Rarely can the detailed history of one place be chronicled over so many centuries as that of Wanstead Park. This outline of a fascinating story was originally the work of Alan Cornish M.Sc., former Chairman of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands. It was first published in 1982 by the Friends under the title ‘Wanstead Park - a Chronicle’ to mark the centenary of the park's opening to the public. It was updated in 2012 by Richard Arnopp and Tricia Moxey, and revised with additions by Compass Archaeology for the 2013 Strategic Assessment and Condition Survey. It was further revised in late 2018.
800-600BC Late Bronze Age / Iron Age pottery and ditches have been found on the Plain. The nature and extent of activity during this period is unclear.
43-410AD Roman period. A settlement, probably a villa, was located in Wanstead Park. Pottery and coin evidence seems to suggest occupation peaked in the fourth century. The Roman roads from London to Great Dunmow and London to Colchester ran nearby.
410-1066 Some evidence of Saxon activity recorded in the area of the current sports ground.
1065 Alfric gives Wanstead Manor to St. Peter's Church - later Westminster Abbey. Grant confirmed by Edward the Confessor.
1086 Held by Ralph Fitzbrien, in the name of St. Paul and Bishop of London.
1210 Held by Brian Fitzralph to 1212.
1216 Held by Huntercombe family, until 1383.
1437 Held by John Tattershall (or Tatersal) for knights’ service to Henry VI.
1487 Held by Sir Ralph Hastings.
1499 Henry VII (r.1485-1509) buys Wanstead from Sir Ralph Hastings’ widow for £360. The park is enclosed a few years later. Early keepers include Hugh Denys and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.
1504 Henry VII lies ill several weeks at Wanstead House (he recovers).
1514 Princess Mary, sister of Henry VIII, formally renounces her proposed marriage with the Duke of Burgundy, later Emperor Charles V, at Wanstead.
1515 Sir John Heron enlarges and renovates Wanstead Church, then called St. Bride's. He is documented as holding the new Manor of Aldersbrook from at least 1517.
1521 Sir Giles Heron, son of Sir John, married Cecilia, daughter of Sir Thomas More. He becomes Keeper of Wanstead Park in the 1530s. In 1541 he is executed after ‘speaking too freely of the King’ and his estates are seized.
1549 Edward VI (r.1547-1553) grants the manor and estate to Lord Chancellor Richard, 1st Baron Rich of Leez - who as Sir Richard Rich was the prosecutor of Sir Thomas More.
1549 Old hunting lodge in the park reported to be ‘in great ruin’. It is later demolished by Lord Rich, and a new great house begun ‘on higher ground several hundred paces to the north and east.’
1551 Lord Rich retires as Lord Chancellor and settles at Wanstead
1553 Mary Tudor stops at Wanstead House, where she spends several days, as she advances to take up the Crown, briefly claimed by Lady Jane Grey. On 1 August she is joined by her half-sister Elizabeth, and they proceed with a large escort to London where Mary is proclaimed Queen.
1561 Elizabeth I (r.1558-1603) visits Lord Rich at Wanstead.
1567 Lord Rich dies, and the estate devolves to his eldest son Robert.
1577 Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and favourite of Elizabeth I, buys the estate and has the house enlarged and improved.
1578 Elizabeth I visits Wanstead for five days, and is lavishly entertained by her ‘beloved Robin’ with a May Day Masque written by Sir Philip Sidney. In September, Leicester is married at Wanstead to his mistress, Lettice, widow of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex.
1588 Leicester dies and his widow marries Sir Christopher Blount, later Earl of Devonshire, who thereby gained the estate. In 1590 they are granted a licence to convey the estate to Sir George Carey and Philip Butler, probably to mortgage it for the purpose of repaying some of Leicester's debts. They fail, however, to repay his debt to the queen, and she seizes the manor of Wanstead. In 1593 she conveys it to her favourite Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and son of Lettice, Countess of Leicester. He is another favourite of the Queen until his fall from grace results in his execution.
1599 Estate sold to Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, and later (from 1603) Earl of Devonshire.
1603 Following the surrender of the rebel Irish leader Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, Lord Mountjoy lodges him at Wanstead for the summer before presenting him at Court.
1606 Estate passes to Penelope, Lady Rich of Leez, daughter of the Earl of Essex, on the death of the Earl of Devonshire. They had been married bigamously at Wanstead, and he was father of the last three of her children. He had no legitimate issue.
1607 Mountjoy Blount, later created Earl of Newport and Baron Mountjoy, inherits the estate from his mother, Lady Rich of Leez.
1607-36 James I (r.1603-25) and Charles I (r.1625-49) stay at Wanstead House on a number of occasions. As well as hunting in the forest, state business is conducted from the house by both monarchs over three decades.
