A Travellerspoint blog

7 SISTERS TO SILVER STREET: following a Roman road

Discovering places of interest along a Roman road in Tottenham and Edmonton .

Tottenham: The Old well

Tottenham: The Old well

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.

Tottenham:Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Tottenham:Bernie Grant Arts Centre

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.

Former Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables

Former Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables

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.

Sycamore Gardens: former Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables

Sycamore Gardens: former Jewish Home and Hospital for Incurables

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 College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

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.

Tottenham Green war memorial

Tottenham Green war memorial

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.

Former Tottenham Green Fire Station

Former Tottenham Green Fire Station

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.

Old Tottenham Town Hall

Old Tottenham Town Hall

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.

Former Tottenham Town Hall: Bernie Grant plaque

Former Tottenham Town Hall: Bernie Grant plaque

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.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre

Bernie Grant Arts Centre

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.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre: old chimney

Bernie Grant Arts Centre: old chimney

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.

Old Tottenham County School

Old Tottenham County School

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.

Bust of Marcus Garvey

Bust of Marcus Garvey

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.

Tottenham Green Southside

Tottenham Green Southside

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.

Former Prince of Wales Hospital

Former Prince of Wales Hospital

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.

Mountford House on Tottenham Green

Mountford House on Tottenham Green

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.

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH Tottenham

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH Tottenham

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.

John Williams memorial plaque

John Williams memorial plaque

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).

Tottenham Old well detail

Tottenham Old well detail

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.

Tottenham High Cross

Tottenham High Cross

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’.

Tottenham is a multi-ethnic area

Tottenham is a multi-ethnic area

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.

Embracing Forms by Vanessa Pomeroy

Embracing Forms by Vanessa Pomeroy

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.

Library Court, High Cross: detail

Library Court, High Cross: detail

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.

Tottenham Palace Theatre

Tottenham Palace Theatre

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”.

Tottenham Palace Theatre Centre

Tottenham Palace Theatre Centre

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.

St Marks about 1937

St Marks about 1937

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.

The Ship

The Ship

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.

Old cinema in Bruce Grove

Old cinema in Bruce Grove

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.

Bruce Grove The Regency

Bruce Grove The Regency

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).

Bruce Grove: Luke Howard home

Bruce Grove: Luke Howard home

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.

9 to 12 Bruce Grove

9 to 12 Bruce Grove

These two adjoining buildings are part of a long row of Georgian houses that extend to about halfway along Bruce Grove.

Edmansons Close

Edmansons Close

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’.

Bruce Castle

Bruce Castle

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.

Bruce Castle: old tower

Bruce Castle: old tower

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.

Bruce Castle: staircase

Bruce Castle: staircase

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.

Bruce Castle: a fireplace

Bruce Castle: a fireplace

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.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: the Six Million sleepers

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: the Six Million sleepers

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.

Bruce Grove railway bridge

Bruce Grove railway bridge

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.

502 to 504 Tottenham High Road

502 to 504 Tottenham High Road

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.”

Alley opposite Bruce Grove Station

Alley opposite Bruce Grove Station

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’.

Near Bruce Grove

Near Bruce Grove

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.

Near Bruce Grove

Near Bruce Grove

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.

551b Tottenham High Road

551b Tottenham High Road

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.

Charlton House

Charlton House

Lancaster House 1720

Lancaster House 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).

former Blue School

former Blue School

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.

Prince of Wales pub, closed 2005

Prince of Wales pub, closed 2005

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.

River Heights

River Heights

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.

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY - detail

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY - detail

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY - detail

TOTTENHAM GAS LIGHT AND COKE COMPANY - detail

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.

668 Tott High Rd

668 Tott High Rd

Former  Brewery

Former Brewery

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.

EDMON 36a La Barca

EDMON 36a La Barca

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.

La Barca

La Barca

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.

Tottenham Baptist Church

Tottenham Baptist Church

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/).

Tottenham Hotspurs stadium

Tottenham Hotspurs stadium

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.

