Highams Park is a district in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, England, adjacent to Epping Forest. The forest at Highams Park contains a boating lake formed by Humphry Repton after damming the River Ching. There are parks and basic shopping facilities such as Budgens and now a large Tesco store. Tesco made numerous planning applications to build a store on part of the industrial estate. Initial plans made in 2007 were rejected by then Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly although a revised planning application was passed in 2009 despite the efforts of some local residents to stop the application going ahead.
Highams Park is a suburban area situated 8.7 miles (14 km) north east of Charing Cross. The Greenwich Meridian Line runs through many of its streets. Traditionally it was part of Walthamstow parish and municipal borough, though most of it is in either the Chingford (E4) or Woodford Green (IG8) postal districts. It is primarily a residential area, with housing consisting of mainly Victorian and 1930s style terraced houses.
Hale End shares the postal district of IG8 with Woodford Green, as opposed to the rest of Highams Park which takes the Chingford postal district, E4. Some consider Hale End to be part of Highams Park as there is no break in the rows of houses between the two areas, whereas others consider it to be a different place as it originated from a different village settlement and has a different postcode district.
- Handsworth Primary School
- Selwyn School (Infants & Juniors).
- There are also two other primary schools, Oak Hill Primary School (Hale End) and Thorpe Hall School (Walthamstow) which are close to Highams Park.
- Highams Park School (formerly known as Sidney Burnell School). The school has pupils aged 11–16, and also has a sixth form college for pupils aged 16–18. The school holds dual specialist status as a Technology College and a Sports College.
- Joseph Clark School for partially sighted and blind pupils which is a combined primary and secondary school.
- Hale End Library is in Highams Park and is positioned on The Avenue and was refurbished between January and July 2007.
Sports and recreation
There are two main sports grounds in Highams Park, Jubilee Sports Ground (formally Truman's Sports Ground) and Rolls Park. Jubilee is positioned off The Avenue, it is now owned by Waltham Forest Council. It is mainly used for football, with local teams and youth teams training and playing on the field and astro-turf. The ground is not open to the public. Rolls Park is slightly bigger and is open to the public. The field is used mainly for football and cricket. There is also a tennis club and a small gym at the edges of the field. There is also a bar/clubroom owned by West Essex football and cricket clubs.
There is another Tennis club (Whitehalls) situated on Larkshall Road. Highams Park Lake is used for Kayaking by members of The Scout Association. "The Highams Park", next to the lake, is not used for formal sports due to it being owned by the City of London Corporation and that large parts of it are unsuitable for competitive sports matches.
There are initial plans to build a velodrome in the grounds of Highams Park School. This would be used by the school and also local sports teams, it will be many years before any building work is undertaken.
"The Highams Park" and Highams Park Lake
The park is known officially as "The Highams Park" but is often known locally as "The Park", "The Field" or "The lake". Most of the park is on a hill with a gradual rise to the north end. It is frequented by dog walkers, runners and families. The park has no facilities except an under-8's playground and public notice boards.
Highams Park Lake is to the west of the park, and is owned by the City of London Corporation although the rest of the park is maintained by the London Borough of Waltham Forest. The lake was formed by the landscape gardener Humphry Repton who created it by damming the River Ching. The lake, the adjoining park and the Manor House (now Woodford County High School) were owned by Highams Bensted. The lake itself is about 450m long and about 80m wide at the widest point. At the south end of the lake is a boat house built by Kenneth Robert John Ford and owned by Waltham Forest South Scouts. The north end of the lake is much narrower and shallower, it often dries out into mud in the summer and is sometimes referred to as 'the smelly end'. The River Ching flows past the lake but does not actually flow into it, a small outflow at the south end of the lake flows into the river.
There is a small island in the lake which is inhabited by nesting swans. Near the top of the lake are some large rocks thought to have been placed there by Humphry Repton to improve the lakes appeal. A public toilet block used to be situated on the east side of the lake although it was demolished many years ago, and only the foundations remain.
