Discovering places of interest along a Roman road in Tottenham and Edmonton .
Tottenham and Edmonton are places that are lesser-known to me, and, I suspect, to many others. You may well wonder why I am writing about apart of north-east London, which is well off most visitors’ radars. Here are two reasons: the first dental, the second legal.
In the 1960s, my late uncle Julian Walt, a dentist trained in Johannesburg, owned a dental practice next to Silver Street Station in Edmonton. I used to attend his surgery every six months until the mid-1970s. The immediate surroundings of his practice seemed dismal, and not worth exploring. So, I used to get my teeth treated, and return to other parts of London as quickly as possible.
Years later, my wife, by then a practising barrister, began attending cases at Edmonton County Court, which is a short walk from Julian’s former surgery. Recently, I met her for lunch in Edmonton, and we took a bus home. This bus travelled from Fore Street, which is close to Silver Street, all the way along the Tottenham High Road to Seven Sisters Station. As we travelled, I noticed from the window of the bus that our route was dotted with buildings that looked interesting. They proved to be so, and I have looked at them more closely since then.
Let me guide you from Seven Sisters Station to Silver Street along a road that has run from Bishopsgate in the City to Hertford since time immemorial. Until it reaches Bruce Grove, it is the ‘A10’ road, and then north of this it becomes the A1010. Once, it was known as the ‘Hertford Road’ and, also, ‘The Old North Road’. Originally, it was a Roman road that became known as ‘Ermine Street’ (derived from its Old English name – ‘Earninga Straete’). It led from Londinium (London) to Eburacum (York). Being such a long-established thoroughfare, it is good to find that there are still some historic buildings that may be seen along it.
The name ‘Seven Sisters’ is derived from a circle of seven elms that used to stand near the present intersection of Broad Lane and the Tottenham High Road (the ‘High Road’). Just north of Seven Sisters Station on the west side of the High Road, there is a large ornate red brick building surrounded by iron railings. Now Sycamore Court, this was once the ‘Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables’. It was built between 1897 and 1901. The establishment that ran it was founded in Hackney in 1889 to offer:
“… care to poor Jewish immigrants permanently disabled by chronic disease, accident or physical handicap.” (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/jewishhospitalandhome.html).
It moved to the site on the High Road in 1903. It contained a synagogue that was consecrated in 1918. After WW1, the institution included incurable Jewish ex-servicemen amongst its inmates.
The hospital closed in 1995. By then, Tottenham’s Jewish population had shrunk considerably. Now, with the synagogue fittings having been removed and transferred to the Sukkat Shalom Reform Synagogue in Wanstead, the building has been converted to be used as social housing.
The campus of The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (‘CONEL’) is near to Sycamore Court. This college is a ‘descendant’ of the Grove House School, a Quaker school, that flourished on this site between 1828 and 1878. An older (20th century) brick building with neo-classical features stands next to a more contemporary building. They are close to Tottenham Green.
A war memorial (erected in 1923) surmounted by a winged figure stands guard at the southern apex of the Green. The Green appears on maps as early as the 17th century (e.g. on a 1619 map), but most probably antedates this. The existing buildings around it do not go that far back in time.
On the western edge of the Green, we find the former Tottenham Fire Station, which was built in 1905 by A S Taylor and R Jemmett. Now, a protected building, it has been converted for use as a restaurant. The old fire station is next to the former Tottenham Town Hall. Designed by Arthur Rutherford Jemett and Arnold S Taylor, this elegant ‘Edwardian Baroque’ structure was built in 1905.
Now, it is home to the ‘Legacy Business Centre’ and the ‘Dream Centre’, which is a place for holding functions such as weddings. A plaque on the front of the building remembers the trade unionist and politician Bernie Grant (1944-2000), who held “legendary surgeries” within the Town Hall.
Born in the West Indies, and brought to the UK by his parents in 1963, Bernie became a figure of controversy following the death of PC Blakelock during riots in the Broadwater Farm Estate (in Tottenham) in October 1985. He was nicknamed “The High Priest of Conflict” by the then Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd. Bernie went on to become Labour MP for Tottenham between 1987 and 2000. When he was elected in 1987, he was one of only four ‘black’ MPs.
