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 II’ 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 I (father of the Ralph who married Alice) also built the first St Mary’s Church. 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.
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