N22: On (the) Cheap Side

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.

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The Library is in fact our first stop.

Stop 1: Wood Green Library

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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.

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Just by the door, there is a plaque commemorating its opening in March 1979.

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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.

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And sometimes one can see someone using the space …

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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)

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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.

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It has just reopened as a factory outlet shop. This kind of sums up how Wood Green is headed as a shopping area

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Now retrace your steps back to the Mall and go in.

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Just past Primark, there is a market hall.

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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!)

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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

N21: Even dragons have their endings

N21 is Winchmore Hill. This is the furthest north of the North London postcodes and it does seem curious that this area has a London postcode. Equivalent areas this far out in other parts of London do not. But quirkily there is a bit of an E postcode which actually goes further north than N21, but that is another story.

We start our walk at Winchmore Hill Post Office which is Number 822, Green Lanes. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is ahead just as the main road bends to the right.

Stop 1: Former Green Dragon pub

Here we have another pub that has not made it through these difficult times.

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There has been a Green Dragon pub in Winchmore Hill for a long time – the 18th century, possibly as far back as the 1720s. The original pub was a bit further up the road at the junction of Green Dragon Lane. According to Wikipedia, it is said that a highwayman was caught and executed on a gallows erected by the Green Dragon’s front entrance. These gallows were not pulled down for a number of years, which might have prompted the owner to move the pub near the end of the 18th century to its current location at the bottom of Vicars Moor Lane .

The building we see today was extensively remodelled in 1935. But it closed as a public house in 2015. It is some kind of discount shop at the moment but it seems it is destined to become a Waitrose in the near future.

But I guess even when this becomes a Waitrose, there will still this little reminder of the former pub.

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As J R R Tolkein says in the Hobbit: “So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.”

This quote is kind of fitting in the context of pubs. They seem so much part of the scene and yet many are slipping away almost without anyone being able to stop them going.

Go along Vicars Moor Lane. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 2: Number 59 Vicars Moor Lane

This ordinary looking house has an Enfield plaque to Thomas Hood (1799 – 1845) who was an English author and humourist.

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He is known for poems such as “The Bridge of Sighs” and “The Song of the Shirt”. I rather liked this verse of his:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds –
November!

Hood wrote regularly for periodicals such as The London Magazine and Punch. He later published a magazine called “Hood’s Magazine and Comic Miscellany” which  largely consisted of his own works, apparently.

And here is the actual plaque.

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Continue to the end of Vicars Moor Lane (quite a walk). Turn left into Wades Hill. Our next stop is at the end of this street by the mini roundabout on the right.

Stop 3: The King’s Head

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This building dates from 1899 and is described by architectural historian Pevsner as “bold and jolly”. But here’s a curious thing. Look up and you see this on one of the chimneys.

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Curious because this building is not actually by the station or even the railway line.

Go around the pub turning right and going along this road (which is The Green and becomes Church Hill).

Stop 4: A Bench

Now keep a look out for a bench on the right hand side. As I have said before, I do like to look at those little inscriptions you get on benches. They often give you lovely insights, but often frustratingly do not give you quite enough information.

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Take this one. It was placed by the Southgate Women Burgesses Association and is in “affectionate remembrance of their founder member and president Mrs M M Fairchild.”

How fascinating that there was a “Southgate Women Burgesses Association”. A Burgess was originally a freeman of a borough but later it came to include any elected or unelected official of a borough. Southgate Borough Council existed for just 32 years (1933 – 1965) and had a mayor, seven aldermen and twenty-one councillors. So the Southgate Women Burgesses Association must have been a fairly exclusive club as there cannot have been many women in this group.

But what is frustrating is that there is no date on the plaque to pin this down. Nor does an internet search yield any information. The Association probably does not still exist and even if it did, they probably have not got around to using the internet.

Keep walking along Church Hill and our next stop is on the right.

Stop 5: Friends Meeting House

Here is a lovely example of an old Friends’ Meeting House. This Quaker establishment dates from 1688 but this building comes from a century later – 1790.

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And if you go to the left there is a graveyard. Immediately as you go in your right you will see a series of graves for the Hoares. Note in particular the one for Samuel Hoare.

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Samuel Hoare Junior (1751 – 1825) was a wealthy banker born in Stoke Newington. His London home was for many years Heath House on Hampstead Heath, which we passed without comment in NW3 – it is just near Jack Straw’s Castle. He was one of the twelve founding members of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

In 1772 he became a junior partner in the bank of Bland and Barnett. This became Barnett, Hoare & Co. They were the London agent of the Birmingham based Lloyds Bank. The bank traded in Lombard Street under the sign of the black horse. Lloyds Bank formally took over the company in 1884 and in doing so Lloyds adopted the black horse sign which continues in use as the Lloyds logo.

However this is a separate line of Hoares from the ones associated with the bank C Hoare and Co, which was founded in 1672 by Sir Richard Hoare. That is still trading. It remains family owned and is currently managed by the 11th generation of Hoare’s direct descendants.

Keep going past the house and you will see a seat and a solitary grave stone just by it.

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This is the grave of Luke Howard and his wife (or rather as the stone has it – Mariabella Howard and her husband, Luke). We came across him in Bruce Grove, N17 where there is a blue plaque which delightfully describes him as “The Namer of Clouds”.

Continue on Church Hill.

Stop 6: Hill House gateway

Keep walking along and on your right you will see a development of town houses called Hill House Close.

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But just before there is this little curiosity.

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A little reminder that there must have been somewhere called Hill House just here and it had gates. But why go to the trouble of putting a little plaque here to tell us this was the gatepost of Hill House. I can find no information about Hill House.

Our next stop is just over the road on the left.

Stop 7: St Paul’s Church

This church dates from the 1820s and is described by Pevsner as “A cheap Church of the Commissioners type”. It was built on a site given by Walker Gray of Grovelands – which is the big house down the road (which we saw in Southgate, N14).

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Retrace your steps along Church Hill. At The Green after the Kings Head, keep on following the shops on the left. Ahead is Station Road and our next stop.

Stop 8: Winchmore Hill Station

Here we have the station which opened in 1871 and which was built by the Great Northern Railway.

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If you venture in, you will again see staircases denuded of cover. Seems to be a pattern in this part of London.

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And the platforms have rather dull looking replacement canopies

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But I guess at least this station does have proper canopies on both platforms.

The arrival of the railway in the 1870s does not seem to have created a building boom immediately. It seems to have taken a while for Winchmore Hill to start being developed as a suburb and I guess it was as much the arrival of electric trams in 1907 on Green Lanes which really made development inevitable.

Keep walking along Station Road and our next stop is almost at the end on the left.

Stop 9: Number 16 Station Road

This was the home of Henrietta Cresswell (1855 – 1931) She was a writer and artist who lived here 1893 – 1899.

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There is a green plaque erected by the Southgate District Civic Society.

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Her claim to fame is that she wrote a book called “Winchmore Hill: Memories of a Lost Village”.

She opens her book as follows:

“My father, John Cresswell, was a general practitioner at Winchmore Hill for fifty years, from 1842 till his death on November 9th, 1892. When he came he was a young man of 24, and he only slept away from home twice or thrice for a single night in more than forty years. There can only be a few people now who remember “The Old Doctor,” but there was a time when he brought nearly every new inhabitant into the village, and saw most of the old ones out.
In his time the somewhat primitive village developed into a considerable suburb, and in the fifteen years since his passing away it has become a modern wilderness of bricks and mortar, and has been “improved” nearly out of existence.
His sketch book was always in his hand and his drawing minutely accurate in detail. I hope some of the many dwellers in the new village may be interested in his sketches of the old, now passed away into “The Land of Long Ago.” I have attempted in a few chapters of word painting to give some idea of how we lived in Winchmore Hill in those days. I have made my sketches as true as I was able, and have done my best not to be too egotistical.
If I have failed in this I crave forgiveness.
HENRIETTA CRESSWELL
Dumfries, 1907.”
So this is a snapshot in time of a lost world. I wonder what she would have made of how Winchmore Hill looks today. The change from country village to suburbia was not quite complete when she wrote her book. But has really changed is, the way people live.
And you can buy this slim volume today through Amazon believe it or not.
If you look on Amazon, you will see one 5 star  review from August 2015 which reads:
“beautiful book, lovely writing. Amazon…………pay your taxes in the UK! “

Continue along Station Road to the end. Our next stop is ahead of you on the main road (Green Lanes).

Stop 10: Capitol House

Here we have a boxy dull looking office block called Capitol House and only its name belies what once stood on this site.

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This was the site of the Capitol Cinema. Designed in Art Deco style by the prolific cinema architect, Robert Cromie, the cinema opened on 29 December 1929. It was taken over in December 1930 by ABC Cinemas, which ran it until its closure in December 1959. It was demolished the following year and replaced by this office block.

It must have looked strange to have a large cinema here. It seems to have been the only one in the immediate area and it is hardly surprising it did not make it through the 1950s. And no doubt the area was not deemed to be a promising location for a bingo hall, so it was worth more as a commercial building plot.

Unlike Barnet House in N20, this 1960s building is not so large and so out of keeping with its surroundings. But I think an old cinema building would be a nicer addition to the street scene.

We are now nearly back where we started. Winchmore Hill does not have a great deal to offer in the way of sights but it is a nice enough area with its lovely village setting to the west of the railway – although to the east it does seem to be rather dull suburbia.

For onward travel return to Winchmore Hill station or else there are various buses on Green Lane.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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?”

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/5766936.July_9__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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/dick-whittington-and-his-cat

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.

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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.

N18: No Angel

N18 is Upper Edmonton which is squeezed between N9 Lower Edmonton and N17 Tottenham.

We start our walk at Upper Edmonton Post Office which is at 83 Fore Street, N18.

Turn left out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along just outside Fore Street Library which is at 109 -111 Fore Street.

Stop 1: The Gilpin Bell sculpture

Well here is an odd thing to find along this nondescript shopping street.

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This is called Gilpin’s Bell and is by Angela Godfrey and dates from 1996. It was inspired by a comic ballad from 1782 by William Cowper, entitled “The Diverting History of John Gilpin”.

This is the story of Gilpin and his wife and children on a journey to the Bell Inn, Edmonton. They become separated after Gilpin loses control of his horse, and is carried ten miles farther to the town of Ware. And much the same thing happens on his return when he is carried past Edmonton back to the City.

As an entertainment, this does seem rather tame by today’s standards. And the sculpture itself is not that well located and it seems to be getting a bit weathered but maybe that was the intention.

Retrace your steps along Fore Street.

If you want to keep going and you can see the Wetherspoons pub, Gilpin’s Bell which also celebrates the story and is close to the site of the old Bell pub which was demolished in 1963.

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By the way this pub is on the border with Tottenham, not so far from White Hart Lane football ground and it seems that on match days entry to this pub is restricted to home supporters. So beware if you are here on a match day and are not a home supporter, because you will not get in. But then again why would you volunteer to go anywhere near a major football ground on a match day unless you were actually going there.

If you do not want to take this short detour, turn right into the side street between the White Horse pub and Corals bookmakers. Otherwise return back to this point on Fore Street and turn left.

Go ahead into Joyce Avenue, going through the housing estate and you will see a slope leading up to a bridge over the railway.

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Go over that bridge. Our next stop is just on the other side.

Stop 2: Javier’s memorial

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I have no idea who Javier was or why he is memorialised here. My Google searches have thrown up nothing. One can only assume he died on the railway just here. The memorial has been here some years and perhaps predates the time when people obsessively published material on the Facebook and elsewhere on the internet.

It is also an unusual survivor. Normally these roadside shrines are removed by the council after some months. But this one has survived presumably because it is in a no man’s land between the council’s highway land and railway land.

Go straight ahead along Bridport Road. Our next stop soon sprawls out all along the right hand side of the road.

Stop 3: North Middlesex hospital

This site was originally Edmonton workhouse in 1842. A separate hospital building was opened in 1910. It became a military hospital in 1915, known as Edmonton Military Hospital. Once back in civilian hands in 1920, the hospital became known as the North Middlesex Hospital – or the North Mid. It is the main hospital for this part of North London.