1617 Estate conveyed from Mountjoy Blount (a minor and ward of the Crown) to George Villiers, favourite of James I and later Duke of Buckingham. Later that year Francis Bacon is created Baron Verulam at Wanstead.
1619 George Villiers sells the estate to Sir Henry Mildmay, Master of the King's Jewel House. A spa is recorded at Wanstead, though its whereabouts is not known.
1624 James I celebrates his birthday at Wanstead House.
1627 Charles I issues Royal Warrants from Wanstead House.
1630 Charles I receives petitions at Wanstead House.
1636 Charles I resides at Wanstead House to escape the plague in London.
1648-9 Sir Henry Mildmay is one of the judges at the trial of Charles I.
1661 Estates of Sir Henry Mildmay are seized by the Crown upon the restoration of Charles II (effective reign 1660-1685), and given to James, Duke of York, later James II (effective reign 1685-1688). In December, the estate is sold to Sir Robert Brookes, Mildmay’s son-in-law.
1665 Samuel Pepys notes ‘took the coach to Wanstead…A fine seat, but an old-fashioned house; and being not full of people, looks desolately’
1667 The estate is leased by Sir Josiah Child, merchant, early economist and for many years effective controller of the British East India Company. In 1673 Child buys Wanstead for £11,500 and invests his wealth at Wanstead over the next thirty years, with great avenues and gardens being laid out around the house.
1678 Josiah Child is created a Baronet.
1682 Rebecca Child marries Lord Herbert at Wanstead. The Ambassador of Bantam (a state in Java) is lavishly entertained.
1683 Diarist John Evelyn comments on ‘Sir Josiah Child’s prodigious Cost in planting of walnut trees, about his seate & making new fishponds and walnut plantations’ at Wanstead.
1691 J. Gibson records his visit to ‘Sir Josiah Child’s plantations of walnut and other trees’ which are ‘more worth seeing than his gardens, which are but indifferent’. Gibson lists: his regular enclosures, vast numbers of elms and ashes; two large fish ponds by his outgate each with an island with a house on. He says the fish stocks cost £5,000 and the plantations ‘twice as much’.
1699 Josiah dies and the estate passes to Richard Child, second surviving son of Sir Josiah. Richard’s elder brother, also Josiah, is out of favour with their father at the time of his death and receives nothing beyond what had been settled upon him at the time of his marriage.
1706-1710 Work continues on landscaping of the grounds, under supervision of George London. The Straight Canal is probably created at this time.
1704 Josiah Child II dies and the family fortune is reunited by Sir Richard Child, later created Viscount Castlemaine (1715) and Baron Newton, and ultimately 1st Earl Tylney (1732). From this time Sir Richard’s income is estimated at £10,000 per annum.
1707 Rev. Dr. James Pound FRSA, naturalist and astronomer, appointed Rector of Wanstead.
1708 It seems likely that the illustrations of Wanstead House by Kip and Knyff date to circa 1708-1712.
1712 The ‘Great Canall’ is mentioned in a Deed.
Wanstead House is demolished, and a Palladian replacement begun to the designs of Colen Campbell. Fully completed about 1722, it is 260 feet long and 75 feet deep, and spoken of by contemporaries as comparable to Holkham, Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace.
1715 A Roman tessellated pavement and other remains are discovered during landscaping works in the park. The finds are described by antiquarian Smart Lethieullier, of Aldersbrook, in four letters to the Society of Antiquaries between 1735 and 1746.
1715-1745 The park is redesigned and a system of nine large artificial lakes is created, five of which still survive.
1715-1745 Over a period of roughly thirty years, nine large artificial lakes are created, beginning with the Ornamental Water by elaboration of the course of the River Roding into a series of canals. Later the Great Lake, The Reservoir and four further water bodies are formed by excavation and building of a series of north/south embankments across a shallow valley south of Wanstead House. Water sources on Leyton Flats are linked to the Basin by a ditch (the ‘River Holt’). Three lakes in the southern chain survive to this day: the Shoulder of Mutton Pond, the Heronry Pond, and the Perch Pond. Adam Holt is probably responsible for much of this work, but it has been suggested that William Kent and Charles Bridgemen may also be involved.
1717 Sir Isaac Newton, President of the Royal Society, arranges for the old London Maypole from the Strand to be moved to Wanstead Park, to form part of the largest telescope in the world (125 feet long). Observations at Wanstead by Pound's nephew, James Bradley (made Astronomer Royal 1741), lead to two great discoveries - aberration of light, and nutation (oscillation) of the earth.
