If you know the area of Woodford just south of the George and the cinema, you will know there is a road called Glebelands Avenue. Glebelands was the name of a large house which in the 1840s was the home of a man called Lewis Doxat who was a journalist and manager of The Observer. A large meadow was attached to Glebelands covering 15 acres crossing the border into Wanstead.

In 1853 Robert Barclay of Knotts Green, Leyton, purchased the house for his daughter Ann who had married Henry Fowler. The Barclays could trace their ancestry back to the foundation of the Quaker movement and the bank which bears their name was guided through the mid-19th century by Ann’s brother Joseph Gurney Barclay (1816-1898). She was a cousin of Henry Ford Barclay of Monkhams at Woodford and was related by marriage to the families of Elizabeth Fry, to the Chapmans who lived nearby at The Firs and the Buxtons.

Henry Fowler (1823-1880), son of John Fowler of Melksham in Wiltshire, was shown as a tea dealer of Elm Grove, Corsham in Wiltshire at the time of his marriage in 1848. He was a Quaker and married Ann Ford Barclay (1822-1913) at the Plaistow Meeting House.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Glebelands coach house was converted to a nursing home, which became flats c2012Glebelands coach house was converted to a nursing home, which became flats c2012 (Image: Georgina Green)

According to their daughter Anna, they first lived at Melksham but in 1852 decided to move nearer London and were delighted to find a house at Woodford (Glebelands) not far from Knotts Green. All around was such complete country that some relations questioned the safety of a house so close to Epping Forest. However, Ann’s father bought the house so that they could be his tenants. “When they first moved to Glebelands there was only a drawing room and a dining room on the ground floor but a library was added later along with more bedrooms and a nursery. The garden was always a joy - with cowhouses, apple and hot houses and two Black Hambro’ vines.”

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The garden at GlebelandsThe garden at Glebelands (Image: Georgina Green)

The couple stayed true to their Quaker values throughout their lives and in 1856 Henry Fowler was deprived of four lambs valued at £4 - because he refused to pay church rates. The Quaker Digest of Births shows that they had ten children and there are details available about some of them who survive to adulthood. They mostly continued in their Quaker values and two of the daughters moved away after marriage, to Darlington and Falmouth. The most notable are:

Joseph Gurney Fowler (1855-1916) was known as Gurney Fowler. In 1877 he joined the firm of Price, Waterhouse and Co, Chartered Accountants, and eventually became a senior partner in the firm. At the time of his death he was acting as advisory accountant to the government in relation to the settlement of compensation payable to railways under state control. Gurney Fowler was treasurer of the Royal Horticultural Society and chairman of its orchid committee. Apparently he possessed one of the finest collections of orchids in the country. On a local level he served on the Woodford Urban District Council from its foundation until 1910 and was chairman for much of that time. He died at Pembury, near Tunbridge Wells, in 1916.

Anna Priscilla Fowler (1862-1942) was the youngest child and after completing her education she trained as a nurse and went to India where she worked with the Friends Foreign Mission Association until she retired to Pembury in Kent in 1919. It was said of her that the impression she gave was of genuine Christianity and a remarkable combination of dignity and humility, with a considerable sense of humour.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The coach house at GlebelandsThe coach house at Glebelands (Image: Georgina Green)

Glebelands was sold and demolished at the end of the Great War and the estate was built over. However, the coach house was left and used as a private home until after the Second World War when it became derelict. In 1976 it was listed Grade II and converted into a care home. It became private flats about ten years ago.

  • Georgina Green has been involved with local history in Redbridge, Waltham Forest and the Epping Forest area for 40 years and is the author of several local history books. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2021.