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

Coombes Croft Library

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.

Kebab shop neat White Hart Lane Stadium

Kebab shop neat White Hart Lane Stadium

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.

Dial House 1691

Dial House 1691

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’.

Northumberland Row:  798 Tottenham High Rd

Northumberland Row: 798 Tottenham High Rd

Northumberland Row

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.

Coach and Horses

Coach and Horses

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”.

Welcome to Angel Edmonton

Welcome to Angel Edmonton

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’.

Silverpoint food store

Silverpoint food store

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.

Former Phoenix pub

Former Phoenix pub

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.

Gilpin memorial

Gilpin memorial

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.

The White Horse

The White Horse

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.

Former St James Church

Former St James Church

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.

Former Burtons shop

Former Burtons shop

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.

Angel Place

Angel Place

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”.

198 Fore Street

198 Fore Street

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.

Pymmes Brook

Pymmes Brook

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.

Julian Walt's surgery

Julian Walt's surgery

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.

North Circular underpass opening at Angel Edmonton

North Circular underpass opening at Angel Edmonton

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.

Angel Place

Angel Place

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:46 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london edmonton enfield tottenham haringey Comments (4)

A GARDEN OF DELIGHTS

A surprising oasis in busy Dalston

Dalston Curve Gardens entrance

Dalston Curve Gardens entrance


Here is a real surprise embedded in a busy urban area. Close to both Dalston Junction and Dalston Kingsland Overground stations, the hectic Kingsland Road/Dalston Lane traffic intersection, and Ridley Road Market, this (almost) hidden garden is a delight.

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

The garden was created in 2010 on wasteland that had once been the: "Eastern Curve railway line which once linked Dalston Junction Station to the goods yard and the North London Line" (see: http://dalstongarden.org/about-2/).

Dalston Curve Garden - view of refreshment area

Dalston Curve Garden - view of refreshment area

You enter the garden from a small square, which is dominated by a huge attractive mural, 'The Dalston Lane Mural', which was created by Ray Walker in 1983. As soon as you enter the garden, you find yourself in a wood covered enclosure that is open to the garden and the elements. Under the canopy, there is a bar/café, that serves hot and cold beverages as well as alcohol. In summer, a wood fired pizza oven is in action producing pizzas on some evenings.

Dalston Curve Garden - pizza oven

Dalston Curve Garden - pizza oven

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

====The garden is overflowing with plants (tended by local volunteers), an assortment of seats, and quirky folksy artwork. On one visit, I spotted a group of wild rabbits gambolling amongst the vegetation. ====

At the far end of the garden there is a children's play area and also a view of a fantastic mural on a nearby building.

Dalston Curve Garden- children'splay  area

Dalston Curve Garden- children'splay area

Dalston Curve Garden - mural on a nearby building

Dalston Curve Garden - mural on a nearby building

This garden of delights is well worth a visit. Order a pint of beer, and relax!

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:41 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london garden dalston hackney Comments (3)

THE EVERYMAN

A long-established cinema in Hampstead

Louis Patisserie is one of the older of my memories of Hampstead, but it is not nearly as old as the nearby Everyman Cinema, just off Heath Street in Holly Vale. Its building was constructed in 1883 as a military drill hall. In 1919, it was modified to become a theatre, and then in 1933 it opened as a cinema, which is still in business today.

Everyman cinema

Everyman cinema

It was in the Everyman that I watched a film (‘movie’) for the first time in my life. It was one of the only, if not the only, film I ever watched with my parents, who were not keen cinema-goers. Typically, my first film was not a popular children’s film like “Tweety and the Beanstalk” or “Bugs Bunny” or a Walt Disney cartoon. It was the French film “Le ballon rouge”, now an ‘art film classic’, which first appeared in 1956. I must have watched it a year or two later. My parents, who dissuaded me from reading popular culture, such as books written by Enid Blyton, were anxious to expose me to what they believed to be the more sophisticated aspects of literature, theatre, and, in this case, film.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, the Everyman tended to screen so-called ‘art films’, rather than the more popular ones that went out on general release. As I grew up, that kind of film suited me. So, I visited the Everyman frequently. Its interior used to be somewhat spartan. What lingers in my memory is that the auditorium always had a curious smell, that of leaking gas.

