One of a small cluster of roads named after former Prime Ministers. William Ewart Gladstone (December 29, 1809 – May 19, 1898) was a towering figure in Victorian politics, serving as Prime Minister for 12 years spread over four terms that began in 1868 and ended in 1894. His reforms saw the introduction of the secret ballot; the beginnings of the end of cronyism in the Civil Service replacing the old corrupt patronage system with competitive entrance exams; he abolished religious tests for university applicants; modernised the British Army, scrapping the practice of selling officers’ commissions to aristocrats; he attempted to give Home Rule to Ireland; and was a champion of free trade. However, in more recent years some of his early actions have been questioned because his father had slaves on plantations in the Caribbean and he himself had spoken out against abolition. He had a colourful private life, walking the streets in search of fallen women, he also struggled with an addiction to pornography, and recorded episodes of self-flagellation in his diary. The 19thCentury was a time of rapid population growth in Buckhurst Hill following the opening of the railway station in 1856. By 1871 nearly 600 new houses had been built near the station. In 1867 Buckhurst Hill became a separate ecclesiastical parish, having previously been part of the parish of Chigwell.
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