Wallenger Avenue, RM2

Place Name

A corruption of the family name. John Arnold Wallinger was a wealthy Portland stone merchant who built Hare Hall on the grounds of a farmhouse called Goodwins, in 1769. The farm had been bought in the 1750s by his uncle, also called John Wallinger, who had plans to replace the original property with a stone – Portland naturally – fronted mansion. Wallinger never quite made it into the circles of high society, he was according to local historian Ged Martin seen as a tradesman who had gate-crashed his way into the elite. For his part he was considered a little gauche, having built his property to face north overlooking the main highway, as opposed to south (like most stately homes) to catch the sun. In 1773 Wallinger also briefly entered the world of local politics. At the time, Gidea Park came under the Maldon parliamentary constituency, which elected two MPs. Martin recounts the story of the election: “The town was riotously corrupt, its residents selling their votes to the richest candidate. There was consternation at a by-election in 1773 when only a government candidate came forward. At the last moment, a group of Maldonites persuaded J A Wallinger of Hare Hall, Romford (now Royal Liberty School) that he could easily win, and at little cost. In fact, Wallinger lost heavily. Disgusted, he ignored a £500 bill from his campaign manager, commenting, ‘Maldon salt is very fine ─ and sells at a good price.’ Neither candidate paid for that election ─ the government quietly paid the winner’s expenses from its secret service fund.” On Wallinger’s death the house passed to another member of the family named John Wallinger Arnold Wallinger. Selling it had become a problem a few years earlier, as the deeds to the property had been destroyed by a fire in Fulham, so potential buyers were deterred by the uncertain title. It wasn’t until 1811, when Wallinger’s widow secured a special Act of Parliament to validate the family claim that it could be sold the following year. Martin explains: “One technique used by developers building near a stately mansion was to borrow the names of former owners, the more aristocratic the better. Ex-owners of Hare Hall (now Royal Liberty School) gave swish-sounding names to Gidea Park streets – Wallinger [Avenue], Pemberton [Pemberton], Castellan [Avenue], Severn [Avenue]. When building began in Upminster in 1909, developers used names like Deyncourt, Engayne and Branfill to add cachet to their new homes. But for 99 years from 1543, Upminster Hall had belonged to a family called Latham. That didn’t sound aristocratic, and so ‘Latham’ was scratched off the map and replaced with the much posher ‘Waldegrave’. The famous Victorian Society hostess, Lady Waldegrave, had lived at Navestock, but Navestock is not Upminster. The Lathams eventually got posthumous revenge, in the modern gated development, Latham Place, where houses sell for over a million pounds.”

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