Once a year, the cinema put on a season of Marx Brothers films. I saw most of them, but never wanted to see the same one twice because, in my youth, I was able to remember well what happened in each film. The season took place in the summer months. Often, I walked across Hampstead Heath to watch a matinee screening. If the weather was good, I would often be the only person in the auditorium apart from the usher or usherette.

Today, the Everyman is still in business, but shows more ‘run-of-the-mill’ films, which attract larger audiences than the obscure kind of films that used to be the ‘speciality’ of the cinema. It is part of a chain of cinemas called Everyman Cinemas.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 11:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london theatre movies film cinema hampstead everyman Comments (3)

Remembering the Holocaust in Haringey

Bruce Castle Park Garden of Remembrance

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

In the grounds of Bruce Castle, about which I will write in the future, 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.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance

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.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance sculpture

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance sculpture

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.

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: information notice

Bruce Castle Garden of Remembrance: information notice

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 02:35 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london poland holocaust harringey Comments (3)

MONKS and NUNS, MARX and LENIN

A walk around Clerkenwell Green reveals much about the area's social and Socialist history.

Many years ago, in the 1980s, I was invited to join a friend for lunch at a trendy restaurant in Clerkenwell Green. A mutual friend joined us. We ordered our meal. When it arrived, there was far more empty space on the plate than food. There was a tiny piece of meat a little larger than a postage stamp, a floret of broccoli, and three minute boiled potatoes that had been whittled down to produce tiny whitish spindles. This was ‘nouvelle cuisine’, and entirely unsatisfactory. When the bill arrived, we discovered that we were being charged £25 each for these meagre, unwholesome offerings. Our mutual friend and I looked at our friend, who had suggested the restaurant. She, noticing our shocked expressions, settled our bills. I am afraid that this experience prejudiced me against Clerkenwell.

A recent visit to the area has killed my prejudice against it, and kindled a great enthusiasm.

Clerkenwell Green

Clerkenwell Green

Clerkenwell, which is now in the Borough of Islington, covers an area that includes: Farringdon Road, Goswell Road, Clerkenwell Road, Hatton Garden, and Smithfield Market (at its southern edge). I will confine my essay to the area around Clerkenwell Green.

The name ‘Clerkenwell’ is derived from the Old English words meaning ‘Clerks’ Well’. Remains of the well may be seen inside Well Court on Farringdon Lane. The formerly rustic Clerkenwell Green came into existence in the 12th century following the establishment of two neighbouring ecclesiastical institutions: The Knights Hospitallers’ priory of St John and, to the north-west of that, the Augustinian nunnery of St Mary. After the dissolution of these institutions by King Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541 , land was sold off and buildings had begun appearing around the green. A map drawn in 1560, shows what is now Clerkenwell Green close to the outer edge of the rest of London. The historian Riddell (see below) wrote:
“By the middle of the sixteenth century Clerkenwell had graduated from being a village on the outskirts of London, which had grown up round two monastic foundations, to being a suburb of the City”.
By the 18th century, Clerkenwell Green and its surroundings had become absorbed by the growth of London. A 1750 map shows that Clerkenwell Green and its associated buildings were on the northern edge of London. By 1860, the area could no longer be considered as being on the edge of London, but deeply within it. However, even today Clerkenwell Green, which is close to busy London thoroughfares, gives rise to feelings of its former rural past.

