Shernhall Street is one of Walthamstow’s main roads, snaking south from Forest Road to its junction with Grove Road, near to the Walthamstow-Leyton border. It is now lined with later 19th and 20th century housing, the occasional shop, eaterie, and church, and it is hard to envisage the several large and grand houses that once stood along its route.

One of these was Shern Hall, known as Toni Hall until the late 18th and early 19th century. It had been the manor house of the manor of Walthamstow Toni after it was acquired by Charles Maynard in 1636. Toni Hall was originally a two-storey house an impressive ten bays wide, although by the time it was known as Shern Hall it had been much altered and reduced so that it was quite irregular in shape and size. The house stood in impressive grounds of more than 18 acres that contained landscaped gardens, a large T-shaped pond, orchards, meadowland, farm buildings and stabling.

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Lady Charlotte Maynard, painted in 1760 by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The Hunterian, GLAHA 43791

The Maynards occupied the house until 1827, when the entire contents of the house were sold off by auction. As well as all furniture, fixtures and fittings, an extensive, impressive wine collection including port, sherry, Malmsey and Madeira was also up for grabs. Also on offer were 200 loads of manure, orange and lemon trees, two Alderney cows, and a ‘clever pony,’ complete with chaise and harness.

The Maynards leased the house to a series of well-to-do households, and in the 1840s it was the home of the Cook family, a large household presided over by Harriet and William Cook, a successful merchant. The couple were in their fifties and they and their seven grown up children enjoyed the house and its grounds for a few seasons.

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Shern Hall. Picture: Vestry House Museum

The first Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Nicholas Wiseman, leased Shern Hall as his country residence for several years after the Cooks, from 1849 until 1858. His appointment as Archbishop heralded the official re-establishment of the Catholic Church in England and Wales in 1850 and he was a key figure in the revival of Catholicism through his preaching and writings. An illustrious figure, he left Shern Hall for nearby Etloe House in Leyton, where he resided until 1864.

When Wiseman left, the house was once again occupied by members of the Maynard family, although this was an ill-fated and extremely brief return. Colonel Charles Henry Maynard and his wife Frances may have been at Shern Hall because of Julia’s delicate health, the perfect place for a countryside recuperative spell. But sadly, on November 4, her 37th birthday, Frances died, apparently in the arms of George Gulliver, a long-standing good friend of the couple. Charles sold Shern Hall in the following year and remarried a year later. The house fetched the princely sum of £1600, possibly worth the equivalent of just over £214,000 today.

The wealthy and sizeable Foulger family lived a quiet life at the house in the 1860s and 1870s, and in the 1880s it was home to Betsy Grimwood, cousin of physician and suffragist Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and pioneer of women's suffrage Millicent Garrett Fawcett. Betsy’s husband was merchant George Grimwood, the Grimwood of brewing firm Garrett, Whitaker, Grimwood and Co. which became the catchier Camden Brewery Co. Ltd in 1889.

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Betsy Grimwood. Picture: Long Shop Museum

The Grimwoods lived at Shern Hall with their nine children; the youngest were born there. They employed a governess to teach the children, and a host of servants, including parlourmaids, ladies’ maids and several kitchen staff. Their tenure was abruptly ended in January 1879 whilst the family were away, when a huge fire tore through the house. The interior was severely damaged, and the house’s future hung in the balance for some time. Ten years later the Shern Hall Estate along with its 18½ acres were marketed for sale by auction as valuable building land ripe for development with new streets and houses. The ruinous house was mentioned for its potential reuse as building materials.

Rather remarkably, the house was given a reprieve and was renovated as a family home for a final time. Elizabeth Rose, her husband George, and their five young children took up residence, as well as their married daughter Emma, her husband and daughter. The Roses occasionally opened their grounds for social and charity events, including a special tea and ladies cricket match for St Mary’s Sunday School and Adult Classes, and a three-day fair and fancy bazaar to raise money for the Walthamstow Young People’s Benevolent Society.

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Ordnance Survey map revised survey 1893 to 1894, shortly before the estate was sold

But Shern Hall’s days were numbered, and in 1896 it finally succumbed to development as the house was demolished, the pond filled in, and the grounds were divided into plots to be sold by auction. The sales spiel made much of the fact that the site was seven miles from the Bank of England and only three minutes' walk from Wood Street Station, enticing developers to build houses for the commuting classes who would be attracted by easy routes into the City. New streets and houses were laid out on the site, although the outline of the estate’s final form can still be traced by the street patterns.

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Ordnance Survey map 1919

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