WITH the future of Thorpe Coombe Hospital hanging in the balance, reporter DANIEL BINNS decided to delve into its past to find out more about the Walthamstow landmark.

Like many historic hospitals, Thorpe Coombe began life as something else entirely – a stately home.

The mansion, called North Bank, was built in the mid 18th century and at the time its tranquil location was far from the hustle and bustle of London.

The original three storey building, in Forest Road, included a series of underground kitchens, an indoor well, a grand hall and a four acre garden.

However throughout history it has been constantly tweaked and added to, most dramatically with two extra wings and a rear extension along with more modern buildings in its grounds.

Perhaps its most notable resident was businessman, and governor of insurance firm The Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation, Octavius Wigram, who lived there between 1830 and 1841.

His aristocratic father owned several stately homes in the neighbourhood, including the long gone Wood End House in Wyatts Lane and Brookscroft in Forest Road. It is not just their wealth that explains the Wigrams's extensive property portfolio – Octavius had a staggering 22 brothers and sisters.

According to a pamphlet published by the Walthamstow Antiquarian Society in 1928, the next lot of occupants over the following decades included the Reverend John Horle, Joseph Day and a Mr Edward Thorpe, who is thought to be behind the mansion's name change.

However with the relentless drive of industrialisation and urbanisation its days as a stately home were numbered. After a few more building adjustments the site was reborn as a maternity hospital in 1934.

The pioneering facility, which had 70 beds, helped deliver thousands of babies throughout the mid-twentieth century, including the odd celebrity such as Paul Di'Anno, the former lead singer of rock band Iron Maiden, in the 1950s.

However a lack of specialists led to a decline and it closed in 1973. In the years since the site has continued to be used for healthcare and in 1987 its historic value was recognised when the original parts of the mansion were granted Grade II listed status.

Despite this concerns for its future have been raised after a council strategy document proposed that the grounds were an ideal location for new housing. Health officials are also considering controversial proposals to cut psychotherapy services based at an adjacent building on the site.

The future for Thorpe Coombe looks uncertain. But its place in Walthamstow's history, and symbol of its development from rural aristocratic outcrop to busy urban sprawl, will always remain.