Walthamstow is a district of north east London, England, located in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It is situated north-east of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.
Walthamstow is bordered to the north by Chingford, south by Leyton and Leytonstone, east by the southern reaches of Epping Forest at Woodford and west by Tottenham and the River Lea valley. Leyton High Road, Hoe Street, Chingford Road, Chingford Mount (passing south-north through Walthamstow and its neighbouring towns) form part of an ancient route from London to Waltham Abbey.
Walthamstow is recorded c. 1075 as Wilcumestowe ("The Place of Welcome") and in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Wilcumestou. King John visited Shern Hall (Shernhall Street), in 1213; the building survived until 1896. At one point Walthamstow was just a culmination of five small villages, and affairs were discussed at Vestry House, acting as the first town hall. In 1870 it had grown to the size of a small suburb and a town hall was built in Orford Road from which affairs of the village were run ( which now takes place in Forest Road - since 1941). Until the 19th century it was largely rural, with a small village centre (now Walthamstow Village — see below) and a number of large estates. The main route through the district was the aforementioned Hoe Street. Additionally, there were various smaller lanes, crossing the town. The road now known as Forest Road was originally called Clay Street. Further south, the High Street was named Marsh Street, and led from the original settlement out to the marshes. Shernhall Street is an ancient route, as is Wood Street, to the east.
With the advent of the railways and the ensuing suburbanisation in the late 19th century, Walthamstow experienced a large growth in population and speculative building. From 1894 Walthamstow was an urban district and from 1926 a municipal borough in Essex. In 1931 the population of the borough, covering an area of , peaked at 132,972. In 1965 the borough was abolished and its former area merged with that of the Municipal Borough of Chingford and the Municipal Borough of Leyton to form the London Borough of Waltham Forest in Greater London. Other places in east London formerly of the county of Essex, such as Ilford and Romford were placed into London Boroughs along with Walthamstow. None of the postal district names or codes was changed at this time (e.g. Ilford remained Ilford, Essex, and Walthamstow remained London E17.
One of its most famous residents was the writer, poet, designer and socialist William Morris, who was born there on 24 March 1834, and lived there for several years. His former house in Walthamstow is a museum dedicated to his life and works, while the grounds of the house are a public park (Lloyd Park in Forest Road).
Local engineer, Frederick Bremer, built the first motor car in London between 1892 and 1894. In 1912 The Motor magazine, after much debate, recognised the Bremer car as the first British built petrol-driven car (now on display in the Vestry House Museum).
The Lighthouse Methodist Church which dates from 1893 which is situated on Markhouse Road, on the corner of Downsfield Road. There is a lantern at the top of the tower, which also contains a spiral staircase. The church was erected because of the generosity of Captain David King of the shipbuilding firm of Bullard King & Co which also ran the Natal Direct Shipping Line, which ran ships direct from London to Durban without stopping at the Cape.
The LGOC X-type and B-type were built at Blackhorse Lane from October 1908 onwards. The B-type is considered one of the first mass-production buses. The manufacturing operation later became AEC, famous as the manufacturer of many of London's buses.
On 13 June 1909, A. V. Roe's aircraft took to the air from Walthamstow Marshes. It was the first all-British aircraft and was given the ominous nickname of the "Yellow Terror" but officially carried the name Avro1. Roe later founded the Avro aircraft company, which later built the acclaimed Avro Lancaster.
Walthamstow saw lively involvement in the General Strike of 1926, with Winston Churchill's coach reportedly being overturned on Walthamstow High Street. Churchill was also given a hostile reception when he visited Walthamstow Stadium during the general election campaign of 1945.