N20: Good Neighbours?

N20 is Whetstone – and Totteridge, although Totteridge and Whetstone seems to roll off the tongue better, maybe because that is the name of the station. They are neighbours for ever associated with each other but oh so different as we shall see.

We start our walk at Whetstone Post Office, which is at 1293 High Road. Our first stop is across the road.

Stop 1: former Green Man pub

We are used to see former pubs being reused for other purposes, usually this is a small supermarket or apartments. But here is a really unusual reuse, as a tyre and exhaust replacement workshop. Clearly a small business, it has even taken its name from the old pub.


And if you look up you can see the building dates from 1890.


I guess the publican who moved into the new building in 1890 might be shocked to discover what the building was being used for 125 years later.

Continue walking along the main road towards the road junction with traffic lights. Our next stop is by this junction on the left.

Stop 2: The Griffin

Whetstone is on the old Great North Road and was an important stopping point for stage coaches on their journeys to and from the North. Many of these staging posts became pubs. I think there could have been at least five pubs in the centre of Whetstone, but today only one survives – the Griffin.

There has been an inn on the site of the present Griffin pub for centuries, though the present building dates from 1928.


Now note the Pizza Express to the left of the pub. This is at 1264 High Road and according to the architectural bible, Pevsner, behind the brick frontage, there is a rare survival of a late medieval timber framed rear wing.

Continue along the main road and take a left at the junction into Oakleigh Road North. Continue along this until you see a road veering off to the left (which confusingly is called Oakleigh Park North). Ahead you will see our next stop at this corner.

Stop 3: Christ Church

This is a United Reformed Church. This is part of a protestant Christian denomination formed in 1972 by a merger of English Presbyterians and English and Welsh Congregationalists.


On the side is a sign which proudly proclaims “225 years 1788 – 2013”


But of course this building is nowhere near that old, as can be seen from the foundation stone at the end of the building.


Pevsner describes this building as “An odd specimen of its date and of the fanciful leanings of the Congregationalists about 1900”. But I have not been able to find out why there is this 225 year old claim as there does not seem to be an operational church website or other information coming up when I search.

Go down the road to the left of the Church (Oakleigh Park North). Our next stop is a little way along as the road bends

Stop 4: Numbers 13 and 17 Oakleigh Park North

There is an intriguing story attached to the buildings which used stand hereabouts. It appears that in the years during and immediately after the Second World War, this was a centre for spying.

Here is a link to a 2001 report from a local newspaper, which is has the headline “Neighbours from Hell?”


The gist of the story is that the Barnet & Potters Bar Times had reported the week before that the Soviet news agency, Tass, had a radio monitoring station in Whetstone from 1941. It was used to spy on the British until 1951, yet apparently no-one seemed to know exactly where it was.

The newspaper was then inundated with calls saying that the base was in Oakleigh Park North. Three sites along that road have repeatedly been named, which suggests that there could have been more than one base where intelligence was gathered.

Then local historian, John Heathfield unearthed a copy of the Barnet Press from 13 October 1951.

Under the headline, ‘Britain Silences Russia’s Listening Post in Friern Barnet’, it reads: “The radio monitoring station of Tass, the official Soviet news agency housed in The Lodge, 13 Oakleigh Park North, closed down by Foreign Office request on Sunday, not two years after Friern Barnet Council had tried unsuccessfully to have it shut on planning grounds.” The report continued: “The Lodge, a solidly-built double-fronted house standing in large grounds is surrounded by an extensive network of aerials and cables.”

The newspaper said many callers and residents in Oakleigh Park North believed that the Tass base was in Tower House, a four-storey mansion which stood at 17 Oakleigh Park North, until the mid 1990s when it was demolished and replaced by a block of flats called Greenleaf Court.

But it went on to report Emil Bryden, whose family lived across the road from Tower House from 1955, said that it was owned by the Admiralty and used by the British secret services as a safe house. He thought that people may have been confused because the British base at number 17 also had aerials and receiving equipment. Mr Bryden went on to say the Soviet base was at number 13 and had been owned by the Russians since before the Communist revolution in 1917.

Neither building still stands, so here are a couple of pictures of what is there now.

This is Greenleaf Court.


And Number 13 now seems to have at least three houses on the site. Here is a view.


The 2001 newspaper report mentions that it could also have been Number 5.

Who knows! But what I am not sure about is why the 2001 newspaper report thought this spying activity amounted to “neighbours from hell”. Surely they were too busy listening to make much of a nuisance of themselves.

Now retrace your steps back to the main road. Ahead you cannot fail to see a twelve story tower block which is totally out of keeping with the area.