1718 Stephen Switzer reports that, when compared with Blenheim, Wanstead is ‘ in some respects the best of the two’. He says that the gardens were ‘begun in 1706, a Design worthy of an English Baronet….and this was one of Mr London’s last undertakings’.
1718 Sir Richard Child is gazetted ‘Viscount of Castlemaine in the County of Kerry, and Baron of Newtown in the County of Donegal’ in the Peerage of Ireland.
1721. Elaborated design for Wanstead House produced: The West front of Wansted in Essex with the four new Towers, the seat of the Right Honble. the Lord Viscount Castleman, design'd by Colen Campbell Esq: 1721. This is not executed.
1722 Daniel Defoe writes that ‘the Green-House is an excellent Building fit to entertain a Prince; 'tis furnish'd with Stoves and artificial Places for Heat from an Apartment, in which is a Bagnio….these Gardens have been so the just Admiration of the World, that it has been the general Diversion of the Citizens to go out to see them, till the Crowds grew too great, and his Lordship was oblig'd to restrain his Servants from shewing them, except on one or two Days in a Week only’… ‘innumerable rows of trees, planted in curious order for avenues and vistas to the house’ (at Wanstead). No later than 1722 the causeway between semi-circular ponds on the west side of Wanstead House has been dug out, and the ponds joined and re-shaped to create The Basin.
1740 Nathaniel Salmon in the ‘History and Antiquities of the County of Essex’ notes ‘Wansted-House [is] intended to be made still more magnificent, by Wings raised with colonnades answering to the grandeur of the front’. In the event, the wings were not constructed.
1723 John Macky visits Wanstead and describes the gardens in detail, with the comment ‘the finest Gardens in the World’. He mentions the ‘Bason [sic]’, Gondola, garden statues, the Offices ‘the Foundations of them are not yet laid’, parterre, garden canal, ‘the Banqueting-house…From whence you have four fine Views’, ‘the Green-house, finely adorned with Statues’, ‘the Bowling-green incircled with grottos and Seats with antique Statues between each Seat’, a Ballustrade of Iron, down ‘to another long Canal’.
1725 James Cradock produces his plan of Wanstead Park. This provides valuable information of the layout of the area around the Ornamental Water at that date.
1732 Sir Richard Child created Earl Tylney of Castlemaine.
1735 Jean Rocque, a cartographer, surveyor and landscape artist of French Huguenot origin, was commissioned to prepare plans for further extensive landscaping ‘A Plan of the House, Gardens, Park, and Plantations of Wanstead, in Essex, the Seat of the Earl of Tylney’.
?1742 Charles Catton (1728-98) ‘A Prospect of the Park and House at Wanstead, Essex from the North’. A difficult picture to date (cf. Appendix II, Section 4.4)
1744-46 John Rocque Survey of London, 1744-6.1745 The lake system and grounds at about their maximum achieved development under 1st Earl Tylney. Wanstead Park has been described as one of the finest examples of the English Landscape Movement of the
1748 Pehr Kalm's Account of his visit to England on his way to America in 1748. ‘The difficulty met him at the place where the house should be built, that there was no water; but money could cure all such things. Where, previous to that time there was scarcely anything but a ditch with a little water in it, we now saw a large flowing river, all made with art and human labour. He had had dug about the whole place many ponds, of which one and another resembled a little lake, so that the one which lies in front of the windows of the mansion, and is all artificially made, is so large that they can sail to and fro on it with large boats. Around the house there is on one side a large and beautiful garden with manifold allées, promenades, trees clipped and hewn in all sorts of ways, several summer houses, orangeries, forcing-houses, ruins, and arches of bent trees. In a word, all that can be required and produced by art in a garden. For a long distance, towards all sides, there were planted in allées, rows, and other forms, all sorts of trees but that which principally excites the admiration of the spectator is the magnificent large building, which is all of hewn stone, and more resembles a royal palace than a private man's property, without as well as within.’
1750 Estate passes to John, 2nd Earl Tylney. He collects at Wanstead numerous art treasures, especially from Italy. Richard Pococke notes in August 1750 ‘Wanstead, Ld. Tilney's, who is making some improvements in his park and garden, in a very good taste’.
1755 Horace Walpole writes in a letter to Richard Bentley dated 17 July, 1755 ‘I dined yesterday at Wanstead: many years have passed since I saw it. The disposition of the house and the prospect are better than I expected, and very fine: the garden, which they tell you cost as much as the house, that is £100,000 (don't tell Mr Muentz) is wretched; the furniture fine but totally without taste ....the present Earl is the most generous creature in the world ....After dinner we dragged a goldfish-pond’.
