Hainault Forest Website

Purchase and re-afforestation 1902-3



“The cupidity of man has laid them low; and by the side of where they once stood so nobly, there they lay, their bare poles bleaching in the sun. They say it is necessary to clear the Forest; a lover of Nature cannot but regret it.”

- A Lover of Nature. July 4th 1852.


The Crown and Royal Ciphers and the date 1856 set in the buildings and farm workers cottages at Foxburrows Farm.


Epipactis helleborine

Recorded in 1899 and still to be found in 2002

The Times newspaper on Tuesday June 17th 1902 devoted a whole column to the plan of re-afforestation of Hainault Forest.

Population statistics

                                1851                 1901

Walthamstow      4,959              95,125

Leyton                  3,901              98,899

West Ham          18,817            267,308

                                1891                 1901

East Ham             32,713             95,989

Ilford                    10,913             41,240

The rapid increase in population made securing Hainault Forest as an open space, urgent and of prime importance.

Proposed purchase

Lambourne Forest                   188 acres

Lambourne Common                 52 acres

Chigwell Manor Land               88 acres

Foxburrows Farm                     475 acres 

                                                    803 acres

Cost at £25 per acre   £22,000

Grangehill Forest                        80 acres

Cost at £100 per acre  £9,000

                                                    883 acres

Grangehill Forest was eventually dropped from the negotiations.  803 acres (=325 hectares)

 - the new Hainault Forest - was purchased.


Essex County Council                 £5,000

Ilford Urban District Council     £2,500

Private subscriptions                  £2,500

West Ham Council                      £1,000

Leyton Council                            £1,000

London County Council           £10,000

The London County Council made up the £10,000 shortfall and a Bill passed in 1903 by Parliament gave them the rights to manage the Forest forever.

The London County Council placed iron posts to mark the boundaries of the newly created forest. These are still found in situ.

Some 60,000 acres of Hainault Forest, part of the Forest of Essex, were disafforested in 1851 by Act of Parliament, and about 2,000 acres of woodland, known as King's Wood, allocated to the Crown, were cut down in 6 weeks, the land eventually being divided into farms - Hainault Farm, Forest Farm and Foxburrows Farm. The farm buildings of each farm displaying the Crown and VR, AP for Victoria Regina and Albert Prince Consort and a date between 1855-7.

The Essex Field Club regularly held meetings in Barkingside, Hainault and Lambourne at the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1891 the party met at  Woodford Station, there being no loop line at that time, and proceeded by carriage to the site of the Fairlop Oak, now under cultivation, where a paper on Hainault Forest researched from Parliamentary Papers was read by Mr Crouch from the box-seat of the private carriage of Mr Green of Hainault House. The visit also included Tom's Wood.


Visits were also made to Lambourne Forest in 1899 This was in part of the old woodland in the Manor of Lambourne which had remained unenclosed.  On July 17th and August 23rd 1899 they reported finding Epipactis latifolia (= Epipactis helleborine) Broad-leaved helleborine. Three flowering spikes were present in 2002. It was not surprising therefore that in 1902  the Essex Field Club gave it's wholehearted support to the plan to re-afforest Hainault Forest.

On Saturday 14th June 1902 an Essex Field Club visit was organised to support the re-afforestation of Hainault Forest. Although 200 were expected, 80 turned up despite the inclement weather, and included representatives of Essex County Council,  from West Ham, Barking, Ilford, Woodford, Buckhurst Hill, Leytonstone, Wanstead, Leyton, Walthamstow and Chingford Councils, The Commons Preservation Society, The Press, Sympathetic gentlemen, and Field Club members - and 3 or 4 courageous ladies!

The Times Newspaper  on the 17th June reported the meeting where Mr. E. N. Buxton, Verderer of Epping Forest, led the group for three hours. They "tramped the turf, jumped the watercourses, plodged through the ponds, squelched through the mud, and scrambled through the bushes, not without damage, but with unflagging interest and good humour."


Tea was taken in a large tent, following which details of the scheme were given by Mr Buxton, with complimentary speeches by Prof. Meldola, President of The Essex Field Club, Mr Shaw Lefevre of The Commons Preservation Skiety, and other gentlemen. "A curious and slightly sinister background was formed by a ring of gipsies, who have a very particular interest in the matter and who drew near to listen to their fate."


Mr Buxton reported that Lambourne Common consisted of 188 acres of virgin forest land, and the the timber and manorial rights would need to be acquired, together with 88 acres of adjoining plots of enclosed land in Chigwell (Lockwood's, Ethelstone's and Common Land).  475 acres of Crown Land (Foxburrows Farm) was under cultivation. In total there would be 346 acres forestal land and 527 acres of cultivated land on which it is proposed to plant tree seeds for natural regeneration. The purchase of 80 acres of Grangehill Forest was  negotiated but eventually fell through due to a stipulation by the vendor that patients from Claybury Asylum be denied access.


 £22,000 would be needed to complete the purchase and Ilford Council recognised its obligations and offered £2,500.  Negotiations with other local Councils continued. The Corporation of London was asked for £10,000, but at a meeting of The Court of Common Council in July, the request was turned down, the Council having already been instrumental in the purchase of Epping Forest in 1878, it felt the prime necessity was to provide open space south of the River Thames. Private subscriptions raised £2,500, and Edward North Buxton purchased privately 2 acres of land opposite The Beehive Public House (=The Camelot) and gave it to the Forest. The London County Council agreed to fund the shortfall of £10,000 and by Act of Parliament manage it for the public forever.



A gipsy camp in Lambourne Wood in 1903


Kidd's Own Journal (1852)  A Naturalists Ramble in Hainhault Forest in 1852. Vol II page109.

Essex Naturalist V. Field Meeting in Hainault Forest District and Barkingside 1891 pages 183-185

The Times June 17th 1902 page 4. Hainault Forest.

Essex Naturalist XII. In support for the scheme for Reafforestation.  June 14th 1902. Pages 30-32.

Court of Common Council: July 1902. Hainault Forest as a "Lung"