Friday, 8 May 2015


On the May Bank Holiday Sunday, we visited the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow for the first time. The Gallery, in the house where William Morris used to live, was delightful. It has displays relating to the life and work of William Morris, as well as space for temporary exhibitions.

The house itself is Georgian, built in 1798. It's a nice example of the type, although I think it would have been better without the semicircular bays on the south front (the main entrance) which were added some thirty to forty years later.

The house is at one end of Lloyd Park, which is delightful, and worth exploring.

What came as a pleasant surprise, was Walthamstow itself, which I had never visited. We had initially thought of going by car, but the website warned that parking spaces in the vicinity were very limited, so we went by train, as they advised.

On the way to the gallery from the station, we walked came across a rather striking early modern building, with a clock tower, shops on the ground floor with a wavy roof over the shopfronts and flats on the three floors above. The from of the clock tower was decorated with a wavy red pattern. Above what looked like the main entrance were coats of arms.

I later discovered that this was Hoe Street Central Parade built in 1958 -1964, and the work of the borough architect F.G. Southgate.

Walthamstow turned out to be a rather pleasant place. The bits we walked through were low rise, but properly urban, with a wide variety of shops, and culturally diverse. We encountered Albanian, Turkish, Polish, West African, Chinese and Romanian cafes, restaurants and supermarkets.

The High Street is a long, straight, pedestrianised avenue, oriented so that the sun shines straight along it. On the day we were there, the sun was shining brightly and tables spilled out into the pavement and the high street from several cafes.

The overall effect was very pleasant indeed, and strangely reminiscent of the some of the traffic-free streets we had encountered in Venice, like the via Garibaldi.

I think it's the scale of the buildings, the cafes, the shops selling day-to-day goods, and the absence of that ugly, curvy, visually undisciplined patterned tiling which defaces so many pedestrianised quarters in Britain.

There were various quirky things we encountered, like this rather surreal shop front,

and this old advert on the wall above the side of a chicken shop.

We were also delighted to find a branch of Manze's, one of the East End's famous pie, mash and eel shops. This historic shop is Grade II listed. It was closed, but the interior looked wonderful, and we have resolved to come back when it's open.

We ended up at an excellent pub, The Chequers, an establishment with an emphasis on good beer and good food. We would have liked to have the special of the day, smoked underblade (the subscapularis muscle of some animal, apparently), but it was all gone, so we had a very fine roast pork, with deep fried gherkins and jalapeño mayonnaise (delicious), accompanied by some very fine beer (Truman's Bud Burst and Hackney Brewery's American Pale Ale).

The pub has a low key, unpretentious exterior, several rooms each with a different character, good music that's not too loud (so that you can have a chat), friendly staff, and welcoming to humans and dogs alike.

We're definitely coming back.

William Morris Gallery
Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4 PP
020 8496 4390

Hugh Pearman on Walthamstow and Hoe Street Central Parade
Walthamstow Carnivalesque, RIBA Journal 12/09/2012

76 High Street, Walthamstow, London E17 7LD
020 8520 2855
article from The Guardian 30/10/2013
article by Bill Bayliss

The Chequers
145 High Street, Walthamstow, London E17 7BX
020 8503 6401

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