1760-64 John, Earl Tylney builds The Grotto at the edge of the Ornamental Water, and also The Temple, north east of Heronry Pond (both buildings now listed Grade II).
1764 George III (1760-1820) and Queen Charlotte visit Wanstead House, with an escort of Light Horse.
1768 Philip Morant in the ‘History and Antiquities of the County of Essex’ Vol. 1 makes reference to the discovery of Roman antiquities in 1715, including a tessellated pavement. He notes ‘Wansted-House, the Seat of this noble Family, (with a View of which his Lordship hath been pleased to adorn this Work,) for Situation, Building, Waters, Gardens; and the hereditary command of the Forest may be said to exceed any in England. And whilst intended to be made still more magnificent, by Wings raised with colonnades answering to the grandeur of the front’.
1770 Peter Muilman, echoing Defoe, in his ‘A New and Complete History of Essex’ describes Wanstead as a ‘a building superior to most in the kingdom..’, he also gives details of the ‘octangular bason’, ‘two marble statues of Hercules and Venus [actually Omphale], with obelisks and vases’, ‘the greenhouse is a neat building, furnished with stoves and artificial places for heat, from an apartment which has a ‘bagnio’, and other conveniences both for use and pleasure’.
1771 Nathaniel Spencer ‘The spacious gardens were laid out before the house was begun, and are extremely elegant.’
1775 Walter Harrison notes: ‘What pity it is so fine an edifice, in so beautiful a situation, should be discarded by its possessor: and that a building calculated for the residence of the greatest subject in England, should be inhabited only by a few servants! The present lord has resided many years in Italy, nor is there any prospect of his returning to England’.
1784 John, second Earl Tylney of Castlemaine dies without issue, and his estate passed to Sir James Long Bt., who takes the name Tylney-Long. His will leaves instruction to his heirs to pay off his debts ‘cut down and sell all such timber as shall be upon my said Estate at the time of my Decease …[but that] all such Trees of Ornament as aforesaid shall be kept and preserved’.
1787 Church rebuilt to a design by Thomas Hardwick, and re-dedicated as St. Mary's (work completed 1790). Some monuments, including that to Sir Josiah Child, were relocated from the old church.
1794 Sir James Tylney-Long, 7th Baronet, dies and the estate is inherited by his infant son, also James.
1799 Demolition of the Greenhouse and two hothouses, and sale of their contents.
1802-1810 Wanstead House is rented by the Prince of Condé for £350 per annum. Louis XVIII and other members of the exiled French Royal Family are frequent visitors.
1805 Sir James Tylney-Long, 8th Baronet, dies aged 11. The estate passes to his sister Catherine, a minor of fifteen years, and is held in trust by the Crown.
1808 The Prince of Wales reviews troops on Wanstead Flats with the exiled King Louis XVIII and is entertained at Wanstead House.
1812 Catherine Tylney-Long marries Hon William Wellesley Pole (later 4th Earl of Mornington), nephew of the Duke of Wellington. Following a grand society wedding, they take up residence at Wanstead House. The bridegroom assumes the name Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley (though he and his wife use ‘Long-Wellesley’ informally). From 1842 William Long-Wellesley was styled Viscount Wellesley, and in 1845 succeeded his father as 4th Earl of Mornington and 2nd Lord Maryborough.
1813 Possible beginning of the J. Doyley series of Maps of Wanstead Park. Gentleman's Magazine. Vol. 83. Pt. 1,
1813. Indictment of William Long-Wellesley for impeding the existing and established right of way through Wanstead Park by first padlocking the gate, and afterwards ordering a trench to be dug across the road. He lost the case, but later secured a private Act of Parliament to achieve his object.
1813-1850 The lake system rationalised, probably due to a failing water supply. The Square Pond replaced by a plantation of trees 1813-15, and The Reservoir similarly in 1818. The Great Lake also abandoned around 1818, and the Lake Pond before 1850.
1814 A newspaper report says that William Long-Wellesley ‘is fitting up Wanstead House in a style of magnificence exceeding even Carlton House [the Prince Regent’s palace in Pall Mall]. The whole of the interior will present one uniform blaze of burnished gold’.
1814 Grand Fete at Wanstead House on the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte is attended by the Prince Regent, Duke of York, Duke of Wellington, and the Prussian Princes Frederick, William and Henry. A grand Ball follows ‘with over one thousand distinguished fashionables.’
