Hainault Forest Website

Written, Designed and with Photographs by Brian Ecott

Social History

A Chigwell Row Resident writes....

I was born  in Buckhurst Hill Hospital in 1926.   Chigwell Row was a charming, small village, separated from Hainault by fields and woodland, later engulfed by the Hainault Estate. My family lived in Olive House, sadly demolished along with other interesting dwellings in Romford Road, to make way for the Estate - rumoured to be filled with an alien race known as Eastenders! The busy two lane road now replaces the dusty rural road to Romford traversed by my grandfather in his horse and cart. The weeping ash which held my swing and four trees at the front gate are all that remains today of my childhood home.


I happily recall romping and hide and seek in the haysheds, the exciting visit of the Hokey Pokey man in his gaudy cart, picking cornucopias of blackberries in Butchers Wood which bordered our garden, trotting across the forest beside my father to Foxburrows Farm, carrying a metal lidded jug, which was dipped into Mr. Tasker's enormous churn - the churn and I being of similar size - and trudging up the hill, past the Church to Miss Read's shop, returning clutching a paint box containing gold and silver paints.

Romford Road 1907. From Chigwell Row looking towards The Hainault Oak pub which stood at the junction with New North Road.. Hog hill is at the top of the picture.

Hokey Pokey Man


I walked to the village school and still recall seeing the spiders' webs hanging from the hawthorn hedgerows glistening with raindrops. Sometimes we took a short cut through the forest  where spring violets nestled the mossy banks, cadmium yellow kingcups, bluebells and Lords and Ladies flowered. Harebells and delicately pink dog roses in the Rec. magically appeared as summer approached. In the field adjacent to Carole's house buttercups rioted - it was an exhilarating experience to run through them following the childhood footsteps of my mother and her siblings.


There truly was maypole dancing in the Rec. fetes and cricket matches. George Harman, who is remembered for his service to the church in the village hall, was a stalwart player.  George and Phil his brother inherited the builders and undertakers business from their father Frank. It operated from a building behind the present newsagents and known as "Rear of Doves' Nest". I feel strongly that such a delightful name should be remembered. George papered my sitting room so perfectly that it is still in place, in good nick, fifty years later.


Facing the rec. in Manor Road was the Sunday School. I had a love/hate relationship with the Sunday School. I enjoyed the Christmas treats and coach outings to Southend but otherwise did by best to hide and avoid singing "Summer suns are glowing" when outside the glowing afternoon and the forest beckoned. Manor Road was graced by several fine houses commissioned by rich London merchants. Some houses were more ancient. My aunt lived in "The Grove", which was an Elizabethan house. We sometimes spent an atmospheric Christmas there, log fires and a huge fireplace heating the wood panelled rooms. There was a nut walk - which she loved.


Whitehall, in the direction of Lambourne End was demolished and the present Whitehall Close stands on its grounds. The doctor's children who lived there owned a miniature railway running round the garden's perimeter and I greatly envied them as I peered through a hole in the fence. P. D. James was related to Dr. Watts and lived there during the war years.



The most important building, in my eyes, was the sweetshop, now the newsagents, which adjoined Whitehall's grounds. Two delightful spinsters who had stepped out of "Cranford" were its owners - the Misses Read and their shy bachelor brother. I believe their gravestones are in the Chapel churchyard. I now live in the the nearby weather boarded cottages (c.1878). I have heard that the timber used to construct them came from dismantled barns built at Hainault to store grain for the expected siege against Napoleon. My family has inhabited this cottage since the early 1900's as my uncle ran the hansom cabs to Grangehill and stabled his horses in the roomy area at the back of the house. My cousin Eddy Green, his son continued with the village taxi until his death about thirty years ago.


Jack Shepherd, an eccentric greengrocer traded in the area of Raymond Walk. Fruit and veg were sold in the yard behind his house. A large bell hanging from a coil rang loudly as you pushed the gate. Stepping around the pigs and hens his elderly mother served you. She was, even in old age, delicately pretty, usually wearing a cloth cap and sacking apron! Her speech was impeccable and the story was "she married beneath her". Jack grazed horses in the field which was opposite the Guide Camp and I used to climb over the gate into the field and I had an irresistible urge to pick the bulrushes and waterlilies growing in the pond - usually unsuccessfully.

Weatherboard cottages, Chigwell Row

"The Chapel" or Chigwell Row United Free Church.


Nearer to the Common was the forge of Mr. Albert Spain, village blacksmith and keen Chapel man. A mighty man in all ways. Dawdling home from school we would stop and peer into his mysterious fiery world unable to understand how the patient horses coped with their ordeal.


My father owned the nearby Louvre Works - he had invented and patented the indoor louvre or plaster air vent and was doing fine until World War 2 put paid to building and his business. After the war the patent had expired. My Dad was not famous or eccentric but he was a "great"  human being. Born in 1878 in Sydenham, he was at first a "foreigner" usually known as Jane (Lizzie) Green's husband, at least during their early years together. During the war he was an air raid warden based in a shelter in the Rec. I used to cycle there with his cooked dinner wrapped insecurely in a knotted tea towel, the gravy spilling as I bumped along the uneven pavement. Bombs and landmines were dropped in the area and one fell where my summerhouse now stands.


My friend's brother Peter Threader was killed in his teens having found an unexploded bomb. The Threaders lived at Millers Farm in Millers Lane in charge of Miss Winnie Savill's foxhounds. The farm was always swarming with lively hounds - the hunting term "hullabaloo" describes it perfectly. Miss Winnie lived at Sheepcotes on the way to Lambourne End. She was a keen huntswoman and point to pointer. I was a close friend of her gardener and chauffeur George King so heard amusing tales of her activities.


My grandfather worked for Sir Phillip Savill, Miss Winnie's father. Sir Phillip owned Old Farm at Chigwell where my mother was born in 1884. My mother was sympathetic with the gypsies who were living on the Common in her youth. They were driven off by the local authorities when the modern Hainault Forest was purchased in 1903. Some stayed and lived in houses, their descendants still around when I was young. Aliens from the East End of London and gypsies - nothing changes.