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Woodford, London facts for kids

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St Mary's church, Woodford.jpg
St Mary's Church, the parish church of Woodford
Woodford is located in Greater London
OS grid reference TQ405915
• Charing Cross 9.5 mi (15.3 km) SW
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district IG8
Post town LONDON
Postcode district E18
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament
  • Chingford and Woodford Green
London Assembly
  • Havering and Redbridge
List of places
51°36′17″N 0°01′47″E / 51.60475°N 0.02979°E / 51.60475; 0.02979

Woodford is a suburban town in east London, England, within the ceremonial county of Greater London and the ancient county of Essex. It is divided into the neighbourhoods of Woodford Green, Woodford Bridge, Woodford Wells, and South Woodford. The town is situated 9.5 miles (15.3 km) north-east of Charing Cross.

Woodford historically formed an ancient parish in the Becontree hundred of Essex. It contained a string of agrarian villages and was part of Epping Forest. From about 1700 onwards, it became a place of residence for affluent people who had business in London; this wealth, together with its elevated position, has led to it being called the Geographical and social high point of East London.

Today part of the London Borough of Redbridge, a local government district of Greater London, the civil parish of Woodford became an urban district in 1894, which in 1934 merged with the neighbouring urban district of Wanstead to form a municipal borough. In 1965, following reform of local government in London, the municipal borough was abolished, becoming part of the borough of Redbridge and Greater London.

The area is served by two stations on the Central line of the London Underground: Woodford and South Woodford. A third station, Roding Valley, just across the boundary with neighbouring Buckhurst Hill also serves the residents of the northernmost part of Woodford.


Woodford (parish) population
1881 7,154
1891 10,984
1901 13,798
1911 18,496
1921 21,236
1931 23,946
1941 war #
1951 37,702
# no census was held due to war
source: UK census


Woodford appears in the 1086 Domesday Book as Wdefort, although its earliest recorded use is earlier in 1062 as Wudeford. The name is Old English and means 'ford in or by the wood'. The ford refers to a crossing of the River Roding, which was replaced with a bridge by 1238; this led to the renaming of part of the district as Woodford Bridge by 1805. Similarly, part of the district gained the contemporary name of Woodford Green by 1883.

Economic development

The beginnings of Woodford can be traced to a medieval settlement which developed around the ford. Woodford was never a single village, rather it was a collection of hamlets, and has retained to some extent its portmanteau nature. London has been central to Woodford's development. The easy access to Epping Forest, a large forest near London where members of the royal family traditionally hunted has made it attractive to Londoners since the Fifteenth Century, when wealthy Londoners started to build mansions there. As a consequence, many of the recorded inhabitants would have been servants, and there is even evidence of Africans ('negroes') living in Woodford in the eighteenth century. In fact the domestic servants and wealthy Londoners may have quickly outnumbered the remnant of the local, original rural folk.

An example of the kind of grand house typical of pre-19th century Woodford is Hurst House, also known as 'The Naked Beauty', which stands on Salway Hill, now part of Woodford High Road. Its central block was completed in the early 18th century, and its side wings were added later on in the same century. It was restored in the 1930s, only to be damaged by fire a few years later. The central block was again completely restored, with the minor wings you can still see added on.

Historians have pointed out Woodford's historic roads as evidence of its 'residential nature', as these roads provided reasonably easy access to Woodford, but no further on. There were two roads to Woodford, the 'lower road' (now Chigwell Road) and the 'upper road' (now Woodford New Road). The 'lower road' was often beset by flooding from the Roding, as it still is today, and was continually considered to be in need of repair. In fact one of the illustrious persons to be inconvenienced by the road was King James I. The 'upper road', being less used than the 'lower road' was probably in a worse condition, and the Middlesex and Essex Turnpike Trust undertook its repair and overhaul in 1721, and extended it to Whitechapel. The Trust did such a fine job it was given responsibility for the 'lower road' as well. In 1828, the Trust built the 'Woodford New Road' from Walthamstow to Woodford Wells, and was soon after connected to the newly built Epping New Road.