1813-1818 Various designs for the park are prepared by Humphry Repton and Lewis Kennedy, of which some elements were implemented. Repton notes that Wanstead is ‘One of the most magnificent places in this country, which furnishes examples of the Geometric style of Gardening’
1822 J C Loudon makes reference to Wanstead ‘The park is very extensive, and abounds in old avenues, water etc., laid out by London and Wise. The present proprietor has made great improvements, erected extensive hot-houses in the kitchen-garden, and formed one of the largest American gardens in the kingdom, from designs by Lewis Kennedy, Esq’
1822 Under pressure from creditors, the trustees for William Long-Wellesley put the contents of Wanstead House up for sale. The total proceeds are a disappointing £41,000.
1823 Wanstead House begins to be demolished for the value of its materials. The process takes more than a year and involves the deaths of several workmen. Wanstead is sacrificed because the Long-Wellesleys decide it is not necessary to maintain their standing, given their possession of a number of other properties, and that it would cost too much to maintain given their need to retrench.
The Park is let for grazing by the mortgagees. Most mature trees in the park felled for timber in the 1820s-30s.
1824 Reports of grave robbers disturbed in the churchyard by Wanstead House.
1820s-30s Various descriptions of the Park as it became overgrown and neglected - e.g. 1828 mention of 2,000 trees marked for felling.
1832-5 Thomas Hood, the English poet and author, lives at Lake House, which had originally been built as a banqueting house on a peninsula in the Great Lake, and writes ‘Tylney Hall.’
1832 William Long-Wellesley is still holding 1,400 acres of land in Woodford, Leyton, Little Ilford and Barking, and still behaving as Lord of these Manors.
1834 First mention of a heronry in the park - possibly on an island in the Heronry Pond.
1841 The Tithe Plan and Award.
1850 Around this date the embankment between the Perch and Heronry Ponds is cut through by the tenant. The Heronry Pond is partially drained to increase the grazing area.
1851 Viscount Wellesley (eldest son and heir to the 4th Earl of Mornington) obtains the property from mortgagees and unsuccessfully attempts to enclose 34 acres of adjacent Common Land.
1854 Aldersbrook Farm is purchased by the City of London for a cemetery. The purchase gives Commoners' Rights to the City Corporation.
1855 Stratford-Woodford-Loughton branch of Eastern Counties Railway built. A rail cutting severs the ‘River Holt’ and finally cuts off the catchment area of Leyton Flats from the lake system in Wanstead Park. Whether the water supply had latterly been functioning as intended is doubtful, however.
1863 The 5th Earl of Mornington, who succeeded his father in 1857, dies in Paris. His landed properties, including Wanstead Park, are bequeathed to his cousin Earl Cowley or placed under the control of trustees.
1866 – Description of the Park by Coller – this and other comments show it is becoming overgrown, parts are being grazed and the lakes provide fish for local anglers.
1871 Earl Cowley encloses 20 acres of Aldersbrook Manor (Common Land). The City of London oppose the encroachment on Commoners' Rights in a three-year court battle, and wins.
1874 Wanstead Flats secured by the Government for military drill exercises.
1878 Epping Forest Act passed, appointing Corporation of the City of London as Conservators of the Forest forever.
1880 Negotiations about the purchase by the City of London Corporation of 184 acres of Wanstead Park from Lord Cowley. The settlement gives him 34 acres of Aldersbrook Manor and £8,000 cash, in exchange for the lakes and woodlands of Wanstead Park.
1879 Alexander McKenzie appointed Superintendent of Epping Forest (1879-1893)
1880 Negotiations about the purchase of 184 acres of Wanstead Park by City of London
1882 Wanstead Park opened to the public (1 August). The boat house grotto is dilapidated but the public flock to view it (3,200 between August and Jan 1883). An oak fence round it is put in place. Former arable land is ploughed up and re-sown to lay out cricket and lawn tennis grounds. £3,167 – 10s spent between August and Jan 1883 with a further £1,000 in the budget.
1883 Forest Keeper William Puffett (Head Keeper) employed in Park – also Robert Puffett , John Wilson and John Cartwright as Under Keepers.
1883 Chalet constructed by John Egan, to a design by Alexander McKenzie. (William Puffett resides within the Chalet until old age forces him out in 1902 and his nephew William John Puffett takes over on the understanding that William will be provided with a home in the Chalet).
1884 November: the Grotto is partly destroyed by fire and closed to the public. At around the same time the Heronry Pond is restored by the Conservators and a boat house constructed. The Temple is renovated so William Puffett (a former groundsman who became Head Keeper) and one Paverley could live there.
1890 Miller Christie comments on herons nesting in elms in Wanstead Park.
1893 Wanstead golf course opened, initially with nine holes, though later extended. It was designed by James Braid. In 1920, the Golf Club joined with Wanstead Cricket Club (founded 1880) to form Wanstead Sports Grounds Ltd and purchased the freehold of their grounds from Lord Cowley, thereby preserving the northern part of Wanstead Park from the threat of development.
