N8 is Hornsey and Crouch End. We are spoilt for choice as to where to start as there are 3 Post Offices in N8. I have chosen to start our walk at the Post Office at 24 Hornsey High Street, in what passes for the centre of Hornsey.
We head right out of the Post Office and soon we are stop 1.
Stop 1: Number 32 Hornsey High Street
Today we see a hairdresser but above the shopfront, it has a local Haringey green plaque to David Grieg (1865-1952) – founder of the grocery chain and philanthropist who left trusts for the benefit of Hornsey and the community. This beneficence contributed to the Greig City Academy in Hornsey which we will pass shortly.
The plaque is here because this was his mother’s shop which opened in 1870 and it was here where he lived as a child and went on to learn the grocery business.
Interestingly the chain’s first shop was in Atlantic Road Brixton in 1888 and not round here. And Brixton became the location of the company’s headquarters.
By the 1960s there were more than 200 shops across the south of the country. It was a family run business like Sainsbury’s, which similarly started in London and expanded into a chain around the same time. But unlike David Grieg’s, Sainsbury’s was better at moving with the times.
The David Grieg company was sold to Fitch Lovell (which owned Key Markets) in 1972 after crippling death duties were incurred when several of the family died in quick succession. Key Markets was later bought by Gateway, which was then rebranded as Somerfield and was in turn bought by the Co-operative Group. But of course most of the David Grieg shops were small high street stores rather than supermarkets and so were closed over time, as the trend until fairly recently was for larger and larger supermarkets.
As we walk along this side of the road, we pass the Greig Academy.
Keep walking along this side of the road and soon you will come to a green area to your right. This is our next stop.
Stop 2: St Mary’s Church
This was the original parish church for Hornsey dating from medieval times. However all that remains is the tower which was largely rebuilt in the 19th century. And this is not because of the war as so often is the case.
According to the Hornsey Parish Church website, St Mary’s Church has been around since 1300. The Tower was completed about 1500 and then heightened in 1832 when the medieval church was rebuilt as it was too small and needed many repairs. The tower was retained and a new church built alongside it, finished in 1833.
This church in turn became unsuitable and was closed in 1888, although it was not demolished until 1927. The tower was spared and the site was made into a garden. For the new church a different site was chosen, on the corner of Hornsey High Street and Church Lane, and the building was completed by 1889. Unfortunately the subsoil was unstable and cracks began to appear, forcing the demolition of the building in 1969. The parish was combined with nearby St George’s in 1972 and I think the second church site is now a church school.
But the footprint of the old church containing the planted garden is the first church, rather than the later one.
Go out of the Churchyard on the far side from where you came in. This is Church Lane and just across the road is our next stop.
Stop 3: Mildura Court
The reason we are stopping is that a couple of things caught my eye.
One the right end of the block is a coat of arms. This is of the old borough of Hornsey’s coat of arms. It was granted in 1904 (the year after Hornsey became a municipal borough) and features two oak trees recalling the ancient forest that once covered the area and surviving remnants including Queen’s Wood, Highgate Wood and Coldfall Wood. The crossed swords are there because the manor of Hornsey was at one time held by the Diocese of London and these crossed swords are taken from the Diocese’s arms.
It also has the motto: “Fortior quo Paratior” which is usually translated as “The better prepared, the stronger.” I think I might take that as my motto.
But much more interesting is a little blue plaque to the left of the main entrance. This does not commemorate a person who lived here.
I wonder what kind of decorations they did to warrant this little plaque.
Now go down Church Lane away from the High Street, turning left into Ribblesdale Road. Turn right at the end (Tottenham Lane). Our next stop is ahead across the road.
Stop 4: Funky Brownz Bar (former Railway Hotel)
This has unprepossessing place was where the sports car manufacturer Lotus Cars started life. The first Lotus Cars factory was established in the early 1950s in stables behind what was then called the Railway Hotel.
The company was formed in 1952 by two men called Colin – Colin Chapman (1928 – 1982) and Colin Dare. The Railway Hotel pub was owned by Chapman’s father.
Adjacent to the pub was the first Lotus showroom though this location is now part of Jewson’s builders merchants.
There is a memorial plaque to Colin Chapman by the entrance to Jewson’s erected by Club Lotus in 1984.
Production moved to Cheshunt in 1959, and then in 1966 to an old RAF base called Hethel in Norfolk.
Fascinating fact: Apparently the four letters (ACBC) which are here on the plaque and used in the middle of the Lotus logo stand for the initials of company founder, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman.
Now retrace your steps along Tottenham Lane and our next stop is just on the right.
Stop 5: Hornsey Station
The railway got to Hornsey in 1850 when the Great Northern Railway opened its line between London and Peterborough.
From the road this looks like it might still have a reasonable station.
But closer inspection reveals this building houses little more than a staircase.
