To get a better picture of the Parish, as it was 125 years ago, perhaps mention might be made of some of the large houses, which have come into our history.
First "Royal Lodge" which stood in the High Road opposite Davis Lane. The grounds originally extended considerably beyond the Midland Railway. It is believed to have been used as a hunting lodge by King Charles II and even by Queen Elizabeth I, and it is not improbable that it was also used by King James 1 and II who both hunted in Epping Forest. The Rex Cinema now stands upon the site which, until it was cleared for this building, showed the ruins of Royal Lodge (not the original house, as this was destroyed by fire and subsequently rebuilt). A subterranean passage led across the road to "The Cedars" where Nell Gwynne is said to have lived, and which occupied the land now Ferndale Road.
The house next door to "Royal Lodge", and probably on the site of the chapel belonging to that house, was known as Shrublands".
"Park House" stood close to the present Leytonstone High Road station and its grounds extended to where St. Augustine's Church now stands.
Messrs. Protheroe & Morris occupied a considerable part of the Bourne Estate, which comprised a large portion of Leytonstone, for their extensive nurseries. Messrs. Protheroe, senior and junior, lived at "Bourne House" for many years and both died there.
"The Pastures", which still stands on the right-hand side of Davis Lane, was in the possession of Mr. William Davis who gave his name to the road. The house is of great age and dates back to the 16th or 17th century. Most of the walls are 18 inches thick and the window frames are of solid mahogany. In 1877 Miss Agnes Cotton who founded the "Home of the Good Shepherd" bought the place.
"Gainsborough House" is still to be seen in the High Road. It was formerly occupied by Dr. Cooper, a Churchwarden of St. John's, then successively by Dr. Walker and Dr. Jekyll (senior), and until quite recent years, by his son, also a doctor.
The adjacent farmyard and farmhouse belonged to Mr. Payze who was at one time landlord of the "Crown". For several years Mr. Morris of Messrs. Protheroe & Morris occupied the farm.
"Sycamore House" stood just near the "Green Man" and was bought from the Sansom family by A. Lister, Esq., J. P., and brother of Lord Lister. A few years ago the house was demolished and in its place there now stands the recently opened Welsh Presbyterian Church.
"Leytonstone House", where now stands Leytonstone House Hospital, was the property of the Buxton family. Sir Edward North Buxton, who lived there, was the son of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton who was associated with Wilberforce on the question of slavery and prisons.
Three large houses overlooked the Green Man Pond: "Ivy Bank", occupied for many years by Mr. G. A. Hutchison, editor of the Boys' Own Paper, "Bushwood", the property of Mr. J. M. Knight, and "Tylney House". The pond no longer exists but has been replaced by very pleasant gardens.
"Lake House", Bushwood, was at one time the residence of Tom Hood, and there he wrote "Tilney Hall", "The Epping Hunt", etc.
Browning Road has had several names. At the High Road end of it stood a house in which Sir Morell Mackenzie, the throat specialist who attended the Emperor Frederick of Germany, was born.
Away from the High Road, "Leyspring House", a fine house with a spring in the courtyard, stood in 33 acres of ground stretching from Browning Road and Bushwood to Mornington Road. The house was destroyed by fire and a Curate of St. John's was very seriously injured. Famous families connected with Leyspring House and estate include the Wellesleys, Cowleys and Charringtons.
Across Bushwood and within view, was the famous Wanstead House" which was the seat of the Earl of Mornington, the owner of the Leyspring estate. When Wanstead House was demolished, the avenue of trees in Bushwood which formerly led from the house to the High Road, were being cut down for sale as timber. Mr. Davis and Mr. Money Wigram of "Woodhouse", Harrow Green, purchased the avenues so that they might be preserved. (This Mr. Money Wigram was the brother of the Rev. Pitt Wigram, one of the Curates of Leyton whose name appears from 1833-5 as taking services at Leytonstone, and who afterwards became Rector of Wanstead.)
On the other side of the parish stood "Walwood" and "Forest House". Soon after 1809 "Walwood" came into the possession of Mr. William Cotton, Governor of the Bank of England, who greatly interested himself in the building of St. John's. "Forest House" at the end of James Lane (so named after Robert James who lived in a farmhouse there in 1773) anciently belonged to the Abbots of Waltham. Several well-known families owned this house in succession until it passed into the possession of the West Ham Union and in 1948 it became part of the Leytonstone Group of Hospitals.
St John the Baptist
Serving God and the Community of Leytonstone for 180 years