The Woodford Green Amenity Group started in 1974 when criminal associates of the jailed Kray Twins hatched a plan at their County Hotel base in Oak Hill to demolish many of the area's distinctive, historical buildings to make way for new developments. Very strong feelings were expressed at a public meeting held at Sir James Hawkey Hall.
At the time of its formation the membership was approximately 30. The protests and public demonstration resulted in the plants being scrapped and the Group then became involved in various projects. One being the Manpower Services Commission where it sponsored a programme of work for the unemployed in pond clearing et cetera. It also held social events such as Literary Suppers, Musical Evenings and an Annual Art Exhibition.
By 1987 however diminishing numbers especially on the Committee resulted in a proposal to "put the group into Suspended Animation", the effects of such a course of action, especially on the remaining committee members, fortunately did not come about as the Constitution did not permit it.
The Amenity Group has been registered with the Charity Commissioners (formerly the Civic Trust) as being responsible for Woodford Green and enjoys charitable status since 1974.
After a relatively quiet period another local issue came to the fore with the development of the Harts Hospital site and yet another public meeting at St James Hawkey Hall. Geoff Stimpson, our past chairman and his wife Anne attended this meeting and were rather appalled at the animosity displayed by officers of the group towards local Councillors in particular. Then in 1990 a few changes resulted in the group becoming more involved in local work such as litter sweeps, work days et cetera. As a result of being seen to be working to improve the local environment, membership increased to around 1200 in 2005 but has dropped back in 2016 to around 750.
In 1993 Geoff Stimpson became chairman and his wife Anne took over the duties of membership secretary, press and publicity and fundraiser. Our stalls were regularly seen around the area selling greetings cards, tea towels, kitchen wares, and mugs etc. The present committee has 10 members meeting at least every two months with the annual general meeting in June.
The work we do has been recognised with a number of awards such as the Queen Mothers birthday award, Redbridge in Bloom as a result of the Hanging Baskets that we put up annually in the shopping areas. In March 2004 Geoff Stimpson received a Civic Award and recently a certificate from the Lord Mayor of London for environmental work. There has been up to five litter sweeps in some years - tackling areas of Woodford Green. Cubs and Scouts participate in litter sweeps to help them towards their environmental badges. The group has maintained the three water pumps, refurbished wooden seats, and strimmed scrub growth and so on. The Christmas lights on the Tree in The Broadway were a regular feature for a number of years and were transferred to a birch tree in the same area. We intend to push Redbridge to plant a proper Christmas Tree in the gardens at the Broadway.
To celebrate the Group's 30th anniversary in 2005, all the stops were pulled out to make sure a suitable Village Sign would be in place during 2004. Bearing in mind that as far back as 1983 such a project had been discussed but had not been pursued, some former members of the committee had obviously met with similar problems.
So back to the drawing board and after many avenues of enquiry, Anne Stimpson met Rev Keith Lovell, who is the author of many publications on village and pub signs in Essex, and spoke to her and mentioned "Bakers of Danbury" as possible manufacturers. By this time a draft design had been obtained from a former member Lionel Wilde who had moved to Norfolk, incorporating aspects of local historical interest. From this draft and after a number of ideas were put forward, a basic design was agreed which, after a bit of topping and tailing, resulted in the final design being produced.
Then came the other side of the project, the unveiling ceremony. On the morning of 2 April 2004, Iain Duncan Smith, our MP, unveiled the sign. About 200 people witnessed this including the Mayor of Redbridge Mrs Vanessa Cole and Roger Evans, our London Assembly Member, members of Area 2 Committee together with Cliff Woolnoth, their lead officer. A champagne reception was held at Harts House Nursing Home at which a cake depicting the sign was cut after the unveiling.
It should be mentioned that there was a great deal of support from Redbridge Area 2 Committee for this project and they macht funded half of the total cost of £5080. As the sign is on Council land, we do not have to pay liability insurance. We are assured the sign, carved in hard wood, and the English Oak post will last for at least 50 years. It was restored in 2018 at a cost of £1848
Our financial position is good at present but we have other projects in the pipeline, one of these being siting of a water fountain at the junction of Epping New Road and High Road Buckhurst Hill just past Bancroft's School.
Hanging Baskets - we will continue to fund these in The Broadway, Snakes Lane West and the High Road shopping areas. The total cost of installation and maintenance in 2018 was £3261. In previous years, Redbridge Council had funded half the cost but with the removal of Area Committees and their ability to finance local projects, we had no support since 2016. In January 2017, we have made an application to the Redbridge Community Infrastructure Levy Fund - we were told that these funds were not available to us.