Introducing ‘Blogging Wanstead Through the Ages’

photo (25)This is a new regular feature for Wansteadium – a ball-by-ball commentary of a reading of the classic Wanstead Through the Ages by W V Phillips.

This book seems like a local history from central casting – a tatty dustcover, yellowing pages, hand-painted illustrations, and a charming JR Hartley tone. It was first published in 1946, with a revised  edition three years later, and has just 112 pages.  Winston Churchill, MP for Wanstead and Woodford at that time, wrote an introductory note, which must have pleased Phillips no end, but which somehow misses the point in that it’s not actually about Wanstead. Instead it reads: “It is for the children that we have laid so many tyrants low. Let us hope they will be worthy of the great sacrifices…”

A foreword has an indication about the character of 1940s Wanstead. “[I]f there is one fact clear from local history, is that the community has ever taken strangers within its gates and made them citizens who can unaffectedly share the interest of present endeavours and the pride of past achievements.” Warms the cockles, don’t it?

The author’s note which follows proves the book’s Fly Fishing qualities:

authors note


(Reader ND points out that W V Phillips was Winifred, so is therefore a she, not a he. Wansteadium maintains the name can be unisex. But since later editions of the book bear the name Winifred Eastment – who wrote several other books too – we will concede the point.)

Once she relaxes into her subject, though, one line in particular leaps off the pages of the first chapter. Phillips mentions in passing that Wanstead’s “soothing sobriquet” is “Sleepy Hollow”. Now despite all the talking and reading Wansteadium has undertaken in the past few years in the public service of maintaining this website, the name Sleepy Hollow has only ever been mentioned in connection with the headless horseman-related work of Tim Burton.

So initially there is something to get one’s teeth into: does anyone actually refer to Wanstead as Sleepy Hollow any more? And if not, when did THAT stop? Comments via the form below if you please.

…we discover whether Wanstead gets its name from a whitewashed building, the pagan god of wind, weather and half-day closing, or – tantalisingly – because it was built on a hill. 




2 thoughts on “Introducing ‘Blogging Wanstead Through the Ages’”

  1. I think Winifred used to live at 1 Spratt Hall Road (when it was one house and not two flats). A friend, Martin Joyce, (now deceased) used to live in the u/s flat and was proud of the fact!!

  2. I have a copy of We weave as we go
    By Winifred eastment

    A”sort of autobiography”

    And yes I call Wanstead Sleepy Hollow
    It’s the balmy air!!!

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