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).

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.