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Walk along Bridport Road and turn right into Bull Lane. As you approach the North Circular Road you will see a subway on your left. Use this to cross the main road. Once on the other side, keep going. This is Tanner’s End Lane. At the end of this street turn left and our next stop is a short distance on the left.

Stop 4: Millfield House and Arts Centre

Go through the gate and ahead to the left is the old house, dating from 1796.

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Although owned by John Wigston of nearby Trent Park, it was initially let to the Imperial Ambassador of the German Empire. Later (in 1849) it became a school for children of the Strand Union Workhouse children. The Strand Union Workhouse was based in the City of Westminster, but ended up setting up an outpost here next door to the Edmonton Workhouse.

There is a fascinating website called  http://www.workhouses.org.uk which gives a lot of information about the Strand Union and Edmonton Workhouses http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Strand/ and http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Edmonton/

It became a hospital in 1915 and was converted to become an Arts Centre in the 1970s, based in the house.

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A purpose built theatre and library was opened on the site in 1988. The library relocated to Fore Street in December 2008 and the building was redeveloped as a cafe bar and performance space.

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The theatre was reopened in October 2009 by local boy Sir Bruce Forsyth after whom the main auditorium was renamed.

If you have ventured into the site go back to Silver Street and just along from the car entrance you will see a street (Windmill Road) across the road with a school at the corner. This is the Aylward Academy, named after Gladys Aylward, more of whom anon..

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Go down Windmill Road and take the third turning on the right. Our next stop is a little way along on the right.

Stop 5: Number 67 Cheddington Road

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Number 67 was the home of Gladys Aylward (1902 – 1970) who was a Christian missionary to China.

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Her story was told in the book The Small Woman, by Alan Burgess, published in 1957, and made into the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman, in 1958. The movie was produced by Twentieth Century Fox, and filmed entirely in North Wales and England (!) with most of the chinese children in the film coming from Liverpool where there was a sizable chinese population.

Apparently Aylward was not happy with her depiction in the film. Whilst she was small in stature with dark hair and a London accent, she was played in the movie by the tall Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman. And the story was romanticised. And one of the chinese characters (the mandarin of the town in which Aylward lived) was played by Robert Donat, who was most definitely not chinese. This was his last movie – he died before the film was released. We saw his blue plaque in NW11.

Intriguingly, the establishment of the film’s title was actually called the Inn of the Eight Happinesses – eight being an auspicious number in China and there being eight desirable attributes: Love, Virtue, Gentleness, Tolerance, Loyalty, Truth, Beauty, and Devotion. But for some reason the film version called it the Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

Continue walking along Cheddington Road. At the end do a right then an immediate left into Park Lane. Take the fourth turning on the right (Sweet Briar Walk). This goes alongside Pymmes Park. As the road takes a turn to the right there is an entrance to the park go in here. Follow the path with the lake to your left.

Stop 6: Pymmes Park

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Pymmes Park originated as a private estate. In the late 16th century it was owned by the powerful Cecil family. In 1589 Robert Cecil, later 1st Earl of Salisbury, spent his honeymoon at Pymmes. The estate was eventually acquired by Edmonton Council and opened as a public park in 1906. Pymmes House was destroyed by fire in the 1940s and the remains were demolished.

There is a rather nice walled garden, though it is sadly marred by the noise of the nearby North Circular Road. You find this by searching out the Visitors Centre which is rather strange looking white building that looks like it has escaped from an army camp.

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If you go to the right of this, you will find an archway that leads into the walled garden.

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Head back round the Visitors Centre and go out on to Silver Street.

Ahead you should see the railway on an embankment and some steps going up to Silver Street station, our next stop.

Stop 7: Silver Street Station

This is the next station after White Hart Lane going out of London. Built in 1872 and like the other stations we saw in N15, N16 and N17, it has those unattractive unroofed stairs. It should perhaps have been called Upper Edmonton, but was not.

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The London bound platform retains its canopy, although altered and strangely extended. The country bound platform has lost any covering it might have had.

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Back down to street level, go under the railway and continue to the junction. Although you cannot see it you are standing on top of the North Circular Road which at this point has been tunnelled. Our next stop is at the corner of Fore Street.

Stop 8: Site of Regal Cinema

There is a ghost of a sign to hint at what was once here.

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This was the location of a huge cinema called the Regal. Opened in March 1934, it seated almost 3,000 people and had full stage facilities. It also contained a restaurant and ballroom, which each had their own separate entrances.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, the building was owned by the Abrahams family, but it was initially operated by the Hyams & Gale circuit. They were taken over by Gaumont in October 1935. Eventually Gaumont became part of the Rank Organisation but always the building was owned by the Abrahams family who installed clauses in the lease that it should always remain fully equipped as a cinema with full working stage facilities.

The stage was used less frequently as years went by, but still packed them in when artists such as The Beatles and Frank Sinatra appeared.

The cinema closed in July 1972 but it was reconfigured with the stalls seating removed and the floor levelled, becoming a disco and live concert venue named the Sundown. Groups such as Hawkwind, Doctor John, Steppenwolf and The Groundhogs played this venue.

However, this venture lasted less than two years and in March 1974 it reopened as the Regal Cinema, using seating that had remained in the circle. This was also not successful lasting only until August 1974.

The Regal Cinema became a Top Rank Bingo Club. Bingo lasted until 1985 when planning permission was granted for demolition which happened during November/December 1985.

Right up to the end, the Rank Organisation had honoured the lease and kept all equipment in the theatre to full working order. Cinema Treasures says that projectors were well oiled and run on a weekly basis just in case films returned, the stage revolve, curtains and screen were all there, even the organ which was often still used at well attended concerts and to entertain the bingo players was in immaculate condition when the bulldozers moved in.

A Safeway supermarket was built on the site which is today a Lidl supermarket.

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Now with your back to the supermarket go up Fore Street, crossing the side street. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 9: Angel Place

This is a interesting survival – a terrace originally dating from around 1730 which were altered in the middle of the 19th century. Now Grade II* listed buildings.

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185, 187 and 189 were extensively restored in the 1980s to include the formation of an arch at 187 Angel Place with gardens behind.

Set back from Fore Street, the buildings were adjacent to The Angel public house. But today there is no Angel. The Angel was demolished to widen the North Circular Road, but which cannot now be seen as previously mentioned this road is below us in a tunnel..

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Continue along Fore Street

Stop 10: site of Alcazar cinema

Just a little way along is a 1960s block of shops and flats and guess what, this was the site of an old cinema.

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The Alcazar Cinematograph Theatre opened in June 1913 as part of an entertainment complex which included an enclosed Winter Gardens, which had a palm court and provision for dancing, and an outdoor Summer Gardens as well as a roller skating rink and a tea room. The building was designed like a Moorish palace, with a covered veranda stretching 140 feet along the facade at first floor level.

According to Cinema Treasures, demand for seats at the opening was so great, that the 1,700 seat cinema was filled to capacity and seating had to be placed in the Winter Gardens to take the overflow. It became a regular occurrence to screen popular films in both spaces, and in summer months, the Summer Gardens were also used as a cinema.

The Alcazar was rebuilt in 1933 and was the last cinema in the area to be fitted with sound equipment. It suffered badly when the new giant Regal Cinema opened in March 1934 just up the road on Angel Corner.

The Alcazar closed when it was hit by German bombs on 23 August 1940. This destroyed the dance hall and one wall of the cinema, causing the roof of the auditorium to cave in. Further damage was done by a V1 flying rocket which landed nearby in October 1944.

The remains were demolished and the site stood derelict until the 1960s, when the council built a small parade of shops with flats above, and houses at the rear on the site of the Summer Garden.Today a British Red Cross Charity Shop is located where the entrance to the Alcazar Picture Theatre once was.

Strange to think that for a brief period of around 30 years there was this exotic building here in Upper Edmonton. And one wonders if it had not been destroyed by enemy action as to whether it might have survived til today.

Well that brings us to the end of our N18 walk. We have seen a rather odd sculpture (and pub) reminding us of an obscure 18th century song, we have heard about a missionary and how her life story was treated by the movie industry. and we have seen the sites of two old cinemas, where today there are just ordinary workaday buildings. I thought N18 had little promise when I started but like many of these outer areas there are still some interesting nuggets to reveal.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/merton-park-the-little-known-garden-suburb-tickets-12396639683?ref=ebapihttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/merton-park-the-little-known-garden-suburb-tickets-12396639683?ref=ebapiFor onward  travel you could return to Silver Street station or there are plenty of buses along Fore Street.

 

 

N17: Spurred into action

N17 is Tottenham proper as opposed to South Tottenham, or Seven Sisters which we saw in N15. And of course Tottenham is forever associated with Tottenham Hotspur Football team.

We start our walk at the Bruce Grove Post Office at 476 High Road, N17 9JF.

Turn left out of the Post Office and continue along the High Road past the Police Station. Our first couple of stops are just opposite the Police Station

Stop 1: Former Palace Theatre, 421 – 427 High Road

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This building looks like an old theatre and indeed it is. This was built as the Palace Theatre of Varieties, which opened on 31 August 1908. And the date can be seen in the ironwork on some of the doors. If you look carefully, you can see “19” in the middle of the left panel and “08” on the right.

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For the first few years, it was presenting a mix of variety and drama but in 1922 it began showing films in the afternoons some days a week. From November 1924 it became a full time cinema, renamed the Canadian Cinema.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, it would most likely be at this period of time that the projection box was built on the rear of the stage and this theatre remained a back-projection cinema for the rest of its life – a somewhat unusual arrangement. The reason for this was there was no room available in the rear of the dress circle and one in the rear of the balcony would have given too steep an angle and a keystone effect on the screen.

It became the Palace Theatre once again in January 1926 and was taken over by the Gaumont British Theatres in 1929.  Gaumont merged with Odeon later and they became part of the Rank Organisation. Rank closed the Palace Theatre on 28 June 1969. It does not seem to have been renamed either Gaumont or Odeon at any time.

The building was converted into a Bingo Club, initially operated by Mecca and later by the smaller chain of Jasmine Bingo Clubs. The Jasmine Bingo Club closed in February 1996. The building became a church initially called the Palace Cathedral, but now is something else.

Our next stop is literally next door.

Stop 2: site of Royal Ballroom, 415 – 419 High Road

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This modern building was once the location of the Royal Ballroom.

The first entertainment building here was a roller skating rink which opened in February 1910. Clearly the roller skating craze quickly waned because the building was soon redesigned opening as the Canadian Rink Cinema in June 1911. By 1925 it had closed as a cinema, possibly due to the adjacent Palace Theatre converting to full time cinema use (and taking the name Canadian Cinema for a while – see above).

According to Cinema Treasures, the Canadian Rink Cinema was converted into a dance hall known as the Tottenham Palais and became a well known North London nightspot for several decades. Later owned by Mecca, by the 1960s it was known as the Tottenham Royal and in later years became the Temple nightclub. It was demolished in 2004 and this modern building is now on the site, leaving no trace of the fact this was once a place of entertainment.

Walk a little further along the High Road and turn right into Drapers Road. Our next stop is ahead beyond the gates.

Stop 3: Old School Court

Today this is called Old School Court.

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But as the sign explains this was built as Drapers College.

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The sign says it was established by the Worshipful Company of Drapers in 1858, but architectural historian Pevsner dates the building to 1860- 1862. It was Tottenham High School for Girls from 1885 to 1985 and the building were converted to residential use in 1996.

Return to the main road and back towards where you started.

This is by the way the old Roman road Ermine Street which comes out of the City at Bishopsgate and heads north to Lincoln and York. Ermine Street is an old English name, as no one knows what the Romans called the road. But it has nothing to do with the fur Ermine but rather derives from the name of a tribe called Ernigas whose territory the road ran through in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Soon on the left you will see the main road (A10) takes a left turn under a railway bridge, the line of the old roman road carries straight on. Our next stop is here at this junction.

Stop 4: Bruce Grove station

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Although Bruce Grove station seems to be better preserved than Stoke Newington, it too has had its staircases denuded of their roofs. I do think this looks horrible but no doubt it is cheaper to maintain.