Stop 5: Barnet House

This is called Barnet House. It dates from 1966 and was designed by none other than Richard Seifert & Partners. It is occupied by Barnet Council.


It seems incredible now that in the 1960s a building like this was allowed in a small scale suburban village.

Take a right at the main road and then a left (which is Totteridge Lane). Our next stop is a little way along at the corner of  Birley Road.

Stop 6: Number 35 Totteridge Lane

There are no blue plaques in N20 so far as I could establish, but there is a Barnet Council one on this house.


And here is the plaque. It is to a golfer who I have never heard of who lived here from 1903 to 1937.


Harry Vardon (1870 – 1937) was a professional golfer originally from Jersey. Vardon won The Open Championship (one of the major Golf contests) a record six times.. He had great rivalries with two other golfers James Braid and J H Taylor, who each won five Open Championships. Between them, they dominated the world of golf from the mid 1890s to the mid 1910s.

Seems quite a modest house, and it is not next to a golf course!

Continue walking along Totteridge Lane. Our next stop is just a bit further on the right.

Stop 7: Totteridge and Whetstone station

This station dates from 1872 but only became an Underground station in 194o when the Northern line took over the line to Barnet

It has a modest street level building- half of which seems to be an estate agents.


And if you go down into the station, there is an odd arrangement on the platforms with the canopies on both platforms in two separate sections.


Also noticeable are the stairways. here they still have roofs, unlike the series of stations we saw in Tottenham and Stoke Newington. This is an indication of how much better London Underground has looked after its stations compared to British Rail and its successors.


Useless fact! Totteridge & Whetstone has one of the longest station name on the Underground, with 20 characters (including an ampersand). High Street Kensington also has 20 characters as has Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3, but the latter used to be longer as at one time it was known as Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 & 3. Maybe it will get its crown back at some point in the future, if Terminal 1 returns.

This is the sort of trivia fellow guide Ian Swankie comes up with. He loves to pose these kind of questions – such as what Underground station name contains all the vowels (a, e, i, o and u)? I will give you the answer at the end – there are actually two stations that fit the bill.

Continue along Totteridge Lane. At this point you might wish to hop on a 251 bus for 3 stops to Totteridge Green.

As you come along Totteridge Lane you will see a large green on your left (this is Totteridge Green). And our next stop is at the corner just before the Orange Tree pub. If you have come on the bus. you will get off beside the Green.

Stop 8: Totteridge Green

It is hard to believe you are still in a London post code area; it is so countrified. Pevsner says that the survival of the rural setting (of Totteridge) is due to the Green Belt and to the efforts of the Totteridge Preservation Society before the Second World War and the Totteridge Manor Association, formed in 1955, which took over the management of the surrounding common and woodland.

And there are signs which on one side say “Manor of Totteridge”, like this one here on Totteridge Green.


And on the reverse have a set of byelaws. Very English.


Now head towards the school building ahead. This is St Andrews School rebuilt in 1938 in what Pevsner calls “a demure domestic style” and later extended. It was built by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners who are apparently better known for their factories.

Just before the school, there is a path heading alongside the green. Take this and keep on crossing the grass before reaching a side road. Just a little way ahead is our next stop.

Stop 9 Green Lodge


This picturesque late 19th century gothic style house was a former lodge for a large house known as Copped Hall. The hall was demolished in 1928. This was a major house with extensive grounds which were possibly landscaped by Humphry Repton, one of the great landscape gardeners of the late 18th century. A lake survives, as part of a nature reserve but it is bit far to walk.

But the interesting connection with Copped Hall is that it was the birthplace of Cardinal Manning (1808 – 1893). This was his grandfather’s house, and he spent his boyhood elsewhere. Although he became Archbishop of Westminster and a cardinal, he did not start off as a Roman Catholic.

He was originally ordained in the Church of England, rising to become Archdeacon of Chichester, a post he held from 1841 to 1851. Manning was received into the Catholic Church in 1851 after he and a number of prominent Anglican clergy objected to a Court ruling that the church had to appoint a priest called Gorham. He had been refused an appointment because he held unorthodox (for High Church followers) views on baptism. Gorham had appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This was somewhat controversial as it meant a secular court was deciding on the doctrine of the Church of England.

Soon after converting, Manning was ordained a Catholic priest and in 1865 he was appointed Archbishop of Westminster. Among his accomplishments as head of the Catholic Church in England were the acquisition of the site for Westminster Cathedral and expansion of Roman Catholic education.

Just a little further on from here was the residence of the architect T E Collcutt, of whom we will hear more later.

Retrace your steps to the main road and turn left. Go past the rather lovely Orange Tree pub, which by the way appears to be the only commercial building in the whole of the village.


