Vestry House Museum

Discover the story of Waltham Forest as told through many fascinating household objects and displays.

Last updated: 4 September 2023

Next review: 4 September 2024

Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm, FREE entry

Vestry House Museum tells the story of Waltham Forest through its collection of over 100,000 historical objects and themed displays. It gives a fascinating glimpse into how people lived, and how the borough has changed over time. Highlights include the famous Bremer Car, a Victorian parlour, extensive toy collections, and a beautiful volunteer-run garden.

The Museum holds a collection of 80,000 historic photographs from across the Borough which is accessible to everyone by appointment. Please email Vestry House Museum   

Vestry House Museum
Vestry Road
London E17 9NH

Telephone: 020 8496 4391

Email: Vestry House Museum

Find out more about: Vestry House Museum 

See also

Waltham Forest Archives & Local Studies Library

Conservation areas and listed buildings

Vestry House Revitalisation Project

Waltham Forest Council is working to revitalise Vestry House, a well-loved cultural and heritage site in Walthamstow Village. Working with design collective Assemble, a report has now been produced, outlining a set of models for how the Council can improve the site for the benefit of all residents.

On 19 January 2023, the borough heard that it was successful in its bid for Levelling Up funding, which commits over £4million investment into the revitalisation of Vestry House Museum to deliver defined outcomes and benefits. Read more about the Levelling Up Fund for Waltham Forest.

We invite you to feedback on the Vestry House Museum revitalisation project. To leave comments or ask questions please fill in this form.

Read the public engagement document.

Vestry House Museum Revitalisation Project FAQs: updated February 2023

The following answers to some frequently asked questions have been prepared to provide further information. These FAQs have been updated following the announcement of Levelling Up funding.

1. Is the council closing Vestry House Museum? No. Vestry House Museum will remain open and owned by the council – it will not be closed or sold. There may be some need to close the museum temporarily to enable the capital investment, but this will be minimised and well publicised.

2. Can I still access the archive? Yes. An important part of the project is to ensure that the archives and local studies collections are fully accessible, both digitally and in person. The Council is currently exploring options for the searchroom, archives and local studies collections to be relocated to a new fully accessible site in Walthamstow, with the aim of diversifying and expanding use by visitors and volunteers.

3. Will the project provide a long-term future for Vestry House Museum? Yes. Securing a long term, sustainable future for this important place is central to the Council’s aims. Financial sustainability is one of the key considerations for the project. Vestry House Museum will remain open and owned by the council – it will not be closed or sold.

4. What is the Vestry House Museum revitalisation project? Vestry House Museum has been in need of investment and revitalisation for some years. The Council’s priorities in considering new approaches to Vestry House Museum have been driven by the following factors:

The Council is seeking ways for Vestry House Museum to have greater social impact, to reach and support more local schools, businesses, and engage our diverse communities
The museum collection is in need of updating and does not currently reflect the diversity of our communities in Waltham Forest
Much of the building is underused, with 30% used for collection storage and the upper floors are inaccessible to those with mobility issues
The Council is seeking ways for the operational model of Vestry House Museum to be more cost effective and provide a greater return on investment

5. Why have you worked with Assemble on the project? In June 2022, following a competitive process, Waltham Forest Council appointed a multi-disciplinary team, led by Assemble, an established architectural practice, to lead a team to research and consider a range of approaches for a revitalised Vestry House Museum. Assemble reviewed the current operation at Vestry House Museum and prepared various potential models which could be applied to revitalise the site. These took into account feedback from engagement with over 40 groups, individuals and stakeholders. The Assemble commission was completed prior to the outcome of Waltham Forest Council’s application to the Government’s Levelling Up fund.

6. How does Levelling Up Funding affect the project? On 19 January 2023, £17million of Levelling Up Funding was awarded to Waltham Forest Council to deliver ‘Culture for All’ a programme of capital works to develop and improve a range of cultural sites and cultural spaces in Walthamstow. Within this wider bid, £4.4million (including £800k match funding from the Council) has been allocated to the revitalisation of Vestry House Museum. This Levelling Up funding now enables the Council to realise a new approach for Vestry House Museum, based on Assemble’s research. This project will include capital improvements to the building, with ambitious goals for increasing the diversity and number of visitors to Vestry House Museum, an enhanced schools’ offer and improvements to both the museum and archive collections and service.

7. Has a decision already been made on the future direction? No. The proposed new approach will be considered by Cabinet in April 2023. If approved, the council will embark on a tender process to secure a partner organisation(s) to work with the council to deliver a new vision for Vestry House Museum and archives service.

8. Why is the council seeking cultural partner organisations to be based at Vestry House Museum? We believe that securing the right cultural partner to work with us to revitalise Vestry House Museum will ensure that we can achieve more in terms of public activities, engagement and appreciation of local history. The Council is adopting a partnership approach to several of its cultural sites, following a new approach outlined in the Destinations business plan, agreed in Cabinet on 22 November 2022. After a positive response from an Expressions of Interest process last year, as part of Assemble’s wider research, we are confident that there are a range of organisations keen to work with us to help activate the Museum and develop a dynamic programme. A key aim is to diversify Vestry House Museum audiences and activate the heritage site to its full potential. We anticipate working in close partnership with local history and heritage groups.

9. Will accessibility to Vestry House Museum be improved? Yes. Currently Vestry House Museum is not fully accessible, with no lift access. This project will improve accessibility for all and at the same time maintain and enhance the unique character of the Grade II listed building.

10. How will this project respond to the climate emergency and the current challenges around energy costs? The capital investment will enable improvements to building’s environmental performance while at the same time maintaining the unique character of the Grade II listed building.

11. How can I get involved? There will be a range of opportunities to get involved as the revitalisation project gains momentum, which will be updated here.

12. What is the proposed timeline for the project? A decision on next steps is scheduled to be taken by Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet in April 2023. Dependent on the chosen outcomes, it is likely to take between 12-24 months to implement the plans.