N22 is Wood Green and is the last of the N post codes.
We start our walk at the main Post Office in Wood Green which is tucked away in an arcade within the Library building at 191 High Road.
The Library is in fact our first stop.
Stop 1: Wood Green Library
This building dates from the 1970s and is built on disused railway land (more of which anon). Pevsner describes this as “a dignified composition, distinguished by the use of pale buff ceramic facing tiles instead of the deep red brick of the surrounding buildings.” Well maybe it has changed since Pevsner wrote that but there is not too much in the way of buff tiles and the brick looks more brown than red.
Inside is a weird mix – an arcade mainly taken up by the Post Office and the Co-operative Bank, plus the library and a random selection of market stalls.
Just by the door, there is a plaque commemorating its opening in March 1979.
As you leave the Library complex and head to the High Road do look at the sign by the space on the left as you face the road.
And sometimes one can see someone using the space …
This seems to be a continuance of an old local tradition as we shall see shortly.
Turn left and go along the main road for a short distance. Our next stop is on the left in a parade of shops.
Stop 2: Former Gaumont Palace cinema
The cinema here was opened in March 1934 as the Gaumont Palace. According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the main feature of the decoration within the auditorium was the large semi-circular proscenium opening which resembled a similar one in the Titania Palast Kino in Berlin, Germany. There was a large stage 30 feet deep and 80 feet wide, a fully equipped fly tower and eight dressing rooms.It also had a cafe which later became a dance studio.
It became the Gaumont Theatre from 1954 and was renamed Odeon from September 1962. It was tripled in December 1973 but finally closed as a cinema in January 1984.
The auditorium was returned to a single space to become a Bingo Club. This survived until 1996. Then after some three years laying empty, the auditorium was converted into a church, whilst the former cafe became a nightclub. And that seems to be the use today. The church is called the Dominion Centre and the night club is called Olympus (or as they rather perversely spell it “Olympvs” – to make it look Latin I guess, But why?).
Now look over the main road.
Stop 3: Vue Cinema and Spouters’ Corner
Today this site houses a leisure complex complete with multiscreen cinema and a Wetherspoons pub.
But in fact there was an early cinema on this site. The Cinematograph Theatre opened in 1911. There was a market hall on the ground floor of the building, with the cinema located upstairs on the first floor. It later became the Market Cinema, and was closed around 1919. It then began use as a warehouse. By the 1960s, it was in use as an independent bingo club, and a dance studio also operated from the building. These lasted until the mid 1990s.
This corner site was purchased in 1998 by an Australian cinema company, Hoyts, to build a new 6-screen cinema. The whole block including former cinema building was demolished. But Hoyts backed out of exhibiting in the UK and the building stood empty for a couple of years until it was fitted out and opened by Showcase Cinemas in September 2001. Today this operates as Vue cinemas.
But why is the Wetherspoons pub called “Spouters’ Corner”? Well the pub’s website has this to say:
“Spouters’ Corner has been accustomed to comings and goings for a very long time. The leisure complex occupies an open-air meeting place, hence its name, which was partly occupied by the blacksmith’s forge established by George Chesser in 1770. Chesser’s smithy served the passing trade on High Road and operated on this site into the 1920s.”
So it was a kind of Speakers’ Corner, though not quite sure how relevant it being a blacksmiths is to the story. Interesting that Haringey Council have kept the tradition by making space for “spouters” outside the nearby library as we saw just now.
Our next stop is just up the way across the road on the other corner of the junction.
Stop 4: Wood Green tube station
Here we have another station on the 1930s Piccadilly line extension.
Like the others we saw at Arnos Grove and Southgate, this station is by Charles Holden, but it does not have the same presence in the street scene as they do. In fact it looks a bit dull.
But inside in the ticket hall and at platform level there are these rather nice grilles with sort of country scenes.
Like all the new underground stations on this extension, they have cream tiles but with a different colour picked out on the edging. But whilst the others stations have a solid colour, Wood Green is different as its colour (green) is alternated with cream.
Continue walking up the hill and past the bus garage. Beyond the church, you will come to the next stop on your left.