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But if you go up to the platform, their canopies seems to have survived in their original form, including their wooden fascia boards.

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However according to Wikipedia all is not what it seems. In the early 1980s several changes were made to the appearance of the station, apart from the staircases. The London bound platform roof was shortened and the waiting rooms boarded up. The North-bound roof opposite (which was identical) was completely removed and a small brick shelter was installed in its place. This shelter lasted for nearly twenty years before it was itself demolished and a new roof, built in the style of the original though much shorter, was constructed giving the illusion of original authenticity to the station. Haringey Council funded this work and the station is considered a site of historic interest in the locality.

Return to the street and turn left under the railway. Our next stop is just ahead on the right.

Stop 5: former Bruce Grove Cinema, 117 Bruce Grove

Here we have another old cinema.

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The cinema here first opened in July 1921 and was operated by a local independent company, Tottenham Cinema and Entertainment Co. Ltd, according to the Cinema Treasures site.

The building was reconstructed in August and September 1933. Externally it was modernised and the original domed tower feature was removed. The auditorium was Art Deco style.

In 1962 the cinema was taken over the Star Cinemas Ltd of Leeds who closed it in August 1963 and converted it into a Star Bingo Club. At some time the building was spilt with the stalls area becoming a snooker club and the former balcony extended forward to the proscenium to remain a bingo club for a few more years.

Bingo upstairs closed in May 1983 and the space was empty until 1986. It was used for two short lived ventures (an indoor cricket pavilion and a “Quazar” laser shooting gallery). Then in the early 1990s it was converted into a church, known as the Freedom’s Ark. Snooker continued in the former stalls area, together with a Caribbean restaurant.

In May 2011, the Freedom’s Ark church vacated the building and moved elsewhere in Tottenham. But there seems to be a church in here again now but I am not sure what the rest of the whole building is being used for.

Our next stop is just next door

Stop 6: Former Bruce Grove Ballroom, 113 Bruce Grove

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In 1923, the owners of the Bruce Grove cinema commissioned the cinema’s architect (Charles E. Blackbourn) to design a ballroom, to add to the cinema’s amenities.

It opened in 1923 as the Bruce Grove Ballroom, with the ballroom upstairs at first floor level, and shops on the ground floor.

The Star Cinemas chain seems to have acquired this at the same time as the cinema and continued to operate the ballroom until 1974, when they converted it into a four-screen cinema, opening in July 1974 as Studios 5,6,7,8 – not sure where Studios 1, 2 3 or 4 were. These operated until December 1981. The building was then empty for a couple of years until it was returned to a single space and reopened as the Regency Banqueting Suite in 1984, which is what it is today.

Now look across the road.

Stop 7: Number 7 Bruce Grove

We are stopping at Number 7 not because of the building but because of who lived here.

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Luke Howard (1772 – 1864) was an amateur meteorologist. As the blue plaque delightfully says he was a namer of clouds. He was not the first to try to name clouds – a Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829), beat him to it but it was in French. Howard’s system used Latin and applied the principles of natural history classification, as espoused by Carl Linnaeus. Thus Howard arrived at a workable solution to the problem of naming transitional forms in nature, like clouds.

Continue walking along Bruce Grove. Our next stop is ahead on the right.

Stop 8: Drapers Almhouses

Continue along Bruce Grove and our next stop is set back off to the right of the street. These were built in 1870 by three foundations connected to the Drapers Company.

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As the sign says they were modernised during the years 1978 – 1981.

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So although the Drapers do not seem to have a school in the area now, they still maintain the connection to the area with these almshouses.

Continue to the end of the road and our next stop is immediately ahead beyond the mini roundabout.

Stop 9: Bruce Castle

This is the somewhat misnamed Bruce Castle, as it is not and never has been a castle.

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The name Bruce Castle is derived from the Scottish House of Bruce, who way back had owned a third of the manor of Tottenham. When Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland in 1306 he forfeited his lands in England, including the Bruce holdings in Tottenham, ending the connection between the Bruce family and the area.

The three parts of the manor of Tottenham were united in the early 15th century under the Gedeney family.

The front we see today from the road dates from a remodelling of the house in the late 17th century, but with some additions were made in the 18th century, but there may be some older bits lurking.

Bruce Castle is now a museum, holding the archives of the London Borough of Haringey, and housing a permanent exhibition on Haringey and its predecessor boroughs, plus temporary displays on the history of the area. There is also an exhibition on Rowland Hill and postal history – Rowland Hill was the instigator of the universal penny post and his connection to Bruce Castle is that he lived here in the 1840s.

It s worth a quick turn if it is open as you pass.

Behind the “castle” is a park which was the first public park in Tottenham, opening in 1892.

Now take Church Lane which the road running down the left hand side of the “castle” and park. Pass the Church and our next stop is as the road bends to the right.

Stop 10: Prospect Place

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Here we have a lovely little terrace of houses dating from 1822 and called “Prospect Place”.

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And this is the prospect today:

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If you have time you can venture into the cemetery and see the river Moselle, one of the London almost lost rivers, which we heard about in Muswell Hill.

My fellow guide, Jen Pedler has created a walk which follows the path of the Moselle. This was first done as part of the Footprints of London River Walks festival in Spring 2015.

When walking through Tottenham which was perhaps not the most scenic part, Jen got her walkers to join in a 400 year old song, called “The Tottenham Toad”. This is about the courtship of a Tottenham lad (‘toad’), who falls for a country girl from Enfield (‘squirrel’), But the river Moselle keeps flooding its banks forcing him the wade through high waters to make it work.

Here are the words:

The Tottenham Toad came walking up the road,
With his feet swimming in the sea,
‘Pretty little squirrel with her tail in a curl,
They’ve all got a wife, but me.’
I married me a wife to join my life,
She soon wished I were dead.
In about six weeks we had a little quarrel
And she pulled all the hair out of my head.

Sadly I do not have Jen and her walkers singing this. But here are two local schools (Noel Park and St Francis De Sales) with their version (which does not exactly follow the above words).

http://www.ariver-runsthroughit.org.uk/events/singing-tottenham-toad-bruce-castle

Continue along the road (which is Church Road) and at the end you will be back at the High Road.

Stop 11: Tottenham Hotspur (“Spurs”) Football Ground (White Hart Lane)

You cannot really miss our next stop as it looms up over the main road.

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Known as White Hart Lane, the curious thing about it is that the ground is not actually in White Hart Lane.

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Tottenham Hotspur Football Club can trace their origins back to 1882 and they started playing at this site in 1899. The name “Hotspur” is said to be is a reference to Henry Percy, whose descendants owned land in the neighbourhood of the club’s first ground in the Tottenham Marshes. Henry Percy is remembered largely because he is a character in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1. Percy is killed by his rival (and the future King), Prince Hal. Henry Percy was also known as Harry Hotspur as he wore riding spurs and his fighting cocks were fitted with spurs. The latter can be seen in the crest used by the Football Club.

Today the ground is undergoing a multi-million pound rebuild.

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In the past the club did consider relocation. Back in 2001, there was the idea of relocation to a proposed 43,000-seat stadium at Pickett’s Lock. This would have been built for the 2005 World Athletics Championships. However the games went elsewhere and so the stadium was never built. Other possible relocation included the new Wembley Stadium and the 2012 Olympic stadium. In 2013 the latter stadium became the subject of fierce competition between Spurs and West Ham United. West Ham won although the decision was initially challenged by Tottenham Hotspur.

At the same time as the Olympic Park bid, and instead of relocating, the Club was pursuing via its Northumberland Development Project a plan to build a new stadium, partly on the site of the existing White Hart Lane ground. The new stadium has a planned capacity for 61,000 spectators.

Now we let’s go down the actual White Hart Lane which is a side street on the other side of the High Road from the actual stadium.

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Our final stop is a little way down White Hart Lane.

Stop 12: White Hart Lane station

This is the closest station to the Football Ground. It has a modern building at ground level, denuded staircases and some canopies on the platforms, although these are not so well preserved as the ones at Bruce Grove, having lost the original decorative fascias.

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It is interesting to see how three stations (Stoke Newington, Bruce Grove and White Hart Lane, all built at the same time (1872) and in the same style, have fared in the modern world. All of them have been disfigured. Bruce Grove seems to have come out best even though it is not all original.

Well that brings us to the end of our N17 walk. – several places of entertainment, connections with a City Livery Company, a major football club … and the namer of clouds. And we are at a station which has a reasonable train service (usually every 15 minute) for onward travel.

N16: The perfect location in which to stay lost

N16 is Stoke Newington or Stokey as some locals call it. It also covers Stamford Hill and Shacklewell, the latter of which has sort of disappeared as a distinct place. But we will focus on Stoke Newington which the writer Iain Sinclair described as follows:

“the perfect location in which to stay lost: limboland. London’s interzone. Large shabby properties that ask no questions. Internal exile with a phoney rent book”

(from “Lights out for the Territory” (1997) as quoted in the third edition of the London Encyclopedia).

We start out walk at Stamford Hill Post Office which is at 82 Stamford Hill. Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Stamford Hill.

Stop 1: Stoke Newington Station

Although there has been a station here since 1872, the current street level station building dates from the mid 1970s.

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This does not look too bad but things go down hill rapidly if you venture down onto the platforms. The staircases have been stripped of their covers and the platforms are also rather forlorn.

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Not very inviting, even though London Overground have cleaned it up and resigned it since they took over the service.

Continue walking along the main road (which is now Stoke Newington High Street). At the next main junction turn left down Northwold Road. Our next stop is a short distance on the left.

Stop 2: West Hackney Almshouses

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The original almshouses were built by a man called Thomas Cooke in 1740, although they were later rebuilt in 1888 and this is what we see today.

But what is unusual about these almshouses is the mid 20th century funding stream that was created and which is remembered in this sign.

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Continue along Northwold Road, over the railway almost to the end of the green area (which is Stoke Newington Common). Our next stop is near the end of the last triangle of green, over to your right.

Stop 3: Number 25 Stoke Newington Common

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The reason we are stopping here is that Marc Bolan, of the band T. Rex and later solo artist, lived at 25 Stoke Newington Common, on the south side, from birth until the age of 15, although he was called Mark Feld then.

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We saw the spot where he died in a car crash in SW13, but his formative years were spent here.

Now return along Northwold Road to Stoke Newington High Street. Our next stop starts immediately across the road at the junction.

Stop 4: Abney Park Cemetery

Here we are at one of the gates of Abney Park cemetery, one of the so-called Magnificent Seven (we have already seen three: Brompton, Kensal Green and Highgate so far), but this one is slightly different. It opened in 1840 and was originally the grounds of a house.

According to the Abney park website http://www.abneypark.org/ , the site was formed from the estates of Fleetwood House and Abney House, the latter of which had been the home of renowned non-conformist and hymn writer Isaac Watts. This association quickly made Abney the foremost burial ground for Dissenters – those practising their religion outside the established church. It was founded on these principles, with a non-denominational chapel at its core, and was open to all, regardless of religious conviction.

Uniquely in London, Abney was also originally laid out as an arboretum, with 2,500 varieties of plants.

We enter via this unusual entrance way with this Egyptian motif.

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Go through this gate and head in on the right hand path.

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It is soon obvious this is not like many of the other big cemeteries. This is more like a wood into which graves have been strewn.

Keep going along this path and soon you will reach this sad site – the main chapel, obviously no longer in use.

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The Chapel is an early example of a non denominational chapel dating from around 1840. Apparently in keeping with its non denominational ethos, this chapel consists inside of four equal arms coming out from the central crossing. The arm nearest the entrance is elongated to allow for a carriage porch.

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Not surprisingly this building is on the Historic England’s “Heritage At Risk” register where it is in priority category A “Immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric; no solution agreed” In fact the whole cemetery has an entry on the register, as well as two specific monuments but the Chapel is clearly the bit that needs most attention.

It is hard to believe that the money cannot be found to rescue this. But hopefully something will happen before it is too late.

Now to get out from here I am suggesting you head towards Church Street rather than go back the way you came. So from the side of the Chapel you will see a First World War war memorial. Go around that and keep heading straight. There is a kind of a path. You will pass the Second World War memorial for the borough of Stoke Newington.