Grant’s memory is celebrated in a complex of buildings behind the Town Hall: The ‘Bernie Grant Arts Centre’. It is well worth walking behind the old building to see, first, that it is attached, like a thick façade or a rich cake icing, to a much newer building, which forms part of the arts centre. This is separated by a large yard from a much larger elegant contemporary building made of a black material and with a plate glass façade. This contains halls, auditoriums, studios, and other spaces, that make up the arts centre.
This complex was designed by the British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye (born 1966), who has also designed, for example, the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management and a new building for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (USA). Next to the large building, there is a solitary industrial chimney, which is all that remains of a now demolished swimming pool.
What remains of the Old Town Hall (its front section) stands next to the former Tottenham County School building that opened in 1913. Created by Middlesex County Council in 1901 on another site, this was one of the first co-educational secondary schools in the country. It moved to the building on the Green in 1913, and left it in the 1960s. Currently, the former school building is used by a branch of CONEL.
The Marcus Garvey Centre is housed within a fairly non-descript modern building, ‘Tottenham Green Pools and Fitness’, which is next to the former school. The Marcus Garvey Library, which has recently undergone a complete ‘make-over’ is spacious, light, and well designed. The Jamaican born Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) was a ‘black leader and, oversimplifying his achievements greatly, a major proponent of the idea that people of ‘black’ African ancestry should take control of their own destinies as well as ‘redeem’ Africa from the colonial powers that had occupied it. He died in West Kensington, London, not far from where I work currently. The library contains his sculpted bust. Beneath it, there is a foundation stone, which was laid in 1987 by his son Marcus Garvey Junior. The stone has a five-pointed star carved on it like that used by the socialists. Garvey (senior) was concerned that Communism was really for the benefit of ‘white’ working people, but that ‘black’ people were welcomed by them mainly to swell their numbers in the fight against the ‘white’ upper classes.
There is a small portion of the Green on the east side of the High Road. On the south side of this part of the green, there is a block of early 19th century residences with attractive skylights over their front doors. A large block of flats nearby, Deaconess Court, is adorned with stone depictions of the three heraldic feathers of the Prince of Wales.
It used to be the premises of the Prince of Wales General Hospital, which used to treat the acutely ill between 1867 and 1983 (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/princeofwales.html). Its neighbour to the north is Mountford House.
This grand building is from the late 18th century, and has 19th century additions. Elegant dwellings such as these on the Green are evidence of what “A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5”, described (about the High Road):
“A notable feature from the 16th century was the number of large houses, most of them leased to Londoners as country retreats.”
When the railway (Stoke Newington & Edmonton Railway) was opened in 1872, Tottenham High Road became accessible to the working classes, and this accounted for acceleration of the urbanisation along it. The remains of the earlier patrician housing are embedded within the 19th and 20th century urban sprawl, which reduces the High Road’s attractiveness to most visitors.
At the north-east corner of the Green, there is Holy Trinity Church, which was consecrated 1830. It is neo-Gothic in style, designed by James Savage, and (supposedly) modelled on Kings College Chapel in Cambridge. Opposite this church across the High Road, there is a small plaque commemorating John Williams (1796-1839), who was born in Tottenham.
A shipbuilder and missionary, he was eaten in Erromanga (in the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu) by the local inhabitants.
“Swift-footed natives captured him. The missionary who had hoped to feast them with the Gospel became their feast instead.” (see: http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/john-williams-martyred-on-erromanga-11630456.html).
Near the church, where Philip Lane meets the High Road, stands The Old Well. Long ago, when Tottenham was a small village, all its inhabitants obtained water from this well, which was sunk in 1791. The construction of the well was financed by Thomas Smith, Lord of the Manor of Tottenham, at Bruce Castle (see below). The quaint tiled roof was added to the well in 1859. Water was drawn from the well (and transported to where it was needed by paid water-carriers) until 1883, when it was realised that the water was polluted. After that, it was never used again. Luckily, this old structure in rather a bleak part of north-east London, complete with its winding wheel and chains, has been preserved by various bodies over the years.
