If we turned back the pages of history to Saxon times, we would find ourselves in a small settlement or "tun" in the valley of the River Lea-in fact in "Leatun" or "Latun". Then, turning to Roman times, we find a Roman encampment, a military stone-now known as the "High Stone"- and an important part of the district called "Leyton Stone."
It is thought that Leyton Stone was probably on a branch road from the main Roman road out of London to Colchester (Romford Road). Many travellers used this road and this undoubtedly accounts for the number of inns to be found by the way - earliest of these are the "Plough and Harrow" (originally known as "Le Harrow"), the "Bell" and the "Green Man," the last named being associated with Robin Hood. The name itself was probably derived from the coats of Lincoln Green worn by the foresters, as they were by Robin Hood and his merry men. The "Green Man" later became a stopping place for stagecoaches from Aldgate and also for the family coaches of Essex squires journeying from their family seats to London.
About that time highwaymen were by no means rare, and Dick Turpin is said to have used t ' he "Green Man". There was a room in the old inn known as "Dick Turpin's Room" where there was a chest large enough to hold several men. When this was moved it was found to conceal a trapdoor which led to a secret passage from the inn out into the forest.
Mr. Joseph Markby, who was then High Constable of the Hundred of Becontree, whose son and grandson were vergers of St. John's over a period of some 50 years, advertised rewards for the capture of those guilty of burglaries and highway robberies.
The Leyton Parish Register in 1746 contains a note concerning a coroner's inquest for a highwayman shot, and there is a newspaper record of an attack by highwaymen at the High Stone.
It appears the wrongdoers were quite well looked after, as in 1708 the Churchwardens of Leyton paid £3 "for a new pare of Stocks at Laytonstone". Prior to this it had been decided to build a "watch-house" or prison for the hamlet of Leytonstone.
One hundred and fifty years ago Leytonstone was described as one of the prettiest villages imaginable. The main road from Stratford was simply a country road with a double row of trees and bounded by hedges and ditches nearly throughout its whole length. Here and there were a few small houses, cottages and old inns. The village itself contained many fine old houses standing in extensive grounds. The traffic that passed along the Leytonstone Road caused the hamlet to grow quite considerably.
St John the Baptist
Serving God and the Community of Leytonstone for more than 180 years