What the Cultural History Books Tell About Waltham Forest

The Amazing Cultural Sights of Waltham Forest

Center of British Culture

Waltham Forest is the first ever London Borough of Culture. Dozens of events, hundreds of participants, thousands of visitors and artists from all over the world will reform East London in something even brighter and more colourful with their nonpareil styles, coming in many different shapes and forms throughout the whole year.

Art and culture have always been part of Waltham Forest, so the award from the Mayor of London hardly would have found a better place to fully blossom, than the magnificent and memorable year-long celebration of the real cultures by the Londoners themselves.

Sadiq Khan said that the newly established price is a game-changer for the capital. According to his statement, it will give all Londoners, regardless of background, the opportunity to enjoy the capital’s fantastic cultural riches.

The local council states that the honour of being the first London Borough of Culture will highlight the character, diversity and cultures of the district. These are the things that the people living there have in common and the things that define their home as unique and different.

Speaking of residences, any local citizen can hire our professional cleaners as long as he or she gives us a call.

We know that there are dozens of places, which deserved to be mentioned and at least the same amount of things to do, when we talk about the Waltham Forest – from Walthamstow Market which claims to Europe’s longest street market and meets goods and people from different continents, to the tour, tracing each and every step of the life of British footballer and fashion icon David Beckham;

from God’s Own Junkyard – the energetic gallery for vibrant neon art, to the 16th century timber-framed hunting lodge of Queen Elizabeth;

from St Mary’s Music Hall to Shri Nathji Sanatan Hindu Mandir; from... – well, you got the idea.

That’s why we decided to let you uncover or rediscover the borough through the eyes of the people, who are calling it home, or see its reflection in the work of the artists.

Still, we have a list for you. Our list contains memorable moments from the history of Waltham Forest, which left their footprints in history.




Live to Fly, Fly to Live, Aces High!

The year is 1975, the place – Leyton, East London. Instead of playing Santa is coming to town on 25 December, Steve Harris formed one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history – Iron Maiden.

10 platinum albums, numerous golden ones, more than 40 years on stage, millions of fans across the globe, 1 notorious plane called Ed Force One and 666 reasons to include this emblematic date in our list.


You can still visit The Cart and Horses Pub, located in Maryland Point, Stratford, was where Iron Maiden played some of their first shows in 1976.


The Cart and Horses Pub

Extra trivia: Maiden is far from being the only famous band, which tracks can be traced to Waltham Forest. Among them are East 17, Blazin’ Squad, Primal Scream, Hefner and David Tibet’s Current 93.

For more music history, check Bark! studios in Walthamstow. The recording studio in the district’s backstreets was the birthplace of one of the most iconic songs of the 1990s – ever heard of Star Trekkin sung by The Firm – yes, it was produced at Bark’s. We stopped right here because listening to them all, impossible will be.


Bark! studios in Walthamstow - The keeper of Rock

One, Two, Three, ACTION!

Waltham Forest has a significant role in the history of British cinema. Around 400 silent films were produced here between 1910 and 1926. Walthamstow sheltered four movie studios in the silent era – Precision, British & Colonial, Broadwest and I. B. Davidson all had their premises on these streets.

Out of the fog area of Walthamstow was at the forefront of the fledgeling industry with many originators. The first film distribution company in Britain was created here.

Productions included 1916s classic The Battle of the Somme, consider to be the most successful British film ever made.

Many emblematic actors from the silent movie era first appeared in Walthamstow films, including Victor McLaglen - a John Ford stalwart, who went on to win an Oscar for his role in The Informer - and the famous Hollywood actor Ronald Colman.

Nowadays the project HOLLYWOOD E17 aims to brush the dust off the almost forgotten legacy of the borough and puts efforts to bring it back in the spotlight.

Extra trivia: The first motion picture show came to Walthamstow two centuries ago. For a fee of two guineas, the citizens had the opportunity to visit Granada cinema (nowadays Mirth, Marvel and Maud) and enjoy the magic of the big screen.

