Can You Help With Information About A Childrens Home On Epping New Road

A Memory of Buckhurst Hill

Can anybody help with information, memories or photos of a former children's home in Epping New Road, in Buckhurst Hill?

I spent part of my childhood in a children's home on Epping New Road (number 8?) in Buckhurst Hill. My name is Michael O'Brien, also known at one time as Reginald Downham. I am desperately trying to track down any photos, memories or history of the home, and would very much like to make contact with anyone else who was there at the same time. I remember the following information about it:

I am now 65, and am living in Australia, and I need 'closure', as they say today, on a chequered childhood. From 1951 until 1956 I lived in a children's home in Epping New Road, Buckhurst Hill, which was known by various names, including 'Hazeldene', and 'Violet Ayres Lodge'. My daughter Jasmine was nursing in Britain recently but was unable to locate the building. From my memory I recall that the home, possibly a Georgian-type mansion, sat at the edge of a forest lane. I remember Knighton forest which was alongside a junior school I attended, and a church (St John's?) which we attended. Several other children at the home whom I remember fondly (and virtually were my family) were: Alan & Terry Wilbourne, Peter Arnold, Moira Bromwich, Colin Box and Jane Williams. How often I have wondered about them all!

The home was set in what seemed several acres. The front garden was totally surrounded in rhododendrons that to a child were enormous. At the rear was an open grass area leading through to an orchard. How I remember the boys and I at night climbing down and up the drainpipe to go scrumping. Once we were caught and were made to eat the apple cores for breakfast by 'Auntie' Emily who ran the place with an iron (and sometimes cruel) fist! To the side of the building ran a lane - Beech Lane? It ran into forest where I remember paper chases, treasure hunts and dragging big logs for bonfire night. Did it lead to the River Roding? Or to Chingford, or perhaps Chigwell? The others and I walked miles through there and I even remember where the Gypsies used to camp.

I seem to remember that we attended a junior school which opened up to Knighton Pond - is this right? It was great to walk out of the gate into more forest - I bet the developers have changed that too, now. Also down that lane I remember seeing a lot of dumped stuff - from the war? I do remember a number of water craft with 'US Navy' or similar on the sides of the craft.

I sang in the choir at St John's Church and attended Cubs. Oh, I have so many memories! I love Australia, obviously, but if someone mentions England then my heart and mind immediately turn fondly to the only link I have ... Buckhurst Hill. What wouldn't I give to find even one of my 'family friends', or even a photograph of the home!

Added by the Frith Memory Archivist on behalf of Michael O'Brien, also known as Reginald Alan Downham.

A memory shared by The Frith Memory Archivist , on Feb 3rd, 2010.

Comments & feedback

Fri Sep 12th 2014, at 10:25 am

Lenus Sadoo commented:

I was in this home in the 70s and I hated it my name is Lenus I remember the staff at time was Hilary and John Adams it was 8 Epping new road at the bottom of buckhurst hill I went to St. John's school there and there was a pond there all I remember was mental and physical abuse I suffered at the hands of some of these vile ppl that ran the place

Wed Sep 16th 2015, at 5:51 pm

elmaitch commented:

I lived in one of the Keeper's Lodge in Brook Road. The little lane next to Violet Ayres was called Tuttlebee Lane. There were a few houses at the top, then as you went down it narrowed and turned into a muddy, tree canopied horse ride that came to Brook Road. There were lots of ghost stories about the horse ride which was dark and enclosed. French's yard tall corrugated fence ran along one side of the lane when you got passed Fairlands Avenue. The tall poplar trees inside French's fence used to wail in the wind. The cattle pound is long gone, and in all my years growing up, I never actually recall any cattle being impounded, though there were always cattle roaming free on Whitehall Plain and all over the forest.
Next to the Lodges was a small caravan site, owned by a Fairground family that travelled in the summer. Most of the caravans were rented out to people who lived there year round. Here was also a shop that sold ice creams and drinks in the summer.

Thu Feb 25th 2016, at 12:17 pm

daisywishes commented:

We live in Princes Road that runs parallel to Queens Road - where the shops are. It is possible that the Georgian House you have referred to is still there but on the road running parallel to Epping New Road often muddled with it. You go into the drive on Queens Road now having turned right off A121. What was probably the garden at the side to is on Knighton Lane. Now houses are on this garden area but their gardens back onto the big house so it is still surrounded with greenery.
There is no change to Knighton Woods, although here they are really called Lords Bushes until you walk along to the big pond, which is at the top of Monkhaps Lane that goes through the woods. On the other side of the lane, where the pond is, it is Knighton Woods. This part of the forest used to be the garden of another big house and was given to the forest. This part of the woods is full of the huge azaleas and rhododendron that look stunning in the summer. There are also other smaller water areas throughout the woods and I can imagine that if you were at the school that used to be halfway up Princes Road, that used to back onto the woods you would hav found one very easily from there.
St Johns is still very key to Buckhurst HIll and the school there is growing and has new buildings added recently. It does, however look after the old parts too.
I was not living the Buckhurst Hill when you were here but bought my very first home, the ground floor of a Victorian house in Princes Road in the early 1990s. I grew so fond of it that when I got married we bought upstairs and returned it into a house. I am now on the BH Residents Society Committee who have started a website where we try to put photos and information about the area.

Thu Aug 18th 2016, at 1:33 pm

Jeremy Burrows commented:

I believe that "Hazeldene" was formerly known as Ardmore House, and was once the private residence of Dr Barnado. It has been demolished now, but there is a plaque on the wall in Ardmore Lane recording that this is the site of Ardmore House, because of the Dr Barnado connection. It was also visited by Gandhi in 1931.

My great grandfather was the last private owner of the house (he bought it in 1937 or 1938; but was obliged to sell it during the War - probably in 1943 or 1944). My father and my great aunt are, I believe, the last two people still alive who lived in it as a private house, rather than as an institutional home.

I have a photograph which should help you to confirm if this is the house you remember, and then perhaps help you to find closure; and I should be happy to e-mail you a scanned copy of this if it would help.

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