N10: The Folks who live on the Hill

N10 is Muswell Hill and I am indebted to fellow guide Jenni, a local resident, for showing me round this lovely part of London and also lending me a little book on Muswell Hill by Ken Gay.

Ken Gay sums it up nicely by saying “The key fact about Muswell Hill is its height and remoteness. This meant it was slow to be developed and only really got going in the late 1890s. But when it was developed it was on a grand scale with massive shopping parades and large family houses.” It is certainly an impressive centre – and unusual for a place of this size in that it is not served by any railway station. But more of that anon.

We start at the Post Office at 420 Muswell Hill Broadway. Turn left out of the Post Office and head for the roundabout. Our first stop is just between Boots and the Giraffe restaurant.

Stop 1: Keith Blakelock memorial

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Keith Blakelock was a London Metropolitan Police constable who was killed on 6 October 1985 during rioting on the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham. The trouble broke out after a local black woman, Cynthia Jarrett, died of heart failure during a police search of her home. He was according to Wikipedia the first constable to be killed in a riot in Britain since 1833, when PC Robert Culley was stabbed to death in Clerkenwell, London.

Despite three investigations over the years and a number of people being brought to trial, no one has been convicted of his murder.

So why is the memorial here in Muswell Hill? Well it is because at the time of his death he was the local beat officer assigned to Muswell Hill.

Our next stop is just over the way in the middle of the road.

Stop 2: Bus turn round

Here we have a roundabout and in the middle is a bus stand and a little building – a most unusual arrangement.

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But if you actually venture on to the island you will see a little London Transport roundel on the door and if you go round the building (to what looks most like the “front”) you can look inside.

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There are tables and chairs and a hot drinks machine, so this is presumably for the bus drivers. But although there were plenty of buses siting at the terminus, no one was inside.

Now this set me off wondering why there was such an unusual arrangement and I thought maybe this started off as a tram terminus. But no. Ken Gay’s book explains on page 87 that Middlesex County Council had considered applying for an order to allow the building of a branch of the tramway up from Archway Road. But there was a lot of local opposition, so it never happened. Trams never got to Muswell Hill.

But Gay”s book does explain on page 83 that this unusual arrangement was for horse buses which had started running from here to Charing Cross in 1901. One of the local developers, Thomas Finnane, objected to a horse bus stand being at the road side by his newly built properties, so it was put in the middle of the road. Later in 1904, a shelter was provided for the bus drivers, and this is what we see today.

Now look to the left of the shelter (assuming you are still at the Blakelock memorial). Our next stop is over the way there.

Stop 3: The future “Mossy Well”

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My reference book Pevsner refers to a building at the top of Muswell Hill described as a “low Swiss Chalet … dated 1900 [which] began life as an Express Dairy.” Well in later life it seems to have been a pizza restaurant and now it is being converted to a Wetherspoons pub, although the hoarding does seem to promise rather a lot …

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Not the normal way in which Wetherspoons advertise their coming!

By the way, the name Muswell is said to be derived from the “Mossy Well” which was a natural spring (or well) said to have miraculous properties. Indeed a Scottish king was cured of disease after drinking the water. The River Moselle, which has its source in Muswell Hill and Highgate, derives its name from this.

I must say I had never heard of the Moselle as being a river in London. When the Footprints guides did a River Walks festival earlier this year another fellow guide, Jen, joked she would do a walk following the Moselle. She did and it turned out to be the best selling walks of the three week Festival!

Now proceed along Muswell Hill Broadway on the right hand pavement. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 4: W Martyn, Number 135 Muswell Hill Broadway

W Martyn is an amazing survival of an old fashioned grocery store. This shop has traded here since the building was built in the late 1890s. In fact it even gets a mention in the architectural bible, Pevsner.

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Continue walking along Muswell Hill Broadway our next stop is just across the road at the corner with Hillfield Park.

Stop 5: Numbers 74 – 80 Muswell Hill Broadway

This was the location of the home of William Barlow (1845 – 1934). Although actually the plaque is actually in the side street, Hillfield Park

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Well you may well ask: Who is he? I thought maybe he might be the man who built St Pancras Station but then what has that to do with mineralogy.

Well it turns out he was an English amateur geologist specialising in crystallography which is the experimental science of determining the arrangement of atoms in the crystalline solids. Wikipedia tells me the word derives from the Greek words crystallon “cold drop, frozen drop”, with its meaning extending to all solids with some degree of transparency, and grapho “I write”.

Note too there is a great view of Canary Wharf from here down Hillfield Park, reminding us of how high up we are here.

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Now continue to the roundabout and across the way you will see St James’s Church on one side and a 1930s block sweeping round the other way. The latter is our next stop.