Clerkenwell Road: old Holborn Union offices

Clerkenwell Road: old Holborn Union offices

I will describe the area as I visited it recently, beginning with a building on Clerkenwell Road on the corner of Britton Street. This elegant red brick building decorated with neo-classical features such as pilasters and triangular pediments bears the words ‘Holborn Union Offices’ above the date 1886. Now converted into flats, this building, designed by the architectural firm H Saxon Snell and Sons, used to house the administrative offices and medical and ‘out-relief ‘departments for the Holborn Union Board of Guardians. The Board administered the Holborn Poor Law Union, which was established in 1836, a precursor of the Welfare State that tried to alleviate the lot of poor people. And, in the 19th century, Clerkenwell had of people living in squalid conditions close to, or below, the poverty line.

Across the busy Clerkenwell Road almost opposite this building, a short road leads into the southwestern side of Clerkenwell Green. Entering the Green with its trees and picturesque buildings is like stepping out of the city and into a village green.

Clerkenwell Green: The Old Sessions House

Clerkenwell Green: The Old Sessions House

Covered in scaffolding and just visible through it, there stands a building that used to be the Middlesex Sessions House. This court house, standing at the west end of the Green, was built in the last two decades of the 18th century. The Sessions House replaced the nearby Hicks Hall that dated back to 1611, and served many of the roles played by today’s Old Bailey. The court buildings figure in Charles Dickens novel “Oliver Twist”, in which they are referred to as ‘Clerkinwell Sessions’. It was conveniently located to a nearby prison (see below). The current building was used as a court until 1921. Now, the building is being developed to join Clerkenwell’s already large population of eateries and bars (see: http://theoldsessionshouse.com). I look forward to visiting the building when it has been restored.

Marx Memorial Library

Marx Memorial Library

Close to the Sessions House on the north side of the Green, there stands a building, number 37a, with a revolutionary past (and, who knows, maybe also a future). Karl Marx (1818-1883) lived in London between 1849 and 1850 (but not in Clerkenwell). His memory lives on in Clerkenwell Green at the Marx Memorial Library at number 37a, which was established in 1933 to celebrate the golden anniversary of his death. I have visited this centre of socialist study and education once, on a London Open House Day (see: www.openhouselondon.org.uk/). We were shown around the library and, also, the Lenin Room. Long before the establishment of the library, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) worked in this building in 1902 and 1903, supervising his revolutionary newspaper ‘Iskra’. The so-called Lenin Room, which houses much of the great man’s memorabilia is possibly not the exact place in the building where he worked.

When we were shown around the Marx Memorial Library, we were taken into its basement where books and other parts of the collection are stored. The basement contains remains of subterranean mediaeval structures, 15th century vaults that lead into tunnels. We were told by our guides that these tunnels might very possibly have connected the former nunnery of St Mary with the nearby former Priory of St John. If this was the case, one might wonder why they were built.

Before becoming used as the Marx Memorial Library, the building housing it was associated with the radical activity that pervaded Clerkenwell during much of the 19th century. Clerkenwell Green itself, being one of the few open spaces in the area, was the site of open-air rallies or meetings, both for radical and religious causes. Evangelical clerics held vast outdoor meetings to attempt to bring Christianity to the poor of the area, and left-wing groups attempted to rouse the people, often beginning protest marches in the Green. Clerkenwell Green became the 19th century’s equivalent to the later Hyde Park’s ‘Speakers’ Corner’. Number 37a housed first the radical ‘London Patriotic Club’, and then later the socialist ‘Twentieth Century Press’, before it became the Marx Memorial Library.

Clerkenwell Green: Crown Tavern

Clerkenwell Green: Crown Tavern

Feeling thirsty already? Then, help is at hand in the form of the nearby Crown Tavern. This pub might well have had Leninist connections. First established in the 1720s, the present pub is in a building that dates from about the beginning of the 19th century. Many believe that the young Joseph Stalin met Lenin in this pub in 1903. But not everyone shares that belief (see: http://sarahjyoung.com/site/2011/01/16/russians-in-london-lenin/). While Lenin was in London in 1902 and 1903, Stalin was not. Stalin first visited the city in 1907, along with other Russian revolutionaries including Lenin, whom he first met in Finland in 1906.

