The wonderfully-named Sky Peals Estate is located at the edge of Epping Forest to the south of Hale End, an area that was once part of the extensive parish of Walthamstow. It was developed from 1922, constructed upon the grounds of a grand mid-19th century house after which it was named.

Originally known as Peal House, it was built as a country residence for the landowning Clarke family; Augustus Clarke lived there with his wife Eunice and niece Laura until his death in 1864.

The grounds were fairly extensive, with a pleasure garden, fruit and kitchen gardens, almost 20 acres of meadowland, and a wooded area. The rural location also made it a very attractive property for prospective buyers when it was offered for sale in the 1880s, but the grounds were also highlighted as being perfect to develop with housing.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

The house and grounds were acquired by the Dellow family, wealthy east London merchants, who enjoyed the house as their family residence for just over decade. They were well-known in the community, and held various events in the grounds of Sky Peals, including fetes for the local children, with donkey rides, cricket, coconut shys, other popular amusements, and goody bags filled with food. At this time the grounds also included flower gardens, tennis courts, and a vinery, as well as piggeries and a cow house.

By the late 1898 the house and grounds were again offered for sale, and was purchased in 1900 by what would be the house’s final owners, Harris and Polly Ruda, who moved there with their extended family, at a time when the surrounding land was beginning to be developed with new streets and houses.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Pearl and Harris Ruda, c.1890

The Rudas were Orthodox Jews who came from humble beginnings. Hailing from eastern Poland, Harris and Polly married young, and the first of their many children was born when Harris was aged just 17, c.1873. The family moved to England c.1886, firstly renting premises at Coke Street in the German and Polish area of Mile End Old Town, before moving to the predominantly Jewish Wentworth Street, Whitechapel, the site of Petticoat Lane Market.

Here Harris Ruda established and built up a highly successful family-run fish business with the assistance of his nine sons. Such was their success, that when Harris decided to retire to the countryside leaving his sons in charge, he and Polly were able to purchase a large residence of their choosing, which in the words of their great-granddaughter Ruth was “unusual…for an East End Jewish immigrant family.”

Sky Peals fitted the bill perfectly. It was advertised as a freehold family residence, close to Highams Park Station, and had stabling, coach houses, and a conservatory. Its location near to the station was also an attractive factor for the Rudas, who liked to entertain and host their extensive circle of friends as well as family members.

Sky Peals was a stark contrast to the crowded East End, and provided a rural idyll for their family-centric life, where Harris and Polly were surrounded by their children and grandchildren. The Rudas built a private synagogue in the grounds, and there were also fishponds and a large apple orchard where the local children would scrump fruit. The estate hosted countless parties and the house became a retreat of sorts for Jewish families from Wentworth Street and Brick Lane, who visited at the weekends.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Sky Peals Road sign

The Ruda tenure lasted some 20 years; the death of Harris Ruda in 1920 signalled the end of an era. The remaining grounds were sold and developed with council housing, and the grand house reportedly fell into ruin. Following a devastating fire in 1932, it was finally demolished in 1935.

Karen Averby is a seaside-loving historian and research consultant specialising in researching histories and stories of buildings, people and places. She researches house histories for private clients and collaborates in community heritage projects ( She is also director of Archangel Heritage Ltd, an historical research consultancy providing research services for the commercial heritage sector ( Also found on Twitter @karenaverby and @archaheritage