And when you go up onto the footbridge you can see how the station has been almost denuded of buildings. Not the most attractive of places to start your morning commute.
Continue walking along Tottenham Lane. Our next stop is at the end of the road across the way
Stop 6: New River Pumping Station
Here we meet the New River again. We saw this in N1 and N4 and here we are a little further “upstream”.
The red brick building is a Pumping Station dating from 1903.
Today this Pumping Station is used as a restaurant and bar, which describes itself as:
“Riverside @the Pumphouse is a opulent Indian Fine dining Restaurant, Mocktail Bar, and shisha garden with a dedicated Dome Lounge in the heart of North London. Set across 2 floors the awe inspiring venue is a perpetual oasis of Royal Mogul inspired luxury.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to have part of the premises, which makes for an unusual combination.
Walk along Hornsey High Street away from the railway. After a while you will see a little green on the right side of the road. And set back here is a rather nice Victorian pub.
Stop 7: Great Northern Railway Tavern
The odd thing about this pub is that it has a railway name but it is quite a long way from the railway, as you have just seen.
Architectural historian Pevsner calls this “festively Jacobean, with tall shaped gable and original fittings inside. Unfortunately it was closed both times I passed, so I cannot verify whether this is still the case.
But it did have this one nice window on the front (sadly just the one).
Keep walking along the High Street. You soon get a nice view of Alexandra Palace up on the hill.
Then on the left you will see Middle Lane and the entrance to Priory Park. Go in this gate.
Stop 8: Priory Park
This park was created by the local authority (then the Local Board) to stop the land being developed. The first part of the park was opened in 1894, the year Hornsey became an urban district.
Despite the name, there has never been (as far as is known) a Priory on this site. The Park is named after the sprawling estate that once covered this area and the 19th century mansion that stood within it.
Walking into the park and soon you will see in the middle a rather large fountain. Or rather a large ex-fountain, as it is now planted (rather badly).
The shield on the side gives it City of London origins away, showing the cross of St George and the sword of St Paul. In fact it came from the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral. It dates from 1880 and was moved here in 1909.
This fountain was presented to the borough of Hornsey by the City of London Corporation in celebration of the mayoralty of Ernest Arthur Ebblewhite (1867-1947). Ebbelwhite was a barrister and local politician who served as Mayor of Hornsey in 1908-09.
He was also at various times Master of the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks, Senior Warden of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers and Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, so there was quite a City connection.
Now go to the left of the “fountain” and you will see another much smaller monument ahead. This is the Metcalfe fountain, which was originally located in Crouch End Broadway.
It was donated by Charles Thomas Page Metcalf in 1879 to replace the village pump. It was moved to the Park after the Broadway Clock Tower was built in 1895. We shall see that shortly.
It was of course more a drinking fountain than a vulgar display of shooting water jets. But like so many of these Victorian water fountains, there is no water any more, sadly.
Go out of the park by the gate ahead. This takes you back into Middle Lane. Go ahead (sort of a right turn) and keep walking until you get to our next stop.
Stop 9: Crouch End Clock Tower
This clock tower is in commemoration of Henry Reader Williams (1822 – 1897). He served on the Hornsey Local Board for twenty one years, including ten as Chairman. He had strove to make Hornsey a model suburb and was the driving force behind the creation of Priory Park.
The clock tower has a relief of Reader Williams.
The terra cotta does not look too good after 120 years of standing in the open.
And there is a nice old road sign, showing the way to Finsbury Park … and London.
Now go straight ahead. This is Crouch End Broadway and our next stop is set back on the left hand side
Stop 10: Hornsey Town Hall
Set behind a little green is Hornsey Town Hall, completed in 1935. It was designed by New Zealand born architect Reginald Uren and apparently was influenced by Hilversum town hall in the Netherlands.
The building was used by Hornsey Borough Council as its headquarters until 1965. However when Hornsey Borough council became part of the London Borough of Haringey, most of the administrative functions were relocated to Wood Green and eventually the Council moved out completely.
There was a plan for Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts to take over the building but this fell through in 2014. Currently there is an interim project for a one year which keeps the building open for community use. But the future beyond this year seems uncertain.
Now actually the town hall is set in a grouping of quite fine 1930s building. To the left was an Electricity showrooms and office which according to architectural historian Pevsner was built for borough, but in fact adapted in 1938 from a former telephone exchange by the architect of the Town Hall.
Today we see a modern cafe bar but you can still see the word “Telephones” on the building.
And there is a rather unusual brick sculpture over the doorway. A man sort of bursting out of the bricks, seemingly dropping stars. I am not sure if this is symbolising electricity or telephones.
And on the right side is what is today Barclays Bank.
This has a number of reliefs along above the ground floor windows. One (a couple in towards the Town Hall) has a date – August 1937 – and some earnest looking men hard at work – “designing”?