St James Church viewed from Clerkenwell Green

St James Church viewed from Clerkenwell Green

The southernmost stretch of the winding Clerkenwell Close (‘close’ as in ‘cathedral close’ or abbey precincts) leads from the Green towards the west end of St James Church, which is well-worth visiting. A board close to its entrance informs that there has been a church on this spot since 1100 AD. To enter the present church, which dates back to 1792, it is necessary to ring a doorbell. When I visited it, I bought a copy of a most interesting book about the church “A History of The Church of Saint James Clerkenwell” by N Ridell (published 2016). This is full of information about both the church and the area surrounding it.

St James Church: west front

St James Church: west front

The present church stands within the ‘footprint’ of an older, larger one that was demolished (because it was falling to pieces, and could no longer be repaired) in order for the new one to be built. The older, demolished church had its origins as the chapel for the Nunnery of St Mary. The north side of the older church was attached to cloisters, which still existed as late as 1786. After the dissolution of the monasteries, much of the nunnery was destroyed and the land on which it stood was sold for housing and other purposes.

There is much that could be written about the history of the St James Church, but I will confine myself to a few things that I found interesting when I visited it. Before doings so, I will mention that Clerkenwell was a parish in which certain residents (the wealthier ones!) chose their church officials by election. Choosing someone to fill the highly-prized position of vicar was often associated with much public disorder. Prior to the later 19th century, much administration of the parish – both religious and secular – was carried out by a church-based committee, the ‘Vestry’. Members of the Vestry had many opportunities to enrich themselves. I will say no more.

The west end of the church consists of three interconnected lobbies. Both the northern and the southern ones have lovely curving staircases leading to the church’s upper storeys. The southern lobby, which I entered first, has several well-preserved memorial plaques on its walls, including an elaborately sculpted one for Thomas Crosse, who died aged 49 in 1712. He did much good work for the poor children of the parish, including founding a school.

St James Church: bell ringing feat

St James Church: bell ringing feat

The nave of the church is entered from the central lobby. This lobby contains two memorials that interested me. One of them commemorates the 8th of December 1800, when eight young men managed to ring a complete peal of 5040 changes on the church’s steeple bells. They achieved this remarkable feat in three hours and 15 minutes. Ridell records that the 19th century bell-ringer G Morris was able to ring a peal on the eight bells on his own, with the bell-pull cords fixed to both of his hands and feet. The other memorial relates to a disaster that occurred on Friday the 13th of December 1867.

There were several prisons near to Clerkenwell Green in the 19th century. One of them was the Clerkenwell House of Detention (or Middlesex House of Detention) on Bowling Green Lane, very close to St James Church (and to the Middlesex Sessions House, where many of the inmates had been tried). In December 1867, several Fenians (revolutionary Irish nationalists) were being held in the prison. Some of their comrades planned to rescue them by breaching the wall of the exercise yard during the prisoners’ exercise break. A barrel of explosives was placed by the wall, but the prison authorities, having caught wind of the plot, cancelled the exercise session. The explosives were detonated on the 13th of December, causing much damage to people in the neighbourhood. The memorial in the church relates that 15 people were killed, 40 were injured, and 600 families suffered material loss. The large number of families reflects the overcrowded living conditions that had developed in Clerkenwell during the 19th century, making it one of the most deprived districts in London.

St James Church: Lion and Unicorn above entrance to nave

St James Church: Lion and Unicorn above entrance to nave

A beautifully sculpted Lion and Unicorn (dated 1792) recline on the pediment above the entrance to the body of the church. The rectangular body of the church is light and airy. It has a curved first floor gallery and fine stained glass windows above the high altar at its eastern end. The pale Wedgewood blue ceiling is decorated with delicate stucco designs.

St James Church: organ and ceiling

St James Church: organ and ceiling

The organ on the first-floor gallery is flanked by a pair of incomplete second-floor galleries, remains of what had once been complete galleries like the one below it. At the western end of the church on both sides of the central entrance doors, there are boxed pews, one of which was labelled ‘Church Officers’ Pew’. These are the last of the original box pews that formerly filled the church, and were replaced by the present more open-plan pews sometime in the 19th century.

St James Church: Church officers' box pews

St James Church: Church officers' box pews


A small garden to the west of the church affords a good view of the tower and steeple with its white stone and brick facing and an old clock. The church is surrounded by green open spaces, some of which were part of the original churchyard. A part of these to the north of the church must have once been the site of the garden that used to be enclosed in the former nunnery’s cloister.

Tree sculpture near St James Church. "Spontaneous City"

Tree sculpture near St James Church. "Spontaneous City"

One tree to the east of the church contains a curious modern sculptural work, which looks like a cluster of miniature wooden bird houses wrapped around the tree’s branches. This was installed in 2011 by London Fieldworks.

Clerkenwell Close Challoner House

Clerkenwell Close Challoner House

Following Clerkenwell Close away from the Green, we come across a newish building called ‘Challoner House’. The original house bearing this name was built on this site in about 1612 for Sir Thomas Challoner, a courtier and naturalist, and tutor to the Prince of Wales. The present Challoner House stands beside a huge Peabody Estate that extends northwards to Bowling Green Lane and westwards almost to Farringdon.

Clerkenwell Close Peabody doorway

Clerkenwell Close Peabody doorway

Clerkenwell Close Peabody Buildings

Clerkenwell Close Peabody Buildings

The Peabody Trust built the estate in 1884 following the passing of new housing legislation in 1875. The original estate consisted of 11 blocks of flats built around a central court yard. Each of the blocks had a laundry room on their top floors, but no communal bath houses.

Clerkenwell Close Peabody Trust buildings

Clerkenwell Close Peabody Trust buildings

Clerkenwell Close Peabody courtyard

Clerkenwell Close Peabody courtyard

George Peabody (1795-1869) was born into a poor family in the USA. In 1837, already a successful businessman and banker, he came to London. He became the ‘father of modern philanthropy’. His Trust begun in 1862, which continues today, financed, amongst many other things, the construction of decent housing for “artisans and labouring poor of London”. Noble as was this venture in Clerkenwell, it involved the demolition of slums that housed many poor people. Many of these people were too poor to afford the albeit modest rates (rents) charged by the Peabody Trust for their superior dwellings. This resulted in many of former the slum dwellers having to squeeze into the remaining, already overcrowded, disgusting slums in the area.

Clerkenwell Close and The Horseshoe pub

Clerkenwell Close and The Horseshoe pub

Across the Close from the barrack-like, somewhat forbidding looking Peabody buildings there is a quaint corner-sited pub ‘The Horseshoe’. It existed by 1747, and stands close to a large building that was built between 1895 and 1897 as the ‘central stores of the London School Board’.

Former  London School Board stores

Former London School Board stores

Old notices above the street-level doors of the building, such as ‘Needlework Stores’, ‘Furniture Dept.’, and ‘Stationery Dept.’, remind the passer-by of its original purpose. Unfortunately, as soon as it was opened, it was found to be too small, and additional premises had to be found nearby.

Former  London School Board stores: modified internal courtyard

Former London School Board stores: modified internal courtyard


Former  London School Board stores: modifiedentrance

Former London School Board stores: modifiedentrance

modified interior]

In 1976, the premises were converted to house craft workshops, the ‘Clerkenwell Workshops’. In 2006, MAK Architects gave the building a beautiful ‘make-over’. This can be enjoyed by entering the courtyard within the building via an attractive, gently sloping central passageway.

