800 years of Wanstead history to end

Picture: Geoff Wilkinson

Weekly church services which have been going on in Wanstead in the same spot since the 12th Century are to cease in the New Year.

The historic St Mary the Virgin church in Overton Drive will only be used for special occasions, following a decision by the parochial church council (PCC) on Wednesday. Weekly services are expected to stop at the end of January.

An application will be made for the building to become a “festival church”, meaning it avoids formal closure and can hold a handful of services over the course of the year at special times such as Easter, Harvest, Christmas and Mothering Sunday.

The decision came despite opposition from the congregation, who have been trying to find other uses to help attract people to the building. It followed a lengthy consultation process which took place over the summer and which more than 200 people took part in.

The PCC is made up of elected members and clergy from both St Mary’s and the larger Christ Church, both of which are part of the Wanstead Parish.

Weekly congregations at St Mary’s are between 30 and 50 members, and it is not clear where those people will now choose to worship. The parish is hoping they will transfer to Christ Church, and hopes that the two congregations will become stronger together.

The rector of Wanstead, Rev Jack Dunn, issued a statement saying: “We have listened carefully to all views and decided that St Mary’s should stay open and move to a Festival Church, allowing parishioners to worship there for significant and special services through the year.

“This move, which is subject to the approval of the Bishop of Chelmsford, will allow us to focus our mission and ministry on one central location at Christ Church in order to better utilise all of our resources  and reach out and serve our local community.”

The church, the oldest in Wanstead, is the only Grade 1 listed building in Redbridge. In her 1946 history  Wanstead Through the Ages, author W. V. Phillips writes about the St Mary’s churchyard:

“[I]t is here, surely, rather than anywhere else in the parish that the soul of Wanstead vibrates.”

She writes also that a print of a church on the site as it appeared in 1228 AD  is in the Guildhall Library, and there is roll of Wanstead rectors going back to 1207. The Christ Church site on Wanstead High Street was consecrated in 1861.

The decision is a landmark in the history of Wanstead and will be regretted by many, including in the wider community. The campaign group may continue its campaign – an appeal to the bishops may be mounted.

Below is a passage from Phillips’s book relating to the building of the church.

Views from Wansteadium readers on this subject are welcome. Please email info@wansteadium.com

Wanstead comes under the Evening Standard’s gaze again

Photo: Kirsteen King (Click/tap to enlarge)

Wanstead has had its periodic healthcheck from the Evening Standard’s property pages. The verdict sounds a bit like an east London version of Trump’s ‘caravan on the southern border’:

“Young families, tired of the hipsterish delights of Hackney and Hoxton, are making their way to Wanstead.” 

Excellent local entrepreneurs Kevin (Wanstead Fish), Fabien (La Bakerie) and Emma (Wanstead Barber Shop) get generously featured, as does the Churchill portrait in the Manor House. Sadly on this occasion, Wansteadium does not, unlike in 2014 when the paper last profiled Wanstead.

So we now have three separate reviews, 2018, 2014 (below) and 1987 (bottom) which Wansteadium reader Marcus Tylor found underneath some carpet.  This gives us an opportunity for some serious data journalism, based on comparing the three sets of price points.

The 2014 verdict (Click/tap to enlarge)

(Click/tap to enlarge)

And the 1987 version as found under a bit of carpet by Marcus Tylor. (Click/tap to enlarge)

Ban for pigeon-feeding woman

Stock photo: Storyblocks

A Wanstead woman has received a court order banning her from feeding pigeons and foxes in an action brought by Redbridge Council. The council has issued a release with the details of the action:

Wanstead woman fined for blighting area

A Wanstead woman who ignored repeated council warnings to stop feeding pigeons because it was blighting the area has been handed a banning order and must pay fines and costs totalling £1,770.

Jennifer Bagram, 65, would dump large quantities of bird feed, raw meat, nuts and other food at the base of trees, open spaces and alleyways up to four times a day.

Barking Magistrates Court heard Miss Bagram attracted flocks of pigeons which caused damage to nearby properties and forced residents to install anti-bird measures such as spikes.

Fed-up neighbours reported rat infestations in their homes and gardens in Grosvenor Road, E11, where she lived. 

Families of foxes would also descend on the area – digging up and nesting in gardens causing distress to local people. Witnesses also reported that Bagram would enter private gardens without permission to spread food and was abusive when asked to stop.

Following an increasing number of complaints, Redbridge Council stepped in to issue a Community Protection Notice in 2016 but Bagram continued to put out food near her property and on the High Road.
She repeatedly flouted the notices over the next two years and was caught on CCTV in January 2018 failing to comply.

On 14 September 2018 Bagram pleaded guilty to breaching six CPN’s with the case adjourned until 2 November 2018 for a full Criminal Behaviour Order hearing and sentencing.

Three local residents attended to give evidence.  Magistrates handed Bagram a fine of £600 for breaching the notices and ordered her to pay costs of £1,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.

An indefinite CBO was imposed banning Bagram from putting out food anywhere in the borough or abusing anyone that has reported her anti-social behaviour. A breach of the order could lead to an increased fine or imprisonment.

Cabinet Member for Civic Pride Cllr John Howard said: “We have tried to work with Miss Bagram but unfortunately our repeated warnings have been ignored.  The amount of food she was throwing in the street on daily basis was attracting large numbers of rats and pigeons, which were causing serious problems for residents for many years.  It’s not fair for local people to be suffering because of her persistent anti-social behaviour and she left us with no option but to take court action.”

Issued by Redbridge Council,  7 November 2018

Hands together, eyes closed, for St Mary’s

Photo: Geoff Wilkinson

Campaigners and church members who have been trying to keep Wanstead’s historic St Mary’s church open face a crunch meeting today at which the proposal will be considered.

For some reason the Church of England authorities seem intent on ending 800 years of continuous weekly worship on the site at Overton Drive – even though attendance at the church is at or near the average for Anglican churches in England

The members of the church who want to keep it open are hoping that other uses in addition to worship can be found for the church to increase the number of people who come into the building. 


One of the things the campaigners are trying to encourage is filming at the site – recent examples include ITV’s Vanity Fair and the BBC’s Taboo, and also most recently this:

Our Lady’s ‘to become academy’

Pic: Google Streetview

Our Lady of Lourdes primary school could become an academy – i.e. independent of Redbridge Borough Council. 

The Diocese of Brentwood has applied for all Catholic schools in the borough to become academies, and, according to a report in the Recorder, part of the reason is that the process of schools becoming academies has reduced local authorities’ ability support schools.

The diocese also believes that the move would lead to “a new spirit of collaboration” between Catholic schools, according to the report.  The move led to a protest of parents outside the school gate last week and is being opposed by Redbridge councillors. 

In 2016 a plan by the Department of Education to turn Snaresbrook Primary School into an academy against the will of parents and staff was defeated by campaigners.