1893 Alexander McKenzie dies, and his son Francis McKenzie is appointed Superintendent of Epping Forest.
1894 Oliver Dawson publishes the first version of his booklet The Story of Wanstead Park. A second, extended, version is published in two instalments in the ‘Home Counties Magazine’ in 1907 and 1908.
1894 Gale in January removes arching branch from Horse Chestnut – which is a feature within the Park.
1894 Ilford Ratepayers Association makes plans to have a short cut into the Park via a bridge across the Roding.
1897 Land acquired by Ilford District Council for building the bridge across the Roding.
1898 The Ornamental Water noted as a significant bird sanctuary and heronry. Wildfowl are gathered from other Parks and introduced to the lakes within Wanstead Park.
1900 The water level in the Heronry and Perch ponds falls markedly after construction of a sewer to serve the new Aldersbrook Estate. This begins more than a century of problems with these water bodies.
1901 Income from boat hire on the Perch and Heronry Ponds is now only £20 per annum instead of the previous £130 due to drought and effects from the construction of sewers.
1901 Chalet undergoes a through repair.
1902 Ilford District Council submits plans to the Epping Forest Committee for a rustic bridge (which Ilford would construct and maintain) over the River Roding to provide access from Ilford’s recreation ground into Wanstead Park. The ‘Coronation Bridge’ is opened by W. P. Griggs JP in June.
1903 Forest Keeper Walter Freakes became a Keeper in Wanstead Park.
1905 ‘Mr Chapman’ is appointed to manage the Chalet and boat hire on the lakes.
1906 The Heronry pond is re-dug and lined with a concrete rim and base. 2,020 unemployed men from West Ham undertake this work. The existing island remodelled and enlarged and a new one created (called Buxton Island), using the spoil.
1907 Land drains laid beneath part of Wanstead Flats, connected by a pipeline beneath Park Road to Heronry Pond, which is stabilised.
1907 Bathing huts in the park are thought to have dated from around this time.
1908 The much-shrunken remains of the Great Lake abandoned and drained, and Lake House (latterly used as a sports pavilion) demolished. The Lake House Estate is built over the next decade on the site.
1908 Fishing in Ornamental Water at 2d per day – other lakes free – tickets available from the Temple. This would suggest that Ornamental Water is in better condition than in recent years, but of course other activities were taking place on the Perch, Heronry and Shoulder of Mutton Ponds.
1914 Herons abandon the heronry on the Ornamental Water and move to Walthamstow reservoirs.
1914 Forest Keeper Freakes becomes Head Keeper for the Park replacing Forest Keeper Puffett who retired. Forest Keeper Bourne moved into the Temple.
1917 Bombs fell on the Temple.
1920-1940 The Heronry Pond is used for regattas and swimming galas almost every summer, and the public areas of the park enjoy great popularity for tennis and other sports. The Shoulder of Mutton Pond has a diving board.
1923 Forest Keeper George Wright appointed Keeper in Wanstead Park.
1923 Henry Tessier appointed to manage the Chalet – he continues to do so for many years.
1932 Colin McKenzie becomes Superintendent of Epping Forest following his father’s retirement from the post.
1939-45 Two acres of the park are used by Wanstead and Woodford Borough Council as allotments. Anti-glider ditches and posts in various parts of the park, also barrage balloons. At various times the park is hit by high-explosive bombs, parachute mines, V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets. The concrete lining of the Heronry Pond is badly damaged.
1941 Guglielma Lister records 300 flowering plants in the Park in her paper included in Vol. 27 of Essex Naturalist.
1942 Heavy bombing damages Heronry Pond. It has been suggested that land drains beneath Wanstead Flats may have been damaged by vibration from nearby anti-aircraft batteries, removing a source of water to the pond.
1944 V1 flying bomb fall in the Heronry Pond. At least two more fall on nearby Wanstead Flats.
1945 Sycamores within the park suffering from disease - identified as Sooty Bark Disease in 1951.
1946 Publication of Wanstead through the Ages by Winifred Eastment, née Phillips. Published by Guardian Press.
1947 onwards Local antiquarian Jack Elsden Tuffs, founder of the Wanstead Historical Society, carries out field investigations to trace the lost Roman villa and other antiquities in the park. Further archaeological investigation are carried out by him and others in various parts of the park in the 1960s, 1980s, 1990s and since 2005.
1948 The Chalet was damaged by bombs during the war and then burned down in November 1948. A new wooden hut with a corrugated iron roof was built on the site - this was demolished in 1953 after further fire damage.