Just as the road bends on the opposite side from the pub you will see the village church, our final stop.

Stop 10: St Andrew’s Church and churchyard

This church building dates from 1790 although there has been a church here for much longer.


The church is often open – or at least the entrance porch is and you can look through the glass doors at this lovely little church.


The churchyard has some interest. Immediately behind the church is the tomb of Peter Meyer (died 1727) .


He was born in Hamburg and was a major City of London merchant in the West Indies trade as well as being a merchant banker and co-owner of the leading London international trade firm Meyer & Berenberg. He had an estate here in Totteridge called  Poynter’s Grove, but like Copped Hall the house was demolished in the 1920s.

Go into the Churchyard extension. Towards the end of the main path, you will find on the left the Collcutt family plot.



Thomas Edward Collcutt was an important architect in the late Victorian period. He was responsible for the Lloyds Register of Shipping building in Fenchurch Street (1899) as well as the Palace Theatre (1889) and the Wigmore Hall (1901). He also designed the original Savoy Hotel (1889 which has been extended and altered since) and the Imperial Institute (1887 – 1893), of which only the central tower remains – this is now Imperial College.

Then if you venture further and turn right down the side path. you will soon come across Harry Vardon’s grave.


Well that brings us to the end of our N20 walk. This was very much a walk of two halves. The suburban village of Whetstone and the rather rural village of Totteridge – neighbours for ever yoked together in a station name. As ever what seems perhaps a less promising area has come up trumps, what with spies, a famous (in his day) golfer, an eminent architect and an influential leader of the Catholic Church in England, not to mention a rather lovely village with a lone pub and no shops.

Probably your best bet for onward travel is to take the 251 bus back to Totteridge and Whetstone station.

And in case you were wondering the station names with all the vowels. They are Mansion House and South Ealing. So now you know!


N19: What’s new pussycat?

N19 is Archway. Archway, I hear you say. How is that possible if the postcodes are usually in alphabetic order and the last one (N18) was Upper Edmonton. The answer is that N19 is actually Upper Holloway. The use of the name Archway came after the postcodes districts were allocated.

I was fortunate in having fellow guide and local resident Jen to show me the delights of N19. So thank you, Jen.

We start our walk at the Post Office in Junction Road. Head towards the station, which is our first stop.

Stop 1: Archway station


This is another example of how a station changes the name of an area. The station we now call Archway, was actually called Highgate when it opened in 1907, as it was just down the hill from the village of Highgate – and there was a tramway between station and village.

This station was the northern terminus of one of the branches of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway, better known as the Hampstead tube and later to become part of the Northern line.

When the line was extended as part of the Northern Heights project (which we have heard about a number of times already) the next station was below the station called Highgate on the line from Finsbury Park to Finchley and beyond. We saw that when we were in N6. So the station we now know as Archway was renamed Highgate (Archway) in 1939, then Archway (Highgate) in 1941, before becoming just Archway in 1947.

It is a bit of a misnomer because the actual Archway is up the road, as we saw in N6. But you could say it gets its name as the location of the Archway tollgate and the Archway Tavern, rather than the Archway itself (We shall hear about both the tollgate and the tavern later).

The original station building here was one of those distinctive Leslie Green red tile affairs, but this was replaced by a Charles Holden design in 1931 when escalators were installed. Sadly neither of these survive as the whole area above the station was redeveloped in the 1960s.

Today there is 17 story tower called Archway House accompanied by two twelve storey blocks described by architectural historian Pevsner as being “poised above a podium of shops with an upper level pedestrianised deck.”


This is all being redeveloped and the buildings are being reclad, and one of them is to be a Premier Inn hotel.


The buildings were set around a pedestrian precinct and as was so often the case in developments of this period, there was once a subway under the main road. Such subways are an endangered species as the fashion now is for crossings on the surface. Jen pointed out that for now there remains a ghost of a sign to remind us that there was once a subway here.


But interestingly just about here was the site of an old cinema – whose address was 17 Highgate Hill.

The Electric Theatre opened in 1909 and in common with most cinemas of this period, seating was provided on one floor, with no balcony. The facade was dominated by a large arch which contained a half domed entrance.

It was taken over by Union Cinemas in 1935 and they in turn were taken over by Associated British Cinemas in October 1937. Renamed the Palace Cinema in 1954, it closed in April 1958. It was demolished and the site redeveloped leaving no trace of its former use.

Continue walking along the main road and cross over the side street which is Macdonald Road. Jen could not resist pointing out the lovely co-incidence of McDonalds being sited at this corner, even if the spellings are not exactly the same.


