Hainault Forest Website

Social History



Derek Morton

Derek was born in 1929 in Canning Town, and at the age of 12 the family moved to Amersham. He left school at 14 to work in the highly secretive development of radar. He later worked for the Port of London Authority and moved in with relatives in Lambourne End, where the family had a café and it was here that he got to know the Hainault Forest keepers. In 1956 he became a keeper himself. Work commenced at 7am. clearing litter and tidying up. There was a breakfast break 8.30-9.00am. At 9am. work was either Patrolling or Work Duties. There were 9 beats to patrol and for this he wore his best uniform. Checks were made to make sure that the beat was safe and any necessary repairs noted and carried out. A notebook and pencil were carried and a whistle to summon help. Appearance was all important. A brown tweed jacket, waistcoat, trousers, raincoat and overcoat were supplied, together with 2 ties, 2 shirts and 6 collars and 2 hats felt or straw. 2 pairs of boots were provided yearly with polish and brushes!  Work duties included keeping ditches clear, and trees were felled with 6 ft. two-man saws and axes. The trees lining Foxburrows Road were planted during Derek's time after the hedgerow had been removed. The working week was 5½ days and Saturday morning was the time that cleaning, sharpening, oiling and greasing tools were carried out.

Dick Cotterell with More and her foal "Jubilee".

Photo: © Derek Morton 1977.

Belted Galloway cow Photo: © Derek Morton 1977.


The Superintendent lived in the Farm House which was later demolished to make way for the sports changing rooms. The Head keeper and Deputy lived in Hainault Cottages and the keepers and green keepers in Foxburrows and other cottages. The facilities at the cottages in the 1960's were meagre. No electricity, Calor gas lighting downstairs and oil lamps in the bedrooms. No flush toilets but chemical ones in the garden which needed to be emptied and the contents buried daily. The telephone hadn't reached the cottages.  Relations with the police and the local population were good, and local workers and schools were given logs and holly at Christmas. Horse riding was allowed on Saturday mornings.


Derek was invited to take up special duties - plain clothes duties. Exams were undertaken in gardening, first aid, tree surgery and planting, by-laws and procedures. Duties involved travelling to other GLC parks and open spaces to sort out "problems".  Special duties also required putting on uniform and escorting guests at functions. By the mid 70's the post of Superintendent  was being phased out in favour of managers. Derek would have a budget of about £300, 000 for the golf course, the forest, and Havering Park and this would cover wages, fuel, gas, electricity, telephones, tools, machinery, materials and animal welfare. Exmoor Pony mares and a Welsh cob stallion were kept for breeding, as were, Highland cattle, belted Galloway's, St Kildan sheep, and other animals. A summer camp for up to 50 youngsters was established in the forest behind the farm buildings. A former superintendent Ronald Kipps got the children up at 5.30am. to witness the birth of a foal, an excellent practical biology lesson for the school camp inmates. Ponies born at Hainault had to be branded with the GLC mark.


Each GLC park was autonomous which gave the workforce a pride in their place of work and there was a certain rivalry between the parks with staff golf tournaments and other sporting events taking place throughout Greater London. Having attained Superintendent grade and then Manager, one of Derek's final tasks in before he retired in 1986 was to negotiate with the London Borough of Redbridge concerning the handover of the Hainault Forest to their care, on the demise of the GLC.

Haystacks built behind Foxburrows Cottages. Hay was cut from Fifty acre field at Lambourne End.


Left: Derek and son Neil with Massey Ferguson 35 Tractor painted GLC yellow          


Photos: © Derek Morton


Trees were planted along the horseride opposite Foxburrows Cottages.  Photo: © Derek Morton