Old Hugh Myddelton School entrance Clerkenwell Close

Old Hugh Myddelton School entrance Clerkenwell Close

Almost opposite the Clerkenwell Workshops on the east side of the northernmost stretch of Clerkenwell Close, I spotted an old white stone entrance arch that had the words ‘GIRLS & INFANTS’ carved on its lintel. This was once an entrance to the Hugh Middleton School that opened in 1893. The school was built on part of the site that had been occupied by the prison, which had been attacked by the Fenians a few years earlier (see above). The prison was closed in 1885-1886, and then demolished. The main building of the school with spectacular sloping tiled roofs, which is has been used as a block of flats since 1999, was designed by the school board’s architect TJ Bailey. Part of this property’s perimeter wall is all that survives of the former prison. The school, which had been regarded as a ‘model school, was closed in 1971. One of its better-known pupils was the popular 1930’s and ‘40’s band-leader Geraldo (Gerald Walcan Bright: 1904-1974). Geraldo was not the only famous musician in Clerkenwell (see below).

Sekforde Street opposite  John Groom's New Crippleage

Sekforde Street opposite John Groom's New Crippleage

Seckforde Street, which begins near St James Church, attracted me both because of its name and, also, its attractive buildings. Its name derives from that of Thomas Seckforde (1515-1587), a lawyer and courtier in the Court of Elizabeth I, who:
“bequeathed a part of his Clerkenwell estate … to endow almshouses in the town of Woodbridge in Suffolk.” (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol46/pp72-85).
Seckforde Street was laid out in the late 1820s. It cut across what had been one of the poorest parts of Clerkenwell.

Corner of St James Walk and Sekforde Street: former  John Groom's New Crippleage 'factory'

Corner of St James Walk and Sekforde Street: former John Groom's New Crippleage 'factory'


A wedge-shaped building standing where Seckforde Street meets St James Walk at an acute angle has a certain elegance and some antiquity. Its main entrance at its apex is surmounted by a circular tower-like structure. This building was once part of ‘John Groom’s Crippleage’ (being a shortened version of ‘John Groom’s Crippleage and Flower Girls Mission’). Born in Clerkenwell in 1845 (died 1919), Groom, an engraver, became a philanthropist concerned with the plight of the blinded and crippled girls who eked out a living selling flowers on Farringdon and sprigs of watercress in Covent Garden. His charity enabled the girls to be fed and clothed properly, as well as housed. The building at the corner was built to the designs of W H Woodroffe and E Carritt between 1908 and 1910 to be used as a factory and warehouse for Groom’s ‘Watercress and Flower Girls’ Christian Mission’. The factory produced, amongst other things, cotton roses for the first Alexandra Rose Day in 1912. Between the 1930s and 1950s, the building was occupied by the tobacco company Gallaher’s. Now, it is used to provide office space.
Some of the existing original 19th century houses on Seckforde Street opposite the former factory, were used to provide protective housing for girls rescued by the Crippleage Mission.

Jerusalem Passage: Thomas Britton lived and worked here

Jerusalem Passage: Thomas Britton lived and worked here

Jerusalem Passage is a few steps away from the southern end of Seckforde Street. On the corner of the Passage and Aylesbury Street, a building bears a plaque to the memory of the ‘Musical Coalman’. He was Thomas Britton (1644-1714), a local charcoal merchant. Successful as a coalman, Britton was blessed with a fine singing voice and a superior intellect. He built his own library and set-up a concert hall in his Clerkenwell premises, where the plaque is affixed today. His concert hall was furnished with a harpsichord and a small organ. He attracted many of the finest musicians of his day, including JC Pepusch and GF Handel, to play in his concert hall. In addition to his commercial and musical achievements, Britton became an accomplished chemist and a highly respected, serious bibliophile – well-known to leading collectors of books and manuscripts. Even though he achieved a fine reputation in the literary, intellectual, and musical worlds, Britton continued to work as a ‘coal man’ until his death.