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Keep walking and you will reach a path crossing you and you are in the Salvation Army bit of the cemetery.

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To continue you need to go right and then left down a little path or else left and then right.

You will see the gate ahead.

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(this picture is of course taken from the other side, just to confuse you)

But look back and you will see the monument to William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army and his wife Catherine.

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Plus their son, Bramwell is on the other side of the path.

Go out the gate and turn right into Stoke Newington Church Street. Go along this street with its collection of shops and cafes, some hangovers from an older age and other stripped back places indicating major gentrification. It is an intriguing mix of the useful and the useless. Some interesting looking cafes and some trendy looking shops.

Our next stop is a little way along on the right (after the Lion pub)

Stop 5: Number 172 Stoke Newington Church Street

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This building has not one but three reminders of a connection with the writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), which came as a bit of a surprise to me as I thought he was American. Well he was.

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809 and was christened as Edgar Poe. His father abandoned the family in 1810 and his mother died the following year. A merchant of Scottish origin called John Allan in effect fostered him and he became known as Edgar Allan Poe. The Allans came back to Britain in 1815 and Edgar became a pupil at the Manor House School (1817-20), which stood on this site.

But in 1820 he went back to the States and it is there he became a published writer. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is also considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. And strangely there is this connection to North London.

There is a little bust of Poe on the front up on the right.

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And below there are a couple of plaques, unfortunately covered over in plastic at the time of my visit because of building works.

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Continue walking along Church Street and our next stop is just opposite the Library (this would have been a stop if it had been in a neighbourhood less favoured with interest, but we have plenty else to see here)

Stop 6: Number 173 Stoke Newington Church Street

This is a pleasant enough 18th century house. But the interest is that on this site stood a medieval mansion. The plaque says it was sometime home of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550 – 1604). He was prominent at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I.

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Originally built c. 14th century, the house was demolished about 1710 to be rebuilt as Sisters’ Place built about 1714.

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Continue along Church Street. Our next stop is soon on the right. 

Stop 7: Stoke Newington Town Hall

The Metropolitan Borough of Stoke Newington was formed in 1900 and was the smallest London borough at the time with a population of only 50,000. The council got its own coat of arms in 1934 and its motto was Respice Prospice (which translates as “Look to the past and the future”).

And soon after it got a new town hall which was completed in 1937, which is kind of out of keeping with the rest of the street, and a bit tucked away from the main road we started on.

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The borough became part of the new London Borough of Hackney in 1965, but is still used by Hackney Council.

There is a little Plaque to the left of the main entrance which says “On this site stood Stoke Newington Manor House c.1500 – 1695  And the terrace called Church Row 1695-1700 – 1936”

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Turn left down Albion Road. Continue along here until just after the road bends to the right. Turn left into Albion Grove and then almost immediately right into Milton Grove (this is a one way street with the traffic coming towards you). Continue along Milton Grove, go past Allen Road and our next stop starts just on the left.

Stop 8: Butterfield Green

This is the beginning of a little green space called Butterfield Green which has been created by the Council like a series of green rooms along the line of an old footpath.

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According to the Council’s website, the area that is now home to Butterfield Green was developed in the 1850s when the land was sold by the National Freehold Society to private developers to build terraced housing. By the 1890s the area was densely populated, 172 people per acre against 50 people per acre today, and much of the housing was not well maintained.

The area was heavily bombed during the Second World War and in 1949 damaged housing began to be replaced. Development continued throughout the 1950s and 60s creating a mix of low rise council housing and privately owned original Victorian terraces, though not all the cleared land was built on.

In the early 1960s it was clear this area was lacking in open space. In 1979 the Shakespeare Walk Adventure Playground was set up by volunteers on an area of wasteland and in the 1980s funding was secured from Hackney Council and from the Government’s Urban Programme Scheme to develop the open space in phases. The western part had a BMX biking and skateboarding area, but this became damaged and disused and in 2007 was replaced by the community orchard we see today.

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Here is a little link with more info.

http://hackneycitizen.co.uk/2009/06/06/from-albert-town-to-butterfield-green/

Walk all the way through the park and go along the road straight ahead of you (Palatine Road). When you reach the main road (Stoke Newington Road) turn left. Our next stop is a short way along on the left, but to get a better view cross the road.

Stop 9: Number 117 Stoke Newington Road

Today Number 117 is a Mosque, community centre – and shop!

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But beneath the mosaic is actually an old cinema. Opened as the Apollo Picture House in 1913, it was modernised and reopened as the Ambassador Cinema in August 1933.  In 1937 it was acquired by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd, although they never operated it. It was leased out to another independent operator but ran Odeon release films.

The Ambassador Cinema closed in December 1963. After a short while of closure it was taken over by Star Cinemas and converted into a Star Bingo Club by 1965.

It became a cinema again in September 1974 and was known as the Astra Cinema. It staggered on and by the end was a cinema club showing uncensored martial arts movies and soft core sex films. It finally closed in July 1983.

It was converted into a mosque and in 1994 the auditorium was gutted, removing all traces of the former cinema. The exterior always had two domed features each side of the entrance but this was covered in highly coloured mosaic making it look like a purpose built mosque. Although it functions as a Mosque and Community Centre, the former foyer is rather oddly a small grocery store.

Retrace your steps along Stoke Newington Road.

Stop 10: Alexandra Court (site of Alexandra Theatre)

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This uninteresting block of flats stands on the site of a theatre. The Alexandra Theatre was designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham, opening on 27 December 1897. It was built as a playhouse drama theatre for Frederick William Purcell who also operated other London suburban theatres including the Marlborough Theatre, Holloway, the site of which we saw in N7.

It changed ownership in 1905 and became the Palace Theatre of Varieties. In March 1909, it was taken over by Oswald Stoll for Stoll Moss Empires Ltd., and became the Alexandra Theatre once again. As often happened, it was equipped to screen films as part of the variety programme, showing films exclusively on a sunday, as live performances were not permitted.

By 1932, it had become a full time cinema but then it reverted to a mix of variety and plays performed on weekdays and Sunday films.

It was mainly closed during World War II. It limped on through the late 1940s and finally closed in October 1950. It lay empty and unused for many years, and was demolished in the early 1960s.

A nine storey tower block of council flats named Alexandra Court was built on the site.

More information on the wonderful Arthur Lloyd site: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/AlexandraTheatreStokeNewington.htm

Continue walking along Stoke Newington Road

Stop 11: Numbers 31 -33 Stoke Newington Road

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Yes you guessed it, I am stopping here because this was the site of another cinema. The one here opened in January 1913 as the Electric Coliseum Cinema, and it later became known as the Coliseum. It was always an independently operated cinema. It closed in February 1972.

In the 1980s, it was to be converted into a car salesroom, but finances dried up and it remained in a half finished limbo for several years. The building was hit by fire in December 1992 and the burnt out shell remained until it was finally demolished in 2001. The current building dates from 2012. And today there is no sign that there was ever a cinema on this site.

Continue walking along Stoke Newington Road

As you walk you cannot but help notice the City straight ahead.

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(This picture is of course a bit of a cheat as you do not quite get that image in real life. You need a zoom lens)

Stop 12: Numbers 11- 15 Stoke Newington Road

At numbers 11- 15 Stoke Newington Road there is still a building which externally at least is recognisable as an old cinema.

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This was built for Associated British Cinemas (ABC) and was called the Savoy Cinema when it opened in October 1936. It became the ABC from 1961 and was closed on 12 March 1977 . The following day it re-opened as the Konak Cinema, screening Bollywood movies. It changed hands again in March 1982 and renamed as the Ace Cinema it began screening regular release films again. This did not last long as the Ace Cinema finally closed in February 1984.

The stalls area was converted into a snooker hall. By the summer of 1995, the foyer had been converted into two shop units. Today in addition to the shops, there is a Turkish community centre operating in the former balcony foyer and the stalls space now seems to be a function room going by the name of Epic.

Strange to think now that if you had come along this strip of road in the late 1930s you would have found three cinemas and a theatre – and none have survived in their original form. Also this area should perhaps really be called Shacklewell but that seems to be hardly used as a place name, perhaps because it never made it as a railway station name.

So that brings us to the end of the N16 walk. The area is fascinating and I feel I have not quite done it justice, especially as we have not covered Stamford Hill, with its orthodox Jewish community. But we have managed to see a rather special cemetery, connections with a couple of well known people, and a reminder of some places of entertainment. And having walked the streets of Stokey I am not sure that Iain Sinclair’s description is quite spot on given how gentrified much of it has become.

We are actually almost in E8 now and just down the road are Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction stations, plus there are plenty of buses along this main road for onward travel.

 

 

 

N15: There were never such devoted Sisters

N15 is South Tottenham but I guess if you asked people they may well identify N15 as Seven Sisters.

Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable suggests the name comes from around 1350 when seven sisters about to go their separate ways planted seven elm trees in a ring around a walnut tree. The walnut had died by 1790 but the elms lasted long enough to give their name to a turnpike road built in 1833 to provide improved access between Tottenham and Westminster. Later seven daughters of a Tottenham butcher planted a new set. Neither set of trees has survived til now.

But there is a ring of seven trees today. The current ring of hornbeam trees was planted in 1997 in a ceremony led by five families of seven sisters – presumably they could not find seven lots of seven sisters all to turn up on the same day.

Talking of Sisters brings to mind the Beverley Sisters whose signature tune was of course the song “Sisters”. I had a look to see if I could find a video of them singing it. I could not find them singing the whole song – amazingly. But I did find this. A five minute disco version! The song is in there somewhere!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHVRWwXr6Zs&index=24&list=PLOVfze_5YWZhMZ-eEymNoC40OKnOXlE_d This is nothing to do with Seven Sisters. The Beverley Sisters actually came from Bethnal Green but I could not wait til then to share this!

We start the walk at Page Green Post Office,  87 Broad Lane. Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Broad Lane, until it bends off to the left. Take a right turn down Markfield Road. Continue past the industrial sites and go under the bridges and head into Markfield Park.

Stop 1: Markfield Park and Museum

Markfield Park was officially opened as Markfield Recreation Ground King George’s Field by the Mayor of Tottenham in 1938 and later expanded to include the site of an old sewage works, part of which still stands today. It forms part of the Lea Valley Regional Park.

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Walking into the park there is a certain gritty reality, with the graffiti styled signage. The former sludge tanks were turned into a communal garden space; however, due to neglect and poor security, the entire area was allowed to become extensively vandalised and overgrown. But the park was revitalised in the new Millennium.

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And so turning left once you get into the main park you will see the remains of the Tottenham sewage treatment works and pumping station.

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The pumping station had a steam engine built by a company called Wood Brothers of Sowerby bridge in Yorkshire and commissioned in July 1888. It worked continuously until 1905 when it was relegated to standby duty – basically storm water pumping. By the late 1950s, sewage treatment technology had moved on but this site was too small to have a more modern system installed, so it was decided to divert the sewage through a new sewer to a rebuilt Deephams Sewage Treatment works at Edmonton, thus rendering the pumping station redundant. This happened in 1964. These works were closed and apart from the engine house building the site was levelled.

A full restoration of the park was completed by April 2010, and the park, museum, and beam engine re-opened for public access.

Quite why the pump house survived who knows , but it does mean this rather wonderful piece of Victorian engineering is still with us. It does have rather erratic opening hours but you can peek in the window and get a glimpse of the engine even when the building is closed.

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Retrace your steps to Broad Lane and just near the Post Office is a green on the left. This is Page Green Common.

Stop 2 Page Green Common (and the Seven Sisters)

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This little green was where the original seven elms and walnut tree stood, but at the western end of the green. Today the trees are kind of in the middle of the green. There is no sign so far as I could see. But these are definitely the seven sisters of today.

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Continue to the end and turn left at the main road. Cross the High Road at the junction with Seven Sisters Road where just after a clock tower you will see a ghastly office block called Apex House.

Stop 3: Apex House, 820 Seven Sisters Road

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So here we have another dull office block and guess what – this was built on the site of an old cinema.