Continue a little way and our next stop is just ahead on the pavement.

Stop 2: The Whittington cat

Well we cannot come to this area and not hear about Dick Whittington and his cat.

Richard Whittington (1354?–1423) was a merchant who was Lord Mayor of London four times, a member of parliament and a sheriff of London. But the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat is probably just that. As the son of gentry, it would seem that Whittington was never very poor and there is no evidence that he kept a cat.

It was said that it was at Archway that Dick Whittington heard the bells of St Mary-le-Bow ringing and returned to London (not too sure why he was heading up this way – he came from Gloucestershire so this would be the wrong road if he was heading home!). There is this little statue of a cat on Highgate Hill to commemorate this. Poor cat is trapped in this metal cage and has lost a bit of its ear.



But it is a nice story. And it enables me to say “5 miles to London and still no sign of Dick”. But at least we have seen his cat!

Continue along the main road and at Magdala Avenue, take a left turn into the grounds of Whittington Hospital.


Stop 3: The Whittington Hospital

The Whittington Hospital is of course named after Richard Whittington and in keeping with the story, it has to have a cat symbol somewhere. And lo and behold here it is over the main entrance.


Retrace your steps to the main road, go a little further along and turn left. Here we have some of the old buildings on the hospital site.

The current hospital has its origins in the Small Pox and Vaccination Hospital, built in 1848



According to Pevsner, the Smallpox Hospital moved to South Mimms when a replacement was built there in 1896. So this became the St Mary’s (Islington) Workhouse Infirmary with the old Smallpox Hospital becoming an administration block and to the south there were new hospital buildings dating from 1900 and consisting of wings joined by cast iron galleries.


And there some old signs over the doors, such as this one.


These buildings are still in use today as part of the hospital but as we saw there are some other more modern additions.

Continue walking through the site. The roadway goes to the left and there is a separate pathway which goes to the right and leads you out onto the street called Dartmouth Park. Continue along this for a while and turn left when you get to Bickerton Road. A little way on the right you will then see an entrance to an open space called Dartmouth Park. Go in there.

Stop 4: Dartmouth Park

Follow the path round and you will see a path going up a slope. Follow that and at the top you will see a rather fine view of the skyline of London. It was quite hazy the day I was there by Jen but I am not sure I would have got a much better picture. The skyline is so spread out you cannot get all the key buildings in one shot. Jen says she keeps meaning to do a series of photos from here from a tripod as that is the only way to do it justice. But even then there are some annoying buildings just below that get in the way.


Nevertheless it is worth a little detour, to see a little known vista point. By the way in case you were wondering what was on the other side of the fence behind you. The park is built over an underground water reservoir. Dartmouth Park was a street and the name of the neighbourhood until this open space was laid out as a public park in 1972. Then the district Dartmouth Park finally had an open space called Dartmouth Park.

Retrace your steps back to Bickerton Road and turn right.

Stop 5: Site of Odeon cinema

Our next stop is just at the corner of Bickerton Road and Junction Road. Today there is a block of flats but for a few years this was the site of a rather short lived Odeon cinema.


According to the ever knowledgable Cinema Treasures site, construction of this Odeon began in May 1939 but at the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, only half of the exterior walls were completed. Work was halted but permission was given in March 1940 to complete the walls and add the roof. The building was then used for storage for the duration of the war. After the war the cinema was fitted out to revised plans and it finally opened in December 1955.

It was marketed as the Odeon Highgate, although it was not of course in Highgate. But not surprisingly given the general decline in cinema audiences as the 1960s progressed,  it did not have a long life only managing to carry on to January 1973, in other words less than 20 years..

The building was demolished in 1974 and this block of flats was built on the site.

Turn left onto the main road and then turn right along St John’s Grove. Our next stop is at the end.

Stop 6: St John’s Church

This church dates from the late 1820s and was designed by Sir Charles Barry, who is of course most famous for the Houses of Parliament. It is one of three churches he designed in the late 1820s in Islington. We came across a blue plaque for Barry when we were at Clapham Common Northside, SW4.

St John’s was one of the so-called Commissioners’ Churches – these were built with money voted by Parliament as a result of the Church Building Acts of 1818 and 1824. This was largely to create churches in areas of growing population


Pevsner describes St John’s as “uninspired Perpendicular; in no other way – except perhaps correctness of detail – superior to the common run of Commissioner churches”. Not exactly a compliment.

Turn left into Holloway Road. Walk along this towards Archway station. Ahead you will see a large building which looks like it could be a cinema.

Stop 7: Archway Methodist Church

This is a massive building in the style of a super cinema but it is not.