Local government

The ancient parish of Woodford, also known as Woodford St Mary after its parish church of St Mary's, formed part of the Becontree hundred of Essex. It was suburban to London and formed part of the Metropolitan Police District from 1840. For administration of the Poor Law it was grouped into the West Ham Union in 1835. The parish adopted the Local Government Act 1858 in 1873, setting up a local board of nine members. The Local Government Act 1894 reconstituted its area as Woodford Urban District, governed by Woodford Urban District Council. In 1934 the urban district was abolished under a county review order and its former area became part of the Wanstead and Woodford Urban District. Wanstead and Woodford was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1937. The population of the Woodford parish was 2,774 in 1851, and had grown substantially to 37,702 in 1951. In 1965 Wanstead and Woodford, together with Ilford, were grouped together to become the London Borough of Redbridge.

Suburban expansion

The beginnings of the actual modern suburbanisation of Woodford, however, can be traced to the opening (in 1856) of the Great Eastern Railway Line from Stratford to Loughton, on which Woodford became accessible by two stations, at Snakes Lane and George Lane. The new convenience of transportation encouraged the growth in number of the daily commuter that is typical of the Woodford resident today. Woodford soon became the residence of the well-to-do city worker, as attested by John Marius Wilson in his Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, written between 1870 and 1872

The increase of pop. arose from erection of houses consequent upon railway communication with London....[t]here are many fine mansions, and numerous good villas.

In fact Woodford doubled its population in the middle and later decades of the 19th century due to the arrival of the railway. A good barometer of Woodford's rapid growth in this period is the erection of three churches in the area, a Congregational, Methodist and Church of All Saints, all built in 1874.

Woodford completed its suburbanisation in the period between the two World Wars of the 20th century. Available land was hungrily built on and the grand houses of the wealthy who had been building them for more than four hundred years were pulled down to make way for the middle class housing estates, typified by the three-to-four bedroom semi-detached house with front and back gardens. In the 1930s, 1,600 houses were being built in Woodford a year on average. The Central line's extension to and past Woodford in the middle of the 20th century, utilising the existing overland train network, solidified Woodford's place in the commuter belt.


Nearest places


Public transport

The London Underground Central line serves Woodford, South Woodford and Roding Valley. Trains link the area to Epping, Loughton, Chigwell and Hainault to the north. Southbound services run directly to Stratford, The City, The West End and West London.

The London Overground serves nearby Highams Park station between Liverpool Street and Chingford.

London buses 20, 123, 179, 275, 549 and W14 call at Woodford. Buses link the area directly to Debden, Wood Green, Ilford, Chingford, Walthamstow and Leyton.

Night bus N55 links the area to Oxford Circus via Hackney and Shoreditch overnight.


The A104 runs north–south through Woodford between the North Circular Road and Epping.

The A113 passes Woodford to the east, between Wanstead and Abridge or Chipping Ongar.

Other main routes include the A121 to Loughton, the A110 towards Chingford and Enfield, the A1009 towards Chingford Hatch, the A1199 to Wanstead, and the A503 towards Walthamstow.

These roads fall into the Low Emission Zone for the most polluting heavy diesel vehicles.

The A406 North Circular Road divides Woodford from South Woodford. The road forms the Ultra Low Emission Zone boundary for the most polluting light vehicles, which only applies in South Woodford.

The M11 motorway begins in Woodford and bypasses the town to the east en route to Harlow, Stansted Airport and Cambridge.

Walking and Cycling

Intermittent cycle lanes are provided along Wanstead New Road (A104) between Waterworks Corner (the North Circular Road) and Buckhurst Hill. North of Buckhurst Hill, the route continues to Epping. At Waterworks Corner, a shared-use underpass links Woodford to cycle routes and footpaths southbound towards Leyton.

The A1199 features cycle lanes between Woodford and Snaresbrook.

The Roding Valley Walk is a shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists which begins in Woodford and continues to Ilford.

Notable people

Woodford has connections with major cultural figures. The first is the celebrated writer, artist, craftsman William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a nineteenth-century revivalist movement dedicated to restoring England's artisan traditions. As a child he lived at Woodford Hall between 1840 and 1847. Woodford Hall (demolished at the start of the 20th century) stood on Woodford High Road on the site where the Woodford Parish Memorial Hall now is. Another writer who lived in Woodford is James Hilton, who wrote the novels Goodbye Mr Chips and Lost Horizon (in which he coined the term Shangri La) in a semi-detached house at 42 Oak Hill Gardens, which however was in Walthamstow borough. A blue plaque commemorates his residence at the house.

