The cosy East London 'village' where gentrification is rife but people are 'happy to pay for it'

Jane Gibbs and her husband David, a pastor at a local church, love living in Wanstead and have done so for 16 years
-Credit: (Image: Hannah Cottrell/MyLondon)

A cosy town in East London where locals 'feel like they are living in a village', is becoming rife with gentrification and soaring prices, but many people living there are 'happy to pay for it'. Lying on the Central line and wedged between two Tube stations, Wanstead is becoming highly sought after for its greenery, transport links and brilliant community spirit.

While that's pushing up prices and forcing competition onto the high street as big chains battle with small independent shops for business, the locals are happy to pay for Wanstead because of the 'riches' the community has to offer.

MyLondon spoke to long-time resident Jane West, 53, who has lived in the area for 45 years since she was eight years old, as part of our 365 project, where we visit a different corner of London everyday in 2023. Working in The Art Shop - an independent trinket store on the high street - for eight years, Jane recalled just one incident when she saw how caring the local community was.

READ MORE: The South London estate where the noise and dust from constant building work is 'harming residents' physical and mental health'

Wanstead is actually classed as a village rather than a town
Wanstead is actually classed as a village rather than a town -Credit:Hannah Cottrell

She said: "An elderly lady had fallen down outside the shop and everyone who walked past stopped and offered their help. The local doctor, who I know, had pulled up on the curb and was helping out. They're just all such a nice bunch of people. Everyone says hello when they're walking down the street, it's such a tight-knit place. If you buy here, you stay here."

Meanwhile, Jane Knight, also 53, who has worked at The Art Shop for three and a half years, echoed her sentiments, but noticed the prices in the area had gone up over the years. "Well, I'm a personal example of gentrification", she said. "I've lived in Islington, then I moved to Wanstead, and now I'm in South Woodford.

"Prices are being pushed up but the riches you're paying for here are the people and the community. We're seeing gentrification but we're happy to pay for it."

Jane West added: "People are feeling it tougher but prices have gone up everywhere. People are loyal to their shops however and we do the same in return and support other local businesses as well."

Jane West (left) and Jane Knight say they're 'happy to pay' for Wanstead's prices because of the 'riches' the community has to offer
Jane West (left) and Jane Knight say they're 'happy to pay' for Wanstead's prices because of the 'riches' the community has to offer -Credit:Hannah Cottrell

"If you want to live in East London, you want to live here", says Jane Gibbs, 59. Working in admin and providing volunteer services to the local church, Jane and her husband David, 57, the pastor of Grace Church Wanstead, have lived in the area for 16 years.

"I love Wanstead", Jane said. "There's two great green spaces and a village feel." But over the years, Jane has noticed there's even more coffee shops and less banks for residents. "There's an element of gentrification going on here. My friends living in flats (on the high street) couldn't afford to buy them. Their children couldn't afford it either.

"The new people coming here are bankers and lawyers. I mean, look at Gail's, it's packed the entire time." Jane feels money coming into the area isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's not good either.

Wanstead has two green spaces close to the high street
Wanstead has two green spaces close to the high street -Credit:Hannah Cottrell

While some people are struggling to buy in Wanstead, the renting game is 'mad'. Richard Conlan, 35, the branch manager of Martin and Co Estate Agents on the high street and Laraine Tarrant, 63, a consultant at the branch, gave a run-down of the property market in the area. Richard said: "Oh the rents are mad and have gone up exponentially in the area.

"The sales market is dead at the moment and people can't afford to buy so there is much more demand for renting. There's lots of young families renting in the area. There are plenty of good schools, five primary schools around the area are outstanding, and that's attracting parents.

"The best thing about the area is that is has two stations", Richard added. "You've got Wanstead at one end of the high street and Snaresbrook from the other so it's great for people to get in and out of Central London."

But Laraine added that Wanstead has such a 'village feel', some people wouldn't even realise it's part of London. "There's a village market once a month and they close the high street." Richard added: "There's a really good community feel. The community hub is really strong."

However, they noticed prices have been increasing over the years. "The gentrification process started about 10 years ago", Richard said. "And high street chains like The Ginger Pig butchers and Gail's the bakery, follow that."

Richard Conlan and Laraine Tarrant from Martin and Co have seen the renting market 'explode' in recent years
Richard Conlan and Laraine Tarrant from Martin and Co have seen the renting market 'explode' in recent years -Credit:Hannah Cottrell

And that is certainly clear to see, for outside Gail's bakery, a flurry of people gather, heading in and out of the popular high street chain. Mums with their prams, dog walkers, couples and young people can all be seen frequenting the bakery, which is putting pressure on smaller, local businesses.

Mr Singh, 42, has owned the newsagents across the street from Gail's for 12 years. "This is an affluent area", he said. "Banks have changed into coffee shops, there's more young families in the area. I'd say there's an element of gentrification here as there's a younger, affluent generation coming in."

The newsagents has been there for 100 years and Mr Singh said: "We're ticking over and doing alright at the moment with the cost of living. I'll stick it out for as long as I can."

Meanwhile, another popular chain that has come to the high street is The Ginger Pig, an upscale, farm-to-plate butchers which operates in stores all across the capital. According to their website, they opened in Wanstead following the closure of a previous butcher's shop, which had been the local for 90 years.

Speaking to Stan Stedak, 39, the assistant manager at The Ginger Pig in Wanstead, or the 'second in command' as his colleague Fabio joked, he said the area was quite expensive to live in. "There's lots of young families, lots of shops and lots of places to socialise, but it's quite expensive to live here.

"I actually live in Walthamstow myself. I wouldn't mind living here but the prices are high and the town is quiet after 5pm. People come here from all over during the day but in the evening, it's a ghost town."

While Stan Stedak (right) and Fabio Lucas work in Wanstead, the prices are too high for them to move there
While Stan Stedak (right) and Fabio Lucas work in Wanstead, the prices are too high for them to move there -Credit:Hannah Cottrell

Despite the quiet evenings, Alex Corey, 24, the assistant manager at The Cuckfield Pub on the high road, said they've been fairly busy for the start for the year. Speaking about the area, he said: "It's a lovely green space in a safe, community vibe. There's lots of charity events going on in the town and lots of young families come to live here.

"It's fairly affluent as well. We've been fairly busy here, even in January. People have a lot of disposable income, to the point where the affects of the cost of living aren't really seen at the pub. But there's a great community here and it's strong."

Alex has worked at The Cuckfield Pub for five years and has seen some changes to the high street during that time. "There's lots of competing businesses around here and I could see some places being priced out as posher businesses, luxury businesses, come to the high street."

But for those settling into Wanstead to start a family, the area is ideal. Vania Diaz, 24, who works in marketing, has spent 20 years in Wanstead and has grown up in the area, and now her 6-month-old daughter is too. "It's great for families", she said. "There's not a lot of trouble and the high street is nice."

Her partner, Sonnie Dolan, said there's 'a great vibe here'. He said he had just walked past a shop on the high road where a 'motherhood meeting' appeared to be taking place. "I've just seen a motherhood meeting in a local shop, where about group of about six or seven mums with their babies were all meeting up.

"This is somewhere that attracts that sort of thing, even if they don't live here." Vania added: "It's really good for kids, there's a chemist, a doctors, it's all very accessible."

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