Buckhurst Hill History


 by Denny Lalonde




This is an account written from memories I have cherished for over seventy years.  There may be a few errors or omissions for which I apologize.  My childhood in Buckhurst Hill was well recorded by my parents in family photographs, a few of which I will enclose in order to support the text.  It is with great pleasure that I submit this for inclusion into the historic record of Buckhurst Hill.


Nestled at the edge of beautiful Epping Forest is Buckhurst Hill, one of the three towns said to form the golden triangle of wealthy places in Essex.  However it’s more about my own personal memories of living here that I write this article.

My parents rented “Ivy Cottage” at 58 Epping New Road from my father’s employer W&C French in 1928.  I was born in 1932 and spent the next fourteen years of my young life here, surrounded by love and caring neighbours, the Robertsons’ and the Coles’.  Our cottage was located in the corner of French’s huge yard which was full of materials and machinery.  We were right next door to the “Reindeer” public house.  In fact, as a child, on summer evenings, when it was too hot to sleep, I would watch and listen to the revellers on the far side of the tall hedge that separated our small garden from the beer garden next door.  Every weekend in fine weather the charabangs would bring day trippers from London down to the country.  Several coaches would stop on their way home for a few pints of ale and some Smith’s crisps washed down with lemonade for the children.

This is the house next to the Coles, it was right across the drive from Ivy Cottage.  Auntie Rob and hubby bill had no children so they spoilt us.  Lovely people.  Their address was 56 Epping New Road.  The next picture shows the front of their joined houses. The separation in the two houses is obvious by the vertical drain pipe in the centre.  Uncle Bill didn't have a front door but Mr Cole did.

The nearest fence was a chin high privet hedge, then there was the neat driveway into the yard.  The further fence was a chite picket one and the garden managed between Bill and Mr Cole was beautiful.

 “Ivy Cottage” was a cozy little home.  I believe it was built in the late 1800’s.  It can easily be seen in the background, to the left of center, in the top photograph of the “Reindeer” public house.  Further I would suggest that the photographer was stationed just the other side of ‘our’ tall garden hedge, thereby having a clear view of the beer garden and its arched entrance (visible in both pictures) with the side of the Reindeer in plain sight.  I would also point out that the dark building to the right of the top photograph may have become “Hutchins Garage”, located at the corner of Brook Road and Epping New Road.  This change possibly took place sometime around 1925 as there were many cars on the road and petrol stations were a necessity.  I remember plainly there were two Hutchins brothers that owned the business.  The elder was a gentle giant of a man who road a motorcycle with a side car.  His brother was of normal stature also with a quiet disposition.  Their display window was right at the corner of their building.  I would stop to rest and catch my breath there after climbing Brook Road hill on my bike, when coming home from school at Chingford.  The displays always left me wanting something for my bicycle.

 Buckhurst Hill is split into two parts.  The original High Road took travelers from Woodford Wells through Buckhurst Hill and on to Epping.  Epping New Road, on the west side of the ‘hill’ was built in the 1830’s and progressively became busier as each year passed, especially with commercial traffic.  I remember the roadway outside our cottage being completely upgraded prior to the Second World War.  New curbstones were installed, in which were cut a groove with red and white reflectors in each section.  A great deal of preparation went into the revamping of Epping New Road from the Horse Trough, at the junction of the High Road, to the Warren Wood.  A final covering of tiny brown coloured stones spread over thick hot tar made the whole thing a durable surface.  To my knowledge it was not resurfaced again during the time I lived there, except after some bomb damage during the war.

58 Epping New Road also known as Ivy Cottage where I grew up

Across Epping New Road from the side where I lived, were several small shops.  Miss Gower’s Bakery was on the near corner of Church Road, she made beautiful bread, cakes and buns.  Many a time I was sent to buy a loaf only to get home with some of the fresh bread scooped out of one end.  Next to her was Mrs Short who owned the grocers shop.  We’d buy most of our daily needs there.  She was a kindly, short, rather plump lady with the happiest of dispositions.  She took in washing, chopped and sold kindling and paraffin, all to earn a few additional pennies.  Her shop usually smelt like a mixture of Typhoo tea, Persil, paraffin and sweet biscuits.  The latter were displayed in glass topped metal boxes neatly lined up below the counter.  Every time I was there she would offer me one or two of the broken biscuits she kept in a separate box just for us children.  This lady was a marvel with figures, I have watched and listened to her tot up my mothers weekly account in a matter of seconds, right to the last farthing and she was never wrong.  Mrs Short had one daughter, Eva, a lovely young lady.  When she married Ken Blackman a Fighter Pilot, after the war, my father has the honour of giving her away; her own father had passed away many years before.



