The Ancient House, Walthamstow | London’s Oldest House
I usually steer clear of sweeping claims, like “this is the oldest” and “this was the first”. However, with Walthamstow’s Ancient House, I think – as far as I’m aware – we may just have London’s oldest house.
A quick google church of London’s Oldest House will pull up mostly references to 41-42 Cloth Fair – a gloriously restored, pre Great Fire of London home and certainly the oldest surviving building in the City of London.
But outside the City we have other contenders…
But let’s get back to E17…
How Old is Walthamstow’s Ancient House?
Nikolaus Pevsner describes it rather aptly as a ‘cherished relic of a rural past’.
It’s a timber-framed hall house and dates from the 15th century. More specifically, its estimated to have been first built in 1435.
We don’t know much about who built it or for whom, but the Manor where the house was built was known as Walthamstow Tony.
Sadly, this isn’t after an 11th century ‘Tony’ living in Walthamstow, but the name probably derives from the combination of a Saxon landowner ‘Waltheof’ and the name of a French nobleman called Ralph de Toni who married Alice, one of Waltheof’s daughters in 1103.
The second theory is that ‘Tony’ comes from ‘Tow’ a Saxon word meaning fenced off area.
Ralph de Toni also built the first St Mary’s Church between 1103-1126. Its foundations survive from the 12th century and its the oldest building in Walthamstow.
A Closer Look at The Ancient House
Described as a ‘hall house’, this is an early English architecture style and means the main part of the design is based around one large room, known as a hall.
Typically this would contain a hearth and then rooms off to the side for food storage and preparation with private bedrooms above.
It’s had many restoration projects over the years but it was in 1934 by Mr Robert Fuller (under the architect C.J. Brewin) that its antiquity was properly appreciated.
At that time the whole structure was clad in weatherboarding; 18th century timber like the one that survives on the East wing painted white (seen below).
When this was removed the Medieval timber-frame was revealed. This was preserved but strengthened for posterity with steel ties and – with great foresight – the road was made one-way to add further protection from traffic and pollution.
The charmingly lopsided brickwork also dates from the 1930s.
There was further repair works in 2001-2 by Butler & Hegarty. Rather touchingly, the reason for this was a memorial to William Fuller, head builder of the same firm that had undertaken the 1930s repairs.
During this restoration, the Medieval-style windows seen today were inserted.
Today the Ancient House is 4 separate homes and has continuously been in either domestic or commercial use.
I wish I could tell you more about who has lived in the house throughout its history, but online I’ve only managed to find it mentioned as part of the Walthamstow Tony Manor from 1668.
Join the weekly newsletter!
Each Wednesday morning I send out a newsletter with the latest blog post, YouTube video and news about upcoming walks and virtual tours. Join for free below.
More London Inspiration
While admiring the new Bank Station entrance on Cannon Street, I couldn’t help but spot a sneaky symbol that’s right underneath the London Underground roundels. It’s the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, one of the City of London’s livery companies.......
If you’ve ever visited the Sky Garden, you probably queued alongside Philpot Lane. Just off this street is a tempting little dead end called Brabant Court and if you walk through you’ll find a surprising 18th Century building! History of Brabant Court Brabant Court can......
The Young V&A (formerly the Museum of Childhood) in Bethnal Green isn’t just a fabulous museum, its building also has a fascinating history to tell. Travelling back 350 years or so, Bethnal Green was a popular suburb for London’s upper classes. There were some large......
On the wall of St Paul’s Knightsbridge, there’s a surprising war memorial where all the names are women. It remembers the members of the Women’s Transport Service (later known as FANY). History of FANY The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry was founded back in 1907. It......
Set back from busy Oxford Street is Stratford Place and at the very end you can find Stratford House, the beautiful building that’s now home to the Oriental Club. The club has only been here since 1962 but the history of the building (and the......
On my Bermondsey walk, as we approach Mandela Way along the very pretty Pages Walk, I would often explain to guests that were about to see one of the weirdest things I’ve ever stumbled across in London. Prior to January 2022 you would’ve met Stompie,......
And a mighty fine Victorian post box there too in your last photo! I have quite a collection of post-boxes (I hardly have to collect them now; people photograph them for me!)
Where is the boundary of ‘London’? M25? There’s the newly revealed 14th century house in Chipping Barnet too:
Ooh! Interesting, thanks Tony, this is exactly what I was hoping for, some more ancient houses to explore! And let’s not start on what counts as London, another minefield question! 😉
Yes, ancient house in Walthamstow, really interesting, looking into the history of how old houses change and develop over the years (especially when the cladding is removed, and sometimes surprises are revealed). Look up the Salutation Inn on Maid Marion Way in Nottingham (especially old photos) and both buildings look so similar. Also, red pillar box, I believe that the oldest was the one just down from Warwick castle (1852 ?), but I’m not totally sure about that (I know you will put me right 😊)
I’ve lived in walthamstow since I was 3 years old, you sometimes forget how much history there with walthamstow. It’s nice to see that someone took the time to do all of this research for this article
I also have spent the bulk of my life within walking distance of the Ancient House and the village, in fact went to school the other side of the graveyard to the house!
Thanks for this website: some lovely photos of one of Walthamstow’s gems: The Ancient House.
It’s a wee bit confusing, but I think you ‘ve got your Ralph de Toni’s mixed up!
Ralph de Toni II (the Elder) was a standard bearer to William the Conqueror I and died c1102. His son, Ralph de Toni III (the Younger) married Alice who was the Earl of Waltheof’s daughter and also a niece of Wm the Conqueror. It was the Younger (died c1126) who is traditionally said to have built the first Church on the site of St Mary’s; a manorial church for him and his household.
Thank you Jacqueline, I will double check and clarify int he post!
Thanks for the photos.
I actually lived in the weatherboarded East Wing of the house in around 2008 so there’s another resident for you. 🙂
I went to the school too – it was called Cardinal Wiseman back then. Often passed this house on the way to a charming little pub on Orford Road that I forget the name of. They didn’t mind sixth-formers in school uniform drinking in there at lunch time – it was the 70s, after all! Vestry House Museum is only a few yards from the house for those who are interested in Walthamstow’s storied past.
Thanks for this – brings back a lot of memories – mostly good ones!