|Vestry House Museum and Gardens, and Walthamstow Village Green||Waltham Forest|
Vestry House was built in 1730 to provide a workhouse and rooms for Vestry meetings. The site together with the small area of green in front is a remnant of Church Common. The workhouse expanded over the years but after 1840 Walthamstow paupers were moved to the new Union Workhouse and Vestry House was used by a number of other bodies. The oldest part became headquarters of the Walthamstow Literary and Scientific Institute, and then a private house. After its acquisition by Walthamstow Borough Council it opened in 1931 as a Museum of Local History and Antiquities. The garden originally stretched as far as Church Path but cottages were built on part of it in 1840 and the railway further encroached in the 1860s, although a piece of land was added in compensation for this. The workhouse garden was originally used for growing fruit and vegetables, and later became a display area for the Museum. Following a restoration programme it has been recreated in the style of an C18th workhouse kitchen garden.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2011
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Vestry House was built in the village of Church End, Walthamstow, when the Vestry purchased an acre of Church Common for £6 for building a workhouse for local paupers as well as to provide rooms for its meetings. The Common, enclosed in 1850, covered 27 acres south of Church End and had contained the village stocks and a pound for stray cattle. Vestry Road largely follows the route of a footpath across the Common to the church of St Mary Walthamstow (q.v.). The stone capital was sited on the Green in 1954 and was originally part of the General Post Office at St Martin le Grand; it was donated by a Walthamstow stonemason who bought it when the building was demolished in 1912.
Vestry House originally housed between 30 and 40 paupers, but it was expanded in 1756, then again in 1779 and 1814, and by the 1820s it accommodated around 80 people. However, following the formation of the West Ham Poor Law Union in 1834, the Walthamstow paupers were moved from Vestry House to the new Union Workhouse, which was built by 1840 and later became Langthorne Hospital, now the site of a new park, Langthorne Park (q.v.). After this, Vestry House was used by a number of other bodies, including by the Parish Clerk, and the 1756 extension was used as a police station until 1870, then as the armoury of the Walthamstow Volunteers until 1891 and after that as a local builder's yard until 1933. The oldest part of the house became first the headquarters of the Walthamstow Literary and Scientific Institute, and then a private house until 1930. After its acquisition by Walthamstow Borough Council it became a Museum of Local History and Antiquities in 1931 with considerable assistance from the Walthamstow Antiquarian Society. In 1933 the entire building was purchased and the Museum extended.
The Vestry House garden originally stretched as far as Church Path but 7 cottages were built on part of it in 1840 and were occupied by policemen using the station. The railway further encroached on the land in the 1860s, although a piece of land was added in compensation for this on the west of Vestry House at the junction of Church Path and St Mary Road. The workhouse garden was originally used for growing fruit and vegetables, and later became a display area for the Museum, containing various artefacts such as a Roman sarcophagus, a Berkeley Water Pump from Jeffries Square in Woodford, a horse trough from Leyton, a clay oven (or cloamoven) and a sundial that may be from Wanstead House (q.v.). This area was later used for educational activities. Until it was redesigned with HLF funding, the garden behind Vestry House was in two sections divided by a row of beech trees that were originally a beech hedge, but grown up through lack of tending. The adjacent section that was originally behind the police houses was cleared in the early C21st, with new railings erected onto Church Path. Both areas of garden were largely grass with some perimeter trees.
The aims of the Vestry House restoration project were to restore the kitchen garden of the Georgian era, using herbs and varieties of plants listed in the old Vestry minutes housed in the Museum. The planting is inspired by its history as an C18th workhouse garden, with an emphasis on useful plants including vegetables, herbs and dye plants. There is also a wild meadow area and a bed designed to attract butterflies. The garden is maintained by an active group of volunteers. Other improvements included the café/refreshment area together with further educational facilities for the Museum such as a community room, accessible toilets, new exhibitions and children's play area.
Vestry House, The Building and Its History, LB Waltham Forest leaflet, 1977