The Friday Hill House Mystery
Having lived in Waltham Forest most of my life (Highams Park whilst growing up, Walthamstow for a couple of years and North Chingford for the past 15 odd years) I thought I knew this area pretty well. However researching for my local walks for the Appetite Festival in June I realise there are some things I’ve taken for granted for too long.
As a child in the 1970s I attended Heathcote School just off Friday Hill, North Chingford. In those days Friday Hill wasn’t on a regular bus route, the 235 bus terminating at Chingford Hatch apart from a couple of trips a day where the route was extended to Chingford Station to coincide with the start and finish of the school day. So if I missed the “special” bus it was either a walk up the hill to Chingford Hatch or in the other direction to Chingford Station to get the train home to Hale End Road.
On those days when I walked up the hill I remember looking across at the old house on the hill (in Simmons Lane) which to my childish mind looked like something out of a Hammer horror film. Even as an adult coming down the hill on the 212 I still think it has a sinister look about it – probably the feeling I had as a child just hasn’t gone away.
I always knew it was called Friday Hill House but only recently, whilst researching for my Chingford walk (and looking at North Chingford as a whole) have I found out more about its history.
The house was commissioned by Robert Boothby Heathcote in 1839 on the site of a 16th Century manor house which he had inherited from his grandmother. Heathcote commissioned Lewis Vulliamy to build the house and later (in 1844) also using him to build SS Peter & Paul on Chingford Green. Vulliamy is also responsible (amongst other buildings) for adding the Corinthian columns to the front of the Royal Institution in Mayfair in 1838.
Friday Hill House was built to cater not just as a family home but as an estate office, a rectory and a farmhouse. The wooden belfry (its remains can be seen in my photo) contained a farm bell which tolled out the working day for the men in the fields.
The last Boothby-Heathcote (the hyphen was added in the late 19th Century) to live in the house was Louisa Gertrude Boothby-Heathcote who lived here until her death in 1940. The house was then taken over by the Council and has had various uses including most recently as an adult education centre which is what I thought it still was.
I have never had any reason to actually walk along Simmons Lane and actually see the house up close. However returning home from Walthamstow on the 212 bus yesterday I decided to get off a couple of stops early and have a proper look, Chingford’s history being on my mind at the monent in preparation for my walk on 9th June.
I was dismayed to find that the house was all boarded up. It seems that the Council are no longer using it and it has been sold. I’ve found the sale particulars on line (the closing date for sealed offers was January 2013) but was unable to find any information as to whether it has been sold or not. It’s Grade II listed. I hope it’s put to good use; I hate seeing properties empty like this.
If anyone knows what the plans are for this building please let me know in the comments below.
I know it’s taken me x number of years to actually have a proper look at this place and I regret that. However as a result of planning this walk I now have many more places to explore which I look forward to doing soon.
(and soon in Chingford & Walthamstow too!)