Chingford Station's frustrated ambitionsQualified tour guide Joanna Moncrieff explains the surprising grandeur of the nearly 150-year-old station
On 3rd September, 1878, the Essex Herald reported on an application for a new alcohol licence from a surprising source: Chingford Station. The Great Eastern Railway, it explained, wanted to be able to offer glasses of champagne in its refreshment room and, despite an uproar from local pub owners, the licence was granted a month later.
To those that don’t know its history, the move - and even the building itself - might seem needlessly grand. The new station had opened that very month and boasted four waiting rooms, the aforementioned, commodious refreshment area and three separate exits in order to cope with hordes of expected visitors. Upstairs were two sleeping rooms for attendants and even an eight-room apartment for the station master, a Mr Arthur B Staggs, who remained in the post until at least 1901, according to the census.
All this replaced a previous station consisting only of a single platform, once located at the junction of Bull Lane (now King’s Road) and Hale End Road (now Larkshall Road). This earlier Chingford Station operated for only 5 years from November 1873 and the site was eventually built over in 1976.
Chingford's previous, less glamorous, station (credit: Chingford Historical Society)
The station’s grandeur and long platforms make far more sense considering Chingford was not originally meant to be the end of the line. The Great Eastern Railway hoped to extend their line into the forest, all the way to High Beach, a plan scuppered the same year the station opened by the Epping Forest Act. This act transferred responsibility for maintaining the forest to the City of London Corporation, who still have it today, and meant any new development on forest lands was prohibited.
Chingford Station would still profit from its connection to the famous beauty spot, receiving a visit on 6th May 1882 from Queen Victoria, en route to a reception at High Beach where she would “dedicate [the] beautiful forest for the enjoyment” of her subjects. To celebrate her visit, a large wooden arch was erected outside the station. Unfortunately, as soon as eight years later, it was in a bit of a state. A report in 1890 described it as “a hideous eyesore … a collection of old sleepers, in varying stages of putrefaction”! Despite this withering description, it was not demolished until 1901.
Over a century later, however, the size and grandeur of Chingford Station is finally going to be put to worthwhile use. Love North Chingford have been offered the lease for the station’s currently unused extra space for a new community hub, which could host anything from art exhibits and small concerts to micro-businesses and tuition for children.
You can find out more about their plans at http://www.lovenorthchingford.co.uk/projects/
To discover more about Chingford’s history, join Joanna on a guided walk around Chingford on Sunday 7th November. More details here https://tinyurl.com/MoncrieffWalks