We are at the junction of the Seven Sisters Road and Tottenham High Road and so I suppose it was not surprising that the cinema which opened here in April 1911 was called the Corner Picture Theatre. It seems to have been independent of the big cinema chains all its working life until it closed in August 1960. It became a bingo hall for a few years and was then converted into a music club, named the Noreik Club. It later became a nightclub, finally closing in 1979. The building was demolished in June 1980 and an office block was built on the site in 1988.

Not sure why it is called Apex House other than you might call the location an apex being at the junction of two roads.

Cross Seven Sisters Road.

Stop 4: Ward’s Corner

Just by the other corner of Seven Sisters Road, near one of the entrances to Seven Sisters Underground station is this building.

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It is known as Ward’s Corner and is about to be redeveloped. It was once a furniture store (called not surprisingly Ward’s) which traded until 1972.  The Council wanted to redevelop the whole site but in the meantime it became an indoor market. There was a community backlash against the redevelopment and a community group established itself in 2007. https://wardscorner.wikispaces.com/

The tale seems long and convoluted but it looks like now the old Edwardian building will be demolished and the site along with adjoining land will be redeveloped with new housing.

At this point you could pop into Seven Sisters Underground station. Built in the late 1960s, this is unique amongst the Victoria line stations in having a third platform for terminating trains. As with all the Victoria line stations it has a tile motif in the seat recesses and this is a reminder of the seven sisters tree story.

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Continue walking along the High Road away from Ward’s Corner. Soon you will see a road veering off to the left. This is called Town Hall Approach Road. And it leads to the old Town Hall.

Stop 5: Former Tottenham Town hall

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This was built by Tottenham Urban District Council in 1905. The Council became a borough in 1934 and Tottenham Borough Council was merged with Hornsey and Wood Green to form the new London Borough of Haringey in 1965.

This building is part of a handsome row of buildings which at one time included a fire station, public baths and a school.

On the front of the Town hall is a Blue Plaque in honour of Bernie Grant (1944 – 2000) erected by the Nubian Jak Community Trust in October 2012.

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He was the local MP and was one of the first wave of black MPs elected, along with Dianne Abbot, Paul Boateng and Keith Vaz who all entered parliament in 1987.

No longer municipal offices the Grade II listed building has been remodelled. Some of the old Town Hall including the grand foyer and Moselle Room with its Moorish-Jacobean style ceiling now serves as a conference and wedding venue which calls itself “The Dream Centre”. There are also just over 100 new homes in this development arranged around two large south facing courtyards which provide amenity space for residents.

Continue walking along and you get to the old Swimming Pool.

Stop 6a Bernie Grant Arts Centre

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This was converted in 2007 to become the Bernie Grant Arts Centre. The Centre was designed to spread its activities over three buildings, meaning that disparate activities can take place at the same time. The inter-related buildings comprising the centre are

  1. The refurbished bath house (used for administration, box office and meeting room spaces)
  2. The auditorium, café and back of house facilities
  3. The enterprise units

According to their website, the architect, David Adjaye, said “It is arranged as a linear acropolis, with a major performance space at its heart, with meeting spaces in the gateway building and enterprise units in the long building. The open spaces make connections with the surrounding areas.”

And if you walk down the side of the left hand side of the building, you will see how this works, as you enter Paul Square.

Stop 6b: Paul Square

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And if you look back on the building you have just passed you will see why it is called Paul Square.

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It is dedicated to the memory of a man called Paul Head who was the founding chair of the Bernie Grant Arts Centre Partnership. He was also the principal and chief executive of the Tottenham-based College of Haringey, Enfield and North-East London. This is a fairly recent development with the naming ceremony only taking place in September 2015

http://www.berniegrantcentre.co.uk/index.php/news/265-paul-s-square-naming-ceremony

I guess they thought Head Square would have sounded a bit odd, as maybe Paul Head Square would have.

Return to the front of the Bernie Grant Arts Centre and turn left. Keep walking to the end of the street and turn right into Philip Lane. Our next stop is just on the left.

Stop 7 Tottenham Bus Garage

Tottenham Bus Garage has been on this site since 1913. It was originally built by the Metropolitan Electric Tramways to house buses to support their tram network

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And they even still have a sign to remind us of their heritage.

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There is a bit of an old building under there somewhere.

Walk past the church on the right and our next stop is just by the junction with the High Road.

Stop 8: Tottenham Old Well

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This is the site of the High Cross pump, according to architectural expert, Pevsner. The well was sunk in 1791 by the Lord of the manor, Thomas Smith, after he had enclosed the previous well in front of his house to the west of the Tottenham Green. The well head with its tiled conical roof dates from a rebuilding in 1876.

Cross the main road and turn right

Stop 9: High Cross United Reform Church

Our next stop is a little way along on the left.

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Set back off the road is the High Cross United Reform Church. Nothing particularly special about this church except it has one of the Haringey green plaques on it. (This is to the right end of the building near the side road)

Priscilla Wakefield (1751-1832) was a Quaker author who wrote a number of travel and science books for children and was actively involved in the abolition of slavery and prison reform. She was a founder of the Lying-in Charity for Women and the Penny Savings Bank. She lived in Ship Inn Yard near High Cross United Reform Church, hence I guess why the Council decided to place the plaque here in May 2008. Once again we see a Haringey plaque a little the worse for wear.

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So that brings us to the end of the N15 walk. Or not quite. If you go back up the High Road away from the Church you will get to a junction and just over that (and just in N17) is the Tottenham High Cross. As we will probably not get to this in N17, I thought I would include it here.

Post script – Stop 10: Tottenham High Cross

Tottenham High Cross was erected in Tottenham in the early 1600s by Owen Wood, Dean of Armagh. This was site of a wooden wayside cross first mentioned in 1409 and marked the centre of Tottenham Village. The present high cross was constructed of plain brick, which was later stuccoed and ornamented in the Gothic style in 1809.

Tottenham High Cross is often mistakenly thought to be an Eleanor Cross, which marked the resting places of the body of Queen Eleanor (wife of King Edward 1) as it returned to London in 1290. Possibly this is because it is only a few miles south of one of the true Eleanor Crosses at Waltham Cross. But we have heard the Tottenham cross has a quite different origin.

So that really does bring us to the end of the walk. Probably best to head back down the High road to Seven Sisters tube. but there are also lots of buses along here for onward travel.

N14: From Acorn to Oak

N14 is actually Southgate. We have already been to New Southgate (N11) and Palmers Green (N13) where Southgate Town Hall is, but now we get to Southgate proper. It is by the way called Southgate because it was the location of the south gate of Enfield Chase, once a royal hunting ground. Southgate was administratively part of Edmonton until 1881 when it got its own local board. this became an Urban District Council in 1894 and got municipal borough status in 1933.

There is a lovely little snippet of British Pathe news with the title “Ex Glande Quercus – from acorn to oak” showing the future King George VI present the charter of incorpration for the new Municipal Borough of Southgate (or Southgit as he calls it) in October 1933.

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/ex-glande-quercus-from-acorn-to-oak

I know it is a bit of a cheat as the ceremony probably took place at the Town Hall which is actually in N13, but it gives us the title for our N14 walk, and in fact we get to see a rather old oak later, so that kind of justifies the title. Note also the Pathe news mention of Lord Inverforth, who was unavoidably absent. We will hear a bit about him later too.

So we start our walk at the Post Office at 64 Chase Side which is in the main shopping centre of Southgate. Turn left out of the Post Office and soon you will see on your right the station with its circular ticket hall surrounded by a brick crescent with shops and bus stops. This is our first stop.

Stop 1: Southgate Underground station

This is another wonderful Holden station, opened in 1932 on the northern extension of the Piccadilly line.

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It has a wonderful ticket hall and do go down to the platforms if you can because it still has the old style uplighters on the escalators and some nice lights and tile finishes at platform level.

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Back on the surface you do get the feel this is an alien space craft just landed. But I have to say I do not think this ranks as the greatest Holden station. It could do with a tower maybe. And the crescent of shops around the ticket hall is strangely forbidding with that blank first floor wall.

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Now if you look across the roundabout from the station you will see a modern block to the left and an older row of shops to the right. Follow the row of shops to the right and you are at the start of the street called The Bourne. Just at the end of the shops is a modernish office block which is our next stop.

Stop 2: Hobart House

If you have read one or two of my posts, you will guess that if we stop at a dull looking office block, then usually this is built on the site of a theatre or cinema.

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And indeed this rather uninspiring building called Hobart House was the site of a cinema.

It opened in October 1935 and was operated by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. It was taken over by Odeon during construction, which may account for the rather unusual choice of architect – Bertie Crewe, who was better known for his theatres rather than for cinemas. It had a stage and dressing rooms, as well as the usual cafe/restaurant, plus a car park.

The Odeon closed in September 1972 and remained unused for over three years until it was leased by an independent operator Windsor Entertainments. They re-opened it on 26 December 1975 as the Capitol Cinema, using initially only the stalls area. But it was not to last and it closed for good in January 1981. The building lay empty again. But despite some efforts by locals to find a new use that did not happen and the building was demolished in September 1982 when this office block was built.

Curiously there is a little plaque to remind us of the former cinema.

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Strange to commemorate the centenary of cinema by putting a plaque to remind us of a building which is no longer there when they could have found an actual Odeon that was still standing.

Continue walking along The Bourne and at the corner of Queen Elizabeth Drive is a driveway.

Stop 3: Grovelands House and Park

This driveway leads to Grovelands House, one of the many large houses that were once in this area.

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We will see the house in due course, but first for the public park which used to be the grounds of the house. Southgate Council bought the land in 1913 to create the park. Keep walking along The Bourne and eventually on the left you will see a gate with an arch over it.

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This is the Inverforth Gate, so called because Lord Inverforth gave it to the Southgate Urban District Council in 1925 as can  be seen from the pair of plaques.

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Andrew Weir, Lord Inverforth (1865 – 1955) was originally from Scotland and made his money in shipping. He advised the government on shipping during the First World War. He was made a peer in 1919 and was the Minister of Munitions between 1919 and 1921. He widened his business interests including becoming involved in Marconi and being a director for Lloyds Bank. He continued working into his 91st year.

In the 1920s and 1930s he had a strong connection to Southgate and was responsible not only for this arch but also for the purchase of the land that is now Arnos Park (which we saw in N11).

There is another connection with something we have already seen. He lived out his last years in Hampstead, in a house which he renamed Inverforth House. We briefly saw this in our NW3 walk, as it was previously the house occupied by William Lever, Lord Leverhulme and has a blue plaque to him. Lord Inverforth does not seem to have his own plaque anywhere.

Go through the gate and walk along the main path ahead of you.

And now for a little curiosity. I often look at park benches to see if there is any interesting story to learn from the little plaques that may be attached.

Here as we enter Grovelands Park, just on the left of the main path is a dedication I have never seen before. It is in memory of a golf club!

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Keep walking along the main path keeping the perimeter to your left. Soon you will see Grovelands House, initially just glimpses through the trees but you will get a better view as you walk on..

The house was built in 1797 by John Nash for a man called Walker Gray who was, according to architectural historian Pevsner, a brandy merchant related to the Walkers of Arnos Grove (more of whom anon).

The House was extended by John Donnithorne Walker, also one of the Taylor Walker brewing family. He is said to have dislike seeing other men’s chimneys, hence the park.

It was owned by the family until 1921 although it was used as a hospital from 1916. And it was a hospital up to 1977, and after a few years of neglect was reopened as a private clinic. Today it is a branch of the famous Priory Clinic as the eagle eyed may have noticed from the sign at the entrance gate.

If you keep walking you will get quite a good view of the house.

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Now you have a choice of either walking back the way you came or else keep walking until you reach an exit on your right which takes you out to the junction of Queen Elizabeth Drive and Wychgate. You can take either of these roads (going to the left as you exit the park), as they will both take you back to The Bourne and the site of the Odeon.

Carry on back to the roundabout by the station and take the main road coming out to the left (which is High Street).

Our next stop is just a little way along on the right on this modern office building called Mountview House.

Stop 4: Site of the Village Hall, 154 High Street

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Now here is a curious blue plaque placed by Enfield Borough Council.