1948 Head Keeper Walter Freakes retired in July at age of 74.
1949 Alfred Qvist appointed Superintendent of Epping Forest after Colin McKenzie resigns and moves to Scotland.
1949 War damage to the Heronry Pond is repaired, but the inflow of water is inadequate. One of the bays at the north end is filled in with rubble and silt.
1950 Article in Country Life. Vol. 108. July 28, 1950 by Dunlop and Kimball. ‘The Gardens of Wanstead House, Essex: Surviving Remnants of a Famous Georgian Domain’.
1952 Further repairs to Heronry Pond for three successive winters fail to solve instability.
1962 Private publication of The Story of Wanstead and Woodford from Roman Times to the Present by Jack Elsden Tuffs.
1962 Publication by Jack Elsden Tuffs of Wanstead Park’s Roman villa: the story of its rediscovery after 200 years.
1966 The laying of an electricity cable between the Perch and Heronry Ponds reveals a Roman roofing tile and pavement mortar.
1966 Forest Keeper George Wright retires.
1966 New lodges built for Forest Keepers.
1970 Wanstead Park is designated a Conservation Area. The Grotto and The Temple are listed Grade II. The park's landscape itself later registered Grade II*.
1972 Dredging of the Ornamental Water and creation of a bund to receive the silt so that it could drain.
1972 Dead elms are felled near the Perch and Heronry ponds: Roman material is present beneath their roots.
1973 Publication by Jack Elsden Tuffs of Supplementary Report (1962-1972) to a First
Report on the Rediscovery of the Roman Villa in Wanstead Park, Essex (1963).
1973 Wren Conservation Group formed. From 1974, regular studies of Wanstead Park’s flora and fauna are produced.
1976 Film-star Robert Mitchum plays the Raymond Chandler detective hero Philip Marlowe in ‘The Big Sleep’ and solves the murder-mystery in a scene filmed at The Grotto in Wanstead Park.
1977 Northumberland Avenue sewers re-built. Further deterioration of Heronry Pond follows.
1978 Dutch Elm disease invades the Park, and ultimately destroys nearly 70% of the mature trees.
1978 A research report is published by J. Berry and A. Cornish on The Lake System of Wanstead Park and The Mystery of Heronry Pond.
1978 Closure of the old sewage works by south-east boundary. The site is subsequently incorporated into Wanstead Park.
1979 John Besent appointed Superintendent of Epping Forest.
Late 1970s Many new trees planted to replace those lost to disease. A double avenue of limes was planted on either side of the Long Walk – these should have been matching trees, but in fact are not when closely examined.
1980s Some de-silting of the Heronry Pond undertaken.
1980 publication of Plant, C.W., Redbridge (Southern) Sewage Treatment Works: Report in the Flora, Fauna and Ecological Value of this site. Biological Records Centre, Passmore Edwards Museum and Ferris, P.R. 1980, The Flora of Southern Epping Forest. Part 1: Wanstead Park. Lond. Nat. 59 : 8-21
1980 Friends of Wanstead Parklands founded.
1981 Publication of Ferris, P.R.. The Flora of Southern Epping Forest. Part 2: Wanstead Flats and Bush Wood. Lond. Nat. 60: 6-19.
1981 Dr Jeffrey Lewis of UEL carries out research on plants and freshwater life in the park. His reports since appear to have vanished.
1982 Conservators agreed plans to save Heronry Pond. Tests prove inconclusive.
1982 Excavation of a pipe trench north of Perch Pond unearths Roman roof tiles and hypocaust (heating flue) artefacts.
1983-9 Widespread evaluation trenching and resistivity surveys undertaken by the West Essex Archaeological Group (WEAG) in search for the Roman villa believed to lie north of the Perch Pond. The results were inconclusive: finds were numerous, but no structure was found.
1984 Publication of Plant, C.W. and Kibby, Y G., The Fungi of Southern Epping Forest. Lond. Nat. 63 : 34-51
1985 Publication of “The Lost Roman Villa at Wanstead: a note by Frank Clark” in West Essex Archaeological Group Newsletter.
1987 Wanstead Park is listed as a Grade II* landscape.
1988 Publication of Report on WEAG Excavations in Wanstead Park in *Exploration and Discovery in South-West Essex”, WEAG.
1990 Strong winds cause more damage to the Park in January.
1990 The 11 acres of the Sewage Works are added to Epping Forest in exchange for land taken in the construction of the M11 Link Road.
1990 Publication of Debois Landscape Group’s survey of the Park. This makes about a hundred specific recommendations for improvements, a few of which are later implemented.
1992 Exhibition in Wanstead Library to explain proposed landscape works within the Park as proposed in the Debois Report. Initial works would be the planting of the double avenue of trees in front of the Temple, the planting of the yew hedges and other plantings in the Park.