Stop 5: Civic Centre
Here we have the main centre of administration for Haringey Council, built in the late 1950s as the Civic Centre for Wood Green Borough Council, one of Haringey’s predecessor authorities. According to architectural bible Pevsner, this was built on the site of the Fishmongers and Poulterers Almshouses.
Now cross over the High Road and retrace your steps back towards the tube station. You will see a green on your left – our next stop.
Stop 6: King George VI Memorial Garden
This little bit of greenery looks like a little sad – a patch of green you walk across which is not quite a park and not really a garden.
But if you look carefully as you head towards the far end (ie the tube station end) you will see a little plaque which explains a bit of the history.
This “garden” was provided by public subscription in 1952 as “a memorial to His Late Majesty, King George VI”.
This is quite unusual, as at this time most people were thinking in terms of celebrating the new Queen and her coronation which was in 1953.
Go down the hill and just past the station turn left down Lordship Lane. Our next stop is on the right.
Stop 7: Mecca Bingo
There is not much to see here but the site of this modern bingo hall has an interesting place in TV history.
From the 1920s to the early 1980s, this was the site of a bus depot, latterly operated by the Eastern National Omnibus Company. This was the starting point of the Eastern National routes to Southend and Westcliff. The building and forecourt were used for the outside scenes in the 1970s TV series On the Buses. When these routes ceased in the early 1980s and the site was redeveloped as a DIY store ‘Do-it-all’. Then in the 1990s this was converted into the Bingo Hall.
And if you look at the other corner of the road to the car park, there is a little clue to the previous use of this site.
I wonder if the residents of Omnibus House know why it has this name.
Keep going along Lordship Lane and look at for the nondescript house at Number 601 (I have to confess I walked straight past without noticing it because I was expecting something a little more imposing!)
Stop 8: Wood Green Animal Shelter, 601 Lordship Lane
A woman called Louisa Snow first opened an Animal Shelter here in 1924 to help abandoned and injured animals found on the streets of London. In 1933 Dr. Margaret Young took over and changed the focus of its work to rescuing and rehoming unwanted animals. The charity bought an old farm in Hertfordshire in the 1950s to cope with the increasing numbers of animals being presented to them. Then in 1987 another site was acquired in Godmanchester. That is now the headquarters but this London site continues to be used.
The Charity’s 2014/15 annual report says it helped 5,270 through its rehoming centres. This is just under two thirds the number handled by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home – in 2014, Battersea cared for over 8,000 animals (including 5,034 dogs and 3,401 cats). But obviously Wood Green does not have the profile – nor the very visible site – that Battersea has.
Retrace your steps along Lordship Lane and turn left when you get to the High Road (where you have the Vue cinema complex on your left and the tube station on your right). Our next stop is straight ahead straddling the High Road.
Stop 9: The Mall
The centre was built on the site of the former Noel Park and Wood Green railway station and the river Moselle passes under the centre in a culvert.
Noel Park and Wood Green was a station on the Palace Gates Line which was a branch line of the Great Eastern Railway. The line ran from Seven Sisters to a station called Palace Gates (Wood Green) which was built to serve Alexandra Palace.
The station which was opened in January 1878 was located on the eastern side of the High Road adjacent to Pelham Road. As it was a rather indirect route to get into central London, it is hardly surprising that the arrival of the tube here in the 1930s really did for it. The line closed to passengers in January 1963 and to freight in December 1964. Following closure, the embankment on which the station sat and the bridge over the High Road were removed. Today nothing is left of the station.
Eventually the site was redeveloped to create Wood Green Shopping City which was opened on 13 May 1981 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The shopping centre straddles the main road so many of the stores have entrances directly onto the street. The two halves of the mall are linked by bridges at first and second floor level.
At first it had a Department store as an anchor. Initially this was D H Evans (owned by House of Fraser) but that closed in 1995. Later it had for a time a department store belonging to Pearsons whose main shop was in Enfield. That is still trading in Enfield but now owned by Morleys.
