Wanstead Park lies but 20 minutes away from the cacophony of Hackney by train and it is an oasis of green and fresh air for city dwellers in search/need of healthier air. We recently traversed the Overground and Central line to visit the Park and found ourselves quite fascinated by the history of the place.
Once upon a time, a great mansion stood here and all these acres of land made up its grounds. While records show that there has been a manor house of sorts in this location since the Doomsday Book, we are more interested in the house that was built here in 1715. It was a grand, palatial manor. Built in the Palladian style, such was its grandeur that rivalled Blenheim Palace.
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Now before anyone gets excited and starts planning a trip to view this outstanding manor, I must tell you that it no longer stands. It has been demolished and not a single brick of the manor remains to lay testament to it's former glory.
| Assembly at Wanstead House by Hogarth |
The reason for it's demise is a tragic tale. Girl inherits house. Girl met boy, boy rips-off girl and the creditors tear down the house.
The girl in question was Catherine Tylney-Long and at the age of 16, found herself inheriting Wanstead House and an enormous fortune. Large enough in fact to make her the richest woman in England aside of the Royal Family. Naturally she became the object of great interest and many a blue-blooded suitor pursued her hand. One such suitor was the villain of this tale, William Wellesley-Pole. Wellesley-Pole was the sort of fellow that any parent would go to great lengths to keep well away from their daughters. He was a notorious womaniser, gambler, debaucher and all out scoundrel of the worst sort. However, like many womanisers, he was charming. And this charm, coupled perhaps with a weakness for a bad-boy saw Catherine falling for the wily manipulations of Wellesley-Pole. The ill-fated couple married in Piccadilly and Catherine past her name as well as her immense fortune to her crooked husband and he became known as Wellesley-Pole-Tylney-Long.
Wellesley-Pole-Tylney-Long must have been delighted with his newly gained wealth and went about spending it in every lavish way he could imagine whilst sidelining his wife. After 10 years, the vast fortune had dwindled to nothing and great debts took their place. As for Wellesley, he did what any other miserable scoundrel would do.....He fled the country and left Wanstead House to be seized by his creditors.
And so it was that in June 1822, during a series of auctions lasting 30 days, the entire contents of Wansted House were sold off. Soon after, the house was dismantled and every brick of it from ceiling to cellar, was sold to appease the creditors.
It is a great tragedy that the house has vanished. In it's place is a lush green golf course. However, there are a few reminders of these tales remaining in the park. The ruins of a grotto and boathouse that once stood in the background of the manor still perches on the banks of an ornamental lake in a rather ghostly manner.
This is a lovely spot for a mini picnic. I rarely go walking without an emergency snack..
I bought a pair of onigiri cases a few years ago in Japan and they are very handy for such strolls as squashed rice balls loose their appeal somewhat.
The park itself is a lovely space to go for a walk in London. Though the constant murmur of the nearby busy roads can still be heard, this doesn't intrude too much on the calmness that can be sought here.