For some of us, the relationships we have with our neighbours can be as meaningful as the one we have with family members—and they’re often more savvy to the ins and outs of our daily lives. As the saying goes ‘God sees everything, but the neighbours miss nothing’.
Residents of east London Warner homes were actively encouraged to nurture neighbourly alliances and in some cases had it written into tenancy agreements.
The Warner estates comprise three areas near Lloyd Park in Walthamstow and Leyton; developed between 1881 and 1932 by the Warner Company and its founder Thomas Courtenay Theydon Warner, a businessman whose family were prominent local landowners.
The ambition of the Warner Estate went beyond that of a housing project.
At the time Waltham Forest was being promoted as an alternative and healthier environment in which to live and raise families, close to Epping Forest and away from the dark and cramped flats of central London. Streets were spacious and tree-lined. And the cheap workers’ railway fares, introduced in 1883, meant the skilled working classes were able to move where they could afford more space, yet remain within easy reach of central London. And the population of Walthamstow and Leyton rose by around 100% every decade between 1871 and 1901.
So what made the Warner homes such a hit?
On the outside, the properties had classic Victorian characteristics: solid looking with plain red brick, bay windows, steep pitched roofs and ornate gables; distinctively though, Warner homes were a variety of 2, 4 and 6-room properties which varied in appearance, breaking the monotony of the Victorian terraces, typical of the time.
The Warner homes were certainly winners on design, but then there were the much-loved details. The 6 and 8-panel doors with their original furnishings custom made locally; as was the paint on the window frames and doors which was bright green and cream. And the most enduring Warner feature, the arch over the 2 doors of neighbouring properties, uniting not only the physical entrances to the buildings, but also the people who walked beneath it.
Not all properties have the arch, but take a cycle down the streets and avenues around the Lloyd Park area today, and you can still spot the tell-tale Warner details: an arched entrance, a W or WE plaque, even an intriguing flash of original green paint.
Keeping up with the Jones’ wasn’t optional, it was part of the deal.
Courtenay Warner’s ambition was to foster a sense of pride in the family homes and neighbourhoods. The homes were well managed and maintained and as a Warner resident, you were obligated to wash your curtains regularly and keep your garden tidy.
Imagine the pride a postal worker or policeman might have felt walking home down a tree-lined street, to his attractive Warner property with its windows gleaming.
Building homes, building communities.
The design of the homes nurtured social interaction. With shared outside space, including gardens and shared maintenance of the building, people were naturally involved in each other's lives (and the street parties were legendary). It’s possibly one of the reasons so many Warner tenants were happy to stay here all their lives
Through the decades that followed the Warner homes were modernised.
The ‘child’s bedroom’ became a kitchenette in the 1930s, bathrooms were introduced from 1954, rebuilding after war damage during the 1960s, gas and central heating installation from 1965. And at this time the Warner properties began to be sold, today the company no longer exists having been finally sold off completely in the 2000s.
But the Warner legacy remains, along with the quality and charm of the properties. Still providing large, well-proportioned rooms and the sense that you have more home than your average Victorian conversion typically provides. Historically residents described it as ‘feeling you have a house, even when you have a flat’.
The reason ‘Warner home' is still mentioned in our property listings is for their cultural significance and legacy. Buy a Warner home and you’re buying a piece of local history. Perhaps we could all live more Warner. Love our home, treasure those original features, respect our road, street or avenue, and always, always find a reason to talk to the neighbours.
Estates East Team
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With thanks to Lucy Harrison. If you’d like to read more and see fantastic photographs of life in the Warner homes: The Ex-Warner Estate in Waltham Forest by Lucy Harrison & Katherine Green is available at exwarnerproject.co.uk