Polish migration to Waltham Forest is anything but new and dates back to a time when the borough we know of today consisted of farms and manor houses.

With Poles being the second largest migrant population in Waltham Forest and the fastest-growing eastern European population, digital arts and heritage group Share UK set out to find out why so many Poles ended up in the borough.

After two years of research and interviews with 18 current residents of Polish descent, Share UK found no two answers were the same, and it largely remained random.

From the mid-19th century until post-WWII, many Polish Jews fleeing oppression, persecution and poverty arrived on British shores, while the fall of communism and Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004 allowed for free movement of its people.

However, there were local factors that contributed heavily, particularly the formation of the Great Eastern Railway and Thomas Warner’s pioneering house building project in the 1880s that made Waltham Forest a destination of choice.

Share UK founder and project manager of 'From Poland to Waltham Forest' Esther Freeman found Polish people have either permanently or temporarily made the borough their home for over 150 years.

Ms Freeman, said: "From around 1880 Polish migrants have played an intrinsic part in shaping this borough.

"A lot of them were entrepreneurs, carpenters, tailors and hairdressers.

"The railway was really important in bringing migrants out of the east end.

"If it wasn’t for the railway and the construction of working class housing, they wouldn’t have come out here.

"They made their money in the east end and then moved to Waltham Forest with their families.

"The borough was seen as a retreat, particularly Walthamstow; it was an aspirational place for working class migrants to live."

Tottenham Independent:

Second to left (sitting) political activist Boleslaw Antoni Jedrzejowski moved to Leytonstone in 1900

It was home to several high-profile Polish Jews including exiled Boleslaw Jedrzejowski, who was secretary of the Polish Socialist Party, and lived in Coleworth Road, Leytonstone.

But also a place of residence for workers at the nearby Lebus Factory on the fringe of Walthamstow in Ferry Lane, Tottenham.

Polish Jewish migrant Louis Lebus, established his furniture-making business in Spitalfields in the 1840s but after his death, his son Harris, moved the business to Ferry Lane in 1904.

The Lebus furniture was strongly linked to William Morris’s art and crafts movement and employed thousands of Polish migrants.

Following the outbreak of WWII, the factory stopped producing furniture and began manufacturing the Airspeed Horsa glider and the all-wood Mosquito aircraft, nicknamed the ‘Wooden Wonder, which was considered to be one of the fastest operational aircraft in 1941 and was almost impossible to intercept.

It was here that Walthamstow resident Henry Buritsky worked and where “some of Britain’s finest war-time victories were born”.

He lived with his E17 born-and-bred wife, Rose, and two daughters in Beacontree Avenue.

His eldest daughter, June, continued to live in Walthamstow up until her death in 2010 and made a generous contribution before her death to local society ‘Music in the Village’.

Throughout Ms Freeman’s research, she found similar stories rung true for many of the 8,200 Polish descendants living in Waltham Forest today.

Adding: “We found several people have decided to settle here today because of their ancestors’ ties to the borough, whether it was a grandfather as a pilot in the Polish Air Force or relatives who served under British High Command and gained citizenship under the 1947 Resettlement Act”.

As a great-granddaughter of Polish heritage and a Walthamstow resident, Ms Freeman also found it important to debunk stereotypes.

“We found a lot of Polish people came over to study English or work.

"Many of the people interviewed were artists, volunteers and lawyers – not a single one was on benefits.

"What our project revealed, and wider national studies have also proved, is that migrants generally put in more than they take out.

"They are on average better educated than British nationals, and make huge contributions to local communities.

"Many things we think of as quintessentially British – Tesco, Marks and Spencer and the NHS have been born out of, or continue to exist because of migration."

The project was exhibited at Vestry House Museum during the E17 Arts Trail and is available to view online at www.frompoland.org.uk

Tottenham Independent:

Newlyweds: Henry Buritsky with his wife Rose on their wedding day in 1925