History

Above images courtesy of Vestry House Museum and David Puddifoot.

Wood Street, Walthamstow, London, has a fascinating history. Wood Street is both the main street of shops as well as being the name for the local ward

Early Development
It’s a small linear settlement that was estab­lished here by the seventh century, and was one of the four settlements that later formed the parish of Walthamstow. At the time of Domesday Book, Wood Street’s farms were arable but they later converted to dairy production and market gardening for the London market. From the 17th century several large houses were built on the outskirts of the hamlet. The Clock House, completed in 1706, was the home of Sir Jacob Jacobson, a prosperous Dutch merchant.

Victorian Development
Wood Street remained rural and a separate settlement until the mid 19th century, after which speculative builders began to lay out a series of two-storey terraced houses that soon joined it with Walthamstow. The process received a boost from the opening of the railway station in 1873, which offered early workmen’s fares on the line into Liverpool Street. Many residents lived in reduced circumstances and the Wood Street Philanthropic Society distributed free soup during the winters of the early 20th century.

Film History
Wood Street had two film production studios; one operated from 1914 until 1932, at first making silent movies and then talkies, some with big budgets and well-known actors. In the following link a ‘Continuity girl’ who worked at Walthamstow Studios is interviewed by Kevin Brownlow.

1930s and onwards
Much of the locality was rebuilt in the 1930s and several factories were established in the vicinity, one of which replaced the film studio. Hawker Siddeley manufactured trans­formers at its Fulbourne Road site from the early 1930s until 2003 (see local photographer, Paul Tucker’s documentation of the closure of Hawker Siddeley). At one time Wood Street station was intended to be the terminus of the Victoria Line, but at a late stage this was switched to Hoe Street, now Walthamstow Central.

The Wood Street Walk
The Wood Street Walk was an annual eight- mile run sponsored, from 1920, by the owner of a local café (see the archive photo above). It was open to anyone living within a mile-and-a-half of Wood Street and the first prize was a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. There have been occasional attempts to revive the event since the 1950s but, as the authors of Wood Street’s history point out, the London Marathon now seems to have greater appeal.

Wood Street Indoor Market
The former Crown cinema has served as an indoor market for over 30 years. In 2012 it was refur­bished and now boasts a café and around 50 vibrant little units selling secondhand furniture, antiques, vintage records and various arts and crafts.

(Above text reproduced from the Hidden London website)

Books about Wood Street

  • There are a number of books about Wood Street available from Vestry House Museum, the local history museum.
  • Right Up Your Street, A short history of Wood Street by John W Howes
  • To read further about the film industry in Walthamstow, British Film Studios by Patricia Warren ISBN 0 7134 7559 5 published by B.T. Batsford Ltd.

Oral histories about Wood Street

Local links: