SE26: Taking the waters (in Sydenham?)

SE26 is Sydenham. A bit of a sprawling place and another one of those districts which is quite hard to place on a map. We start at the Post Office, 44 Sydenham Road and which is in fact our first stop.

Stop 1: Sydenham Centre

I think the Post Office once took up the whole of this building but now it is in just a part and the rest seems to be called “The Sydenham Centre”


According to Lewwisham Council’s website:

“The Sydenham Centre is a vibrant community space that holds a mix of local organisations, events, activities and services for local and vulnerable people.

The Centre’s main focus is around arts, dance, physical movement and wellbeing activities.

The Sydenham Centre provides the following:

  • day activities for people with learning disabilities
  • micro-brewery which provides training and employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities
  • hireable activity space.”

One interesting feature is the mosaic on the exterior which celebrates all things Sydenham, from Camille Pissarro and Ernest Shackleton to bomb damage.


There are some 11 roundels in total and at the left there is a key to the various elements of the mosaic.


This indicates the artist is Oliver Budd of Budd Mosaics

The company was established by mosaic artist Kenneth Budd in 1951 and more than 60 years later second-generation mosaic artist Oliver Budd designs and creates custom-made mosaics for home and abroad.

Here is a link to their website:

Now interestingly according to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site, this was the site of a cinema which opened in October 1910 as The Queen’s Hall Electric Theatre. It was taken over by the Army Service Corp. in the spring of 1917, during the First World War, and it was closed. It didn’t reopen until August 1919. In late 1936, alterations were carried out and it was reopened in January 1937 as the Classic Cinema.

It was renamed Naborhood Cinema in May 1939 (what a great name!). It received some slight bomb damage in 1943, and was closed. It never reopened and was demolished in August/September 1953. And as we have seen Sydenham Post Office was built on the site and now having been downsized, the building is largely a community facility.

Now go as if you were turning right out of the Post Office and head down Sydenham Road until you reach Girton Road. Our next stop is at the dead supermarket at the corner.

Stop 2: site of another cinema, 72-78 Sydenham Road


According to Cinema Treasures, this too was the site of a cinema. Opened in August 1931, as the State Cinema, it was built for and designed by A.C. Matthews. It was opened on 1st August 1931. He was also responsible for the couple of cinemas we saw in SE19.

It was taken over by Excelsior Super Cinemas in October 1933 and then in March 1949, they were taken over by the Granada chain. It was renamed Granada in October 1949.

The Granada was not split up nor turned over to bingo and carried on as a single cinema until it closed in April 1971. It was demolished later that year. A Safeway Supermarket was built on the site. This later became Somerfield and finally a Co-operative Food store. Today it is closed.

Now head back along Sydenham Road and a little past the Post Office you will see a railway bridge. Turn right just before that for our next stop.

Stop 3: Sydenham station

This is another of the stations built by the London and Croydon Railway which took over much of the alignment of the Croydon Canal  The first station here opened in 1839 and was located to the south of the railway bridge.

With the construction of the branch to Crystal Palace in the early 1850s, the country bound platform  was resited to its current position, north of the railway bridge. The London bound platform remained with a station building on Sydenham Road by the bridge. This meant the station had an unusual staggered platform arrangement.

Today the station building on the bridge has long gone and the main station building is down the side street on the right. This is just before the bridge on the country bound side of the tracks. It presumably dates from the 1850s when the line was rebuilt.



Today if you go onto the station you will see the platforms are staggered but not in the way they used to be.



The reason the London bound platform looks a bit spartan is that it is relatively new.


The northbound platform only dates from 1982 when British Rail decided to construct a replacement platform 90 meters north, parallel to Peak Hill Gardens. This was because the retaining wall at the original location was beginning to collapse.

Now go back to the main road and turn right. you will see a roundabout ahead of you. And to the right you will see a distinctive building with a dome. This is known locally as Cobb’s Corner and is our next stop.

Stop 4: Cobb’s Corner



This used to be Cobb’s Deparment Store. The store was started by Walter Cobb as a small draper’s shop in 1860. It gradually grew until it became a fully fledged Department Store building. This corner became the main entrance in 1902. The shop was very badly damaged by bombing in October 1940 and although it was rebuilt the store gradually declined.

Cobb’s continued to trade until 1981 which is kind of surprising as Sydenham never developed in to a major shopping centre.

There is an excellent piece in Cobb’s on the Sydenham and Forest Hill Local History site.

Now return to the roundabout and go down the main road on the left. This is Westwood Hill. Our next stop is soon on the right hand side.

Stop 5: St Bartholomew’s Church


According to architectural guru, Pevsner, this church dates from 1827 – 1832 and is of stock brick. Pevsner does not rave about this church, but nor is there any withering comment.

In the church grounds, near the entrance to the church, is the grave of 10 men who died during the rebuilding of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham in 1853 when the scaffolding they were on collapsed.

But I guess its main claim to fame is that the church features in the 1871 painting by Camille Pissaro called “The Avenue, Sydenham”. This painting is owned by the National Gallery and is one of a number Pissaro painted around here when he was staying locally in what today we call SE19.

Our next stop is almost immediately next door on the right.

Stop 5: Number 12 Westwood Hill


You will see there is a blue plaque. This denotes the fact that antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton lived here.


Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874 – 1922) was a polar explorer who was involved in three British expeditions to the Antarctic. He was born in County Kildare, Ireland and his  father, a newly qualified doctor, moved the family here to Sydenham when Ernest was ten.

Ernest Shackleton has an extensive Wikipedia entry –

According to this, his first experience of the polar regions was as third officer on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition 1901–1904, from which he was sent home early on health grounds.

During the second expedition 1907–1909 he and three companions established a new record of getting the farthest south – to the latitude 88°S, around 100 miles from the South Pole. This was regarded as the largest advance to the pole in exploration history. Also, members of his team climbed Mount Erebus, the most active Antarctic volcano. For these achievements, Shackleton was knighted.

After the race to the South Pole ended in December 1911 with Roald Amundsen’s conquest, Shackleton turned his attention to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. To this end he made preparations for what became the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when its ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the shore parties could be landed. The crew escaped by camping on the sea ice until it disintegrated, then by launching the lifeboats to reach Elephant Island and ultimately the inhabited island of South Georgia, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles and Shackleton’s most famous exploit.

In 1921, he returned to the Antarctic with the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition, but died of a heart attack while his ship was moored in South Georgia. At his wife’s request he was buried there.

Our next stop is right next door and also has a blue plaque.

Stop 6: Number 14 Westwood Hill


This blue plaque is for Sir George Grove, who could not have been more different from Shackleton.


Sir George Grove (1820 – 1900) was an English writer on music, best known as the founding editor of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Grove was trained as a civil engineer, but his love of music drew him into musical administration. When responsible for the regular orchestral concerts at the Crystal Palace, he wrote a series of programme notes from which eventually grew his musical dictionary.

He edited the “Dictionary of Music and Musicians” which was first published in four volumes (1879, 1880, 1883, 1889).

The second edition, in five volumes, was edited by Fuller Maitland and published from 1904 to 1910, this time as Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. It has gone through several editions since. The latest print version runs to 29 volumes. In recent years it has been made available as an electronic resource called Grove Music Online.

Grove was also involved in the creation of the Royal College of Music in 1882 and was its first Director.

He died here aged 79 on 28 May 1900, in the house in which he had lived for nearly 40 years.

Now continue along Westwood Hill and take the first turning on the right – Jews Walk. Our next stop is a little way down on the right hand side.

Stop 7: Number 7 Jew’s Walk

Number 7 is nestled in a garden surrounded by trees and scrubs.


But you can just make out a blue plaque. This notes that socialist campaigner Eleanor Marx lived and died here.


She was the youngest daughter of Karl Marx. She was a socialist activist who sometimes worked as a literary translator.

There is a fascinating post here from the Sydenham and Forest Hill Local History site

It is by no means clear why she chose to live here but this piece does suggest that she was attracted by the name of the street given her Jewish heritage.

The piece also tells the sad tale of her suicide. In March 1898, after discovering that Edward Aveling, her partner and a prominent British Marxist, had secretly married a young actress in June of the previous year, she committed suicide by poison. She was 43. The piece mentions that Dr Henry Shackleton, father of Edward, was called when she was found dying.

Now go down the side road almost opposite – Longton Grove. When this bends to the left take the turning on the right – Longton Avenue. Soon ahead of you on the right you will see an entrance to a park. Go in there as it is our next stop.

Stop 8: Sydenham Wells Park


The name of this park is a bit of a giveaway, because this was once the location of a spa.


Keep walking though until you get to the formal garden bit.


Just beyond here is a stone with a water drain underneath. I guess this maybe something to do with one of the natural springs – or at least a reminder of what used to be here.


According to London Gardens Online:

“Sydenham Wells Park is near the former site of mineral springs that were discovered in the C17th, becoming a popular spa whose numerous visitors included King George III. The spa’s success led to the building of larger houses, and wealthy people began to settle in the area. The opening of Crystal Park encouraged further influx. Sydenham Wells Park opened as a public park in 1901 following a campaign to save the land from being built over by housing development.”

More info at:

Now head through the park and out the other side. You will either come out to Longton Avenue (in which case turn right) or Wells Park Road (in which case turn left). Go along Wells Park Road away from the park and soon on the left you will see a home set back off the road at a slightly lower level. This is our next stop.

Stop 9: Site of Upper Sydenham station


This house is pretty much all that is left of Upper Sydenham station which was on the line which went to Crystal Palace High Level.

The station was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in August 1884. It was temporarily closed as an economy measure in both World Wars (January 1917 – March 1919 and May 1944 – March 1946).

Although the line was electrified in 1925, it was never a major route and lost much of its traffic after Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936. The line was permanently closed in September 1954

The station building sits atop a tunnel and the platforms were quite a long way down. There is little to see now but you can go down to the tunnel mouth if you follow the signed path.


And then take a left into the woods


If you look carefully you will see the mouth of the tunnel, though it is blocked off now.


If you want to see what this station looked like before nature took over go to the fantastic Disused Station site:

This has lots of pictures of the station with its full complement of buildings and also just as a couple of forlorn platforms.

Now return to Wells Park Road and turn left. Continue to the end and at the main road you will see another road almost opposite with a pub at the corner. This is Crescent Wood Road, where we have our final two stops.

First up ahead on the left just after the green pathway is number 3.

Stop 10: Number 3, Crescent Wood Road


If you look carefully at the right hand end of the main house is a blue plaque. This notes that television pioneer John Logie Baird (1888 – 1946) lived here


He was a Scottish engineer and innovator. He was one of the inventors of the mechanical television, demonstrating the first working television system in 1926 and the world’s first colour transmission in July 1928, Whilst he was a great pioneer, it should be said the actual system he developed was a bit cumbersome and others would develop more workable solutions..

Fascinating fact: The demonstration of colour television in 1928 featured a young girl wearing different coloured hats. That girl was Noele Gordon who went on to become a TV presenter and actress, most famous for her leading role in the soap opera Crossroads.

Logie Baird had a  transmitter and TV studios at Crystal Palace but they were lost when the Palace was ravished by fire in 1936. I have not been able to confirm it but I guess he was living here because of his facility at Crystal Palace which is after all just up the road.

Our next stop is just across the street.

Stop 11: Six Pillars

Here we have a very striking modernist building called Six Pillars, because – guess what – it has six pillars at the front.


This is clearly rather special.


According to a February 2007 article in the Daily Telegraph

“Six Pillars was designed by Tecton, a London-based architectural practice led by the Russian émigré and master of the modern movement, Berthold Lubetkin. His best-known London works are the Penguin House at London Zoo and his apartment blocks, Highpoint, in Highgate, North London.”

“The main façade of the house, which faces the street, is a rectangle of concrete floating on six jaunty … pillars – whence the name – reached by a horseshoe-shaped drive. Outside it looks enormous. Internally, it spans 3,000 square feet, but [it has been likened] it to the Tardis in reverse. “It seems huge from the outside, but once you’re in, it’s not that big.””

“The four-bedroom house was built in 1934 as the residence of Jack Leakey, a former headmaster of nearby Dulwich College, and his wife. It is said that the pair’s ‘unconventional marriage’ may have influenced its unusual upstairs layout. Enter the double-volume entrance hall with its large window made up of small panes of glass, typical of the period, and a swooping curved concrete staircase leads to a choice of two separate wings, which were once ‘his and her’ bedroom suites.”


So that brings us to the end of our SE26 walk. I had not expected to find quite so much of interest, certainly not to find myself at such an iconic house, or find four “proper” blue plaques.

We are quite a way from where we started. you can return to the main road and catch a bus (Number 202) back to Sydenham. Or else you can follow a green passage that will take you done the hill to Sydenham Hill station which is served by local trains running between London Victoria and Bromley/Orpington. There are usually four trains and hour plus some extras in the peaks.



N6 You say Hi-git and I say Hi-Gayt

N6 is Highgate but how to pronounce it? Do you pronounce it as it looks – ie Hi-gayt? Or do you clip it and say Hi-git. London Underground thinks the latter according to the trains on the Northern line. But the local buses say the name more like “Hi-gayt”, which I think sounds more “normal”.

So you say Hi-git and I say Hi-gayt. Tomayto, Tomarto, Potayto, Potarto. Ah well, let’s call the whole thing off. But no, wait we can’t, we haven’t done N6 yet!

We start at the Post Office at 361 Archway Road.  Turn left out of the  Post Office. Cross over and go up the hill. Soon you will come to our first stop which is on the right.

Stop 1: Highgate Wood

Here there is a nice little gate which leads you into Highgate Wood.


This wood is owned and managed by the City of London Corporation.


According to their website, this was originally part of the Bishop of London’s Hunting Park. It is 28 hectares of ancient woodland predominantly made up of hornbeam coppice and oak standard trees. This has been a working woodland for many hundreds of years, with the hornbeams being cut on a rotational basis and used predominantly for firewood, charcoal making and tool handles. The oak standards were grown as single stem trees and used for house building, ship building and other purposes.

The City took over the land in 1886  from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at no charge on condition that it was “maintained in perpetuity for the benefit of Londoners”

Don’t worry I am not taking you for a walk in the woods. Just go a little way into the woods and look to your left through the trees.

Down below you is a railway line.


This is the line that went from Finsbury Park to East Finchley and beyond and was going to be converted to become an Underground line under the Northern Heights project which we have heard about in Mill Hill and Finchley. The lines here peter out just below you and I understand are used by London Underground for storage. The track bed though goes under your feet in a tunnel and continues via Highgate station to Finsbury Park – much of which is now a walking and  cycle route.

Now retrace your steps back along Archway road and turn left at the traffic lights and then take the right hand road. You will see a path signed for Highgate Station, go down this.

Stop 2: Highgate Station

I guess many people who use Highgate station do not know that the first station here was built on the surface and now lies abandoned. As you go down this path you can see the old station.


There has been a station here since 1867 when the Great Northern Railway opened a line between Finsbury Park and Edgware. This is the line we saw the remains of just now.

The London Underground Northern Line was extended to here and started serving the station in 1941, using new platforms in tunnels below the original station.

The platforms on the original railway line were to have been used as part of the aborted Northern Heights project. One of the original 1867 station buildings still exists, and is in use as a private house. And we approach the modern day station entrance, we can see this.


Today’s station contains two tube tunnel platforms which are accessed from a concourse situated immediately below the disused surface platforms. Go in the entrance ahead of you and walk though to come out the Archway Road exit.


Do not use the escalator exit as this will take you back where you started. And there is only an up escalator so you would have to walk back down Archway Road.

Fascinating fact: The platforms are longer than elsewhere on the Northern line. They were built to accommodate nine-car trains, in anticipation of longer trains on the line (which never happened)


The unfulfilled plans would have given us a much substantial station than what was eventually built. The way Highgate station ended up is all rather unsatisfactory.

More info on this station (including some pictures of the abandoned platforms) at:

Now go up the access road from the station and at the junction cross over Archway Road and go down Highgate Avenue. Turn right into Southwood Avenue and our next stop is a little way on the left

Stop 3: Number 25 Southwood Avenue


This was the home of William Heath Robinson (1872-1944). He was an artist, illustrator and cartoonist.


The plaque says he was known as ‘the Gadget King’. His illustrations showed mad but logical contraptions and often have that make do and mend philosophy which is so beloved of many people.

Even today he has a following. There is even a Heath Robinson Trust which is aiming to open a museum next year in Pinner – see their site:

Continue along Southwood Avenue. It becomes Southwood Lawn Road. At the end cross over and go down a little path called Park Walk (take the left path). At the end of this you will find “The Wrestlers” pub. Turn left along the main road and our next stop is a couple of doors along on the same side of the road as the pub.

Stop 4: Number 92 North Road


This is one of numerous plaques to Charles Dickens (The wonderful Open Plaques site says there are 52 dedicated to Dickens or mentioning his name! Not all in London of course)


Dickens stayed here in 1832 when he was just 20, so this was before he was famous. It was not until 1833 that he submitted his first story “A Dinner at Poplar Walk”, to the London periodical Monthly Magazine and his literary success only really began in 1836 with the serial publication of The Pickwick Papers.

Now cross the road.

Stop 5: Highpoint One and Two

At first glance these two blocks of flats do not look very special but they are. The one we come to first is Highpoint One. It was built in 1935 to a design by Russian-born architect Berthold Lubetkin with the structural design by the Danish engineer Ove Arup. This is what is known as early International style architecture and was very innovative in its day.


Highpoint One was built for Sigmund Gestetner who father David invented a duplicating machine which revolutionised office life. David Gestetner was born in Hungary but came to England where he made his name. He filed his first copying patent in 1879. The company was hugely successful and opened on works in Tottenham in 1906. And this block of flats was originally intended as housing for Gestetner company staff. But this never happened.

The second Lubetkin building in the same style, Highpoint Two, was completed on an adjoining site in 1938. Both are Grade I Listed Buildings


Highpoint Two has a strange quirk at the front, which comes as a bit of a shock in a building of clean lines and smooth finishes.



Architectural reference book Pevsner says: “The idea of using reproductions of two … caryatids is significant. It is a case of surrealism in architecture, that is of the familiar made fantastic by surprise setting.”

The trouble is that the currency of this kind of surprise is now overvalued. Today it just looks like a bit of Las Vegas dropped into Highgate, but when it was first done it must have been at once shocking and intriguing.

Continue along this road which mutates from North Hill to North Road. Our next stop is on the right.

Stop 5: Number 17 North Road


Set back off the road with a nice little garden is the house where classics scholar A.E. Housman (1859-1936) lived and where he wrote his most famous work “A Shropshire Lad”


A Shropshire Lad is a cycle of 63 poems. After several publishers had turned it down, he published it at his own expense in 1896 and apparently it has never been out of print since.  The poems have themes such as the loss of youth, violent death, the parting of friends and are set in a half-imaginary Shropshire, a nostalgic ‘land of lost content’.

Housman wrote most of them while living here before ever visiting that part of Shropshire (even though it was only about thirty miles from his boyhood home). During the First World War, Housman’s poems became popular given their themes and the fact that some were addressed to, or spoken by, a soldier. More at:

Continue along North Road and ahead on the other side of the roundabout is our next stop.

Stop 6: Gatehouse pub

According to Wikipedia, Highgate adjoined the Bishop of London’s hunting estate. The bishop kept a toll-house where one of the main northward roads out of London entered his land. A number of pubs sprang up along the route, one of which, the Gatehouse, commemorates the toll-house.


Now it is a Wetherspoon’s pub with a theatre attached. There is a great little history of this site at this link:

It makes the great claim of being London’s Top Theatre. That is because it is 446 feet above Sea Level.

Now go round the front of the pub and follow the road (which is Highgate West Hill). There is a green area to your right. At the end of this a road comes in at an angle go back along this and almost immediately you will see our next stop.

Stop 7: Number 3 The Grove

This house has a double literary connection.


First in 1817, the writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who we came across in W14) came to live here. This was the Highgate home of Dr James Gillman who sought to address Coleridge’s opium addiction. Dr Gillman built a special wing for the poet and Coleridge lived there for the rest of his life, becoming known as the sage of Highgate. Some of his most famous poems, though written years earlier, were first published when he was living here. He died here on 25 July 1834 and is buried in the crypt of the local parish church of St Michael’s.

The writer J. B. Priestley (1894 – 1984) subsequently lived in the same house. Both are commemorated by plaques on the front of the house.


Keep going down Highgate West Hill. It is quite steep and the houses are spread quite far apart. We are headed for number 31 and it seems to take forever to come up. Just keep going. It is just after the vast estate now occupied by the Russian Trade Delegation, with its wide drive and security gates. I was going to take a photograph of this but thought maybe that was not a great idea.

Stop 8: Number 31 Highgate West Hill

This was the childhood home of John Betjeman (1906 – 1984). He lived here from 1908 to 1917.


As his family moved out when he was 11, I am not sure what more there is to say. Except perhaps that he said High-git!

Now retrace your steps slightly and across the road you will see a gated road, called Oakeshott Avenue. It may be gated but it is possible to walk through the pedestrian gates on either side

Stop 9: Holly Lodge Estate



This is a fascinating estate, built on the grounds of a house called Holly Lodge which from 1849 was the country retreat of Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814 – 1906) one of the most remarkable women of the 19th century. She was well known for her philanthropy. Indeed we came across her in Lime Grove W12 where she set up a home for fallen women with Charles Dickens.

The estate was put up for sale after her death, but it was not until the 1920s that it was all sold off and developed.

There is a fascinating site all about the estate and how it developed:

So as we walk along Oakeshott Avenue, we are at first surrounded by detached mock Tudor houses, dating from the 1920s.


As you approach the junction with Hillway, look out for a glimpse of Canary Wharf. Now I did not expect that!


At the cross roads with Hillway, look down that street and you get another unexpected view. This time of the London Eye.


And then along Oakeshot Avenue, you can now see what architectural historian Pevsner calls “Tudor cliffs”


These mansion blocks were designed from the outset as bed-sitting rooms, sometimes with bedroom or kitchen alcoves, and were considered an acceptable way for single women to live near to London on their own!

Go out the gates at the end of the street and turn left into Swain’s Lane. You can see Highgate Cemetery. As we walk down the street look out for this monument.


A closer looks reveals this is the grave, amongst others,  of William Freise Greene, a pioneer of cinema, who we came across in W9. Or rather as the monument puts it “The inventor of kinematography”


Stop 10: Highgate Cemetery

You cannot really come to Highgate without mentioning the cemetery.

The cemetery is in two halves. The original part is on the west (left side as you are walking) of Swain’s Lane and opened in 1839. It was as part of a plan to provide cemeteries to replace the graveyards attached to individual churches which had long been unable to cope with the number of burials and had become a hazard to health. There were seven of these and so they became known as the Magnificent Seven and we have already seen another one – Brompton Cemetery in SW10.

Here is the entrance to the West Cemetery


You have to go on a tour of this part of the cemetery, but you can go in the East Cemetery every day, via this gate, which is to your right and opposite the entrance to the West Cemetery.



There is much to see in the cemetery and we could linger here much longer to hear about some of the famous people who are buried here. But sadly we do not have time just now, as we must complete our walk through N6.

Continue along Swain’s Lane and go into Waterlow Park (which is on your right)

Stop 11 Waterlow Park

Sir Sidney Waterlow was a 19th century politician and philanthropist. He was Lord Mayor of London in 1872/73 and was made a baronet in 1873.

In 1889 gave this land to the London County Council as “a garden for the gardenless”.

Once in the park take the path on the left and go up the hill and as you get near the top take the right hand path.

Today Waterlow is commemorated by a statue, which you will see on your left along with lots of benches.


I am told by fellow guide Jen this is the only statue in London with an umbrella!


The positioning is great. Waterlow gets what may well be one of the best views of London a statue could have. Not sure exactly what he can see. But here is what I saw from the grass just below the statue.



Frustratingly you cannot see the whole skyline from one point. Maybe you have to come back when there are no leaves on the trees.

Follow the path round and you will come to the gardens of a house with tables and chairs outside.


Go in but don’t miss the little sundial (or what left of it) on your left.


And it says this sundial plate is on a level with the top of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, which is an unexpected comparison.


Now exit the park into Highgate High Street and turn right. This road becomes Highgate Hill.

Stop 11a: Highgate Hill


I thought I would stop and mention something here, although there is nothing actually to see to remind us of it.

Highgate Hill was in fact the location of the first passenger cable car service in Europe which opened in 1884 (San Francisco and Duendin, New Zealand (!) had earlier systems). The route ran between Archway and Highgate and used a continuous cable and grip system on the 1 in 11 climb of Highgate Hill.


The method of haulage was not reliable and was replaced by electric trams in 1909

Now turn down Hornsey Lane and a little way along just after St Aloysius College is a famous bridge, our final stop.

Stop 12: Archway Bridge

Although the place known as Archway is in N19, the bridge which gives its name to the locality is actually just in N6, so I am including it here.

The original main road north went up the very steep Highgate Hill and through the village of Highgate, passing by the Gatehouse we saw earlier. By the early 19th century, this was proving unsuitable for increasingly heavy traffic and so a bypass with a shallower gradient was proposed cutting through the hill in a tunnel.

This was also a toll road. Work started in 1810 but the tunnel collapsed during construction in April 1812. So a bridge, designed by John Nash, was built to carry Hornsey Lane over what was now a cutting. The new Archway Road opened in 1813 and it remained a toll road until 1876.

In the late 1890s, Nash’s bridge was replaced with the present cast-iron bridge slightly further north, designed by Sir Alexander Binnie. So the modern day bridge is not quite the archway it used to be.

It is impressive. Way below the bridge is the Archway Road – the modern day A1 – and you have a good view north.


And a great view south towards the City.


That brings us to the end of the N6 walk in which we saw some fascinating buildings and heard about some interesting literary connections. Though I still am not sure just how to pronounce the name!

For onward travel either take the W5 bus from Hornsey lane to Archway. Or you can go down the steep flight of steps to Archway Road and walk along the main road to Archway.