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Not sure why this particular parish hall site should warrant a blue plaque!

Keep walking along the High Street, and after a while you will get to what might be called Old Southgate (but is not)

Stop 5: Number 40, The Green

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This has another Enfield plaque, showing that this elegant little terraced house was the seat of the first local Government in Southgate

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Again an odd thing to commemorate. Perhaps someone in Enfield Council was particularly obsessed by the history of the administration of Southgate.

Continue walking along The Green and you see an old blue plaque which is here for more understandable reasons.

Stop 6: Number 33, The Green

This 20th century building has a little blue plaque to commemorate what was here before.

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And this shows this was the location of the home of Benjamin Waugh founder of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

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Benjamin Waugh (1839 – 1908) was a congregationalist Minister, social reformer and campaigner. In 1884, he founded the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, with veteran social reformer Earl Shaftesbury as the first chairman. It evolved to become the NSPCC some five years later (1889), with Waugh as its first director. So technically the plaque is not quite correct.

The NSPCC was granted its Royal Charter in 1895, when Queen Victoria became its first Royal Patron. But it did not change its title to “Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children” or similar, as the name NSPCC was already well established, and to avoid confusion with the RSPCA. Interestingly the RSPCA got its Royal Charter in 1840, so the idea that Britons love animals more than children may be not such a new thing.

Keep walking along The Green to the next row of houses

Stop 7: Numbers 23 – 31 The Green

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This rather lovely row of houses dates originally from the 18th century. Pevsner says they were built by local landowner Richard Goad in 1777 on charity land, apparently for almhouses. It says that south London architect Michael Searles made survey plans but whether he designed the houses is uncertain. It then goes on to say they were heavily reconstructed in 1981.

But the plaque has a slightly different story.

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It says they were built 1780 by the Valentine Poole trust for the poor of Barnet. The architect was Michael Searles (1750 – 1813) and they were saved from demolition by the Southgate Civic Trust and  reconstructed in 1981 by Peake Estates limited. Interesting difference of emphasis.

Continue along The Green past the Olde Cherry Tree pub which Pevsner pointedly says is “not all old”. Go along the row of shops and cross over the main road. Our next stop is just across the way.

Stop 8: Southgate Beaumont (Arnos Grove house)

Peek in the first roadway entrance to see the north side of this extensive building, then walk a little further along and go in the next road entrance where you can get a better view of the east front of the building. This was the house known as Arnos Grove and this side of the building contains the original 1720s house.

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The estate was owned from 1777 to 1918 by Walkers of the Taylor Walker brewing family (including the Walkers of Southgate), who bought the nearby Minchenden estate to increase the area of Arnos Grove to over 300 acres. The estate was then purchased from the last of the Walker brothers by Lord Inverforth who sold the southernmost 44 acres to the Southgate Urban District Council. The Council then created Arnos Park in 1928 (which we saw in N11).

The Arnos Grove mansion was also sold in 1928 to the North Metropolitan Electricity Supply Company. The mansion was subsequently enlarged and encased in red brick – it is now a residential care home called Southgate Beaumont.

Note there is a blue plaque on the wall.

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This says “here lived the Walkers of Southgate, seven brothers. All famous in 19th century cricket.” We will hear a bit more about the cricketing connection at our last stop.

Now return back to The Green and keep to the left. you will cross a wide street which is called Arnos Grove because it is built on the land from the estate.

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Confusingly we are in N14 whereas Arnos Grove station and the area people think of as Arnos Grove is further south and in N11.

Go past the church (Christ Church by Sir George Gilbert Scott, worth a visit if it is open). Keep going until you see a little black metal gate on the left. Go in there.

Stop 9: Minchenden Oak Garden

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This rather sad little park was created by the council in 1934 around an old oak tree.

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Various claims have been made that this is the largest and/or the oldest Oak in England. It may be as old as 800 years and at one time it may have had the largest canopy but sadly no longer, as it has been somewhat pruned.

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The garden has had some work done but more needs to be achieved. The Gardens (and Oak) have some friends who are working on improving the surroundings. Here is a link to the Friends website and there are some pictures of a rededication in May this year involving the Bishop of London and the planting of a sapling grown from one of the acorns from this tree.

http://minchendenoak.org/

You can even buy a commemorative mug for £5 with the words:

Its great trunk rooted in history

Its leaves bathed in the memory

of 800 summers

are in themselves

The Remembrance of Things Past

Go out of the garden and turn left. Just a little way along (and across the road) is the entrance to our next stop.

Stop 10: Walker Cricket Ground.

So now we get to the Walker Cricket Ground. This was founded by John Walker (1826 – 1885), the eldest of seven cricket playing brothers and four (presumably non cricketing) sisters, who lived at Arnos Grove.

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Here is a link to the Walker Cricket club website which explains some of the history http://www.thewalkerground.co.uk/history.html

The Walker brothers were all first class cricketers and were behind the creation of a cricket team in Middlesex in 1859, for founding Middlesex County Cricket Club in 1864 and for establishing Middlesex County Cricket Club’s home at Lord’s in 1877. Confusingly, Lord’s is owned by the Marylebone Cricket Club which although it has the same initials is a quite separate organisation from the team which has its home there, the Middlesex County Cricket Club.

And as you can see The Walker ground in Southgate is home to a number to other things, all with the same style signs, courtesy of Griffin Signs, who get a little advert in.

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You can have a little look at the “famous” turf.

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But to be honest there is not much to see.

So we have now reached the end of our N14 walk. From Waterfall Road you can get a 298 bus either to Arnos Grove or Southgate stations (but it is quite a walk to find a bus stop). So you might as well go back to The Green where you can get a bus back to Southgate (W6, 121, 298 or 299)  or alternatively to Palmers Green (W6 or 121).

N13: Not waving but drowning

N13 is Palmers Green, and is largely an Edwardian district which architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner describes as a poor man’s Muswell Hill.

We start our walk at Palmers Green Post Office, 364 Green Lanes which is almost opposite Fox Lane.

Turn right out of the Post Office and walk along Green Lanes. Keep going past the cross roads (Bourne Hill on your left, Hedge Lane on your right. Take the first left and then take the first right. Stop number 1 is the first house.

Stop 1: Number 1 Avondale Road

This fairly modest house is where the poet and writer Stevie Smith lived almost all her life.

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And here is the only Blue plaque I could find in N13.

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Florence Margaret Smith was born in Hull in 1902. Her family called her “Peggy”, but she got the name “Stevie” as a young woman when she was riding in the park with a friend who said that she reminded him of the jockey Steve Donaghue.

In 1906, she moved with her mother and sister here to Palmers Green and she lived in this house until her death in 1971. When her mother became ill, her aunt Madge Spear came to live with them and in effect brought up the children. Smith called her “The Lion Aunt”.

Stevie Smith wrote three novels but is best known for her poetry, in particular “Not Waving but Drowning” – published in 1957, it is a twelve line account of a man who drowns but people on shore think he is just waving. But it ends by suggesting he was always misunderstood:

“I was much too far out all my life And not waving but drowning.”

There was a play called Stevie written about her life by Hugh Whitemore in 1977 which became a film a couple of years later with Glenda Jackson as Stevie.

Now retrace your steps to Green Lanes and then just by the big cross roads you will see St Monica’s church on the right. Our next stop is the church hall which is also used as a theatre.

Stop 2: The Intimate Theatre

This building opened in 1931 as St Monica’s Church Hall. It was converted to be a theatre in 1935 and housed a repertory company for many years. Roger Moore worked here after the war and David Bowie performed a mime act here in March 1968.

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It is no longer used exclusively for theatrical performances, but it is used by amateur dramatic companies and still has the name Intimate Theatre above the door as you can see.

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By the by, St Monica is quite an unusual dedication for a church.  She was an early Christian saint who is remembered for putting up with her husband’s adultery and for her prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son, for whom she is supposed to have wept every night. Not surprisingly, she is the patron saint of difficult marriages and disappointing children.

Continue walking along Green Lanes and take the right turn opposite the Post Office. Our next stop is immediately on the right.

Stop 3: Skinners Court, Pellipar Close

This little street is called Pellipar Close and houses a modern building called Skinners Court which replaced the Skinners Almshouses dating from the 1890.

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You can see the Skinners coat of arms on the entrance.

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This is course is one of the livery companies in the City of London. In fact it is one of the so called Great Twelve. An order of precedence was set in 1515 which established the seniority of the companies and determined the order they process at formal occasions.

However an earlier dispute in 1484 meant the precedence between the Merchant Taylors and the Skinners was disputed and so they take it in turns. The Skinners are normally sixth in the order of precedence in even numbered years, and at seven in odd numbered years. It has been said that the phrase “being at sixes and sevens” derives from this, but it seems the phrase was used before the precedence issue was settled.

And in case you are wondering about the street name “Pellipar”. It derives from a medieval name for workers who prepared animal skins for clothing etc.

Now return to Green Lane and turn right. Our next stop is a little way along on the left.

Stop 4: Alfred Herring pub, 316 – 322 Green Lanes

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This Wetherspoon pub is named after Alfred Herring VC. Second Lieutenant Herring was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic actions in France, on 20 March 1918. He later became a Major and after the war became a Chartered Accountant.

He was born in Tottenham but the connection to Palmers Green is that when he was called up by the army in 1916, he was living at the family home, 143 Fox Lane, just around the corner from this pub.

Continue along Green Lanes. Our next stop is just a little further along on the left.

Stop 5: site of Palmadium/Gaumont cinema, 292 Green Lanes

Today there is a non descript shop and office building at 292 Green Lanes but this was the site of a cinema which originally went by the delicious name Palmadium. Not a name for dyslexics!

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The Palmadium Cinema was an independent cinema opened in December 1920. It was part of a complex which included a billiard hall and shops. It was taken over by Gaumont in April 1928 but only renamed as a Gaumont in February 1951. It finally closed in February 1961. The building was demolished and a Tesco supermarket was built on the site. This has since closed and a disparate array of shops has taken its place.

There was also another cinema just a little further along Green Lanes called the Queen’s Hall. It first opened in November 1912 but was extended in 1923 when a balcony was added. It was never part of a large chain until 1967 when it was bought by the Star Cinemas chain based in Leeds. They only ran the Queen’s Hall Cinema for a short time closing it in September 1967. It was briefly a bingo club, but this did not last long either. The building was demolished in February 1971. A supermarket was built on the site. This later became a Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food shop and is now a little Waitrose.

Continue walking along Green Lanes until the junction with Aldermans Hill. Our next stop is just across the road at this junction.

Stop 6: Triangle Clock “Tower”

Now here we have a fairly recent addition to the Palmers Green street scene.

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This rather spindly affair has a little plaque on its base which proclaims “2014”. It is nice that new clock towers are being put up, but this one is a bit pathetic.

Continue walking along Green Lanes

Stop 7: Former Southgate Town Hall and Palmers Green Library 

Currently much of this site is being redeveloped as housing but it started life as Southgate Town Hall. The first part was built in 1894 and it was extended in 1916.

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A Library was added in a separate wing in the 1930s, with this rather odd bridge arrangement.

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But at some point, presumably after Southgate Municipal Borough became part of the London Borough of Enfield in 1965 it ceased to be used as offices. However the library continued and is about to reopen after refurbishment.

They have left the Southgate Town Hall plaque.

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But confusingly, this of course is not actually in the place called Southgate.

Continue walking along Green Lanes. You go over one small bridge (which is actually the New River we have about in various previous posts) and then another. Stop at the second, which goes over a stream called Pymme’s Brook. (this by the way is the stream that flows through Arnos Park)

Stop 8: Deadman’s Bridge

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This is not much but I had to stop here because of the name! There is a great piece on this site which gives more info: http://www.bowesandbounds.org/profiles/blogs/solving-the-puzzle-of-deadman-s-bridge

Sadly this does not definitively solve the mystery of the name but it does throw some light on the signatory of this sign.

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Keep walking along the main road and our next stop is just on the side street on the left before you get to the North Circular Road.

Stop: 9: Palmers Green Bus garage

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Palmers Green garage apparently started life as the Rosalie Skating Rink in 1910. But in July 1912, the London General Omnibus Company took over the site as a bus garage, which it has been ever since.

