Hainault is an area in the London Borough of Redbridge in north east London. It is a suburban development located north east of Charing Cross. The area is split between the Chigwell and Ilford post towns in the IG postcode area.
The area is part of the Metropolitan Green Belt and the suburb of Hainault is bordered on the east by Hainault Forest Country Park, by open land to the north and the boundary with the Epping Forest district of Essex.
The name Hainault was recorded as 'Hyneholt' in 1239, and means 'monastic woodland'. This area was first recorded as a separate district in 1221. There is no connection with King Edward III's wife, Philippa of Hainault, though the current spelling may have been influenced by way of folk etymology.
The area was mainly forested, it was owned by Barking Abbey and formed part of the Royal Forest of Essex. The large density of forest meant the area was predominately used for the provision of timber for building ships and houses. A decline in demand for timber, and a greater demand for food, led in 1851 to an Act of Parliament authorising the deforestation of much of Hainault Forest. Within six weeks 3000 acres of woodland was cleared.
Hainault lay just inside the Ilford Urban District of Essex, almost straddling the border of Chigwell Urban District. In 1965 Ilford Urban District along with an area of from Chigwell Urban District near Hainault were transferred to form the London Borough of Redbridge in Greater London, along with other areas, namely Wanstead and Woodford, and that part of Dagenham Urban District extending to Hainault Forest. The population of the area transferred from Chigwell was 7,071 in 1961.
Urban development began after August 1856, when the Great Eastern Railway built a line between Stratford and Loughton. In 1903, from the line at Woodford Junction, a loop line to Ilford was opened. Hainault was one of the stations on that line.
Although it had been hoped that housing development would ensue from the building of the railway, it was a long time coming. Hainault station was closed from 1908, five years after opening; development began in the late 1920s, and the station was reopened in 1930. As a result of the London Passenger Transport Board New Works Programme 1935–40 (not completed until 1948 because of World War II) the line was taken over from the LNER and converted for use by London Underground trains. By this time the suburb of Hainault was completed.