History of Cheney Row Park

According to local Walthamstow historian Bill Bayliss, in the middle ages Folly Lane was known as Amberland Lane.  It was part of the dry land route between Stratford Langthorne Abbey and Waltham Abbey Church via Cooks Ferry (where the A406 crosses the Lee today) and Sewardstone.  Mid Victorian maps show it as Folly Lane except for the perpendicular section that joins Billet Road which was called Amble Lane.

The first map of the entire of Essex from 1777 (bottom portion of left column one row up) shows Blackhorse Road, Billet Road, Chingford Road, and Forest Road (then called Clay Street). Folly Lane extends north as far as Chingford Green along the route of today’s Hall Lane A1009. The start of the footpath along the northern edge of Cheney Row Park is visible – it connected Folly Lane to Salisbury Hall, a manor house dating from the 14th century where Roger Ascham once lived (today’s car showrooms opposite Walthamstow Stadium). Higham Hill and its surroundings were largely rural farmland with only a scattering of buildings.

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), says that bricks and tiles were being made in Walthamstow from at least the 17th century.  Mid-late 19th century maps show there were a number of brickfields stretching from Highams Park to Lloyd Park.  These were land where the top soil was removed to extract the loam & clay beneath leaving pits maybe 6 feet in depth.  The extract was usually hand processed and baked into bricks on site.

With this background in mind, we have pieced together the following diary of Cheney Row Park over the last 130 years:

By 1891: The Stotter family had built a brickworks on Folly Lane in the field that would eventually become Cheney Row Park.  The Stotters were a large family with a history of brickmaking – the 1891 census lists 15 family & lodgers split over two households living at Folly Lane headed by father Thomas W (b:1843) & his son John (b:1863).  This suggests they built residences on the site along with structures for more mechanised manufacture than the previously handmade produce of brickfields.

An 1869 map shows there were no buildings on that part of Folly Lane.  Map OS Six Inch London III.NE of 1893 shows a set of buildings in the north west of the field next to Folly Lane and separately along what is now Durban Road near the park entrance.  This map also shows that the neighbouring field to the west (present day Stow Crescent and Osprey Close) had a building marked as a pottery (most likely Pettit’s Pottery).

1893: The Royal Commission on Water Supply (Balfour Committee) lead to the eventual creation of four additional reservoirs: Lockwood, Banbury, William Girling, and King George V, as well as the River Lee Diversion (its original course ran through the centre of what is now Banbury Reservoir so was re-channelled to the west of it).

1896: A High Court bankruptcy order against Thomas W Stotter is published in The London Gazette of 24/11/1896.  A separate order jointly against Thomas W and John is listed along with the earlier order in The London Gazette of 14/01/1898.

1899:  The Title Register for houses on Cheney Row state that Elizabeth Bacon & others indentured some land involving two other parties, Samuel Loveridge and Arthur Stephen Pemberton plus George William Barker.  Full details were not lodged, but it seems likely that this was the land comprising the Stotter’s brickworks. In 1900 Pemberton & Barker conveyed a parcel of this land to William Blamyre Thornton & Richard Willock.

The accompanying covenant stipulates “No caravan house on wheels or other chattel adapted or intended for use as a dwelling or sleeping apartment nor any booths shows swings or roundabouts shall be erected made placed or used or be allowed to remain upon any part of the property” which may have been to limit what could done by Gypsy traveller communities (who have a very long association with the area and were granted an official site on Folly Lane in the late 1960’s).

1903: Work to create Banbury Reservoir and divert the River Lee were completed.

1910: A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973) states that the remaining brickworks – Wilson’s on Billet Road (where Waltham Park Way business park is today) and Barltrop’s at Chapel End (today’s Aveling Park Road and the north east part of Lloyd Park) – had also ceased trading by this time.  Fletton clay from Cambridgeshire had superseded London clay as the primary choice for brickmaking, so production had moved out of London.

1913: Map OS 25 Inch Essex LXXVII.4 of 1913 shows that some of the buildings comprising Stotter’s brickworks had been demolished and dividing hedgerows with adjacent fields had been removed.  Kimberly Road housing and the entrance of Durban Road are shown partially complete. A small building is shown adjacent to the lower part of what became Durban Road.

1925-1930: Walthamstow Avenue is built as part of the new A406 North Circular road, which originally started its route west at the Crooked Billet. This created the so-called ‘Folly Lane Triangle’ (with Billet Road forming the third side) of which Cheney Row Park is part. The Lea Valley Viaduct provided the A406 safe crossing of the River Lea’s flood plain and was one of the first of its kind to be built using reinforced concrete.