Stop 6: Everyman cinema (formerly Odeon)

This cinema was until recently operated by Odeon and has now been taken over by Everyman, along with three others (in Gerrards Cross, Barnet and Esher). When I visited it had lost its Odeon branding but not yet gained its new Everyman identity.

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This was one of the original cinemas in the Oscar Deutsch owned Odeon chain designed by architect George Coles and opened in September 1936.

The whole corner was redeveloped with a parade of shops on the ground floor and flats above. These largely hide the bulk of the auditorium.

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The entrance to the Cinema is round one side and not given pride of place at the corner as you might have expected. According to Gay (p110) this was because St James’s Church opposed having the entrance directly opposite the church.

This is a wonderful example of art deco Odeon style with creamy faience tiles in the central section and in black faience tiles either side. Inside the building, the decorative Art Deco styling continues, although the cinema itself was tripled in May 1974, creating one screen in the former circle and two smaller screens under the circle in the rear stalls area The front stalls area was unused, and as far as I know this arrangement continues today.

Now look across at the Sainsbury’s opposite the cinema.

Stop 7: Site of the Atheneum

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This Sainsbury’s store in Fortis Green Road is on the site of another place of entertainment. Built in 1900, there was a building here called The Athenaeum. Inside were two halls, seating 466 and 200. Films were a regular attraction in the early days.

The wonderful Cinema Treasures website says that the Athenaeum Picture Playhouse (as it became known) was operating until at least 1937, when Home Counties Theatres Ltd. were the operators. No doubt the arrival of the Odeon (and another modern cinema – the Ritz also opened in 1936, just down Muswell Hill and demolished in the 1970s) killed off what was probably a rather old fashioned movie house.

The Atheneum was also used as the Muswell Hill Synagogue from the 1920s until 1963. The building was demolished in 1966 to be replaced by this supermarket.

Now continue along Fortis Green Road to the corner of Birchwood Avenue where you will see a hall.

Stop 8: former St James Church Hall

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One thing I tend to do is look at the inscriptions on foundation stones and the like to see if there are any interesting connection. And I happened upon the one on this unprepossessing church hall.

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This shows the architect was G G Wornum. Now George Grey Wornum (1888 – 1957) has a special place in my heart. His most well known building is the HQ of the Royal Institute of British Architects in Portland Place and it was this building I had to give a 5 minute presentation on when I was interviewed to get my place on the City of Westminster Guiding course.

He is not particularly well known. But apart from his RIBA building, his other claim to fame in London is that he was responsible for laying out Parliament Square in 1950 and for designing a street lamp for the City of Westminster – rather a large and a small variant of the same design.

Here is a bit of an obscure post about the Grey Wornum lamp post. Although the design can still be seen in the streets of Westminster, it would seem the City Council has replaced most, if not all, with replicas.

http://www.simoncornwell.com/lighting/collect/lanterns/revo-c-10/index.htm

Now retrace your steps to the Odeon and turn right along Muswell Hill Road. Stop just by the mini roundabout.

Stop 9: Cranley Gardens

I will just show the street sign here because the reason I am including this street is that this is the location of the flat where the notorious mass murder Dennis Nilsen lived and did some of his murders.

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Dennis Nilsen (1945 – ) was a serial killer and was known as the Muswell Hill Murderer. He murdered at least 12 young men between 1978 and 1983, some at a flat in Melrose Avenue, NW2 and from 1981 at flat at Number 23 Cranley Gardens.

Now notice you look like you have gone over a bridge and there are some steps going down on the left. Follow these.

Stop 10: Parkland walk

You are now in what is described as a “Parkland Walk”. It is actually a linear park which follows the line of an old railway which ran from Highgate to Alexandra Palace.

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And this holds the key to the mystery of how all this area got developed when it has no railway connection. Well when this area was being developed there was a railway and this was where it was. It was a branch off the line from Kings Cross and Finsbury Park to Edgware and High Barnet. It was built to go to nearby Alexandra Palace and it opened in 1873 well before Muswell Hill began to be developed.

Gay tells us that in 1910  there were 61 trains a day – some going to Kings Cross, some to Moorgate (presumably via Farringdon, as they were not electric trains and could not use the Underground section between Finsbury Park and Moorgate) and some to Broad Street. The main Muswell Hill station was a little further along the line towards but a stop was added at Cranley Gardens in 1902 just here where we joined the walk. And there appears to be nothing left of it.

Follow the pathway. This clings on to the side of the hill but then the land drops away completely and you go over a viaduct.

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From here you have a view over to the City and you can also see Canary Wharf.

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This stretch of walk ends by a subway where you have a choice of either going right and up to the street or continuing under the subway. Do the latter. Once through the subway, the path veers to the right and ahead is Muswell Hill Primary school. Once this was the site of Muswell Hill station, which opened at the same time as the line in 1873.

