With Grade II listed Manor House in Wanstead recently converted to a bar and restaurant, reporter Douglas Patient delves into the building’s political past.

The early 18th century mansion building, located in the high street, was originally used as a dwelling with the earliest recorded transaction in 1876 detailing that Thomas Quested Finnis Esquire and Alderman sold to property to Agatha Elizabeth Bland of Wanstead.

The building changed hands a number of times but was purchased by the West Essex Conservative Association in December 1925 and used as headquarters of the group during a time of constant Conservative power in Wanstead.

Winston Churchill was integral to that power as MP for Epping and later Woodford, between 1924 and 1964, which both included Wanstead in the constituencies. 

Churchill was based at the club from 1930 to 1940 and he was quoted as saying “what a fine club it is".

Geoff Horsnell, chairman of the Wanstead Society, said: “It was a Conservative club for a very long time and Winston Churchill is integral to the history there.

“It is rumoured he kept his cigars behind the bar although this hasn’t been proved, but it would have been a really busy bustling place and part of the charm of Wanstead.

“All the members could go in there for a drink, a bar on the ground floor, a meeting room on the first floor and old servants’ quarters on the top floor.”

Churchill's link to the club is remembered by a 1968 bronze bust of his head outside the site, designed and sculpted by Italian artist Luigi Fironi, and placed on a cornerstone of the old Waterloo Bridge.

Churchill had died three years earlier and Lady Churchill was due to unveil it, but in fact it was unveiled on August 12 1968 by Cllr Bob Mitchell, then Chairman of West Essex Conservative Association.

Cllr Mitchell and his wife were due to visit Mr Fironi in Italy the next year but found him in the latter stages of terminal cancer and he died a few days later.

The site remained the Conservative headquarters until consitutency boundary changes in 1997 meant Wanstead was paired with Leyton and turned Labour.

Allied Irish Bank then bought the site in 1998 before moving out in December 2012, and it is now being used as a restaurant and bar.

Current owner, Mark Foster, said: “I feel incredibly fortunate to own this building, it has a really significant history and you can feel it here.

“We are trying to return the layout to what it was when Churchill was here, it is a shame the bank threw out the snooker table.”