Georgian remains

Wanstead Grove, drawn by JP Neale, engraved by JC Varrall (1830)Wanstead Grove, drawn by JP Neale, engraved by JC Varrall (1830)

Georgina Green will lead a walk around Wanstead this month looking at what remains of the Georgian era. Here, the local historian takes a look at Wanstead Grove, which once stood just off the High Street.

The Honourable Anne Rushout (c. 1766–1849) inherited Wanstead Grove in 1817 when she was about 50 years old. It was previously owned by her uncle, George Bowles (c. 1732–1817), who had inherited the house and other property when his father, Humphry, died in 1784.

The Grove had been built around 1690 for Sir Francis Dashwood (c. 1658–1724) and was typical of the architectural style of that time, with a three-storey central block flanked by single-storey wings. The estate covered land east of the High Street.

George Bowles was a man of great cultivation and refinement and he preferred to make his home at Wanstead Grove, which already contained many fine pictures. He added considerably to this, acquiring 49 paintings by Angelica Kauffmann, making his the largest collection of her work in any single possession. George had travelled widely in his youth and also had an extensive library. He followed the fashion by laying out pleasure gardens in his estate.

George Bowles became High Sheriff of Essex in 1785, the year after his father died, which implies George was already well known and respected in the county where he must have been an active magistrate for many years. George never married but he probably did a good deal of entertaining at Wanstead Grove, when his youngest sister Rebecca acted as his hostess. George was clearly fond of Rebecca, and when she died in 1816, her place as his hostess was taken by her daughter, Anne Rushout, who made her home with her uncle.

When Anne inherited Wanstead Grove it was over 120 years old and she decided to rebuild the house in a more modern style. This was finished by 1822 and is illustrated and described in one of the volumes of Jones' Views of the Seats, Mansions, Castles Etc of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England. This mentions that "the Gardens at Wanstead Grove are laid out in the style of Le Notre, but are most remarkable for the American plants, which here flourish in a pre-eminent degree and grow to a large size." Anne painted many watercolour pictures of her parkland, showing many beautiful mature trees, and four were purchased by Redbridge Museum in 1999.

When Anne died aged 82, the house and estate passed to other members of the Bowles family but were later sold to Sir Fowell Buxton for £9,250. Speculative building on the estate began in 1885. The first roads laid out were Grove Road, Grove Park and The Avenue. Wanstead Grove was demolished in 1889 and nothing remains to show of the site. However, there are a few surviving echoes of the Georgian era from around the edges of the estate and these will be explained on the walk.

Georgina's walk (hosted by Redbridge Heritage Service) will depart from the fountain on George Green, Wanstead on 15 October at 2pm (free; booking required). An identical walk on 11 October is fully booked. Call 020 8708 7400


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