But many of the others reliefs include a flame and this gives away the client for this building
This was the offices and showroom of the Hornsey Gas Company. It was one of many local gas companies that were nationalised in 1948. They went into regional groupings and in this part of London that new body was called the North Thames Gas Board.
By the way Pevsner says that the man responsible for both the reliefs on the Gas Company building and the brick relief on the other side is a sculptor called Arthur J Ayres.
Keep walking along Crouch End Broadway. Stay on the same side of the road as the Town Hall and follow the road as it bends round and becomes Crouch Hill after the junction. Our next stop is ahead on the right.
Stop 11: The Church Recording Studios
This vast non-conformist church building is now mostly a recording studios, although you have to look quite hard to find evidence of this. There is just a very small entry phone which mentions studios and reception. And the only reason I found this was because fellow guide Rhona (who showed me NW6) worked in the music business for many years and happened to mention this place.
This link sets out a bit of the history of this site.
And this was here the 1980s group Eurythmics recorded most of their tracks including “Sweet dreams are made of this”. Standing outside here it is hard to believe this really is a recording studio.
Continue walking along Crouch Hill and take the second road on the right, which is Haslemere Road. Our next stop in on the left just before the junction with Waverley Road.
Stop 12: Number 10 Haslemere Road
This fine house was home to none other than renown theatre architect Frank Matcham (1854 – 1920).
It boasts a blue plaque unveiled by actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales on 22 November 2007. English Heritage, who award the plaque, noted
“His theatres are particularly notable for their exuberant interiors – he was quite prepared to mix architectural styles, from Tudor strapwork to rococo panels, military insignia to classical statuary. They also set new standards in providing good sightlines and high safety standards, with the inclusion of features such as fireproof construction, adequate emergency lighting and ready means of exit. Matcham’s work proved extremely popular with the public, and its opulence and flair continues to enthrall audiences today.”
We have seen one and a half of his theatres so far on our travels – Shepherds Bush Empire, W12 and the Lyric Hammersmith, W6 – where the inside is his but the outside most definitely is not. And we have seen a few places where his theatres once stood but no longer do (in SW6, W4, NW10 and N7).
I thought therefore it might be an idea to see if there are more survivors in London that ones that did not make it. Based on the list on the Frank Matcham Society website:
I looked at his theatres in the whole of Greater London:
The survivors: the Richmond Theatre (1899), London Hippodrome, Leicester Square (1900), the Hackney Empire (1901); the Shepherd’s Bush Empire (1903); the London Coliseum (1904); the London Palladium (1910); the Victoria Palace (1911), plus the interior of the Lyric Hammersmith (1895 but now marooned inside a 1970s block)
A good list but sadly more did not make it: Granville, Walham Green (1898), New Cross Empire (1899), Marlborough, Holloway (1903), Willesden Hippodrome (1907), llford Hippodrome (1909), Finsbury Park Empire (1910), Lewisham Hippodrome (1911), Winter Garden, Drury Lane (1911), Chiswick Empire (1912), Wood Green Empire (1912) plus a few more.
As ever the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site comes up trumps with an interview with Mr Matcham dating from 1897.
This includes the following:
“In town I devote the early morning to office work, in Warwick-court, Gray’s-inn. Then I steal away to my residence at Crouch-end, where I can devote the uninterrupted evening to designing.”
And it goes on to say he is currently designing:
“a vast circus in Leicester-square … After a long process of negotiation, a huge space has been acquired, bounded on one side by Daly’s theatre – from which, however, it is separated by a thoroughfare – on another by Charing-cross-road, on a third by Cranbourne-street, and on a fourth by Little Newport-street. Hereon will be erected a hotel, a winter garden, and bachelor chambers de luxe (but at an extremely moderate rental), in addition to the circus, which is to out-do the most ambitious establishments on the continent. A water show will form a part of the entertainment, a brilliantly-illuminated fountain feeding the miniature lake.”
This is what we now know today as the London Hippodrome, which opened in 1900 and still stands although much altered.
As he lived here from 1895 to 1904, quite a few of his other great theatres must have been designed in some part at this very house. Sweet dreams made real maybe.
Well that brings us to the end of our N8 walk.
Hornsey had the air of a place which started out with great ambitions but never quite made it, even though it did get given a cast off fountain by the City of London. Crouch End has a lot more going for it, with its grand late Victorian splendour and 1930s set piece.
This is one of those few fairly large suburban centres which is nowhere near a railway station. There was the line from Finsbury Park to Highgate and beyond which opened in 1867, passing behind Mr Matcham’s house and having a station in Crouch End Hill. It would have become part of the Underground if the Northern Heights project has been fully realised. But today it is now a parkland walk, accessible from Crouch End Hill or Crouch Hill. And you can either go up towards Highgate or down towards Finsbury Park from here if you want to do some more walking.
Alternatively, if you return to Crouch End Hill you can get a bus to Finsbury Park for onward rail travel.