Next door was Miss Glass, who owned the sweet shop.  Before the war I can clearly remember asking my mother for a Cadbury Flake chocolate bar from her shop on more than one occasion.  With the beginning of the Second World War sweets were rationed, and the luxurious boxes of chocolates and large tins of Quality Street toffees disappeared.  This put paid to much of Miss Glass’s business.  It’s sad yet interesting that I remember her window display contained the very same dummy chocolate boxes and empty tins throughout the war years.  When I left the area in the winter of 1946 I passed by the now closed shop that time had left behind.  The same dusty display pieces were still there, now faded and bleached by the burning rays of sun.

Next door to Miss Glass was Mr Green the greengrocer, his rather dilapidated property ran down almost to the road, while the other shopkeepers had open space to park a car in front.  The stalls ad tables displaying his fruit and vegetables were a lot to be desired.  Mr Green’s appearance was something like his shop, rather untidy.  On more than one occasion his rickety displays tumbled to the ground, spilling the contents.  Tarpaulins he hoped would protect some displays would blow off in the wind, leaving rain and sun to damage his produce.  It seemed to me he either didn’t care, or was perhaps too old to worry much.  Next to him in this row of businesses was a very unusual shop.  I only remember the Indian man who ran it was called Tom.  The place sold almost everything.  Bundled kindling, paraffin, they’d change your accumulator, a wet battery that supplied power for some of the wirelesses of the day.  He sold candles and locks, screws and tools.  In fact a real jumble of things.  He also had a small post office so we could send parcels and buy stamps.

Next door to that were two Café’s side by side.  One was called the Rex.  They did a roaring trade on fine weekends.  Hundreds of cyclists would head from the city past our cottage on their way to High Beech, Connaught Waters or perhaps Epping.  When the Blue Bells were in bloom in Epping Forest cyclists couldn’t resist picking bunches of them and carting them home on their bicycle carriers.  Little did they know the flowers would be dead by the time they got home.  We’d see their bikes all stacked together as they enjoyed a cup of tea or a cold drink at the Cafés.

The only other business in that row of shops was a builders yard, on the corner of Hills Road and Epping Forest New Road, right across from our home.  I think it was used for storage of builders equipment more than anything else, I seldom saw anyone working there.  After the war it became a used car lot.  Crossing Hills Road and still opposite our cottage was Miss Reed’s house.  It was a very nice well maintained house with a walled garden.  I believe Miss Reed was a seamstress and she had one sister who lived with her, the sister died while I was still quite young.  Miss Reed was not seen out and about much, she kept herself to herself.  Next door to her house was another storage yard but this was owned by French’s, where they kept scaffolding and long ladders.  Much later it was turned into into a canteen.

Next to this narrow yard was the “Duke of Edinburgh” public house.  It stood back off Epping New Road which left plenty of room for parking.  The Duke was run by Mrs Warsnup and her adult son Ted.  I enjoyed going to the Duke now and then, it was my Dad’s local.  Mrs Warsnup would sit me on a tall stall behind the bar and let me put the money from sales into this multi level cash register.  It was unique, the payments from the last four transactions were always visible through the glass slides.  I’d also be given a bag of Smith’s Crisps and a lemonade as payment for my ‘work’.


This picture is of me after playing one summer; I am really dirty, but happy.  The building in the background id the Duke of Edinburgh Pub.

Jean Cole and I.  This shows the back doorway of the Coles house, the trees in the background are in the Stable yard, behind them was French's offices.

