The house and gardens at Wanstead became one of the great showplaces of their day, particularly because they were so close to London. In 1724 Daniel Defoe remarked that 'it has become the general diversion of the citizens to go out and see them'. Even today, many thousands of local people enjoy walks around the lakes in the open air.
This panorama, laid out as if the artist was in a hot air balloon looking down on the landscape, shows the grounds with the house in the middle distance at the end of a long avenue of trees (known as The Glade). The dome of St Paul's is just visible. The land in the foreground now lies in Newham. The view is from the Ilford side of the river Roding, which can be seen meandering in the middle ground.
The painting and the artist
The picture is one of a set of three of Wanstead Park in oils on canvas and was painted by Charles Catton the Elder (1728-98), who came from Norwich. He was apprenticed as a coach-painter and eventually became coach painter to King George III.
History of the house and park.
From the 16th Century the manor of Wanstead passed through the hands of a series of royal and titled owners. It is likely that the medieval manor house was enlarged and perhaps rebuilt, possibly by Sir Richard Rich, lord of the manor from 1549. It was purchased by Josiah Child, a wealthy East India merchant in 1673-4 for £11,500. By that time it was one of the largest houses in Essex having 40 hearths. Between 1715 and 1722 it was completely rebuilt as a Palladian mansion by Sir Richard Child to a design by Colen Campbell. Extensive landscaping was undertaken by Josiah and later by Sir Richard consisting of formal gardens, elaborate ponds, plantations and avenues of trees.
Catherine Tylney Long inherited the estate as a child in 1784. She married the 4th Earl of Mornington, William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley in 1812. He squandered her fortune and when the estate was sold in 1822 to pay off his debts, this picture fetched £52 10 shillings (£52.50p). The house was demolished and sold for building material and contents were sold off. The Corporation of London purchased this part of the estate as part of Epping Forest.
Newham Heritage & Archives Collection. The painting was acquired with the help of grants from the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the National Art Collections Fund in 1984. Photographed by Mike Booth, London E4