Waltham Forest Voices – Joyce Daniels

Interview by: Claire Landon

Born in Hackney and resident in Walthamstow since 1936, Joyce Daniels (née Gerrard), 85, has lived on Howard Road, E17 since 1968.

“Walthamstow has changed so much since I moved here. Everyone looked down on me when I came – it was posh here, and people thought that the wave of Cockneys moving in from Hackney would ruin the place and turn it into London,” she said.


Church Hill was home to fine tailors serving the poshest people, and Hoe Street had few cars, but a never-ending stream of buses and trolley buses. Walking down the High Street was “everyone’s dream. There were fish stalls lit up at night, cockles and everything you could possibly want – it was beautiful, and people came from all over to visit this famous market.”

As a newcomer – first to furnished rooms on Barrett Road (now renamed Warwick Road) and then to a large, shared house on Prospect Hill (later knocked down to build flats), Joyce had to learn the local, more countrified accent to fit in but she quickly adjusted to the slower pace of life and cleaner air.

She enjoyed walks with her parents along the River Lea – something she continued with her future husband Eddie. A Walthamstow native himself, he is now buried at the other end of the Lea Valley near Waltham Abbey.

Having spread to the outskirts of a much larger London metropolitan area, her three daughters, eleven grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all of their assorted partners – converge each Saturday in her garden to catch up and enjoy a barbecue when the weather is good.

Times now are certainly easier than they were when Joyce was growing up, she says.

Born a twin – a triplet was stillborn – she had two older sisters. Part of the Bearfields ham and gammon producing family, they lived with her grandmother, aunties and children in a corner house on Tresham Avenue near St John’s Church in Hackney.

Joyce was evacuated to Bedfordshire during the war. The youngest three sisters one day took a train out of London after school and their mother was only able to visit once a year for the three years they were away.

The girls “lived on a farm and enjoyed every minute of it”, leaving them unprepared for the scary move back to London when they turned 14, old enough to work.

Despite the move back to Clapton and the start of the doodle bugs, “people were friendly and there was a good atmosphere, we all looked after each other.”

It was through a friend at one of her first jobs – at the Cork Manufacturing Company on Hall Lane in Chingford – that she met her future husband. Dating on and off for ten years, writing letters during his few years posted to Jerusalem, he finally proposed at the Granada Cinema. “I didn’t believe him, and the people in the next row burst out laughing”.

But he meant it, and Joyce and Eddie got married on Christmas Day in 1952 near Upper Clapton. “It was beautiful, with the choir and Christmas tree”, says Joyce. The reception followed at her mother’s house nearby, with a Bearfield uncle providing under the counter meat, guests contributing what they could, and Eddie’s mother playing the piano.

Today, Joyce spends her time looking after Bo, a 3-year old cocker spaniel, tending her front and back gardens and enjoying time with the next three generations of her expanding family.

Walthamstow, now well within London’s city limits, is itself turning over to the next generation, says Joyce: “It will be completely different from the past.”