Remnants of a pre-urbanised Walthamstow can be found dotted around and about the area, although some are more hidden than others.

Of the area’s 18th and 19th century grand houses, a few can be seen along main roads, including Shernhall Street, Forest Road and Hoe Street, while others are less easy to spot, either because they are set back from the road, or enclosed by later development.

If you have ever attended Comely Bank Clinic or Addision Road Medical Practice, near Shernhall Street, you will have been in in or passed by a large yellow brick house, with a fancy entrance. Now set within the clinic car park, it is easy to miss this substantial mid-19th century house, one of several large houses built at the edge of the as yet undeveloped Church Common between 1853 and 1856.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The house is now occupied by a dental surgeryThe house is now occupied by a dental surgery (Image: Karen Averby)

Comely Bank (sometimes known as Comely Banks) was the most substantial of the group, and was built to the east of Beulah Path. It was a fairly typical Victorian villa, with yellow stock and Suffolk White bricks, a shallow pitched slate roof, and an imposing porticoed entrance, but its grounds were extensive, with landscaped gardens stretching down to Shernhall Street.

The first resident was Finlay Fraser, who is thought to have died in 1856, and shortly afterwards Sarah and John Noyes moved in. They were in their thirties when they took up residence, and were relative newlyweds, having married in Sarah’s home parish of Hackney in autumn 1852 at the church of St John. Originally from Stoke Newington, John was a cotton broker who had worked for the East India Company, and whose father was also in the cotton trade.

Sarah and John’s son John Percey was born in 1857, possibly at Comely Bank, and they are not thought to have had any further children. Over time, other family members joined the Noyes’ at the house, including Sarah’s elder widowed mother Mary, a relatively wealthy woman, and two of John’s nieces and a nephew. The family employed at least two live in servants, and enjoyed a stable and comfortable life at Comely Bank and its expansive grounds for around 20 years.

By 1877 Comely Bank had become home to members of the locally noted Whittingham family, William and Margaret Whittingham. William’s father had been headmaster of Marsh Street (now High Street) School, was secretary of the British Land Company, and lived in nearby Lyndhurst on Orford Road, another of the large houses built in the area in the early 1850s. William and his brother Walter had both been clerks at the British Land Society, but following its reorganisation they left with considerable sums of money. William successfully invested in an import business dealing in provisions, and grew considerably wealthy over the years.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: An Ordnance Survey map revised 1893-4, published 1897, showing the location of Comely BankAn Ordnance Survey map revised 1893-4, published 1897, showing the location of Comely Bank (Image: Karen Averby)

Whilst resident at Comely Bank, the Whittinghams sold off much of the grounds which was subsequently developed with new terraced housing, and the house itself was enlarged to almost twice its original size, undoubtedly to accommodate their growing family. William and Margaret had five children at the house in fairly quick succession after moving in, and as the Noyes before them, were also resident for around 20 years. The family, especially William, were well-known in the parish; alongside associations with local charitable work, William was appointed a member of the local Vestry, and was on the first Walthamstow School Board, later becoming chairman.

William died in 1896 aged 54 whilst holidaying in Cromer, Norfolk, and Margaret survived him by ten years. They were buried in Queens Road Cemetery with one of their sons, Ritchie, who had died in 1891 aged just 13.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The eye-catching stairs inside the buldingThe eye-catching stairs inside the bulding (Image: Karen Averby)

Comely Bank remained a private residence for some 30 years or so before being acquired in 1930 as a clinic as part of the Connaught Hospital, which occupied several buildings in the vicinity. It is now houses a dental surgery, part of the Comely Bank Clinic complex.

Although much altered inside, the exterior has been periodically restored, and there are a few features which can be seen, including the fine portico, and look out for the stairs which can be glimpsed if the door is open.

  • 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.