Vestry House Museum
Welcome to Vestry House Museum
Vestry House Museum presents the history of Waltham Forest through a variety of permanent displays and special exhibitions.
It also offers an exciting programme of family activities. Attractively located in the Grade II listed Vestry House, the museum can be found in the delightful historic Walthamstow Village.
Vestry House Museum houses Waltham Forest Archives and Local Studies Library.
It is also home to an award-winning public garden.
Christmas and New Year closure
- Vestry House Museum will close at 5pm on Sunday 22 December 2013. It will re-open at 10am on Thursday 2 January 2014.
- Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm
- Pre-booked groups and school visits also welcome on Tuesdays.
- Entry is free
The ground floor of the museum is accessible to individuals with wheelchairs.
By rail, tube or bus:
- The museum is only a 7-minute walk from Walthamstow Central (rail/tube/bus) which is on the end of the Victoria line. Alternatively, it is a 10-minute walk from Queens Road station.
- If you are travelling by car there is limited parking around the museum and most of the parking bays require visitor permits
Toys: A Serious Business (19 October 2013 - 23 February 2014)
Waltham Forest has enjoyed a long association with the manufacture of toys. Our new exhibition looks at local toy factories - Wells Brimtoy, famous for their range of tin-plate toys and Britains Ltd, who ran a factory on Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow. Visit this hands-on, family friendly exhibition to see the museum's fantastic toys and games collection and find out more about these important local factories and the people who worked there.
There'll be dolls, teddies, model train sets, boats, planes and more! Replica toys and games will be available for visitors to try. Watch out for the children's art competition and the chance to win an Airfix model kit of the Red Arrows.
For future exhibitions please download the VHM What's On June 2013-2014, following the link below.
Activities and events
The museum offers an exciting and varied programme of activities and events for all ages, many of which are free. Our new programme for events from July 2013 to February 2014 is available to download here.
Volunteer Open Days
Friday 31 January and Saturday 1 February 2014 at the William Morris Gallery
At Vestry House Museum there are lots of opportunities to volunteer for anyone aged 18 and over. Whether you want to learn a new skill, get some experience to add to your CV or do something valuable for the community in your spare time, volunteering could be for you. You do not need to have any experience of museums and galleries to volunteer as our programme caters for everyone from beginners to experts.
Our volunteers are engaged in a variety of roles working both with the public and behind the scenes helping us to care for and promote the collections at both Vestry House Museum and the William Morris Gallery. Maybe you would like to volunteer at one of our exciting new talks, performances, family activities and late evening events. You could even help us to document the collection, work with schools or market the museum to new audiences.
As a volunteer you will receive access to free training and advice to enhance your skills.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering or are interested in applying, why not come along to one of our Volunteer Open Days. These will be held at Vestry House Museum and will include information about opportunities at Vestry House Museum, the Archive and the William Morris Gallery. Find out what it is really like to volunteer from a member of our team, experience some of the roles in action or get one-to-one advice to help identify the most suitable role for you.
Details on how to apply, and the types of roles available will be posted on this website nearer the time.
Explore Vestry House Museum
Themed displays capture the unique heritage of this area or north east London.
Explore life during past and present Waltham Forest through our fascinating displays on domestic life, local history, fashion and toys and games. See our Victorian parlour and enter our police cell!
The Bremer car
One of our star exhibits is the Bremer car. Built locally by engineer Frederick Bremer in 1892, it is one of the claimants to being the oldest British-built petrol driven car. It must have been a curious sight on the streets of Walthamstow. A speed limit of just four miles per hour was imposed by a man walking in front of the vehicle at all times carrying a red flag.
One of the rooms at the museum has been set up to reconstruct a typical local parlour from about 1890.
Walthamstow Tea Service
Little is known about the origins of this set of cups, saucers and bowls other than it was produced in the 1820s for a local well-to-do family. Many of the items depict local houses and because of this it has become known as the Walthamstow Tea Service. A selection from the set is permanently on display.
The police cell
As Vestry House once housed a police station the museum has made use of this in its exhibitions. One of the cells still exists with its original bench and toilet and in this area we have recreated a scene from April 1861.
We know that on this evening Sgt. Charles Carpenter was on duty whilst James Wright, a local labourer, had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly. During a visit you may be "lucky" enough to experience the fate of James Wright by being locked in the cell.
The Domestic Life gallery looks at utensils used for washing, ironing, cooking and for serving food during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Toys and games
Discover some of the toys that were being played with or manufactured in Waltham Forest during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The costume gallery contains examples of clothing from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries including a Georgian dress, a Victorian wedding dress and a Second World War wedding dress. Within the gallery there is also a display about making and repairing clothing.