The Clergyman Sydney Smith was born in Woodford in 1771. Smith became a vicar and prominent Reformer, but he is now most famous as a great wit of the early nineteenth century. He was a part of the brilliant intellectual circles of his day, and once said of the historian Macaulay, [He] has occasional flashes of silence, that make his conversation perfectly delightful. On his position as a Clergyman in Yorkshire, he remarked My living in Yorkshire was so far out of the way, that it was actually twelve miles from a lemon. He compared marriage to a pair of shears, so joined that they can not be separated; often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them. Moreover, Smith published several recipes; his rhyming recipe for salad dressing (Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl/And, scarce suspected, animate the whole) makes him a household name in America to this day.

Woodford also has connections with the leading Suffragette, peace campaigner and anti-fascist Sylvia Pankhurst. Pankhurst was a longtime resident on Charteris Road, close to Woodford Station. She had been introduced to the area by George Lansbury, co-founder of the Labour Party and grandfather of Angela Lansbury. Previous to her residence in Charteris Road, Sylvia Pankhurst had challenged the moral codes of her day by living in sin with an Italian radical on 126 High Road, opposite the Horse and Well Pub. She renamed the cottage Red Cottage in homage to the leftist activities she carried out from there. She erected an anti-air-warfare monument in protest to the bombing of the people of Ethiopia under the orders of Benito Mussolini on the site of the cottage (the cottage was pulled down in the 1930s).

Richard Warner, who occupied Harts at Woodford Green, cultivated the first gardenia to flower in England and who in 1771 compiled Plantae Woodfordienses - A Catalogue Of The More Perfect Plants Growing Spontaneously About Woodford In The County Of Essex

Other notables

  • Clement Attlee, former Labour Prime Minister (Woodford Green)
  • Derek B, a pioneer of British hip-hop and the third-ever rapper to appear on the BBC music programme "Top Of The Pops". Grew up in Woodford.
  • Nick Berry, actor born 1963
  • Sanjeev Bhaskar, comedian and actor (South Woodford)
  • Terry Chimes, former drummer with The Clash, Black Sabbath & Hanoi Rocks
  • Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister, MP for Epping Constituency (which included Woodford) 1924-1945 and, subsequently, Woodford 1945-1964
  • Vince Clarke, founder member of Depeche Mode and member of Erasure and Yazoo (born in South Woodford)
  • John Dankworth, English jazz composer, saxophonist, clarinettist and writer of film scores.
  • J.M. Dent, publisher, founder of Everyman Library and friend/member of Joseph Hocking's congregation at Woodford Union Church (Woodford Green)
  • Joe Dever, author and games designer (Woodford Bridge)
  • Richard J. Evans, historian and author
  • Lynn Fontanne, leading 20th century Broadway actress with Alfred Lunt.
  • Charles Christian Hennell, author and Christian apologist
  • James Hilton, author (Woodford Green)
  • Joseph Hocking, novelist (who was Methodist minister of Woodford Union Church in Edwardian times (1901-1910) (Church became known as Woodford Green United Free Church from 1946 )
  • Professor Ralph Ambrose Kekwick FRS (1908-2000) Biochemist who did pioneering work human plasma fractionation including first production of Factor VIII.
  • Louisa Leaman, actor (Woodford Green)
  • Russell Lissack, Bloc Party guitarist (both he and Okereke attended Trinity school in Woodford Green)
  • Carli Norris, actress
  • Kele Okereke, Bloc Party vocalist and guitarist (Woodford Green)
  • Coventry Patmore, poet and critic (born in Woodford)
  • Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragette (Woodford Green)
  • Peshay, electronic music record producer and DJ (South Woodford)
  • Ruth Rendell CBE, author (South Woodford)
  • Tony Robinson, actor and TV personality
  • Wilfrid Percy Henry Sheldon KCVO, physician-pediatrician to Queen Elizabeth II
  • George Edmund Street, a leading English architect of the Victorian Gothic Revival
  • Meera Syal, comedian, writer and actress (South Woodford)
  • Charles Harrison Townsend, a leading English architect - designed Woodford Union Church, which opened 28 April 1904
  • Nigel Travis, the CEO of Dunkin' Donuts
  • Christine Truman, Wimbledon-level tennis player (as were sister Nell, brother Humphrey, also) - resident at Woodford Green
  • Kate Williams, actress, Woodford resident during the making of the TV series Love Thy Neighbour (Woodford Bridge)
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