North Chingford Freedom Walk Heritage Trail

Chingford Historical Society held the North Chingford Freedom Walk on 24th June 2023 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of HMT Empire Windrush's arrival at the Port of Tilbury in 1948 and the birth of the UK's modern multiracial society. Centred at the Chingford Station Community Hub, it also included freedom walks along the North Chingford Heritage Trail with Peter Ashan.

Peter is a local Author, Educator and Historian who was born and grew up in Waltham Forest.

The Freedom Walk explores the area's Black community and presents an alternative history of North Chingford from centuries past through to the present day.

Sir Gilbert Heathcote

Sir Gilbert Heathcote
Sir Gilbert Heathcote

Sir Gilbert Heathcote 1652-1733 born in Chesterfield Derbyshire from 1681-1733 had a successful career in the Jamaican slave trade, which was a major source of his wealth.

There is no evidence that he personally owned enslaved people, but as England’s appointed Crown Agent for Jamaica in 1693 until 1704 he was responsible for overseeing government contracts for managing the slave economy.

He had control of the trade in enslaved African people and the various produce such as sugar, indigo dye and rum enslaved labour created.

He was also very involved in the Asiento dos Negros also known as the Treaty of Utrecht.

Where the British Empire, via the South Sea Company whom he had shares in, agreed to supply the Spanish Empire in the Americas with 4,800 enslaved people from Africa and 500 tons of merchandise a year.

This added to his vast wealth, he was said to be the richest commoner in Britain with a fortune of about £83 million pounds in current money.

He was in 1694 one of the founders of the Bank of England. As well as a founder of the colony of Georgia.

Robert Boothby-Heathcote
Robert Boothby Heathcote

With his wealth he brought large estates in Britain including Leyton Essex, where he brought Forest House as a family home.

The wealth of the Heathcote family thus comes from the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

John Heathcote 1727-1795 married Lydia Moyer 1738-1822 in Leyton Essex, she inherited the lands of Chingford Earls and Chingford St Paul’s. Which then descended to the Heathcote family until the death in 1940 of Louisa Boothby Heathcote.

Robert Boothby Heathcote 1805-1865 as Rector of All Saints Church had built St Peter and St Paul Church 1840-1844.

As well as Friday Hill House in 1839 and Chingford C of E Infants School 1856/7

Chingford Church of England School

Empire Day 1919 or 1920 at Chingford Church of England School King’s Road Chingford

Is a photograph of school children celebrating Empire Day by dressing up in costumes based on various parts of the Empire.

This may also include children darkening their skin to resemble Non-White people from the British Empire.

Empire Day
Empire Day

A Migration Story

Shahab Ahmed Hashmi born in Karachi Pakistan moved with his family to Walthamstow England in 1976 when he was 8 years old.  From 1978 to 1983 with his brother they attended Normanhurst School on Station Road Chingford. As the families’ immigration status at the time meant they did not have access to education.

From 1983 the families immigration status was cleared up so Shahab moved to a state school Sir George Monoux School for Boys. They moved to the Yardley Lane Estate Chingford in 1981, where the family experienced racial abuse and harassment. Such as bricks thrown through there house windows, abuse shouted at them and their fathers car tyres being punctured. Once after another racist attack on their home, they called the Police who found the perpetrators hiding in nearby bushes. Walking home from Normanhurst School on Station Road, Shahab and his brother were attacked in the street by racists.

His family did not give in to such racism, rather they got involved with the local Community Relations Council, helped to set up youth and parents associations to support the community, organising cultural events, language classes, as well as advice and welfare sessions.  His father became a case worker at the Waltham Forest Community Relations Council later called the Waltham Forest Race Equality Council based on Church Hill Road Walthamstow.  And was actively involved in the campaign to get the borough’s first Muslim burial ground on Folly Lane Walthamstow in the 1980’s.  His father is buried in the Folly Lane Cemetery he campaigned so hard for.

George Floyd

Sharon King Chingford resident and activist organised via social media a vigil for George Floyd on Chingford Green on the 6th June 2020.  The vigil to comply with COVID-19 Lockdown rules consisted of no more than six people in a group socially distanced on the Green. George Floyd an African American was murdered by a police officer on the 25th May 2020 leading to worldwide anti-racist protests.

Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson and the Royal Forest Hotel

Jack Johnson (The Galveston Giant) 1878-1946 was the first Black US Boxing Champion when in 1908 he defeated Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney.

He defended his title in 1910 beating ex-champion Jim Jeffries. This victory led to anti-Black riots in America with many Black men being lynched by the racist Ku Klux Klan.

On 2nd October 1911 Jack was lined up to fight Bombardier Billy Wells at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre for the title.

Royal Forest Hotel
Royal Forest Hotel

He was based at the Royal Forest Hotel in Chingford Essex, with his training camp in Epping Forest nearby.

The fight never took place as a campaign led by many political and religious groups and individuals such as the Archbishop of Canterbury. General Baden Powell founder of the Boy Scouts. Field Marshall Lord Roberts. Ramsey MacDonald leader of the Labour Party opposed the fight on religious and moral grounds as well as for racist reasons.

Winston Churchill then Home Secretary banned the fight for public order reasons.

The Director of Public Prosecutions served the promoter of the fight Jack Johnson and Bombardier Billy Wells with injunctions, and had to prove there would not be a breach of the peace before the fight could go ahead.  Johnston defended himself at the Bow Street Police Court on 28th September 1911.

Royal Forest Hotel first Eid plaque
Royal Forest Hotel first Eid plaque

As the promoter decided not to defend the injunction, the fight did not go ahead. All were bound over to keep the peace, with Wells agreeing never to fight Johnson in the UK or British Empire. So the Home Office did not proceed with the case.

The Royal Forest Hotel is also the venue for the first known Eid Prayers in London in 1894.

Hunting Lodge
Hunting Lodge

During the Tudor period in England a Black population existed in England.  Miranda Kaufmann historian identifies 360 Black people living in England from 1500 to 1640.

The British Library has a draft proclamation of 1601 for the expulsion of Negroes and Blackamoors from England. Was there a serious attempt to expel Black people from England?

Lubeck merchant Caspar van Senden had helped to release 89 English prisoners from Spanish and Portuguese jails, at some cost to himself, who wanted the court of Queen Elizabeth l to compensate him.

The court of Queen Elizabeth l agreed to help him with a 1596 Royal warrant so he could get support from City Mayor’s to gather 89 Black people he could transport to Spain and Portugal to sell as compensation for his debits. Caspar van Senden was unsuccessful in 1596, so he made a second more forceful attempt in 1601. As he received no financial or legal support from the Court, both attempts failed.

Miranda Kaufmann argues that the court of Queen Elizabeth l were trying to get rid of a debtor, who they did not want to pay, so preferred to provide him with a Royal patent, he could use. And were clearly happy to scapegoat Black people to this end.

The Earliest Known Record of Black People in Chingford

The Cultural Diversity in Waltham Forest 1660-1831 exhibition identifies Hugh (Hero) and Ann(e) Blackmor(e) family as possibly the earliest Black family to live in Chingford during the first part of the 18th century.  Their family baptisms and burials are held in St Mary’s Church Walthamstow. 

‘17th of June 1730 Baptised Thomas the son Hugh Blackmore and Anne his wife parishioners of Chingford.’

‘31st of March 1731 John son of Hugh and Ann Blackmor of Chingford was buried ‘

‘14th of May 1732 John so of Hero and Ann Blackmore was baptised.’

Credit – Peter Ashan