Monday, 19 May 2014

Walthamstow's High Street Ward

Given the name of this ward, you'd be mistaken to assume that its primary asset is, well, the High Street. This is quite possibly the most diverse area of Walthamstow, in terms of both people and geography; with close to 50 different languages spoken by its residents, the longest daily outdoor market in Europe, the river Lea, Walthamstow and Warwick reservoirs, Walthamstow Central, Blackhorse Road and St James stations; this ward is packed full of character, charm and amenity.

There is so much going on here, it is almost  impossible to capture all of it in one article. We've hit some of the highlights for you, but the best way for you to get flavour of what it has to offer (including food from every corner of the globe) is to go and check it out for yourself. Let's see if we can point you in the right direction.

Cafes, Eateries and Pubs 

The diversity couldn't be any more defined. From establishments that date back over 70 years to fantastic new ones, little more than 70 days old. Here are a few recommendations...

L. Manze

When you eat at L. Manze, you're not just eating pie and mash, you're also tasting tradition. Dating to 1929, this shop has recently been given Grade II listed status. Its not hard to realise why when you take a look around inside. L. Manze is a Walthamstow institution.


Decorated in 1930's style, this purveyor of coffee, cakes and sweet treats is very popular. A great place to go in the evening if you're after an alcohol alternative.

56 St James

A relatively new kid in town, this café has been welcomed with open arms. Using coffee beans from Nude Espresso, the focus is on good quality. 56 also strikes a perfect balance between child friendly and a relaxed atmosphere for us grown-ups. A wall-sized chalk board keeps kids entertained and free wifi makes it an ideal spot for a bit of "home working".

The Chequers

In a building that can trace its roots back to 1699, this pub is a Walthamstow stalwart. In addition to a comprehensive collection of real ales, wines and spirits, it offers fresh, homemade food, including a special Sunday menu. Also, on the first Sunday of each month check out the djs from Eastern Front Sound System. Great food, funky tunes and a wide selection of ever changing ales on tap. What's not to like?

The Windmill

Portugese tapas served with love. The owners are very supportive of local initiatives and the locals are very supportive of this all around favourite for atmosphere and great prices: check out their lunch special, bargain!

The Scene at Cleveland Place

This residential and entertainment development is in the process of being built, but three restaurants have already been confirmed: YumYum Thai (of Stoke Newington fame), Nando's and Caribbean newcomer Turtle Bay. Plus there will be a state of the art Empire Cinema. We think the artists impression looks pretty cool too.

The Scene is set to open this Autumn and is part of an overall town plan of regeneration in Walthamstow.

Nature and Art 

After all that food and drink, go stretch your legs and appreciate some of the nearby nature and art to be found on the edge of this diverse ward. We recommend:

Walthamstow Marshes:

A designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the last semi-natural wetlands in London, the marshes give you the opportunity to be one with nature. Wander down Coppermill Lane, just keep going until you can't go any further and you're there. Nature's beauty was given a boost in 2013 by the fantastic artistic collaboration entitled, Mural on the Marsh. Local resident and photographer Fabien Ho brought local and internationally recognised artists together for the project that transformed a desolate walkway into an inspirational masterpiece.


There are several green spaces in the ward. We recommend Stoneydown Park. The park is home to regular events, including a very popular Folk Festival every June. The recently formed Friends of St James Park are working very hard to create unique experiences for all to enjoy in this part of the High Street Ward.

The River Lea

If you fancy rowing or chugging away on a canal boat, you can pass through the High Street Ward to the river's source in Hertfordshire or its mouth in the Thames. If you don't fancy a long journey, you can just go on a nice stroll down the path.

Historic Sites 

Echoes of Walthamstow's past are plentiful in this ward. Of particular note are: 

EMD Cinema

Built in 1887, this Grade II listed building was first opened as the Victoria Music Hall and became The Granada Cinema in 1930. It has been host to some of the world's biggest bands, including The Beatles, who played the venue in October 1964. 

Behind the boarded up exterior lies an opulent treasure of the past. The building is currently owned by a church who have not been successful in being granted planning permission to convert the building into a place of worship. There are dedicated local groups, including Save Walthamstow Cinema, Walthamstow Cinema Trust, and The McGuffin Film Society, working together to re-open this historic site as a cinema and live entertainment venue.

In recent weeks the Soho Theatre Trust have become involved to bring this fantastic venue back to a live performance centre. Watch this space...

The British Copper Company Mill

The building that gives Coppermill Lane its name still stands today. Although the mill closed in 1857 and is currently used as a storage facility, its legacy lives on. There is currently a large proposal in the offing to develop the empty Marine House building into a gallery and cafe space with a permanent exhibition of Coppermill history, as well as a temporary exhibition space. There are also plans to convert the Coppermill building itself into a viewing tower - and what a view that would be.

Community Initiatives

This ward is full of residents who care and work hard to make things happen and its very easy to get involved with what's going on:

An inspirational example of what a dedicated group of people can achieve. The local residents association successfully secured a grant to breathe new life into the old St James Street Library building. Residents won a NESTA grant to turn it into an art and community hub. It is now thriving and hosts a wide range of events, art exhibitions and classes. The E17 Art Trail folks also have offices there, so pop by and pick up your Trail Guide, if you haven't already.

A peek inside the current exhibition space at The Mill

This area has recently been awarded a £1 million grant as part of the nationwide Big Local Initiative. The money can be spent on any project or initiative that will make the area a better place to live. At this stage, the steering group are seeking input and involvement from local people via a series of consultations and events. Check out their facebook page or twitter for more information: 

ALSO, if you're visiting Walthamstow between 31 May and 15 June 2014 you'll be able to check out the E17 Art Trail too. For more info visit their website. With more than 4000 artists and performers its fast becoming one of East London's most significant art events.

So, there you have it. More things to do than you can shake a stick at, so don't be shy get out there and check it all out. 

Special thanks to Fabien Ho for his contribution to this piece. Fabien is a photographer who lives in the Coppermill area of Walthamstow. You can see Fabien's photography on the E17 Art Trail.

High Street Ward photo collage: Market stall vendor; 'I'm in love with the modern world'; Inside L. Manze, exterior L. Manze, copyright @fabsternation. Cormorant mural, copyright Gnasher Murals. Urban Fox Mural, copyright Hannah Adamaszek.

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