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So how was it that this area lost its railway. Well it is all tied up with the Northern Heights project which we have already heard about in various previous NW and N posts. The plan would have involved taking over this branch line along with the lines to Edgware and High Barnet, modernising them for use by electric trains and incorporating them into the Northern line.

Works began in the late 1930s but were halted by the Second World War. The works between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace were postponed and the line continued operation as before, but with wartime economies, services were reduced to peak hours only.

After the war, the dwindling passenger numbers and a shortage of funds led to the cancellation of the unfinished parts of the Northern Heights project in 1950. Passenger services to Muswell Hill station were ended in July 1954 along with the rest of the line between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace. Goods traffic staggered on until complete closure of the line in May 1957. The track was removed and the platforms and station buildings were demolished. Today there is no trace there was a station here.

Follow the path round to the road and turn left down the hill, which is actually called Muswell Hill.

Take the third turning on the right.

Stop 11: Number 101 St James’s Lane

Go a little way down St James’s Lane and soon on the right you will see a detached house standing high above the road. This is number 101, our next stop.

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This was home to William Tegetmeier (1816 – 1912) between 1858 and 1868. He was a correspondent and friend of Charles Darwin. Tegetmeier was influential in developing ideas on evolution and is thought to have been of value to Darwin in compiling his seminal work “On the origin of Species”.

Tegetmeier did research work on bees, some of it carried out here at this property. According to Gay, he also pioneered pigeon racing, with some pigeon racing beginning from Alexandra Palace.

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Retrace your steps along St James’s Lane. Turn right at the end of St James’s Lane and keep going down the hill until you reach the junction. Veer round to the right into Park Road and take the first right.

Stop 12: Number 33 Etheldene Avenue

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This modest house was the home of one Walter J Macqueen-Pope (1888 – 1960).

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He was was a theatre historian and publicist. From a theatrical family which could be traced back to contemporaries of Shakespeare, he was involved in the management of a number of West End theatres including the Queen’s, Duke of York’s and the Whitehall and then he specialised in publicity. He was in charge of publicity at Drury Lane for some 21 years. But after the Second World War he became a prolific author of theatrical related books.

If you want to stop here, go back to Muswell Hill (the street) where you can get a W7 bus to Finsbury Park which is probably best for onward travel. Or else you can get a 43 or a 134 from Muswell Hill centre to Highgate.

But I should just just mention there is one other Haringey green plaques you might want to search out.

Postscript

So what you need to do is go back up the street called Muswell Hill and at the roundabout, head back towards the Post Office. Keep going. The road becomes Colney Hatch Lane and eventually you will reach Alexandra Park Road on the right. Go down there and our extra final stop is at the corner of Windermere Avenue.

Number 51, Alexandra Park Road

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This was the home of Oliver Tambo (1917 – 1993), South African  anti-apartheid politician and a central figure in the African National Congress, (ANC) along with Nelson Mandela.

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In 1958 he became Deputy President of the ANC and in 1959 was served with a five-year banning order by the government. Tambo was then sent abroad by the ANC to mobilise opposition to apartheid. He settled with his family in Muswell Hill, where he lived until 1990. Sadly he did not live long enough to see the election of 1994 which led to ANC coming to power in South Africa.

(By the way isn’t it a shame that Haringey chose to use painted metal for their plaques. As we can see from the various examples here in N10, some have not weathered well, unlike the blue English Heritage ceramic plaques which seem indestructible.)

So that finally does brings us to the end of our N10 walk in lovely Muswell Hill. Thanks again to Jenni for showing me round and for the loan of the Ken Gay book which gave me some fascinating insights – indeed far more information than I could possibly use!

Now for onward travel from here, you can get a 102 or 299 to Bounds Green station. Or else head back to Muswell Hill for the other options previously mentioned.

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One thought on “N10: The Folks who live on the Hill

  1. Thanks once more for a charming walk Stephen! I used to live in Muswell Hill in the 70’s (when it was more affordable!) and it was fun to see all the pictures of places I used to know.
    I now live in Tottenham, (N17) and so know the Moselle River well. Very little of it is visible now, it being mostly carried underground by pipe; but two significant portions are still above ground: The stretch that runs through Lordship Recreation Ground (which has been landscaped into some very beautiful water meadows: though, alas, after the work was completed, it was discovered that poor plumbing regimes upstream meant that the river was contaminated by raw sewage! The council are still working back upstream to cure that!) The other visible part is that which runs through Tottenham cemetery. After that it goes back underground, and the last you can see of it is the discharge into the river Lee. However, a local group organises an annual walk of the path of the river, and it is charming to see how the river is commemorated in street signs and the names of houses, roads etc., presumably from the time when the river was “open”.
    If you ever get to do an N17 walk you will presumably include traces of The Moselle (the name, as you say derives ultimately from “The Mossy Well”, but I cannot help thinking that it was also partly someones clever joke on the French/German river of the same name!)
    All the best!

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