What Walthamstow Warner flat gardens originally looked like

This blog is about gardening and growing, so – seeing as I’m expecting a lot of Walthamstow-based readers – we’re kicking off with a look at what Walthamstow Warner gardens originally looked like.

Built in the late 1800s-early 1900s, Warners are a popular style around the Blackhorse Road, St James Street and Lloyd Park areas of Walthamstow in north east London. Purpose built, separate flats on the ground floor and first floor, usually each with their own front door, what makes Warners remarkable is how each building has slightly different characteristics. While the row as a whole follows a striking red brick uniformity with Edwardian cottage-y features, each individual house retains something of its own. Some have bay windows while others are flat fronted, some have gabled roofs while others have balconies – and every owner or occupier has added their own garden or other features to add the unique look of each plot. As a whole row or street, Warners are interesting to look at because of this juxtaposition of unique and uniform.

The Warner Estate in Lloyd Road, E17

Image credit: Sludge G on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

The Warner Estate in Lloyd Road , E17

Image credit: Sludge G on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Image credit: Wikipedia Public Domain image.

Here’s a description of Warner housing from a Waltham Forest Council research project:

Warner housing is truly a sub-set of the Victorian and later Edwardian housing, but merits study in its own right. Developed by the Warner family with an eye on more than simple profit, they reflect an appreciation for the value of good design. In particular, the Warner Half House – two flats within a terraced house, each with its own front door and rear garden – can be particularly identified as a Waltham Forest typology. Whilst certainly not unique to the borough, the Warner developments of this typology are noted for their particular quality and the way in which the layout of the streets achieves something which is more than the simple sum of its parts.

And this description from the British History Online site:

The terraces built by the Warner company, which often bear the mark ‘W’, are notable for the quality of their workmanship and are in distinctive styles, often in bold red brick, with gables, recessed porches, and tiled roofs. Terraces of c. 1899–1908 at Highams Park, between Winchester and Chingford Roads, are characterized by fanciful ornament picked out in white plaster on a rough-cast background.

But what did the gardens look like at the time that the Walthamstow Warners were built?

Some archive images reveal that cottage gardens were popular, with a path running down the centre dividing two beds – one for the top floor flat and one for the ground floor. The images here are of Lloyd Road and Sybourn Street. Vegetables as well as shrubs and ornamentals appear to have been grown, with window boxes and lean-to greenhouses also present.

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Image credit: Bedford Lemere & Co, 1903, courtesy of the Walthamstow Historical Society. You can buy this print online here

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Image credit: Bedford Lemere & Co, 1903, courtesy of the Walthamstow Historical Society. You can buy this print online here

Part of the fantastic Ex Warner Project provides transcripts from oral history interviews with Warner residents about their gardens. This quote sums it up nicely I think:

Technically the upstairs flat has the left side of the garden, and the downstairs flat has the right side, there’s no demarcation on there, it’s just how it’s shown on the deeds, and we just share that. There’s a lawn in the middle, and there’s two borders either side, and a border at the end. Isla next door who organises the street parties, she’s also into gardening, I like gardens but I’m not into gardening, so she’s been instrumental in planting it for us, with low maintenance plants, and keeping on top of the ivy that grows everywhere. And Rachel’s been fantastic in eradicating Japanese knotweed, that started here initially, haven’t seen it in years touch wood, so I think she’s done it. But it’s really nice having an outside space that you can just sit on, and hang the washing out and stuff, and it’s a fairly nice sized garden for this size of flat, and you can have a table and chairs out there. Sometimes you might think it would feel awkward sitting in the garden when there’s other people that can have access to it, but I think in reality people just accept that, how lucky are we to have outside space, and it’s fine to share it. Somehow I think you just accept that if there’s somebody else out in the garden that it’s nice letting them enjoy the garden, and there are plenty of opportunities for getting out there and being out there, and Lloyd Park is just up there so that’s another outside space as well, so it’s fine, it’s never an issue.

– Iqbal, Winns Avenue

These photos are from the Project.

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Image credit: Katherine Green at Ex Warner Project

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Image credit: Katherine Green at Ex Warner Project

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Image credit: Katherine Green at Ex Warner Project

So, that’s a quick history of Walthamstow’s Warner gardens. Future blog posts will cover exactly what I’m doing with my own – here’s a quick preview:

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Image credit: walthamgrower blog

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Image credit: walthamgrower blog


Links:

The Ex Warner Project: an arts and heritage project by Lucy Harrison and Katherine Green exploring the social history and continuing importance of the Warner Estate in Waltham Forest, London. Follow them on Twitter @WE_Warner

Vestry House Museum’s photographic collection: documents the changing landscapes of Walthamstow, Chingford, Leyton and Leytonstone. Photographs date from as early as the 1840s to the 21st Century.

Katherine Green: Katherine Green is a social documentary photographer based in London, UK who’s exhibited at National Portrait Gallery, British Library and The Lowry. She works with the Ex Warner Project, listed above, and has kindly given her permission for her three photographs to be shared above. Check our her amazing collection on the Ex Warner Project exhibition here.

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9 thoughts on “What Walthamstow Warner flat gardens originally looked like

  1. Girlontor says:

    How interesting! I look forward to reading more posts, Amy. I love the idea of the shared garden. Is your ‘other half’ neighbour a gardener too?

    Like

    • AM says:

      Hi Girlontor! Thanks for your comment and question. Our upstairs neighbours have started getting involved – especially the kids. They love planting seeds, learning about when things are ready to be eaten, and doing the watering. It’s definitely becoming something we’re bonding over, and is the place we socialise together. Bring on the BBQs! – A

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kirstin says:

    Really enjoyed the post! Thought you might be interested to know that in the past there were competitions for the best Warner project. I did the historical research for the Ex Warner Project and live in Hawarden Road. Happy to share knowledge of gardens if that’s of interest.

    Like

  3. claire1368 says:

    Every flat was different – the builder changed one simple detail in every flat – it may have been a step, a cupboard a cornice but no two flats were the same. Built to a high spec and still holding their own.

    Like

  4. Warner halfhouse dweller says:

    Saddened to still find no rear garden photos of Warner flats/half houses with upstairs balconies and metal steps leading down to gardens. I would like to see how the steps and balconies appeared originally, they are obviously very modern now.

    I notice mentions of garden layout which don’t match here. Here the front, street side garden belongs with the ground floor flat, as does the garden nearest the dwelling to the rear. The two upper flats share metal steps leading from their balconies down to an access path, which separate the two lower floor flat gardens. The upper flat’s garden lies behind the lower flat’s garden. No shared gardens.

    There were two old overgrown (single brick surrounded) flowerbeds here, one on the front garden and one to the bottom of the rear garden, I think they once contained roses. Some old lilac trees, crocosmia, fuschia, hypericum, roses and a very mature white jasmine (triffid). I think all have been here a long time as judging from the condition, decor and garden, little has been done here since maybe the 1970s!

    Like

    • AM says:

      Hi Jannah, thanks for your comment. Do have an explore of the WF archive photos and the fantastic WE Ex Warner Project website for more photos and information.

      Many Warner flats – especially around Lloyd Park, for example – don’t have metal steps leading down to the garden. The flats share a whole garden, though some have been split up into two long thin gardens. Around Coppermill Lane it’s a different story though – there many flats will have the metal steps and two separate gardens.

      Like

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