Uncle Bill Robertson and his wife Hilda ( I called her Auntie Rob) lived next door to us, across a driveway.  Bill had been gassed by Mustard Gas in the Great War, the black burn marks on his arms and hands were a constant reminder.  They were wonderful friends to out small family.  Next to them lived Mr Cole and his wife and two daughters Joan and Jean.  All the men worked for Frenchs’.  By 1938 my father had been made Mechanical Engineer.  Uncle Bill drove a lorry, Mr Cole was in charge of recording all the material coming into or leaving the yard from a small office nearby.


Next to his house were the stables where French’s award winning Clydesdale work horses were kept. 


This was taken in about 1937, that's me, the small child and Jean Cole holding the reins of the horse.  Great Days.

From the Reindeer all the way along the Epping New Road to Fairlands Avenue was French’s property.  A tall, well built, oak panel fence and a row of mature horse chestnut trees hid much of the machinery and material from view.  The yard slanted down hill, covering a pie-shaped area down as far as the bottom of Fairlands and Brook Road.  Every conceivable type of machine or material necessary in the construction business was here.  The big bonus for me was that this whole place was my playground after working hours.  For a lad growing up this was ‘playground paradise’.  There were big mobile cranes that traveled on rails to limb on.  Diggers, tractors to sit in the driver’s seat, rollers and a big steam, heavy haul, Foden.  This beauty was driven by a man named Fitch.  There was a woodworking shop, mechanical shop where my Dad worked, a paint shop.  Plus a large stock room for numerous parts and tools, managed by Mr Sage and his staff.

Cut lumber shed and painters shop in French's Yard

French's Yard, the Fitters Shop where my father worked

Not long after war was declares in 1939 Mr
French became very concerned for the safety of his employees, their families and  other local residents.  He had a set of four huge air raid shelters built into the side of the hill in the yard.  They resembled side by side ‘shoe boxes’.  The roof of these concrete monsters was reinforced with tram lines for Walthamstow, which had recently gone to trolley buses.  The walls wee over six feet thick and the roof even thicker.  Mr French ordered that excavators and other big machines be stored on the roof to provide added protection against a direct hit. 


The Fitters Shop and Welders Shop on the right. The concrete under the stack of pipes in the centre of the picture is part of the series of 80' air raid shelters built for the employees and staff at the beginning of the war.

Heading for the protection of these shelters was a daily chore during the war.  My mother with our little dog Nan and I would go down there after tea most days.  Many local folks also took advantage of these shelters. We felt safe there while the bombing and guns were bombing outside. Usually it was around six in the evening during the Blitz that the raiders would come over to bomb London and other cities.  We’d sleep there all night and go back home in the morning, always hoping out little cottage was still there.  Sometimes it was damaged but never to the point we couldn’t live there.


An evening in the air raid shelter in French's Yard during the Blitz, taken about 1943

(back row) Zoe, Bernard Sage, Dot, Ethel Lalonde (my mum), Joan Cole, Hilda Robertson (auntie Rob), uncle Bill (her husband) and Mrs Cole

(middle row) ?, Vaudie Johnson, ?, ?, Jean Cole, Mrs Sage

(front row) Walter Johnson, Dad, "Nan", Mrs Sage

If we begin to walk from my home, across Epping New Road and up Hills Road we’d come to the “Top Pond”, it has always been there as long as I can remember.  It never dries up and never floods over.  As Hills Road goes no further we have to turn left onto Osborne Road.  It’s here that Mr Utting and Mr Final lived back when I was a lad.  Both men also worked fro French’s.  The last house Osborne at Church Road was where my school friends, the Beasley’s lived. I attended Sunday school at St Johns Church while my mother went to the morning service.  If we had continues on the footpath from Hill Street directly to the High Road we’d come to the bus stop.  Here is where the 10A and 38A buses would stop so we could get off if we’d been to the Majestic picture house in Woodford or even “up to town”.

Continuing along the High Road we pass Palmerston Road and cross over to head down Queens Road.  This was the main shopping street of Buckhurst hill.  Knighton Lane goes off to the right and Westbury Lane to the left.  The very first shop we come to on the left was Silks Newsagents.  Our newspaper, The Daily Mail would be delivered from here as would the Sunday Express along with the Evening News.  I was friendly with the owners son, John Silk, we went to school together. 

