A BOOK due to be published later this year will shed new light on the lives of the wealthy families who became the first rail commuters from Buckhurst Hill to London.

Local historian Lynn Jones, became interested in the lives of these Victorian suburbanites while sitting in her garden in Ardmore Lane, Buckhurst Hill.

She explained: “There is a beautiful cedar tree in my garden and I became curious about who had planted it.

“I found out it had originally formed part of the two acre gardens of ‘Oakfields’, a big house which was demolished in 1956 to make way for the properties that stand here now.”

Mrs Jones research revealed that Oakfields was built by Samuel Linder (1817-1902) a wealthy businessman who moved to Buckhurst Hill when the Eastern Counties steam railway was opened between London and Loughton in 1856.

Mrs Jones said: “At the time Linder moved to Buckhurst Hill he was doing very well supplying masts, ropes and cranes to the big shipping companies of the day.

“He is one of several wealthy men who moved their families to the area and built big houses.

“This period between 1856 and the 1920s, really marks the birth of Buckhurst Hill as a suburb.

“None of these men were wealthy by birth, they were all self-made hard-working people - pillars of the British Empire, if you like.

“They gravitated here because of the new quick rail link to London and because they were attracted by the idea of bringing their families somewhere where they could enjoy the fresh air away from the bustle of city life.

“For someone like Linder who had grown up in Stepney it must have seemed idyllic.

“I call the period ‘The Golden Age of Buckhurst Hill’ because it really does mark the birth of the area as we know it today.”

Linder had a large family and his wife Susannah was helped by an army of servants at their grand new house.

Other notable businessmen were also busy building houses in the area and traces of their influence can still be seen today.

Mrs Jones said: “They tended to be great philanthropists and did a great deal for the local churches in particular.

“If you go to St John’s church, for example, you will see beautiful stained glass windows donated by the wealthy glass manufacturer, Nathanael Powell (1813-1906).

“He sold his glass to William Morris and there are several examples in the Museum of London.”

Many of the homes of these early commuters were demolished during the 20th century.

Mrs Jones explained: “The fact is that many of these houses were very old fashioned and difficult to maintain.

“They were built for an era when people had servants and, after the First World War, people just couldn’t afford to run them.

“One or two do still remain though, for example Holly House Hospital in Buckhurst Hill, which was originally built as the home of Thomas Shorter (1841-1924) a wealthy china merchant.

“You can still feel a connection to these families when you visit these places.

“They came to Buckhurst Hill for the same reason that people choose to live in the area now and faced many of the problems with late-running trains and the like that modern commuters face today."

Mrs Jones’ book will be published by the Loughton and District Historical Society later this year. To find out more about the society visit loughtonhistoricalsociety.org