The centre was bought by current owners The Mall Company in 2002 and renamed “The Mall Wood Green”. The new owners carried out a rebuilding programme, altering the layout of the shops, adding a 12 screen cinema and expanding the market hall. There was talk of Debenhams moving in but they ended up with Primark, Part of the Primark site was previously been occupied by Pearsons. This is very much a shopping centre at the budget end of the market as other stores in the mall include TK Maxx, Wilkinsons and Lidl. It does seem to be thriving with almost all the shops units occupied, even if this is not in the Westfield league.
By the way do not go in just yet, we will be coming back this way and will be going through The Mall.
So keep walking along the High Road.
Stop 10: Cheapside (and former Empire theatre)
Just past the modern development of the mall you get back to the Edwardian shopping street. And on our left is a parade of shops which is called “Cheapside Wood Green”
Cheapside is a street name which pops up in many old towns in England and there is of course one in the City of London. According to Wikipedia, it means “market place” and is from Old English ceapan, “to buy” (compare also: German kaufen, Dutch kopen, Swedish köpa). There was originally no connection to the modern meaning of cheap. But cheap could be seen as a shortening of “good ceap” meaning “good buy” in other words “low price”).
The middle section of this building is occupied by the Halifax.
And the left hand part of the Halifax premises as you look from the street was in fact the entrance to a theatre – the Wood Green Empire.
Built in 1912, it was one of Sir Oswald Stoll’s theatres, designed by renown theatre architect Frank Matcham. It operated as a theatre until 1955 when it was converted for use by one of the new commercial television companies, ATV, which was at the time owned by Stoll Moss. Morecambe and Wise did some of their early TV shows from here. Finally closing in 1962, the theatre was demolished and replaced by a multi story car park. Only the street frontage remained.
More info on the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/WoodGreenEmpire.htm
It is interesting to see from the photos on that site how the facade has been changed. Only the third floor windows and the lower part of the roof seem to have survived from the original entrance to the theatre.
Continue walking along the High Road
Stop 11: former Marks and Spencer store (and site of Palladium cinema)
This was until September 2015, a branch of Marks and Spencer, but previously had been the site of a cinema.
The Picture Palladium was opened in 1913. The cinema closed in 1915, possibly because of the War. It was reopened around 1920. At some point it was renamed as the Palladium Cinema and it finally shut for good at the end of 1937. And it was then that a branch of Marks & Spencer stores was built on the site.
It has just reopened as a factory outlet shop. This kind of sums up how Wood Green is headed as a shopping area
Now retrace your steps back to the Mall and go in.
Just past Primark, there is a market hall.
Go through that and out to the the rear exit. Turn right into Mayes Road and then turn left into Coburg Road. Our next stop is down here in this industrial area.
Stop 12: Wood Green Cultural Quarter (yes really!)
(this by the way is taken looking back towards the Mall – whose sign you can just see)
Go down Coburg Road through what looks like an unpromising industrial estate and soon you will see why this is called “Wood Green Cultural Quarter”
At the corner of Clarenden Road is one of the buildings of the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
Mountview began in 1945 as “The Mountview Theatre Club”, an amateur repertory company staging a new production for a six day run every second week. It started part time courses in acting and theatrical skills in 1958 and ran full time courses from 1969. It has had various well known presidents, Dame Margaret Rutherford, Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Mills – Dame Judi Dench has been president since 2005.
And then as you turn the corner you see some other buildings occupied by Mountview plus something called the Chocolate Factory, which is home to various artistic endeavours.
It turns out this site was from the 1880s onwards the location of Bassetts sweet factory. It is a bit confusing calling this the Chocolate Factory given the existence of the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark Street. And perhaps more importantly the fact that the most famous product of Bassetts is probably Licorice All Sorts which are not chocolate at all.
We have reached the end of the N22 walk. Wood Green has quite a large shopping centre but one which I have to say is rather on the cheap side. So rather fitting there is actually a parade of shops called Cheapside. But there was lots of other interest with Spouters’ Corner, some old cinema sites, the TV connections of On the Buses and the use of the old Empire theatre by ATV. And the finale was finding the cultural quarter!
From here you can retrace your steps back to Wood Green for many buses and of course the tube. But if you are adventurous, you can go back to Mayes Road and turn left and head towards Alexandra Palace station