1935: Map OS 25 Inch Essex LXXVII.4 of 1935 shows that all of Stotter’s buildings had been demolished and the whole of the original Durban Road / Kimberley Road / Cheney Row / Ascham End estate had been completed, although we do not at present know exactly when.  By 1935 the adjacent fields to the north, east and west had been converted into allotments and sports grounds complete with multiple tennis courts and pavilions.

1939-1972:  The field that became Cheney Row Park is listed by the Environment Agency as a historic landfill site for inert waste, active 1939-1972 (no further details available) and a 2007 AMEC Ground Investigation Report for LB Waltham Forest thought that the site was previously used as a landfill 1865-1952 although this is not what the Environment Agency records show.  The area known as Walthamstow Avenue Allotments (present day Folly Lane Community Woods) north of Cheney Row Park is also listed by the E.A as a historic landfill for inert, household, and commercial waste active 1955-1980.

No maps that we have seen between 1850 and 1990 show Cheney Row Park and surrounding fields as any kind of landfill – the reverse in fact.  For instance, map OS 1:1,250 TQ3691SE of 1955 describes Cheney Row Park as a ‘recreation ground’ as do maps OS 1:10,520 TQ39SE of 1968 , OS 1:10,000 of 1975-1977 and of 1990-1995.  However Cheney Row Park was definitely used for landfill waste at some time because the report commissioned by LB Waltham Forest in 2017 found conclusive evidence – for more information see our Land Contamination page.

1953-1972: High-voltage overhead transmission lines and pylons were first installed in the Lower Lea Valley in 1953, with a major expansion in the early 1970’s. The line that run east-west immediately north of Cheney Row Park connects the Tottenham Marsh substation (just west of Banbury Reservoir) to Barking via Redbridge at 275KV (275,000 volts). Tottenham also links to generators at the Edmonton incinerator (visible from Cheney Row Park), Enfield Power Station (formerly Brimsdown), and further north via 400KV overhead lines.

1966-1972: The Lee Valley Regional Park Bill received Royal Assent in December 1966, and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority was formally constituted on 1 January 1967. Tottenham Marshes, including Banbury Reservoir and the Folly Lane Triangle, became part of the Lee Valley Park in 1972, which today encompass a 26 miles (42 km) long section of the River Lee covering an area of 10,000-acre (40 km2).

2006: London Borough of Waltham Forest applied to itself to create an enclosed children’s play area for under 7’s and 7-12 year olds along the Durban Road side of Cheney Row Open Space (where the climbing rock, table tennis and concrete stage are today).  This was approved but the work was not carried out. At this stage Cheney Row Open Space was just scrubby grassland surround trees and undergrowth.

2011-12: The BMX track is built. Initially local volunteers from East London Bicycle Organisation Cycling Club (ELBO CC) greatly expanded some existing small earth mounds to create a rough track in March 2011. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, attended one of the sessions and rode a BMX bike. Then in July 2012 Bike Track shaped it into a professionally surfaced track funded by grants from the London Mayors Facilities Fund (£21k), London Borough of Waltham Forest (£11k) and Access Sport (£2.5k). Today the facility is managed by COG.

2010-2013: The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority adopt a Park Development Framework and create a set of proposals for improving the park. This includes support for “works to improve the ecological interest of land within Folly Lane Triangle and access to nature opportunities, for example, by enhancing woodland and grassland habitat at Cheney Row and the Community Woodland.” and “the provision of local events space, play areas and fitness trail within Folly Lane at Cheney Row and measures to encourage community use and volunteer activities within the Folly Lane Community Woodland.”

2014-2017: 350 homes are built at Banbury Park on the former Kimberly Works and Billet Works, 3.3 hectares of industrial warehouses and factories dating from the early 20th Century. The site is diagonally adjacent to Cheney Row Park and links via a path at the front of the BMX track.

2017-2019: Planning and local consultations is carried out by London Borough of Waltham Forest to upgrade Cheney Row Open Space into what we now know as Cheney Row Park.  Landscaping work by We Made That LLP began in late 2018, which included extensive remediation work to make safe contaminants from the historic landfill activities. The total cost was £1.2 million.  The new Park was officially opened at a community event on 18th May 2019 and the Friends of Cheney Row Park was created to bring together local volunteers to help manage the Park.