corner of Central Avenue and Ashville Road, in the late 1960’s
    Hope this helps

  9. dp   •  

    Hi Terri,

    Looking at old maps (, historical imagery on googlemaps & (1916-1919) the houses in Sidmouth and Ashville were as per the surroundings so looks like bombs. Also originally contemporary houses on the green next to the alley in Elm road so what I thought of as an undeveloped field was probably bombed too.

  10. Terri   •  

    Hi DP,
    It does not look like you received my last message regarding Sidmouth Park. When is was a child my friend lived in Huxley Road, Leyton. Her garden backed into the site if the park. It was covered in rubble, we had great fun playing here. No Heath and Safety issues in those days.

    • dp   •  

      Yes I see it now.

  11. Terri   •  

    HI DP ,
    In one of you comments you said you lived in Oakdale Road. Do you remember what number. I lived at 128 from 1960 to 1980, I might remember you.

  12. dp   •  

    Number 1. It’s a maisonette, 1 is the bottom and 1a is the top floor. So the corner opposite Hardcastles. I’m born in 1965. My parents changed the side wall from a wooden fence that kept blowing down to the pebble dash one that’s still there today. I played with a lot of kids on the street racing around on pushbikes. I remember someone called Luke up your end and on that side but he would have been younger than me.

    On the opposite side to you somewhere was a house that I think was empty for a long time – green window frames, overgrown bushes and in our childish minds, haunted or full of witches 🙂

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