Priory Church of St John: garden

Priory Church of St John: garden

Jerusalem Passage leads southwards into St Johns Square, which stands on the large piece of land that was once occupied by the Priory of the Order of St John, the ecclesiastical neighbour of the former Nunnery of St Mary. In the 11th century, a hospital was set up in Jerusalem to give assistance to pilgrims. The men and women who staffed this were known as the ‘Hospitallers’. With the arrival of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, the Hospitallers became a religious order recognised by ‘The Church’. They became known as the ‘Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem’. In about 1140, a priory was built in Clerkenwell by the Knights. It was their London headquarters. When King Henry VIII broke with the Church in Rome, the Order was dissolved, and much of the priory demolished. Many years later in 1888, Queen Victoria granted ‘Order of St John in England’ a Royal Charter.

Gateway to Order of St John

Gateway to Order of St John

Gateway to Order of St John

Gateway to Order of St John

The Priory Church of the Order of St John can be entered from the Square. The present structure, which is much smaller than previous incarnations of this church, the first of which dated back to the 12th century, was badly damaged by bombing in 1941. Now restored, it stands on the site of the chancel of the much larger 15th century church. The crypt of the present church, which can occasionally be visited by members of the public, dates to the 12th century. South of the present church, there is a modern cloister with a lovely garden, where anyone can sit and rest.

Order of St Johns Museum

Order of St Johns Museum

Not much else remains of the priory except the fine 16th century gateway south of Clerkenwell Road. During the 18th century, this building was used briefly as a coffee house, which was run by the father of the famous artist Hogarth. Today, it houses offices and meeting halls of the Order of St John on its upper floor, and a well-laid out museum on its ground floor. It illustrates not only the fascinating history of the Order but also the good work it has done over the centuries. Amongst its many exhibits, there is a painting, which might well have been executed by the great Italian artist Caravaggio.

Lawson Ward and Gammage Ltd

Lawson Ward and Gammage Ltd

Jewellery and watch-making were amongst the many crafts practised in Clerkenwell. The jewellery firm of Lawson Ward & Gammage Ltd was founded in the area in 1861. There are still some descendants of the founders working in the firm. Although their current workshops are now in Hatton Garden, a clock bearing their name projects from a building in Berry Street, to the east of Clerkenwell Green.

Sutton Arms pub

Sutton Arms pub

Further along Berry Street on a corner site, there stands the Sutton Arms pub. This hostelry was rebuilt in 1897, but was in existence at least as early as 1848.

Northburgh House designed by Cubitt & Co Ltd

Northburgh House designed by Cubitt & Co Ltd

Even further along Berry Street at the corner of Northburgh Street, there is a well-restored, elegant red brick building, Northburgh House. Standing between Berry Street and Pardon Street, this former warehouse was designed and constructed by William Cubitt & Co., who also built well-known buildings including Fishmongers’ Hall, Covent Garden market, Paxton’s Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the former Euston Station (see: http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/W._Cubitt_and_Co). The warehouse was built in 1893-4 for Edward Saunders, a paper-bag manufacturer. Today, the refurbished building is home to various companies.

Goswell Road Graffiti

Goswell Road Graffiti

My ‘tour’ of Clerkenwell Green and its surroundings ends in a car park at the corner of Clerkenwell Road and Goswell Road. Standing amidst the cars parked in this vacant lot of prime London building land, there are two enormous works of graffiti to be seen. One work depicting a female figure is by Italian artist Vera Bugatti (born 1979; see: http://www.verabugatti.it). The other work depicts people walking at night in a wet street with unfurled umbrellas. It is painted by British born Dan Kitchener (born 1974), a prolific street artist (see: http://www.dankitchener.co.uk/). I wonder what will happen to these pictures when eventually someone decides to build upon the presently vacant space.

Goswell Road graffiti

Goswell Road graffiti

Clerkenwell Green and around it is full of interesting places that illustrate aspects of the history of London ranging from the 12th century to the present. Initially home to major religious establishments, the area has witnessed momentous social changes, and from being one of the poorest parts of London it has become one of the more prosperous and more fashionable parts of the city.

View of Clerkenwell Green from St James Church

View of Clerkenwell Green from St James Church

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 04:31 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged lenin london islington marx clerkenwell Comments (2)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 50) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 10 »