Because this garage was built when buses did not have upper deck roofs, the roof of the garage was not sufficiently high to allow later double deck buses to get in. In fact in 1952 they had to raise the roof by some 10 inches to enable the standard double deckers of that time to get in.

Retrace your steps along Green Lanes and turn left at the clock tower. Our next stop is just on the right.

Stop 10: Palmers Green station

This was originally called Palmers Green and Southgate and dates from the 1870s. It is on a line which forms part of what is known as the Hertford loop. When the loop was finally completed just after the First World War, it provided an alternative route between Alexandra Palace and Stevenage creating additional capacity on the East Coast main line without the need to widen the viaduct at Welwyn. It is usually used by local trains but occasionally long distance trains are diverted by this route.

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This station seems to have survived reasonably well. However it does not have a great service, only having 3 trains an hour and in the daytime in the week they go to Moorgate. But there is an easy connection at Highbury and Islington for the Victoria line, and a less convenient connection to the Underground at Finsbury Park

Now walk along Alderman’s Hill, turn left into Broomfield Avenue and then right into Broomfield Lane.

As the road bends to left, you will see a gateway. The main gate is closed off but you can go through a smaller side gate.

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Stop 11: Broomfield Park (and House)

You are now in Broomfield Park which was opened in 1903. Walk straight ahead and you will see the rather sad site of what is left of Broomfield House. Parts of this house date back to the 16th century. In its later days it was used by Southgate and then Enfield Council but it has suffered three devastating fires in 1984, 1993 and 1994.

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Broomfield House was featured on the BBC television series Restoration in the first series in 2003 as one of three nominees for the south east segment of the show, the other two being Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End and Darnley Mausoleum in Kent. In the South East heat, Broomfield House lost out to Wilton’s Music Hall, which in turn lost out to the series’ overall winner which was Victoria Baths in Manchester.

According to the English Heritage “Buildings at risk register” http://risk.historicengland.org.uk/register.aspx?id=47657&rt=0&pn=1&st=a&ctype=all&crit=broomfield+house :

“The building is severely fire damaged, although significant parts of the interior are in safe storage. A joint Council-Community bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in October 2012, to rebuild and reopen Broomfield House as a heritage, learning and community centre, was unsuccessful. However, discussions are ongoing with regards to the future use of the building and possible sources of funding. ”

It also says the condition of the building is very bad. Given it is now over 20 years since the last fire, one wonders whether a solution will be found before the building is beyond repair.

Now walking around the house and then away from the house keep the water on your left and exit the park through the gates ahead of you. These are called to Coronation Gates because they date from the time of the coronation.

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As you leave the park there is a little plaque on the right which shows it was not only to commemorate the coronation but also the fiftieth anniversary of the acquisition of the park (by Southgate Urban District Council).

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And on the other side of the gates is  a rather dull relief which I assume dates from this time also.

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Turn left out of the gates and as we walk along Aldermans Hill be sure to look back over the fence across the park. At one point you will see in the distance Canary wharf and the City (well the Shard and a couple of the buildings, but strangely not the Gerkin which seems to be hiding behind another building!)

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Just a little way along on the right is our final stop.

Stop 12: Appleby Court 128 Aldermans Hill

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Built in 1892 and originally called Old Park, it was converted to flats in 1995.

We have now reached the end of our N13 walk. Palmers Green is perhaps not the most interesting postcode we have visited and yet there are one or two things worth a quick visit.

For onward travel it is probably easiest to go back along Aldermans Hill which will lead you to Palmers Green station. Alternatively Aldermans Hill is served by bus route numbers 121 and W6 which will take you back to Palmers Green or on to Southgate.

 

 

 

 

 

N12: Tally ho!

North Finchley is centred on Tally Ho Corner, the junction of the roads to East Finchley, Finchley Central, Friern Barnet and Whetstone. and numerous local businesses have taken their name from this including a gym!

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The phrase tally-ho! originated from hunting with hounds. It comes from an old French phrase and is shouted when a rider or follower sees the fox (or other quarry). The term has evolved to have other meanings. Apparently, it is sometimes used as slang in air traffic control to verify a radar contact has been visually confirmed. And it was also the name of a stage coach company as we shall see.

We start our walk at North Finchley Post Office which is situated at  751 High Road.

Turn right out of the Post Office and cross the road. Our first stop is just ahead.

Stop 1: artsdepot/ Aldi Supermarket
This monster of a building looks so out of place as it is much larger than anything around it. It houses an Aldi supermarket and an Arts Centre called the artsdepot (all lower case on the publicity material, how arty!) as amongst things. There is a car park underneath and a large apartment block above.
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But this was the site of the massive Gaumont North Finchley which was located on the large island site of Tally Ho Corner. Tally Ho Corner was a terminus for the trams in this part of north London and in later years became a terminus for trolley buses. So it was an ideal place for a cinema.

The site was created in the 1930s for a road widening scheme and in July 1934, the land was purchased by Gaumont British Theatres. The cinema opened in July 1937 with seating for 1,390 in the stalls and 725 in the balcony . It had a brick exterior with a semi-circular tower on the left-hand side. Half-way up the tower was an elaborate bas-relief carving in Portland stone, created by artist and designer Newbury A Trent and depicting the shooting of a film, with lights, camera, director and actors. There was a restaurant with a large window which stretched across the main facade, just above the canopy level.

The Gaumont closed in October 1980 and lay unused for some years until it was demolished in February 1987. There seems to have been some effort to preserve the bas-relief panels but sadly they do not seem to have survived.

There were grand plans for a new building which would include a banquet hall, twin cinemas and offices. But it turned out that the Rank Organisation (who by that time owned the cinema) had put a restrictive covenant on the sale of the site, stipulating that it could not contain cinema use. The site then stood empty for the next 15 years with just some temporary use as an outdoor market and for car parking.

Finally in 2004, a new arts centre named artsdepot was opened on the site.

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The artsdepot has a 395 seat theatre, 148 seat studio theatre, gallery, and a cafe and bar, but interestingly not a cinema, so maybe that restrictive covenant still had effect.

Just by the entrance to the artsdepot in a pedestrianised street to the left of Aldi is this strange step arrangement

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But go round the other side and you see this is actually a model of the old Gaumont cinema.

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Follow the building round in front of Aldi and on the side street you come to the pedestrian entrance to the Bus Station.

Stop 2: North Finchley Bus Station

This is possibly the worst modern bus station I have seen. It looks like a loading bay in a shopping centre and only seems to have one stop.

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The bus station opened in 2004, but later had to be closed because a person was killed after they walked into the bus station through the wrong entrance and was hit by a bus. The bus station was reopened in March 2007 after safety improvements were implemented. They included the addition of a barrier at the exit and a public address system.

One curious thing about this bus station is that most of the bus routes which serve North Finchley do not actually go into the covered area of the bus station.

It is one thing to get public facilities as part of new developments, but they have to be done sensibly, which this one clearly was not.

Now head down the High Road away from Tally Ho corner (south). Our next stop is a few minutes walk on the left hand side.

Stop 3: Great North Leisure Park

You cannot really miss the Great North Leisure Park – which looks like a little bit of America dropped into N12.

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Now often these kind of sites are built on old industrial land, but this one was not. It actually was the site of a 1930s Lido. The main heated pool opened in September 1931 and stayed open until 11 November. But the officially opening was the following spring. On 22 April 1932 the Duke of York (later King George VI) unveiled a ceremonial wall tablet made of Staffordshire marble. Apparently this tablet is on display behind the counter of Nando’s restaurant, which was built around the original site. However when I went in, I was greeted with blank stares when I asked about this.

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It seems there was also a cinema on the site, although strangely I can find no reference to this on the bible of cinema building:  http://cinematreasures.org/theaters?q=finchley&status=all

The original Lido with its main pool and children’s pool was closed in 1992. The present multi screen cinema opened in July 1996 as the Warner North Finchley and it became the Vue cinema in 2004.

Now return along the High Road and turn right down Churchfield Avenue. At the end turn right into Woodhouse Road. Our next stop is just along on the left.

Stop 4: Woodhouse College

Today this is a sixth form college but it was once the home of Woodhouse Grammar School.

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According to Wikipedia,

“After the First World War, the former residence of ornamental plasterer Thomas Collins (1735–1830) in the Woodhouse area of Finchley was reconstructed; the house became The Woodhouse School in 1923. A blue plaque commemorating Thomas Collins is on the wall outside the present college office. The school coat of arms with the motto ‘Cheerfulness with Industry’ is still displayed above the stage in the college hall. A pink chestnut tree was planted behind the main school building to mark the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. This tree had been presented by the Third Reich authorities to a member of the British team who attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and subsequently became known as ‘the Hitler tree'”.

The latter point is marked “citation needed” so maybe that is just a local urban myth. And being a school behind security gates, I could not get to see the plaque or the tree, or indeed the coat of arms.

Return along Woodhouse Road. At the end you will see the big building which houses the artsdepot, the bus station and Aldi supermarket. Turn right at this junction.

As you head up the main road note the Bathstore on the ground floor of the  This was apparently the location of the entrance to the former Gaumont which we heard about earlier.

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Keep walking along the main road. Our next stop is just on the left.

Stop 5: Grand Arcade

Now here is another little bit of the 1930s, but unlike the Gaumont and the Lido is still standing.

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Even though the shops are a little sad, it does look nice – especially with this wonderful floor, which has echoes of the new floor in the rotunda at Tate Britain

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Turn right at the end at the end of the Arcade. Our next stop is just a little way along.

Stop 6: The Tally Ho pub

This pub is a Wetherspoon’s. According to Wetherspoon’s website, the junction here became known as Tally Ho Corner in the 1830s, when a coaching company of the same name established a staging post here. So the name is not because of a hunting connection but because of a stage coach company.

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Just at the corner at the apex of the junction is a little public seating area (outside of the pub’s garden) and there are some interesting information panels giving some of the local history.

Keep walking along the High Road and soon on your right you will see a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Stop 7: Sainsbury’s supermarket

Nothing too remarkable about that, but in front it has a couple of interesting things. First a milepost. This apparently is the smallest listed building in Barnet. (well that is what it said on one of the information panels by the Tally Ho!)

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And then to the left is a little model of a building, which is actually just around the corner as we shall see.

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Take the right immediately after the supermarket. This is Ravendale Avenue. Our next stop is just a little way along.

Stop 8: North Finchley Library

This is the local library, which appeared as a model outside Sainsbury’s.

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Return to the High Road and turn right. Our next stop is a little further on the right hand side of the main road.

Stop 9: site of Odeon cinema (894 High Road)

Today this site is being redeveloped but once this was the site of the Odeon Cinema and a parade of 1930s shops.

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The Odeon cinema was one of the original Odeons built for Oscar Deutsch. It opened in October 1935. It had a 270 feet long facade, taking the entire block between Friern Watch Avenue and Mayfield Avenue. There were two wings with shops and two floors of flats above and the cinema had its auditorium behind parallel to the High Road with an entrance at the centre of the parade.

The Odeon was closed in December 1964 and the building was taken over by Halls (Finchley) Ltd. as a garage and car showroom. The company had operated out of one of the shop units since it was built in 1935.

From the pictures on the cinema treasures website, it looks like the central section which contained the cinema entrance was rebuilt after the cinema closed. In the early 1980s, it became as a furniture store named Furnitureland. This seems to have lasted until around 2006. The whole block was then demolished in Spring 2013 and redevelopment is now taking place.

Continue along the High Road and turn left down Woodside Lane. Our next stop is a little way along as the road bends.

Stop 10: Finchley Catholic High School

Today this is Finchley Catholic High School, but the current school site is centred on an old house called Woodside Grange, which you can just see through the fence.

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This castellated folly was built by a local doctor Dr James Turle as a home and consultancy. It was later owned by Sir Arthur Douglas Derry, some time owner of Derry and Toms Store in Kensington. In 1928 it was purchased as the home of Finchley Catholic Grammar School and which today is known as Finchley Catholic High School.

Again as this is a school site, we cannot get any nearer.

