|Highams Park Epping Forest||Waltham Forest|
Highams Park in Epping Forest is the surviving portion of about 55 acres of the landscape park of Highams laid out in the 1790s by Humphry Repton for the mansion at Highams, now Woodford County High School for Girls. His landscaping included a lake to the west in an area of forest known as The Sale, created with permission of the forest authorities to provide water for the deer in the woods and for recreation, and formed by a dammed section of the River Ching. In 1890 the lower part of Highams Park encompassing the River Ching and its boating lake was purchased by the Corporation of London, added to Epping Forest and opened to the public in 1891.
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Highams Park in Epping Forest is the surviving portion of about 55 acres of the landscape park of Highams laid out in the 1790s by Humphry Repton for the mansion at Highams, which is now Woodford County High School for Girls (q.v.). Repton's improvements were set out in his Red Book for John Harman of 1794, and included a lake to the west of the landscape park, in an area of forest land known as The Sale, created with the permission of the forest authorities. The lake was created in 1794 originally to provide water for the deer in the woods and for recreation, and was formed by a dammed section of the River Ching. It formed the principal prospect from the south side of the house. Repton's classicising boat house illustrated in the Red Book for the site at the head of the lake was not executed, but after 1831 a summer house was built with stones taken from old London Bridge; this no longer exists.
From the 1880s onwards portions of the estate were sold off for development. In 1890 the lower part of Highams Park encompassing the River Ching and its boating lake was purchased by the Corporation of the City of London, added to Epping Forest (managed by the Conservators of Epping Forest), and opened to the public in 1891. In 1894 the Great Eastern Railway renamed its Hale End station, which had opened in 1873, Highams Park Station in order to benefit from the new attraction. Although Repton stated in the Red Book that his treatment of the lake illustrated in the map of 1794 was only provisional, in its present state the lake retains the general outline shown in his water-colour design of 1794. There is a thickly wooded island at its southern end and a series of deep channels creating long spit-like islands on its north-western side, relating to Repton's plan to enlarge not only the channel of the brook, but 'also the other channel near it, forming a long island between the two; this will save the expense of a bridge which will be necessary if the water be extended further back upon the same level...'.
The lake is now surrounded by a belt of mature woodland, with some mature conifers and large boulders on the banks towards its centre (formerly the terminating point of the main prospect from the house), and the remains of a belt of yews north-west of the lake-head where a plantation screening the dam is shown in the Red Book. These features may be survivals from Repton's scheme. A large and ugly modern boathouse stands at the lake-head, close to The Charter Road. The lake banks have been reinforced and the site has become a popular location for anglers. This is the extent of the parkland that falls within the curtilage of Epping Forest. An early C20th development of houses, Forest Glade, overlooks the park and forms a western boundary. The Charter Road bisects the woodland at its southern tip and Chingford Lane cuts across the former approach road through the North Wood. The remainder, a triangle on the eastern side of the lake, was purchased by LB Waltham Forest and is named The Highams Park (q.v.).
Representatives of Waltham Forest Council and the Corporation of London have expressed an interest in working together to recreate elements of the original landscape and to improve the quality of these two adjoining areas of parkland.
The lake and woodland of Highams Park provide an extraordinarily rural experience despite being surrounded by housing, which is largely hidden from view. The south end of the park and lake can be reached via a stile from The Highams Park. Towards the north end of the park are clumps of fine oak trees, including one with an 8-9 foot diameter trunk, which may pre-date Repton's scheme.
Victoria County History of Essex; M M Smith, 'Highams, The Story of a House', Walthamstow Antiquarian Society, London 1966; Hall, J. M. and Hall, R. 'Suburbanisation in Metropolitan Essex: The Interrupted Development of a Repton Park at Highams,' London Journal 12, (1) 1986.