The Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow

Over in Walthamstow Village, the area’s historic centre, you’ll find the Vestry House Museum, the borough’s main museum and home to the Waltham Forest Archives and a Local Studies Library which has a wealth of material on the history of the area since Roman times.


The Vestry House Museum buildings

The museum, which occupies a network of connected buildings just across the street from the parish church, has a lot of interesting displays that explore various aspects of Walthamstow’s past, including information on the museum buildings, which had previous uses as a post office and the local police station (there’s even a reconstructed Victorian cell in one of the gallery spaces on the ground floor). You’ll also find displays dedicated to Walthamstow’s industrial heritage – did you know, for example, that Walthamstow had it’s own camera manufacturing company for 50 years, the Ensign company, and that as far back as the 1930s they produced popular camera models in a range of colours? I had always thought that was rather a recent development, but clearly not! There’s also an area dedicated to the world’s first ‘horseless carriage’, which was manufactured in Walthamstow. The museum also has a pleasant formal garden with raised beds of flowers at the rear of the building if you want to take a break from local history for a few minutes.


A William Morris wallpaper pattern

One gallery at the museum currently contains a small selection of material from the William Morris Gallery over on Forest Road, while that building undergoes a multi-million pound refurbishment until its reopening in July 2012 to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics. You can find out more information about the project at this link on the Waltham Forest website.

Entry to the museum is of course free, and it is open from 10am until 5pm from Wednesday to Sunday each week. The museum also lays on various special events and activities throughout the year, which you can find out about here.