Continue walking along Woodside Lane. You will cross the railway and the road becomes Holden Road. Our next stop is quite a walk along this road on the right.

Stop 11: site of Number 127 Holden Road

Just about opposite a building called Barchester Lodge, you will a modern development and at the end of the terrace going away from Holden Road you will see a blue plaque.

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This was the location of a house (numbered 127 Holden road) which was for a time the home of comedian Spike Milligan. As we heard in N3 he was one of the founders and a strong supporter of the Finchley Society. His old house here in Holden Road is now demolished but a blue plaque was placed at the site in 2004.

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Continue walking along Holden Road and take the turning on the left called Station Approach. At the end is a station (as one would expect).

Stop 12: Woodside Park station

We are now at Woodside Park station, one of the lesser known stations on the Underground.

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Like West Finchley, this just does not feel like an Underground station. And of course as we heard in N3, this line was originally not part of the Underground but was actually built as a suburban route going into King’s Cross.

It opened in 1872 as Torrington Park station. There does not seem to be an actual park called Torrington Park, but there is a road of this name which comes into the High Road just south of Sainsbury’s. In other words nowhere near this station. Presumably as the name was a bit misleading, it was renamed Woodside Park in 1882. It finally became part of the Underground in 1940, as part of the Northern Heights project.

You are approaching the station from the west side which has the northbound platform and there is a public bridge across to the east side with the southbound platform.

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The main station building is on the east side.

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Unusually for an Underground station, there are no shops whatsoever on either side of the tracks. You could almost be in the country.

Whilst we are here in Woodside Park, I should just mention one other famous former resident. Woodside Park is the area where ex-Spice Girl Emma Bunton grew up. Not sure where though.

So we reach the end of our N12 walk. As so often happens when I started it looked like there was not that much of interest and yet I have found the sites of two 1930s cinemas and a Lido, plus a couple of old houses now schools, and a Spike Milligan connection.

We are at an Underground station for onward travel, so that makes life easier!

 

N11: Not Colney Hatch

N11 is New Southgate according to the Post Office. But this area was not always known by this name. Much of New Southgate was once the hamlet of Betstile or Betstyle, and this is recalled today in a couple of road names Betstyle Road and Betstyle Circus. The more southerly part of the area was known as Colney Hatch Park, but the name Colney Hatch was associated with a Lunatic Asylum, which lay over the border in the neighbouring parish of Friern Barnet. So the name New Southgate was adopted in the 1870s to appease local residents.

In fact for convenience sake, we are starting at Friern Barnet Post Office, 215 – 217 Woodhouse Road which is actually just in N12. Turn left out of the Post Office and head to the roundabout which is at the border between N11 and N12. Our next stop is on the other side of the roundabout.

Stop 1: former Friern Barnet Town Hall

This is the former Town Hall of the Friern Barnet Urban District Council. This was a small council which was actually in Hertfordshire but surrounded on three sides by Middlesex, until the boundaries were tidied up in 1965 with the creation of the London Borough of Barnet.

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English Heritage’s site provides the following information:

“Friern Barnet had become an Urban District Council in 1895. A competition for new civic premises, assessed by C. Cowles Voysey, was held in 1937: the winning design was much influenced by Voysey and Brandon-Jones’s Watford Town Hall, designed in 1935. The foundation stone is dated 16th September 1939; the hoppers, 1940. Work on the town hall continued after the outbreak of war, as it housed a large air raid shelter capable of housing up to 600 persons and a control centre for local civil defence. This opened in July 1940: the town hall as a whole was opened on 16th June 1941. Friern Barnet ceased to be an independent borough in 1965, from when the building was used for council offices. Little altered, the building is a good example of pared-down modernism, showing clear European influences, but executed in traditional materials and techniques, and with elements of neo-Georgian as well. Its unusual date of construction (cf. Walthamstow Town Hall), the extent of survival, its subtle form and pronounced sense of civic pride mark it out as an exceptional civic building, on this scale, of its day.”

It has a rather nice clock tower feature.

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And it still says Friern Barnet Town Hall over the door, although I guess it has been some years since this was a council office.

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I often wondered about the name “Friern” as I used to travel on the 43 bus which terminates here (but which I used further south). Well it seems “Friern” derives from the French for “brother”, and refers to the fact that the local manor was under the control of the Brotherhood or Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages.

(Oh and by the way if you are not sure how to pronounce the word – it is said “Fry  Urn” or at least that is how the nice lady announcer on London Buses says it).

But what a disappointment Friern Barnet turns out to be. As American writer Gertrude Stein said of her home town Oakland “There is no there there”. Well I think the same could be said of Friern Barnet which does not appear to have much going for it apart from the Town Hall – and confusingly it not even anywhere near Barnet.

Walk along Friern Barnet Road. You will not miss our next stop which is on the right.

Stop 2: Princess Park

This rather grand entrance drive looks a bit forbidding with the security post by the gateway.

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But actually the public can go in this gate as there is a public park inside.

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When you get to the main building you might be at a grand spa or a railway station.

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But it was neither. This is the “lunatic asylum” which caused New Southgate to get its name. It was opened in 1851 by Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, no less. It was initially known as the second Middlesex County Asylum (the first being in Hanwell which we did not quite get to when we were in W7). It was known as Colney Hatch but was later renamed Friern Mental Hospital and then just Friern Hospital. It closed in 1993.

Initially it housed some 1,250 people but at its height Colney Hatch was home to 3,500 patients. It was also said to have the longest corridor in Britain (did people really go round measuring corridors to find this out?)

It has been redeveloped retaining this quite impressive building and with new developments elsewhere on the vast estate site. But by giving it the name “Princess Park”, they are clearly trying to erase all memory of what was here before.

The main building by the way has a massive entrance hallway which has been converted into a swimming pool on the lower level and a gym above. If you go in the front door you can see this. But almost everything else seems to be converted to apartments.

Apparently it is (or has been) home to numerous celebs. Here is an article about this from the Wall Street Journal – of all places! It dates from 4 October 2012.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390444450004578002294147326944

Now keep walking along the main road and after Regal Drive, take the next right, an unlovely track called Station Approach. This will lead you down to what is today New Southgate station.

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Stop 3: New Southgate station

The station is accessed from this horrible bridge.

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And there is this rather nasty mural panel which is I guess supposed to make the place look better, but which is just plain ugly.

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It has an even more uninviting ticket office.

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Hardly a great advert for rail travel, and sad given at some point this station must have had proper buildings.

The station first opened in August 1850 as Colney Hatch station. The Great Northern Railway provided a station here for the benefit of the Second Middlesex County Asylum which as we have seen is very close by. Interesting that unlike some of these Asylums, this one was not hidden away. It was right by a main railway line, with a station practically on its doorstep.

The station went through several name changes: Southgate and Colney Hatch in February 1855; New Southgate and Colney Hatch in October 1876; New Southgate for Colney Hatch in March 1883; New Southgate and Friern Barnet in May 1923. It finally got its present name in the 1970s.

Cross over the bridge . On the other side, do a left along Station Road and then a right into Woodland Road. At the end of Woodland Road across High Road is our next stop.

Stop 4: The Bombie

Today you see a little green called “The Bombie”, so called by the locals because it was a Second World War bomb site.

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There is an information panel with a map showing how much devastation was caused by bombing.

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A little fragment of one of the garden of one of the houses survives.

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Now go along High Road (as if you had done a right out of Woodland Road.)

At the end you will see another green – and a path called Weld Place). Go along this and our next stop is across the road you soon get to.

Stop 5: Millennium Green

This is one of a number of Millennium Greens across the country which as the name suggests were developed to celebrate the turn of the Millennium.

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Millennium Greens are areas of green space for the benefit of local communities. As local people had an input into the design of their green, each one is different. 250 were planned but in the end 245 were actually created across England, funded in part by the National Lottery through the Countryside Agency. They are run by local volunteers and not the council.

This is an interesting green space. It is not a conventional looking park.  And at its heart it has an artwork which reminds us that New Southgate was home to Jerome K Jerome, writer of “Three Men in a Boat”. He is commemorated here with this.

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But I have to say this is not the most attractive setting. We are close to the North Circular Road here and next to the gardens up looms a hulking great builders merchant.

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Now retrace your steps across the road and through the other green. At the end of that green space, do a right into Springfield Road.

Stop 6 Garfield School

Our next stop is Garfield School on the right. We only stop briefly here to note that this site was the location of both the houses where Jerome K Jerome lived when he was in New Southgate. (at least that is what one of the information panels in the Millennium Green says)

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Well as he seems to be the only vaguely famous person connected with New Southgate you have to make the most of it!

At the end of Springfield Road turn left into Palmers Road. Our next stop is on the main road at the end of Palmers Road.

Stop 7: Arnos Grove station

Arnos Grove tube station was opened in September 1932, as part of the extension of the Piccadilly line to Cockfosters.

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The ticket hall is quite well preserved including the original ticket office.

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There are some good information panels but some of them are hard to reach as the detritus of a modern station gets in the way.

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How different this feels from the depressing spectacle of New Southgate station. And also odd that there is no proper centre here – or indeed around New Southgate station. Here there are just a couple of dozen local shops and New Southgate does not even have that.

Now go past the station and take the side road by the pub on the left (Arnos Road). This leads you to our next stop, Arnos Park.

Stop 8: Arnos Park

This park was the southern most part of the grounds of a large house purchased by Southgate Urban District Council in the late 1920s.

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There was a Tudor manor house but this was demolished in 1719. A man called James Colebrook bought the estate and built a mansion called Arnolds. Locals called the estate Arno’s and the next owner, Sir William Mayne (later Lord Newhaven), renamed the house and estate Arnos Grove. It should have an apostrophe but apparently never has. So it really should be Ar-noes Grove rather than Ar-noss Grove which is how most people say it.

The house itself was much further north than where we are – in Cannon Hill. In fact this is N14 so we skip over that for now.

Retrace your steps back along Arnos Road and then turn left. Our next stop is a little along on the right.

Stop 9: Bowes Road Library and Swimming Pool

Almost all the area around Arnos Grove station was built in the 1930s. And here we have Bowes Road Library and Swimming Pool. This is a nice example of late 1930s municipal architecture dating from 1939 – as architectural historian Pevsner points out, this was unusual combination at the time.

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The sign says the library is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. One wonders how long a library with these limited opening times can carry on.

Keep walking along Bowes Road to the junction with the main road, which is none other than the North Circular Road

Stop 10: North Circular Road

This is the missing link in the North Circular. We are here between the stretches of high quality dual carriageway and this main road actually does an almost 90 degree turn at this junction.

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There have been many plans to sort out this over the years and it even got to point where there were large numbers of houses bought up. But although there has been some modest improvement it looks like this will never be properly addressed.

Whilst it is said that building roads just encourages traffic, surely willfully ignoring a bottleneck like this for decades is crazy. The traffic is already there on either side, so why not do a proper job and tidy this up. However it looks like the pass has been sold because there are new buildings going up right by the road here, when that space could well have been used to straighten the main road and improve the junction.

Continue ahead under the footbridge. Our next stop is a little way along on the left.

Stop 11: former ABC Cinema

This is not the prettiest of 1930s cinemas but it has somehow survived.

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According to the great Cinema Treasures website, this cinema was built and designed by Major W J King as one of several Ritz Cinemas planned for a small chain. Although the project was sold to Associated British Cinemas (ABC) prior to completion, it opened as the Ritz Cinema on 21st December 1933. Cinema Treasures describes it as  “Styled in a rather plain Art Deco style…  Inside the auditorium, the main features were a central dome in the ceiling and abstract decorative designs on the splay walls each side of the proscenium.”

It was renamed ABC from 1969 but closed in February 1974, never having been split up. After laying empty for a while, it was taken on by the Jehovah’s Witnesses who now use it as an Assembly Hall.

Well that brings us to the end of the N11 walk. When I first started this I thought there would not be much to detain me but as I have discovered we have a mental institution, a classic 1930s tube station, a typical 1930s cinema and an unexpected literary connection celebrated in an unusual little park.

For onward travel you are about midway between Arnos Grove and Bounds Green tube stations. For the former, head back the way you came. For the latter go right down Brownlow Road.