Branching off to the right is Princes Road, across from Silks was Parks the fishmonger.  On my mind’s eye I can still see fresh rabbits and other game hanging from hooks above the big slanted marble slab along with different kinds of fresh fish sitting in crushed ice.

The predominant building facing us was the Post Office with a bank next door.  If we pass by silks and continue down Queens Road we could pass the Masonic Hall and then see Liddles the grocers.  One of the ladies in charge, I remember was Miss Peacock, later she married and became Mrs Bull.  The next shop was Bertini the tobacconist.  Cigars and cigarettes from all over the world were on display.  He always kept a fine selection of tobaccos, which he’d blend specially for my Dad.  His shop always smelled so nice.  Mr Bertini changed his name to ‘Bertin’ right after the war began, fearing reprisals because of his Italian heritage.

The next shop I recall was the Pet Shop, besides the passageway, which went through to Westbury Lane.  About half way down Queens Road was my first School ‘Taunton House’.  Mrs Mason was in charge but Miss Pamela was my teacher.  The best thing I remember about this school was the small bottles of milk and chocolate wafers we wee given each morning at break.  

These are two 1983 photos of Taunton House on Queens Road. It was much nicer looking then. The second photo of of Jill Hinson (nee Walker) and I outside the same year. Jill and I have been lifelong friends since meeting at Taunton House when we began school in 1937. Her house then was the first one at the top of Russell Road, next to the church hall. Jill now lives in Dorset

The only other shop I remember on this side of Queens Road was Auty the watch maker situated very close to Victoria Road.  I liked going there with my Mother to hear the big grandfather clocks chiming and the constant ticking of so many other timepieces. 

I realize that Queens Road continues on past Victoria Road but we seldom went that far, so I have no memory of that part of Buckhurst hill.

If we cross over Queens Road and begin to walk back up the hill, the first place I can recall would be the Clinic, I had to be taken there to be immunized against mumps.  They also had a machine that they x-rayed our feet with our shoes on.  I think this was to make sure out feet and toes grew straight.  Further up the hill we came to the biggest shop in the road.  The Co-op, it was here that my mother bought all her meat, butter, eggs and fresh foods.  A little further up the hill we cam to United Dairies.  This is where all the horse drawn milk carts would begin and end their day.  Jim our milkman delivered milk and cream to us for as long as I can remember.  He was a veteran of the First World War ad had been hit in the face by shrapnel which left him with a very crooked smile.  He was a good man and worked very hard along side his trusty fried ‘Gert’ the horse.  She knew the route backwards and never needed reminding when to stop or go. 

Still further up Queens Road, nearer the top and roughly across from Bertinis was Esecotts a bicycle shop, with a great variety of new cycles, water proof clothes, along with dynamos, lights and all kinds of spare parts.

That pretty well covers all I remember of Queens Road.  However I can clearly remember my first experience with the dentist for a tooth extraction.  His surgery was on the corner of Stag Lane and the High Road, a modern detached house with a bay window, this was the surgery.  Seeing those tall steel cylinders full of gas, having that horrible smelling rubber mask thrust over my face so I couldn’t breath! That first experience has stayed with me all my life so I remember the house well.

Heading down Knighton Lane took us to Lords Bushes, and then Knighton Woods.  I recall that Lords Bushes didn’t need a forest keeper but the man who was Forest Keeper for Knighton Woods was quite strict when I was a lad.  My friends the Greenstreet brothers, Dennis and Richard and I often played there and we were frequently told off, or to ‘go home’ and not ‘run around’ in the woods.  In time we started to call him “Eggs and Bacon” but I cant remember why.  Knighton Woods, in all likelihood, is still a lovely place to walk, peaceful and pleasant especially in the summer.

Before the last war there was a large open field across from French’s yard on  Epping New Road.  Several mature trees gave shade to a few retired horses that lived out their days peacefully in this little bit of green space.  During the war many citizens wanted to grow their own vegetables.  Nationally this program was called ‘Dig for Victory’.  The whole place soon became a picture of success.  From flowers to marrows, tomatoes, beans, peas and potatoes.  Everything grew beautifully.  One night a bomb fell in the middle of these gardens.  It blew small tool sheds and produce everywhere.  But within weeks all was back to normal, those who worked so hard to grow lovely things, just worked a little harder.  “True British Spirit!”