On 10 June 1896 at the Victoria Hall in Hoe Street, locally-born George Edward Turner showed films on a machine called a Vitagraphe. By 1906 Turner was showing films at Walthamstow public baths with a synchronized gramophone producing a Cinematophone. He claimed that those were the first Talkies ever made.

The pioneer is the one to blame for the invention of the fire-proof gate, automatic shutters and spool boxes on film projectors as well. These were important achievements, considering the highly inflammable nature of film and the constant risk of fire.


Inside erstwhile Granada Cinema

Down the Road, we Go!

At the end of the 19th Century, Britain’s first four-wheeled motor car with an internal combustion engine was manufactured in Waltham Forest.

In 1892 Frederick William Bremer introduced to the world the first petrol-fuelled car in Great Britain known as The Bremer.

The first drift of the vehicle was down Connaught Road, preceded by a red flag.

Extra trivia: In the 1960s after extensive restoration, the Bremer completed the veteran car race from London to Brighton. The total journey took 7 hours and 55 minutes. The car itself is on permanent display at Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow.


The Bremer's first ride

Open Your Eyes to a Whole New World!

One of the most significant cultural figures of Victorian Britain, William Morris, was born in Walthamstow. The chances are you’ve already heard about his designs for furniture, fabrics, stained glass, wallpapers and other decorative arts. His work generated the Arts and Crafts movement in England and revolutionized Victorian taste, although, this legacy of his became popular posthumously.

In his lifetime he was best-known as a poet. Actually, Morris is the one standing behind the creation of make-believe stories filled with magic as well with never-seen mystery creatures and fascinating places. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre.

However, nowadays his artwork is well-known and cherished with some of his designs still in production.

Extra trivia: The former childhood home of William Morris, a double bow-fronted Georgian villa dating back to around 1750, is the only public museum dedicated to his life and work, in the whole world.

The William Morris Gallery was originally opened by prime minister Clement Attlee in 1950.


The William Morris Gallery at Walthamstow

The Master of Suspense Sustains Sublimity

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock – the film director, who will forever remain a significant part of cinema’s history, one of the most recognizable Hollywood icons, a household name for each and every filmmaker around the world. With a legacy of more than 50 feature films, he will always be remembered.

Some of the most memorable and terrifying scenes in cinema history (the shower scene in Psycho; the biplane chase in North by Northwest; the gas station attack in The Birds – just to name a few) all came from the brilliant mind of Hitchcock.

So yeah, back to the point - the iconic film-maker was born in the borough of Waltham Forest at 517 High Road Leytonstone.

Extra trivia: To honour the memory of Hitchcock, the entrance to Leytonstone tube station exhibits 17 glass mosaics showing some of his most notable films.

However, there’s one surprising fact that you may not know. Despite his amazing work Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar. When the Academy finally honoured him with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1967, his long-time-coming speech was only five words long: Thank you very much indeed.


The inimitable Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock

Rhyme Your Origins in the Rhythm of Rage

Grime is not garage, Grime is not jungle, Grime is not hip-hop and Grime is not ragga. Grime is a mix between all of these with strong, hard-hitting lyrics.

It takes time to form your political and social views, but it takes only around 6 words spoken per second to represent them alongside the story for the place you live or have grown up in.

Grime evolved as a way of expressing anger and frustration at the system, that always seems to let down the young Londoners. The genre, that has been described as the most significant musical development within the UK for decades and as the most innovative musical export since punk rock, was formed in Waltham Forest in the early 2000s.

Before hitting the big stage it was aired only by pirate radio stations among London.

Extra trivia: Grime is associated mainly with strong male appearance, but ladies in this genre are here to stay and they’re ready to fight for their place under the spotlights. So to keep on track, be prepared to see more ladies owning the mic – this might be the next big step in the evolution of the grime genre.


Grime - The Rhytm of Rage

Flying Faster Than the Speed of Sound

Concorde – the word for the supersonic airliner that transformed air travel between Europe and the US, and captured the public imagination, garnering worldwide fame for its speed greater than the speed of sound, magnificent grace and engineering innovation.

