The Warner Estate shaped Walthamstow and gave us some of our most recognisable streets. Those familiar red brick buildings with arched doorways and identical front doors are part of the DNA of Waltham Forest. You might think that the term Ex-Warner is a buzz word invented by Estate Agents to sell more property, but it’s much more than that. Ex-Warner’s run through this borough like a vein, a red brick artery that ties the modern Waltham Forest very firmly to its past. Since 2014, a small team of local artists and volunteers have been celebrating and documenting this part of our history. The Ex-Warner project has now reached its exciting final stage, the release of a smart phone app
Following on from the success of the of the first exhibition in 2014, the release of a book, and the second exhibition at the Vestry House, the smart phone app is the most ambitious part of this project. The app takes those using it on three different walking tours of the Warner Estate. It guides the walker through key streets, transports them back to years gone by. It shares the history of the people who built the estate, the people who lived and worked on it, and the buildings that make it so distinctive. I tried out one of the tours on Sunday and it was a real joy.
I followed Walk 1 – The Warner Estate Beginnings. Starting at the Clock House behind the international supermarket, the walk winds along Pretoria Avenue and has stops on various roads including Chewton Road, Hawarden Rd, Edward Rd, Coppermill Lane and Leucha Road. Each of the three tours are different, and this one starts with the story of the Warner family and the Clock House in which they lived. It goes on to explain how the Warner Estate started, how the buildings were designed and built, and shares tales of former residents, including that of Pete Curran a pioneer of the Labour Movement. The app has an easy to follow map with clearly marked points of interest, each of which not only has the audio guide, but also a series of accompanying historical images. Listening to stories from the past, viewing images of what was, and looking at things as they are now, is simply magical. This app brings history to life and puts it right in the palm of your hand.
OK, so you might think it’s a little bit odd going on a walking tour of streets that you know all to well. An audio guide of the Tower of London is one thing, but one for Walthamstow sounds just a little bit bonkers right? Well, if you do think that, you couldn’t be more wrong. The app gives a glimpse inside the estate that makes Walthamstow so recognisable. It shares more than just the history of the buildings, it shares the social history of the people who lived here before us. It wraps the listener in stories from our past that have significantly influenced our present. It tells us not only how the estate was born and built, but also how life was lived behind its green & cream front doors. The app can be downloaded for free for both apple and android devices (search for WE Ex Warner). Put it on your phone and go and lose yourself in a place you thought you knew.