Yesteryear’s Boundaries

This is a photo I took of boundary markers when I was out walking on New Year’s Day. 2021 has finally arrived and I hope this will be a happy new year for everyone. I am usually very upbeat on New Years Day, I look forward to the the surprises it will bring. Not so this year because Covid 19 is still raging. To misquote HG Wells, last January 1st no one would have believed that a little-known virus was about to change our world.

Usually on New Year’s Day my friends and I go for a long walk then one of us cooks a delicious meal. This year because of the virus there was no gathering of friends but I did go for a walk and it did not disappoint. I discovered lots of new things in an outlying part of Epping Forest called Leyton Flats, took these photos and then did some research on them.

It was pretty busy so to avoid getting too close to people, after walking around the ponds I took a new route home. It went close to the western boundary of Snaresbrook Crown Court and that is where I found Birch Well. This well was where people from the nearby hamlet of Wanstead could fetch good drinking water. It was a large pit with wooden steps down to the water but now stone slabs are around an oval pool which has a deep layer of silt at the bottom. Someone has been here recently to hang a dream catcher on a nearby branch and built a kind of gris gris altar next to it.

Near Birch Well is a stone parish boundary marker. Not far away is another stone marker next to a metal boundary marker. The writing is now illegible but apparently it said Visc Maynard’s Manor of Walthamstow Tony and High Hall. As far as I can work out, the story behind these boundary markers is this.

Viscount Henry Maynard (1788-1865) owned Tony Manor in Walthamstow. The manor house had been built by the Tony family and was called High Hall. The estate covered over 500 acres of land and had been in his family since 1639.

Separated from the main plot of land which is closer to the River Lea was a strip 3 miles long and between 50-100 yards wide called Walthamstow Slip. The Slip cut through the neighbouring parish of Low Leyton. No-one knows why the Slip existed, perhaps as a route to take cattle to common grazing land. There are other “Slips” of land in the area and they are all dead straight so there is also a theory that they were created for some kind of astral worship. Another theory that they were Roman routeways (Roman roads are straight) has been discounted by archaeologists. The metal marker was erected in 1843 and shows where Walthamstow Slip began. It went westwards to the river Lea in Walthamstow. It seems there had been many disputes about the exact boundary of the Slip so perhaps Viscount Maynard was making a point to the people of Low Leyton. Ten years later Low Leyton parish attempted to have the Slip reallocated to itself because it went across an area it was developing for a network of reservoirs. The owner of the Slip might charge rent or even disrupt the waterworks. In 1873 Leyton became a civil parish, dropping the prefix “Low”. Walthamstow Slip became was awarded to the new civil parish.

About the author: Gail Jones