It is (was?) part of a Methodist church – Central Hall as they seem to call them. It was according to Pevsner the last Methodist Central Hall to be built in London and dates from 1933 -34. The building has a huge cinema style auditorium.

The businessman J Arthur Rank was a major contributor to the cost. He was a devout Methodist who made his fortune from flour. He got into film making as way of promoting wholesome family values which seemed to be lacking in many of the Hollywood imports. But then he found that he had difficulty getting his films distributed. So from being a partner in Pinewood Studios (1935) then a film distributor (General Film Distributors in 1936), finally he moved on to own Odeon and Gaumont cinema chains (1938 and 1941 respectively). All this did not stop the making and then showing of some less than wholesome films!

As you get nearer (and cross over the main road) you will see a large chunk of it appears to be unused (and available for development) but to the left there is an entrance which still seems to be used by the church.


Stop 8: Archway Tavern and the island

We are now on an island in the middle of the Archway gyratory system which was created in the 1960s. There is a row of shops just along from the Methodist Central hall which somehow got stranded on this island, plus there is the Archway Tavern. This building dates from 1886 and has seen better days. The interior of this pub was photographed for the cover of The Kinks’ 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies was taken, which is odd as it is some way from Muswell Hill.


Jen tells me there are plans to redesign the junction which should mean this little group of older buildings might not be quite so marooned.

But even this could well have not survived. This was one of the key battlegrounds for the Home Before Roads movement of the 1970s which opposed the building of urban motorways. After their unsuccessful attempt to halt the construction of the London Westway, protesters became more radical during the first public enquiry into the widening of the Archway Road into what would have been a motorway.

Not only was the scheme questioned on technical grounds, but the inquiry was physically disrupted at times. There were no less than four public inquiries held between the 1970s and 1990s before the Archway Road scheme was finally dropped. But how the world has moved on. The traffic has not gone away but today like in other parts of London, the gyratory is being adjusted to give a better balance between vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

Now we are heading off the other side of the island towards the Archway Road. Head a little way along and just on the right you will see a side street – Pauntley Street.

Stop 9: Pauntley Street

The Archway Road was a toll road from 1813 to 1864 and Archway was the site of a toll gate, where travellers had to pay for the next stage of their journey along the Great North Road. And if you go along Pauntley Street for a short distance you will see a plaque on the block of flats called Pauntley House which commemorates the gate.



Pauntley Street by the way takes its name from the village of Pauntley in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, traditionally regarded as Dick Whittington’s birthplace.

Note also the “Mercer Maiden” above the door to the flats. The Mercer’s Company traditionally included an image of a maiden in building they owned. Dick Whittington was a member of the Mercer’s Company and before Archway Road was widened in the 1960s there was the Whittington Almhouses on this side of the road dating from 1822. These moved to Felbridge, just near East Grinstead.

There is a great post on a site called londonremembers.com which explains about this and also the cat monument on the other side of the road, which we saw earlier.


Now just a little further along you will see there is a subway. Jen tells me this is likely to be removed. But do go along it if it is still there because it has this rather nice painted ceiling to brighten things up.



Having crossed the road you are now by our last stop

Stop 10: The Charlotte Despard pub

Jen has done a bit of research on this for her N19 blog, so I can do no better than shamelessly quote from her:

“Charlotte Despard was a Suffragette, Sinn Fein activist, novelist, vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist. She remained politically active into her 90s and died in 1939, aged 95. She devoted much time to helping the poor in Battersea (where there is a Charlotte Despard Avenue). I’d always assumed that Despard Road was also named after her although, beyond the fact she was twice imprisoned in Holloway (as were many of the Suffragettes), I had never been able to find any connection with this area. In fact, the street is not named after her at all but after a military commander, General John Despard (175-1849) who fought in the Seven Years War and the American War of Independence. Not surprising really as Despard Road dates from 1887, before Charlotte Despard became politically active. The next question, to which I have no answer, is what connection did John Despard have with Archway?”

So it seems the Charlotte Despard pub is called that because it is at the corner of Despard Road rather than having any connection with the woman herself!

So that brings us to the end of our N19 walk. Thanks to Jen for walking me round and showing me the sites. We saw and heard a lot about Dick Whittington and his cat, but we also saw the sites of two cinemas and a building which could almost have been a cinema. We did not have time for all of the interesting building hereabouts – or indeed the little fragment of tramway which exists in an alleyway off the Holloway Road as you head towards Archway station. I could not get a proper picture of it because of the parked vehicles and I am not sure which tramway this belonged to.

Now for onward travel we are right by Archway station, and there are also numerous buses.