The well is close to a slender gothic pinnacle standing on a traffic island. Known as ‘Tottenham High Cross’ this stands at the ‘peak’ of a slight rise. The present cross was built in 1809, and later decorated in Victorian gothic. It stands in the centre of Tottenham Village on the spot where there had been a cross since the 15th century, and maybe long before. Some say that once there may have been a marker here, placed by the Romans on their ‘Ermine Street’.
Until recently, a pub, ‘The Swan’, stood near the Cross. Established in the 15th century, the author of the ‘Compleat Angler’, Izaak Walton (1593-1683), is said to have rested there after fishing in the River Lea (See: http://www.tottenhamcivicsociety.org.uk/CivitasAutumn2008.pdf). The pub closed a few years ago, and became ‘reincarnated’ as ‘Alamut’, a Turkish eatery. When I saw this place recently (May 2017), it looked as if it was no longer in business.
A small carved stone sculpture stands just north of the Cross. Called ‘Embracing Forms’, it was sculpted by Vanessa Pomeroy before 1983. She derives much pleasure from depicting the Hertfordshire countryside.
Across the road facing the sculpture, stands Library Court, built in 1896. This block of flats, which retains the original 19th century façade, occupies the building that used to be Tottenham’s library.
Our next treat on the High Road is opposite Tottenham Police Station. This is the former ‘Tottenham Palace Theatre’, built in 1908 by OC Wylson (1859-1925), who won a prize, the Donaldson Medal, while studying architecture at University College, London. Its façade has been described by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “neo Baroque”.
One of its street doors still retains its original delicate iron-work tracery. When it opened, it was a variety theatre. Amongst others, the singer comedienne Marie Lloyd (1870-1922) performed there. In 1926, the building became a cinema, and then in 1969, a bingo hall. Currently, it houses a religious organisation, the ‘Power Praise & Deliverance Ministries International Worship Centre’. Like so many of London’s former cinemas, this one has been delivered from disuse and possible demolition by one of the numerous religious organisations that abound in London.
The theatre is separated from the St Marks Methodist Church by a row of three storey buildings with shops at street level. The church’s grey exterior is, frankly, hideous. Its entrance is in the middle of a row of shops erected in the late 1930s.
At Bruce Grove railway station, the A10 leaves the High Road and travels northwest along Bruce Grove. Just before the junction, stands the ‘Ship’ pub. This elaborately decorated 19th century building stands on the site of yet another place that Izaak Walton used to enjoy frequenting. Before continuing north along the High Road, let us take a detour along Bruce Grove.
The old station, opened in 1872, with its gothic windowed ticket hall stands across the Grove from a former cinema. It was the ‘Bruce Grove Cinema’, and it opened in 1921, when the first film screened there was “The Mark of Zorro”, starring Douglas Firbanks (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/15233). It became a bingo hall in the 1960s, and then an indoor cricket ‘pavilion’, and now it is used, amongst other things, as a church, a jewellery shop, and an eastern European supermarket.
Next door to the cinema, stands the ‘Regency’, now home of the ‘Regency Banqueting Suite’. Built in 1923, it was originally the ‘Bruce Grove Ballroom’, which was constructed by the owners of the neighbouring cinema (see: https://londonpostcodewalks.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/n17-spurred-into-action/). The banqueting suite is now used as a venue for Greek and Turkish weddings and so on.
Across the road from the Regency, there is a row of Georgian buildings were built in the late 18th or early 19th century. One of them, number 7, on the corner of Champa Close was the home of Luke Howard (1772-1864).
Howard was known as the ‘namer of clouds’. In 1802, he proposed a system for classifying different types of clouds, which we are still using today. He suggested names such as ‘cirrus’, ‘cirrostratus’, and ‘cumulus’, which remain in use. His naming system was preferred over an earlier French one proposed by the celebrated French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) because it used the then universally acceptable Latin instead of French. Howard, a Quaker, who was a manufacturing chemist and an amateur meteorologist, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1821. He died in his Tottenham home.
An old sign, which reads: ‘Tottenham Trades Hall’ is attached to number 7. After Howard died, his home was used briefly as a home for missionaries. Then, in 1919, the house:
“…was bought by Tottenham Trades Union and Labour Club and used as offices and for meetings. They constructed the Rear Hall and in 1937 the front projecting wing. They also bought No. 8 and they still occupy the ground floor of this building…”
(see: http://www.tottenhamcivicsociety.org.uk/CivitasWinter2014.pdf). Currently, number 7 remains behind builders’ fencing, and its neighbour, number 8, is used for offices and flats.
These two adjoining buildings are part of a long row of Georgian houses that extend to about halfway along Bruce Grove.
Much of the north western half of the Grove is occupied by a large collection of 19th century alms-houses, many of them arranged around a green space. A small neo-gothic chapel with a spire stands in their midst. The quaint Victorian homes are ranged along Edmanson Close, and were built by The Drapers’ Company in 1869-70: “…for the poor, elderly people of Tottenham and Bow” (see: http://www.thedrapers.co.uk/). The architect was Herbert Williams (c.1812-1872), who also designed the Drapers’ new hall in the City. They were built on the site of the former Elmslea House (which served as a school for fatherless Anglican girls from 1866). They were known as the ‘Sailmakers’ Almshouses’.
At the end of Bruce Grove, we reach the entrance to Bruce Castle Park, which faces the main entrance to Bruce Castle. The Castle is a beautiful 16th - 17th century manor house. An earlier building was built on this site before the 17th century, but in about 1670 it was completely rebuilt by Henry Hare, the 2nd Baron of Coleraine. In the 18th century, an addition was built onto its east end. The building was later modified in the 19th century, but despite these changes it remains one of the earliest surviving English brick houses.
To the west of the house, there is a round tower made with red brick and topped with crenellations. This is believed to have been built earlier than the ‘Castle’. It is clearly marked on a 1619 map of the area. Bruce Castle was built on land formerly owned by the Scottish Bruce family, the family of Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) of spider-watching fame. In the early 12th century, the manor of Tottenham came into the hands of Malcolm III of Scotland, and in 1254 part of it became owned by the De Brus (Bruce) family. When Robert the Bruce asserted his right to be King of Scotland, England’s King Edward II took ownership of the land in 1306. The name ‘Bruce’ has remained associated with this part of Tottenham ever since.
In 1827, Rowland Hill (1795-1879), and educator the ‘father’ of the modern British postal system, bought the manor house to begin a private school, there. Six years later, he handed it over to other members of his family. The school continued under the directorship of Birkbeck Hill, and then Reverend William Almack until 1891. The following year, the Castle became the property of Tottenham Urban District Council, which opened the Castle’s grounds as a public park. In 1906, the Castle became Tottenham’s first public museum. It remains a museum (of local history), as well as housing the Borough of Haringey’s archives.
When I visited the museum recently, I was told that each room is ‘themed’. While some of the themes are obvious, others are less well-defined. The museum contains a wealth of varied exhibits showing how Haringey developed and how it was affected by the events in the rest of the world, for example WW1. During my visit, I saw a temporary exhibition of Jamaican ladies’ headwear. The museum is well-worth seeing not only because of its contents but also to admire its lovely architecture.
In the grounds of Bruce Castle, there is a small fenced-off Garden of Remembrance. It is an attractively designed memorial to the victims of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi Germans and their sympathisers. The garden was created by ‘young offenders’ as part of their rehabilitation. Apart from a small plaque with gold letters carved into a piece of black stone, there is a sculpture made from six wooden railway sleepers. They stand vertically in a circle. Each one is supposed to represent one of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. And, each one has a single name carved on it. These six names are the first names of the six offenders who created this moving memorial. Behind that at the edge of the garden furthest away from the Castle, there is another sculpture (by Paul Margetts and Claudia Holder) representing prison bars and barbed wire.
Part of the garden was redesigned to commemorate the life of Roman Halter (1927-2012), a Jewish Holocaust survivor who was born in Lodz, Poland. After the Second World War, Roman came to England where he became an architect, and then later a painter and sculptor. He lived in the Borough of Haringey, where this peaceful yet moving memorial garden is located.
We re-enter the High Road from Bruce Grove by passing under a railway bridge on which the words ‘Bruce Grove’ are painted in large letters. Across the road, number 510 is surmounted by a triangular pediment with the date 1907. This is part of a newer building currently shared by Superdrug and McDonalds.
Above these shops there is an art-deco white structure with two rows of large windows. In former times, this building must have housed one large shop. According to one source (see: http://edithsstreets.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/moselle-river-tottenham.html):
“MacDonald’s in the former Tottenham Snooker Hall. This is a three storey 1930s ‘Art Deco’ style building in cream painted stucco … It was built as a Burtons the Tailors store which included a snooker hall.”
A small alleyway just north of number 510 leads to a disused building with a boarded-up Chinese-style shopfront. An indistinct sign above the door included the word ‘kitchen’.
Just north of Bruce Grove, there is a row of shops on the western side of the High Road with distinctive first floor windows beneath a curving canopy. The windows that include some coloured glass panes are separated from each other by slender pilasters with attractive complexly patterned capitals. This is a late 19th century development that followed the construction of the railway, during which existing buildings had to be cleared away to make space for it.
An alleyway that begins opposite Reform Row leads into Morrisons Yard. This leads to a small single-storey neo-classical building (number 551b). This late 19th century building was once the brewhouse (or, maybe, the gate-house and electric sub-station) of the former Tottenham Brewery, one of several breweries in the area. A detailed 1911 map shows that this building was at the entrance to the former brewery, attached to a barrier. It now houses the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Further evidence of earlier settlement of the High Road, especially by wealthy folk, can be found in the form of two 18th century buildings: Charlton House and its neighbour Lancaster House. Now a doctor’s surgery, Charlton House was built in about 1750 for a prosperous family. It larger neighbour, the beautifully restored Lancaster House was built in 1720.
Further north along the High Road, where Scotland Row merges with it, there is a pub with curved gables called ‘The Pride of Tottenham’. This drinking place was once the ‘Blue School’ for girls (who wore blue uniforms).
Founded in 1735, this was Tottenham’s earliest charity school. The present building was built in 1833, and then enlarged in 1876. A new block of flats has built immediately behind the pub/school in a totally different architectural style.
The ground floor facade of the pub’s immediate neighbour, number 612, is decorated with colourful tilework including a depiction of a fleur-de-lys in gold. Currently an estate agent’s shop, this was formerly ‘The Prince of Wales’ pub, which was badly damaged by fire some years ago.
Continuing northwards, we reach the intersection of Landsdowne Road and the High Road. On this corner, there is a well-restored building with what looks like an 18th century clock tower. However, the building bears the date ‘1930’ under the letters ‘LCS’. Its ground floor is currently occupied by a branch of the Sports Direct retail chain. This building that once housed a branch of the London Cooperative Society shops, and then later a branch of ‘Allied Carpets’, is called ‘River Heights’. This building was restored after having been almost destroyed by fire during the Tottenham riots that occurred in August 2011. Twenty-six families were living in the building at the time it was torched. Luckily, all of them escaped from the fiery inferno. The riots were sparked off following the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, a police suspect, a few days earlier. Sadly, Tottenham is no stranger to riots following police action. In 1985, there were riots in the Broadwater Farm Estate following the deaths of two people that many associated with police action.
Almost directly across the High Road from River Heights, stands a long, highly ornate, red brick building. It has towers at each end of its gabled façade, and lovely wooden doors with elaborately carved panels. Part of it was being used as what seemed to me to be a ‘community café’, and the rest of it as some kind of social centre. I entered, and asked the receptionist what the building had been originally. She was not sure, but thought that it had been associated with a gas company. She was right. It was built in stages leading up to its completion in 1914 for the Tottenham Gas, Light, and Coke Company (founded in 1847, and nationalised in 1949). This building on the High Road housed showrooms, offices, and coal supply ordering facilities. In the 1970s, the building was taken over by Haringey Council for use as its offices. The building is an attractive contrast to River Heights.
On both sides of the High Road going further north from Landsdowne Road, there are well-preserved Georgian buildings, some of them with shops on their ground floors. The old Bell Brewery gatehouse is an attractive single-storey neo-classical edifice. The more recent clock, which bears the name ‘Whitbread’, does not improve its appearance.
By the time that I had reached the old brewery gatehouse, I was in need of a coffee. Then, I noticed ‘La Barca’, and, in particular, I noticed that the sign above the café included the Albanian word ‘dashuria’, which means ‘love’. I entered a large seating area which looked like many small town (or village) cafés that I had visited in Albania last year. All the other customers were men, many of them wearing black leather jackets. No one seemed to be serving, so I walked up to the bar, and there I noticed a shield bearing Albania's double-headed eagle. Eventually, I managed to attract the attention of a young woman in the kitchen. I asked her if she was Albanian. She said she was from northern Albania.
I drank my competently made coffee next to a table where a couple of men were discussing matters in Turkish. When I had finished, I went upstairs to the gallery that overlooks the restaurant. This was fitted out with ‘divan’ like seating, and there were kilim rugs attached to the walls. Amongst these there was a picture of ‘Nene Tereza’ (Mother Teresa) and another of the town of Krujë, where the Albanian hero Skanderbeg had his headquarters while he resisted the invading Ottoman Turks in the 15th century.
According to an article (in Albanian - see: https://www.shqiperia.com/Raki-Skrapari--balle-kazani-tek-La-Barca.3225/), La Barca used to be a failing Greek restaurant until its present Albanian owner, Mr. Erjan Cela, took it over and improved it. The menus on the table give no inkling of what this place is capable of producing. They contain the usual ‘café’fare, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the article in Albanian reveals (picturesquely translated by Google):
“...The “La Barca” specialty seems to be the taverns, as in the newly designed menu are some of them, ranging from traditional yogurt and lamb mushrooms to vegetable tiles, for example. With eggplants, stuffed peppers, and so on. A special place in the Albanian menu are stuffed pies such as spinach, pickles and curds, which are available at any time and are prepared daily by the chef Maria. However, the special feature of ‘La Barca’ is undoubtedly Skrapar’s 100% rakia, made entirely in artisanal conditions by Erjan's father, who still resides in Skrapar. The taste and aroma of this brandy fully justify its fame. Erjani tells me he has already established a regular Rakia transport system from Albania that brings a contingent of at least 20 liters per month. La Barka already has a very good reputation and reputation in the Albanian community of this northern London neighbourhood...”
On a second visit to the place, I met Mr Cela, a highly-educated Albanian, and we discussed many aspects of Albania today and yesteryear. Also, we enjoyed superb raki along with excellent coffee.
Refreshed, I continued northwards, and soon reached the Tottenham Baptist Church, which stands next to a terrace of two perfectly restored Georgian houses. Built in 1825 by Joseph Fletcher (of Bruce Grove), it could easily be mistaken for a Wesleyan chapel of that period. What caught my attention inside it was that, like the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road and St James Church in Clerkenwell, it contains a horseshoe shaped gallery that surrounds three sides of the church. The high altar is, unusually, at the western end of the church. The church used to be able to accommodate up to 900 people. In 1907, it became the first public building in Tottenham to be lit by electricity (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/).
Just north of the Chapel, we reach what Tottenham is known for throughout the world: football. The huge Tottenham Hotspurs Football Stadium at White Hart Lane is currently shrouded in scaffolding and surrounded by tall construction cranes. I am no football fan, but this landmark cannot be ignored. The ‘Spurs’ football club was founded in 1882. It played in various locations in Tottenham before establishing the first White Hart Lane Stadium on the site of a Charringtons Brewery in 1905, and there it remains.
The Coombes Croft Library is across the road from the stadium. It has a lively tiled modern entrance. Next to this, there is a metal wall sculpture depicting various aspects of the history of the area, arranged as if on a ladder. A Roman helmet stands on the first step of the ladder, a fish caught on a line on the second, a vintage car on the third, aeroplanes and modern chairs on the fourth, and an engine on the fifth.
A wall decorated with painted flowers separates the library from its neighbours, one of which is Köyüm, an eatery offering: “match days special kebab and burger”. This sign summarises some aspects of Tottenham: a working-class area with a multi-ethnic population.
Continuing north, we reach a large three storey brick house with high chimney stacks at each end of its roof. The southern one bears a sundial, which bears the date 1692 (or ’91). The house was built that year by Moses Trulock, a soap maker. It remained in his family’s possession until the 1830s (see: http://www.singernet.info/tottenham/historictott.asp - a most useful source of information), and is now used as student accommodation. It stands at the end of a row of terraced early 18th century houses, known as ‘Northumberland Row’.
One of the buildings has an elegant wrought iron gateway held up by two stone pillars, each surmounted by a stone sphere. These buildings, which were built on land formerly occupied by mediaeval mansions, have the same elegance as many similarly aged buildings found closer to the centre of London, for example in Islington. Sadly, Northumberland Row faces a line of non-descript 19th and 20th buildings.
The Coach and Horses pub at the corner of the High Road and Brantwood Road harks back to the past. It was serving customers in the 1850s, if not before. The building is Victorian. Opposite the pub, there are three 18th century houses joined as a terrace. Two of them retain features of their original front door fittings. Along with the pub, they mark the northern end of old Tottenham. North of this hostelry, the High Road changes its name and becomes Fore Street. The Borough of Haringey ends, and Upper Edmonton in the Borough of Enfield begins. A little further north, an arch spans the main road. It announces: “Welcome to Angel Edmonton Shopping Centre”.
The shopping centre offers a wide range of goods, and is used by the local multi-ethnic community. Of late, we have been buying goods at the enormous, well-stocked Turkish supermarket called ‘Silver Point’. It is located near to a branch of a Turkish bank in a large modern (21st century) brick building also named ‘Silver Point’.
The supermarket has a wide range of Turkish and Balkan foodstuffs, packaged and fresh, including several types of excellent olives, as well as freshly-baked ring-shaped simit and, also, börek with various fillings.
A little south of Silver Point at the corner of Claremont Street, there is a building (built about 1900) that was once a pub. The bas-relief Phoenixes arising from the flames give away the identity of this former pub. The ‘Phoenix’ pub was in existence in 1871, but now it is known as ‘LT’, and is classed as a ‘bar’. Not far from this, is a pub called ‘The Gilpin’s Bell’. This is housed in a building that was a motor-cycle showroom in about 1997 (see: https://whatpub.com/pubs/ENF/7383/gilpins-bell-upper-edmonton). Although the pub has relatively little history, its name commemorates someone with a much longer history.
John Gilpin, a London merchant, was the subject of a comic poem written in 1782 by William Cowper (1731-1800), which was based on a true story. He decided to take his wife, his sister-in-law, and their children on a holiday at ‘The Bell’ in Edmonton. The large party filled their ‘chaise’ (carriage). So, Gilpin had to ride separately on a horse. Let Cowper tell (see: http://www.bartleby.com/41/324.html) what happened when they arrived at Edmonton:
“‘Stop, stop, John Gilpin!—Here’s the house!’
They all at once did cry;
‘The dinner waits, and we are tired;’—
Said Gilpin—‘So am I!’
But yet his horse was not a whit
Inclined to tarry there!
For why?—his owner had a house
Full ten miles off at Ware.
So like an arrow swift he flew,
Shot by an archer strong;
So did he fly—which brings me to
The middle of my song.”
Unfortunately, when they arrived at ‘The Bell’ in Edmonton, his horse sped off uncontrollably taking him ten miles further to the town of Ware, leaving his wife and children behind. After more adventures, Gilpin was reunited with his family. Just north of Silver Point, and across the main road there is a stone memorial in the shape of a bell. It is covered with bas-relief carvings depicting scenes from Cowper’s poem. It also has words from this carved on it. This was created in Watts cliff stone (a kind of sandstone) by the sculptress Angela Godfrey in 1996.
South of the monument is a pub, the ‘White Horse’, built between the World wars, that sports two carved heraldic figures beside one of its chimney stacks.
The pub is close to what was once a church, the church of St James, a Victorian edifice built in about 1850 by Edward Ellis (of Angel Place). The large stone vicarage next to it was built in 1868. Now, both church and vicarage have been converted into flats.
Between Gilpin’s monument and the North Circular Road, there is a grandiose building in poor condition that used to be a branch of Burton’s retail clothing chain. The North Circular Road enters a tunnel (opened 1997) beneath Fore Street, and then emerges some way the west of it.
We will not stray far across the North Circular, but it is worth crossing to reach Angel Close. This contains a terrace of mid-18th century houses that face a small patch of greenery. The ‘Angel’ pub used to stand close to these buildings, immediately to the south of them where now the traffic thunders past on roads connecting with the highway. This pub no longer exists, but was for many years a focus of local life. A fair used to be held near it. It was demolished, probably in the late 1960s. Some lettering in brick on the north wall of what was once a bank but is now ‘Chaudhry’s Buffet/Restaurant’ (diagonally across the North Circular from Angel Close) spells out the words “The Angel Edmonton”.
Angel Close is near to a fast running stream confined between concrete banks, Pymmes Brook. Named after a local landlord William Pymme, this waterway, which rises in Hadley wood, is a tributary of the River Lea. Close to this, there is a public park – Pymmes Park, which I have not yet visited. This was part of the grounds of a property once owned by Queen Elizabeth the First’s statesman William Cecil (1520-1598), Lord Burghley. The house that used to stand there (first built in the 16th century, and rebuilt in the 18th) burnt down in 1940.
Silver Street Station, very near Angel Close, was opened in 1872. Unexceptional in appearance, its entrance is across Silver Street from the non-descript house where my late uncle Julian used to practise dentistry.
The first dentist who treated me in my childhood was a kindly, gentle German Jewish refugee called Dr Samuels. His practice was opposite St Johns Wood Underground Station in the ground floor of Wellington Court. His waiting room had Persian carpets on the floor and a good supply of “Country Life” magazines to read. Even as a child, I could see that the equipment and glass cabinets in his surgery were old enough to be of interest to a museum. Dr Samuels had to flee from Nazi Germany. Like all other Jews in his position, he was unable to take anything of even the slightest monetary value with him. His canny wife, whom I never met, prepared sandwiches for his journey. Instead of filling them with lettuce or tomatoes, she filled them with sheets of gold leaf – a material much used in dentistry before WW2. Had it been necessary, Dr Samuels could have eaten them quite safely should they have come under the scrutiny of German officials. These sandwiches provided him with some money so that he could start his new practice in the UK. When I was treated by him, he was already in his seventies. He told my parents that when no one wished to be treated by him, he would retire.
In the late 1960s, my late uncle Julian Walt opened his dental practice on Silver Street in Edmonton. Like Dr Samuels, he was also exceedingly gentle, but, my parents believed, probably more up to date than Samuels. We began attending Uncle Julian’s practice instead of Dr Samuels’. Julian was a hard worker, usually treating three patients in three chairs simultaneously. After I qualified as a dentist in 1982, I stopped visiting Julian, and had no more to do with Silver Street except when I drove past it on the North Circular Road. It is only recently that I have discovered that the environs of my uncle’s admittedly bleak looking surgery building are not as forbidding as I had always imagined them.
My exploration of a stretch of the course of Ermine Street, the former Roman Road, has revealed that evidence of its past as an important trunk road remains to be seen today. I hope that this long essay has added to your interest in parts of London that hardly ever make it onto visitors’ itineraries.