Possibly there were several other noteworthy points I could have remembered ten years ago, but sadly they have evaporated like time has changed Buckhurst Hill, the treasured town of my childhood.  Today there are houses where the allotments used to be, there are blocks of flats where Ivy cottage used to be.  The only recognizable land mark left neat my home is the red phone box, which was near the corner of our front garden at the edge of the Reindeer parking lot.

 © Denman Lalonde 2008

   Comments (11) for "My Childhood Home"


Jo, How can I thank you for posting my 'memories' to your website so beautifully. It obviously took a lot of effort on your part. I't very gratifying to have ones work published for all interested parties to appreciate.
Thanks again !

By Denny - 6/10/2008 9:37 AM


Once more I thank you for your hard wiork in posting everything I have contributed to the History of Buckhurst Hill. I hope those who read it find it informative and could even follow a walking tour of our fine village from the explanation I have provided. It will always be my 'home'.

All the best with this site Jo.

By Denny - 7/1/2008 10:03 AM



It's interesting to see in the latest satalite photos of Epping New Road, that even the famous Red Phone Box has gone, evaporated like smoke into history, so the last part of my little article is now incorrect, Oh well !!

By Denny - 7/11/2008 6:49 AM


This was wonderful. My grandparents lived in High Road next to the Askew's hayyard and I used to go tot he riding stables when I stayed in the school holidays. One of my grand mothers dearest friends was Evelyn Greenstreet !!!!

By Jane Long - 11/8/2008 12:27 AM



I am Amazed !! It's a small world to be sure !!
Richard and Dennis Greenstreet were two of my best friends. Their dad was a radio operator for Cunard and he had a short wave radio upstairs and taught us three boys how to build and use Crystal Sets Radios
Great days!! I recall Askew's hayyard well too their lorries were all yellow with ASKEW mwritten on the cab doors.
Thanks for the memory Jane !!

By Denny - 11/8/2008 1:25 AM


Thank You Jo for adding those photos of my home 58 Epping New Road, now lost for ever to Progress !

By M. Denny lalonde - 2/25/2009 2:44 AM



you are very welcome, i am always happy to add new stuff you or anyone else sends me, especially if it shows how buckhurst hill was before 'progress' got into full swing!

By jo gilks - 2/25/2009 4:26 AM


Another short story about my childhood days during the war when I lived at "Ivy Cottage". Every Friday my Uncle Bill Robertson, who lived next door, would take me 'Paper Chasing'. W&C French, who he drove a lorry for, were contracted to pick up clean used paper from shops and businesses in Buckhurst Hiill, Woodford around the area. The back of the lorry had a full sized frame and canopy slid into the box. A knotted rope hung from the center near the back. As paper was piled into the truck box I'd be responsible for tramping it down as much as I could. Then Uncle would drive to the next shop and we'd repeat the process all over again. I('d rifde in the back of the lorry, hanging onto the dangling rope and having a great time. Half way through the afternoon Uncle would stop at transport cafe for tea and a bun. I'd watch facinated, as he'd pour his tea into the saucer. With his pinkie finger extended, as if to give some politeness to his action, he'd drink his tea from the sauce, while I ate my bun, trying hard not to giggle. By five o'clock we'd be at the Salvage yard unloading the piled high paper from the lorry all ready to head for home. Another Happy Friday to remember. I hope it helped the Watr Effort !!

By Denny Lalonde - 3/4/2009 11:27 AM



This is so wonderful to read about my father's history. I am so lucky that not only I can read it but my 15 year old denman son as well.
Learning about family history is such a gift for now and forever.

By Leana Denman Breivik (Lalonde) - 3/8/2009 12:31 PM


Hi Denny, karen has transcribed a bit more of the 1861 census and i see that in 1861 a surgeon named Thomas Donovan is living in Ivy Cottage

By jo gilks - 3/22/2009 2:01 AM



That's Terrific Jo, fancy a surgeon living next door to the reindeer Pub, bet he was a regular eh?
Thanks for this Ladies !

By Denny - 3/22/2009 2:25 AM


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