1993 Sherman Chase Report produced for the City of London Corporation on the state of the Heronry Pond.
1994 Fish survey carried out in water bodies in Wanstead Park.
1995 Fish management carried out in Perch and Ornamental Waters – large pike removed from Perch Pond.
1996 Temple first open to the public during Open House weekend.
1997 Publication of Ferris, P.R.. The Flora of the old Redbridge (Southern) Sewage Works. Essex Nat. 14: 59-78.
1998 January – March MoLAS excavation of Grotto. Discoveries written up and excavated site left secure. Some artefacts removed for conservation and main pieces in the Temple on display.
1998 Publication of Ponds and Fishes in Epping Forest by Alwyne Wheeler. Lond Nat. 77 107 – 146
1999 Installation of pump house and bore hole to augment supply of water to Heronry Pond.
2000 ‘Music in the Park’ - a day of live music - organised at The Temple by the Aldersbrook Families Association (annually thereafter to 2016, revived 2018).
2000 Severe winter flooding in the Park.
2001 Borehole sunk between Perch and Heronry Ponds. Pumping replenishes Heronry Pond.
2001 Jeremy Wisenfeld appointed as Superintendent of Epping Forest on retirement of John Besant.
2003 Publication of Katherine Myers’ The Gardens of Wanstead by the London Parks and Gardens’ Trust.
2004 Young angling training day in the Park.
2004 Initial consultation by London Borough of Redbridge on the Wanstead Park Conservation Area Appraisal.
2005 Wanstead Park Community Project (WPCP) founded - a committee of concerned people lobbying for Wanstead Park to be restored.
2005 Death of Superintendent Jeremy Wisenfeld. 2005 London Borough of Redbridge Biodiversity Strategy produced.
2005 Summer - first open air performance by Illyria theatre group of A Comedy of Errors.
2006 Integrated Site Plan for Wanstead Park prepared by the City of London’s Ecological Team in Epping Forest and consultation process undertaken.
2006 Matt Roberts appointed as Superintendent of Epping Forest.
2006 August Roman weekend to celebrate the Festival of British Archaeology.
2006 The WPCP was successful in an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund under the Local Heritage Initiative. This funds a series of DVDs and other initiatives to interpret and present the park to the public. Also a new programme of archaeological research.
2007 First DVD about Wanstead Park completed.
2007 London Borough of Redbridge produces Wanstead Park Conservation Area Preservation and Enhancement Scheme.
2007 Trig points set up on the plain by students from UEL.
2008 Evaluation trenches dug at specific sites to investigate features revealed by geophysical techniques.
2008 Mat Roberts resigns as Superintendent of Epping Forest and is replaced by Paul Thomson.
2008 Some initial clearance of trees and scrub from the embankment of the Heronry Pond.
2008 Temple open each weekend. It had first opened to the public in 1996 for London Open House.
2009 Thames Water lays pipelines within the park to link up with the borehole and treatment works.
2009 Evaluation trenches dug by WEAG on the eastern side of the Plain to investigate features revealed by geophysical techniques. The work was promoted as a Festival of British Archaeology event and was visited by over 500 people.
2009 Leaks in the Ornamental Water become more noticeable during dry weather.
2009 Wanstead Park placed on the English Heritage ‘At Risk’ Register in response to concerns that the historic environment was in a poor condition and there was risk of further decline.
2009 WPCP sponsors reactivation of the dormant Friends of Wanstead Parklands. Alan Cornish elected Chairman.2010 February: first public meeting held by City of London Corporation to discuss the park.
2010 Wren Conservation Group is supplied with a tool store to facilitate their conservation work within the Park.
2010 Chris Blandford Associates appointed to work on Conservation Statement.
2011 February: Draft Conservation Statement for Wanstead Park published.
2011 January to May. Grotto ruins cleared of vegetation and stabilised.
2011 May: Draft Conservation Statement is withdrawn from the agenda of the Epping Forest and Commons Committee. Superintendent Paul Thomson announces that ‘the report requires further work to fully brief the relevant City of London committees on the substantial projected costs of the Conservation Management Plan, and importantly the capital and onward revenue implications of any potential Heritage Lottery bid. The City of London remains committed to finding a solution to the many issues raised in the Conservation Statement. This solution must be based on a identifying a viable and sustainable way forward for the Park’. WPCP declares ‘shock and frustration’.
2012 March: Alan Cornish steps down as Chairman of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands and is succeeded by Dwight Wood.
2012 March: WPCP resolves that the Friends of Wanstead Parklands will henceforth act as the lead group in the campaign to restore Wanstead Park, and suspends activity.