Halex and Tesco
The Halex factory was situated on Larkshall Road, it was a major local employer from 1897-1971. The factory produced a variety of goods mostly from plastic. The Halex company had a virtual monopoly on manufacturing table tennis balls. The factory closed in the early 1970s and has since been knocked down and replaced by new smaller factories and industrial buildings. A blue plaque on Jubilee Avenue marks the spot where the building stood; it reads "Plastics Historical Society. On this site, from 1897-1971, stood the Halex factory of the British Xylonite Company."
Some of the land in this area is now owned by supermarket chain Tesco who were initially refused permission to build a store on the site in June 2007 by then Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly after a protracted process of planning applications dating back to early 2005. The reasons cited for the refusal involved the size of the proposed store and the building not being in keeping with local Victorian and Edwardian buildings. However in 2009 a revised planning application was passed despite the efforts of some local residents to stop this from happening.
A recent campaign seeks to honour the men of Highams Park that worked in the Halex Factory and gave their lives in both world wars; and return the war memorial to the original site.
Highams Park Station is on the Chingford Line which runs from London Liverpool Street to Chingford Station. The railway line cuts through the area with a level crossing, close to the station, this being the only place actually in Highams Park where vehicles can cross the track. The level crossing itself, until 2002, was controlled by a signal man who worked in the traditional signal box next to the crossing. However in 2002, despite local opposition, the gates began to be operated from a central office at Liverpool Street Station. The signal box was marked for demolition, but due to the efforts of "The Highams Park Forum" (a group of local residents), and local Member of Parliament (and then leader of the Conservative Party) Iain Duncan Smith the box was saved with the intention of turning it into a museum or a tea room, however this never happened and so it has remained empty.
No bus route starts or ends in Highams Park although three main bus routes and one school bus route pass through the area they are:
- 212 - Walthamstow Central to Chingford Station
- 275 - St James Street railway station to Barkingside Tesco
- 675 School Bus - Walthamstow Central to Barkingside (Woodbridge High School)
- W16 - Leytonstone tube station to Chingford Mount
The Highams Park Forum was established in 2000 as a group of volunteer residents who meet regularly to discuss matters affecting their area. It works as a "Think Tank", aiming to act as a focus for local community issues, discussing ways of improving the quality of life in Highams Park, seeking answers to Community problems, and steering the implementation of measures which result. The Forum has its own website at www.highamsparkforum.co.uk.
The Highams Park Society was formed in 2006 and sets its goal as "Helping Promote Community Life". The Society has a membership of over 200 people who live in, or have an interest in Highams Park. The Society’s aims are to help preserve the local heritage, help members appreciate their environment and to inform members about the history of the area. www.highamsparksociety.co.uk
The Forest Recorded Music Society was founded in 1956 and it is now in its fifty-fourth season. The society presents evenings of classical and light classical music played from a CD. Programmes are presented by the members, each session features three guest speakers, they are usually professional musicians who talk about their lives and careers. This has on occasion featured well known musicians such as the bass Robert Lloyd, Valerie Masterson and Felicity Lott. www.forestrecordedmusicsociety.co.uk .
- Trevor Bailey, Essex and England cricketer.
- Graham Barnfield, pundit and academic, moved to Highams Park in 2001. He lived in the former home of actress Tara Moran.
- John Berger, socialist artist and writer, lived in Highams Park as a child.
- Blazin' Squad (Band) Members of the band Blazing Squad lived in or near Highams Park and studied at Highams Park School. Their song 'Crossroads' went to number one in the charts. The group quickly broke up with some members forming a new group called 'Friday Hill' which is named after a hill in nearby Chingford.
- Johnny Dankworth, musician and soloist, born in Highams Park in 1927.
- Sir George Edwards (aircraft designer and industrialist) was born in Hale End Road, Highams Park, on 9 July 1908.
- Chris Moncrieff, Political Journalist.
- Tara Moran
- Teddy Sheringham (footballer) was born on 2 April 1966 in Highams Park.
- John Smith (filmmaker), is an award winning avant–garde filmmaker noted for his use of humour. Born in Highams Park, attended Selwyn Avenue School and George Monoux School.
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- Highams Park School Website - 'About us' page
- Government Says No to Highams Park Tesco Waltham Forest Guardian 18th June 2007
- Tesco No Go Waltham Forest Guardian 11th February 2005
- The Highams Park War Memorial Project