In the costume gallery is a wonderful example of wood panelling. This sixteenth century panelling, including the fire place, was removed from Essex Hall during its demolition in 1933 and placed into the museum.
Vestry House shop
Our shop offers a range of products, from small souvenirs to toys and games from the past. Be inspired by our local history and heritage and purchase one of our fascinating history books or maps of the area. Such items make perfect gifts or act as a way of remembering your visit.
The workhouse garden
As part of a visit to the museum, why not enjoy a leisurely stroll through our award-winning community garden.
The beautiful planting is inspired by the garden’s history as an eighteenth-century workhouse garden, with an emphasis on useful plants including vegetables, herbs and dye plants. There is also a wild meadow area and a bed designed to attract butterflies.
Our Function Room is located in the garden. Find out more about hiring the Function Room for meetings and events, including weddings.
The garden is maintained by an active group of dedicated volunteers. If you’ve got green fingers – or if you’re a beginner who is keen to learn – we would love to hear from you.
Visit the Vestry House Museum Facebook page
To sign up to our monthly newsletter, which provides the latest updates from Vestry House, please contact us providing your full name and email address or, if you prefer to receive the newsletter by post, your postal address.
Mailing list information will be held on computer by Waltham Forest Council for the purpose of mailing items of interest to you relating to the Gallery.
The information given will not be used for any other purpose or shared with any other parties.
History of Vestry House
Vestry House, a two storey building of brown stock brick, was constructed in 1730 by order of the Vestry. At that time the Church Common covered 27 acres to the south of Church End. The Vestry purchased an acre of this land close to the village for £6 on which to build their workhouse.
A simple eight roomed symmetrical house was initially built on the site at a cost of £343, 12s, 3d. The ground floor room to the left of the front door was to be used for Vestry meetings, and the rest of the building was to be occupied by the paupers. The inscribed stone plaque erected above the entrance to mark the completion of the building still remains in position and declares:
"if any would not work neither should he eat" .
Vestry House had since been a police station and a private house.
From 1882 until 1892 the oldest part of the building was used as the headquarters of the Walthamstow Literary and Scientific Institute, after which it became a private house, occupied by the Maynard family until 1912, and then for the next eighteen years Miss Constance Demain Saunders, JP.
In 1930 Miss Demain Saunders offered the remainder of her lease of Vestry House to the Walthamstow Borough Council (the successor to the Local Board), and it was decided to use this historic building to house a museum, the aim of which was to be an educative and popular introduction to the social and economic history of our town and district.
Vestry House opened as a museum in 1931.
Other local history groups
Works with elder people to improve their quality of life by valuing their reminiscences and giving them opportunities for wider appreciation in the form of visual and performance arts projects, intergenerational projects, exhibitions, publications and documentary film.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 08318 9105.
The Society has been established over 60 years. It is a registered charity No 281623
They organise meetings during the winter on the second Wednesday of each month and coach tours to places of historical interest in the summer. We publish a bi-annual newsletter. Local history research is carried out and books and newsletters about Chingford's past are on sale. The society is affiliated to Essex Archaeological and Historical Congress.
Our long-term aims are to research and promote interest in and knowledge of the history of the area of the former Borough of Leyton and its surrounding region.
Founded in 1996, fosters fellowship and challenges the commercialisation and isolation of modern life.
For more information phone 020 8555 5248 or email email@example.com.
Was founded in 2006 and aims to promote a greater understanding of Highams Park.
It holds talks, exhibitions and other activities on topics of local interest. Call 020 8531 2938 for further information.
A heritage museum for Lea Valley being developed at the Pump House Steam and Transport Museum.
This project showcases Britain's largest forgotten industrial story that most certainly changed the world as we know it today.
Promotes work on London history, comparative metropolitan histories, memory studies and the intersection of history and contemporary politics.
The Waltham Forest Oral History Workshop has been in existence for over 25 years. In that period they have recorded over 550 interviews with people connected to the borough in one way or another.
The site provides information on the background of the group, the current programme of talks and visits, a list of current publications and prices, membership information as well as images of Walthamstow and of previous group visits.
This is an offshoot of the Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society, dedicated to exploring the history of the flats, the 450-acre area that forms the southern boundary of Epping Forest.
To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8530 3002 (evenings only).
Are you interested in learning more about local history? The Walthamstow Branch of WEA (Workers Educational Association) runs adult education classes in this area on local history.
To find out more email email@example.com or call 020 8530 3002 (evenings only).