One of the key figures of its development and unique design is Sir George Edwards, who led the team of British Aircraft Corporation. The aircraft designer, awarded with the Daniel Guggenheim Medal, Air League Founders Medal and the Royal Medal, and member of the Order of Merit as well, was born in Highams Park.

Extra trivia: During its lifespan, Concorde had over 50,000 flights. 2.5 million passengers flew supersonically above the depths of the ocean. Unfortunately, there’s no way to head up in the air on a board of this magnificent plane anymore. The last commercial Concorde‘s flight was from New York to Heathrow on October 24, 2003.


British Airways Concorde

The Woman who Changed a Century Long Tradition

On 28 June 2007, Baroness Scotland of Asthal become the first female Attorney General for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, since the office was created in 1315.

That's how Patricia Janet Scotland has set a milestone in women's history. The dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Dominica grew up in Walthamstow and attended Chapel End Secondary School and Walthamstow School for Girls, where she decided that her career path will be dedicated to law and politics.

Extra trivia: There’s more to add to this woman’s fascinating story, who can easily serve as a role model among young girls across Great Britain. In 1991 at age 35, she was the first black woman to be made a Queen's Counsel and the youngest person to hold the post since William Pitt. In 1999 Patricia became the first black female chosen as a government minister. As a family person, Scotland has 2 children and 11 siblings.


The Baroness Scotland of Asthal - Patricia Janet Scotland

A Link Between Star Wars & 2001: A Space Odyssey

The name of Stuart Freeborn and his contribution to some of the most emblematic Hollywood blockbusters can’t stay out of the list. This amazing make-up artist with a strong imagination, bright mind and powerful creativity was born in Leytonstone in 1914. He earned the sobriquet the grandfather of modern make-up design and there’s more than one reason why.

Stuart Freeborn created the make-up for all the characters in the Star Wars Trilogy, including Chewbacca and Yoda, whose face was partly based on his own and Albert Einstein’s facial features. He was also in charge of the creation of the Jabba the Hutt puppet.

Long story short, George Lucas’ epic saga among the stars simply wouldn’t have been the same without Freeborn’s magic.

The artist took a part in the team behind Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey and created the humans/apes characters for the iconic Dawn of Man sequence.

This realistic make-up surely should have been awarded an Oscar, but his work was so realistic that many people thought Kubrick's apes were real animals.

Extra trivia: Stuart Freeborn got his first job as a make-up artist in 1935 by impersonating Ethiopia's last emperor Haile Selassie. He managed to mislead The Times reported so well, that the magazine published material about Selassie, who had been seen driving a car in London. It was in fact Freeborn, with nose, beard and make-up attached. The joke cost him temporarily detainment by the police, but the newspaper report helped Freeborn to land a job as a make-up artist at Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire.


The Link between Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey - Stuart Freeborn

The Composer Who Drew the Music

The avant-garde music theorist and experimental composer, Cornelius Cardew, lived and died in Leyton. The significant pioneer, with a whole new vision about the world of music, was the founder of an experimental performing ensemble called The Scratch Orchestra.

The composer strongly believed in the freedom of interpretation and this is the one statement, that he can be best described with the already mentioned Scratch Orchestra, which featured not only professionals, but musicians with zero experience as well, became the reason why Cardew interpreted music through graphs, poetry, literature, gestures, movement and a range of alternative forms of traditional musical notation.

His notable work The Great Learning is pointed out as one of the 20th century’s masterpieces.

Extra trivia: Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise has been described as the Mount Everest of visual musical scores and graphic notation.

According to some, there’s a drop of pure madness among the originality and beauty of his visual score.


Cornelius Cardew - The Composer Who Drew the Music

Waltham Forest is Anything but Beige

We can conclude that this London borough is a hub of creativity with a vibrant artistic and cultural heritage, reflecting its diverse population.

Artists from all over the world came here to donate their craft and leave a mark in the East London history.

If you decide to visit France or Germany, find your way to Saint-Mande or Wandsbeck - those are the boroughs twinned with Waltham Forest.


A view of Waltham Forest

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