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MONKS AND MAMMOTHS ON THE MERIDIAN

A stroll from historic Waltham Abbey along the River Lea to industrial Ponders End reveals many interesting surprises.

Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290), first wife of King Edward I, died near the city of Lincoln. Her body was transported to London. The journey took twelve days and nights. Each night, her body rested somewhere along the route. These resting places were later remembered by a series of carved ‘Eleanor Crosses’, one placed in each stopping place. On the tenth night, Eleanor’s remains rested in the church of Waltham Abbey in Essex. This is now west of the present-day Epping Forest, but was once within it, when the woodland was then known as ‘Waltham Forest’. This stopover was later commemorated by the placing of an Eleanor Cross at the place now known as Waltham Cross.

Waltham Abbey ruins Gateway

Waltham Abbey ruins Gateway

The station at Waltham Cross makes a good starting point for an exploration of an area that once contained the largest Augustinian monastery in Britain.

If those who were accompanying Eleanor’s corpse were to revisit the Waltham (the name means ‘weald’ [or ‘forest’] ‘home’) area today, they might still recognise a few things, but would be surprised to discover that what was a rural parish in their time is now a suburb of London.

The Small River Lea at Station Rd

The Small River Lea at Station Rd

A busy road lined with occasional recently-built edifices runs east from Waltham Cross Station to the ‘town’ of Waltham Abbey. After a while it crosses a bridge with balustrades (rebuilt 1924), under which flows the Little River Lea (or ‘Lee’), a tributary of branch of the larger River Lea (or ‘Lee’). Beyond this, a little further east, the road leaves Hertfordshire and enters Essex. The boundary between the counties is the River Lea and its various channels including The River Lea Navigation (see below).

entering Hertfordshire

entering Hertfordshire

Entering Essex

Entering Essex

Waltham Abbey is the settlement in Essex immediately to the east of Waltham Cross. In the 7th century AD, its locals were converted to Christianity, probably by Mellitus (died 624), bishop of the East Saxons and first bishop of Saxon London. In about 1030 AD, Tovi the Proud, King Canute’s standard bearer, built Waltham Cross’s first parish church. Tovi had lands in Somerset. It is said that when a ‘wondrous’ cross was found there, Tovi had it placed in a cart to be taken to Glastonbury. However, the beasts drawing it, refused to move. When they were next asked to transport the religious object to Canterbury, they still refused to budge. When Tovi thought of Waltham, where he had built himself a hunting lodge, the creatures eagerly moved the cross to that place, and that is why he built a church there, The Church of the Holy Cross.

The town’s history is detailed in “Waltham Abbey Chronology” by R & B Sears (publ. 2000). In 1059, after Earl Harold (later King Harold II) was cured of paralysis at Waltham, he erected a Norman church on the site of Tovi’s. This became the nucleus for an abbey. When King Harold died at Hastings in 1066, he was buried in front of the high altar of his Waltham Abbey Church. After the assassination of Thomas à Becket in 1170, the repentant King Henry II enlarged Harold’s church and founded an Augustinian priory, Waltham Abbey, beside it as partial penance for Becket’s death. A small town grew up around it.

Waltham Abbey was the last of the monasteries to be ‘dissolved’ by King Henry VIII. This happened in 1544. Just over sixty years later, in 1604, Guy Fawkes bought gunpowder (for treasonable purposes) from the Waltham Abbey gunpowder factory. For many centuries, Waltham (for example The Waltham Abbey Mills, founded 17th century) and various other places (see below) along the River Lea have been associated with the manufacture of explosives.

Highbridge Str

Highbridge Str

The Old Courthouse

The Old Courthouse

Highbridge Street retains the appearance of a typical old-fashioned, small country town. Number 31 bears the date 1704. It is named The Old Courthouse. It faces the site of a newer courthouse, which was destroyed by a V2 missile in 1945. The town was hit by many enemy weapons, probably because of its proximity to the explosives factories in the Lea Valley. The Town Hall is further east along the street, almost opposite the west front of Waltham Abbey Church. The brick municipal building trimmed with white stone was erected in1904. It was designed by WT Streather, who had been surveyor for a suburb of Bournemouth before joining Waltham’s council. The tower above the main entrance and the roof of the meeting hall behind sport attractive ‘fin-de-siècle’ mansard windows.

Waltham Abbey Town Hall

Waltham Abbey Town Hall

Rear of Waltham Abbey TownHall

Rear of Waltham Abbey TownHall

Almost opposite the Town Hall, there is a small tourist information office, where its friendly staff plied me with free information leaflets, and sold me a couple of interesting local history booklets. A small building next to the northwest corner of the Abbey Church is The Rectory. Part of it, the western section, was already built by the 15th century. The part nearest the church was added in the 17th century.

Waltham Abbey Church rectory

Waltham Abbey Church rectory

A path runs north (of the west side of The Rectory) along Cornmill Stream to a bridge that crosses it. The path it carries leads to the ruins of the main entrance of the former monastery grounds. The smaller of its two stone gothic arches was for pedestrians. The larger one was for vehicular traffic. The weathered remains of two stone heraldic crests can be seen on either side of the larger arch.

Waltham Abbey ruined Gateway from outside

Waltham Abbey ruined Gateway from outside

North side of Waltham Abbey Church and rectory

North side of Waltham Abbey Church and rectory

Monastic figure by H Stylianides

Monastic figure by H Stylianides

Passing through the arches, one enters a large park containing some remnants of the abbey. In addition, there is a fine view of the north side of the church with its mixture of Romanesque and gothic windows. Standing in the middle of a lawn, there is tall wooden sculpture, carved from a single oak trunk in 1992 by Helena Stylianides. It depicts a hooded monastic figure.

The Stoney Bridge

The Stoney Bridge

Northeast of the sculpture, another small bridge traverses the Cornmill. Cross this, and follow the stream a few yards eastwards to reach a metal fence which encloses the remains of a 14th century stone bridge (restored in 1902), the Stoney Bridge. It was built to carry carts coming to and from the monastic farm of Waltham Abbey without having to pass through the walled precinct of the monastery.

A  wall of Abbey House, formerly the Chapter Hse

A wall of Abbey House, formerly the Chapter Hse

Returning from the bridge back towards the church, we reach the long wall, part of what was once Abbey House, and before that the north wall of the Chapter House of the abbey. Following the dissolution of the abbey in 1540, Anthony Denny (1501-1549), one of Henry VIII’s favourites and a member of his Privy Chamber, leased (and later purchased) the lands of the abbey. Denny not only built Abbey House (demolished 1770), but also set up a mill (on a tributary of the Lea), which used to supply Henry VIII with gunpowder.

Outer entrance to cloisters

Outer entrance to cloisters

East end of Waltham Abbey Church and Harold Stone

East end of Waltham Abbey Church and Harold Stone

A 12th century archway in the north wall leads through a short passage into what used to be the abbey’s cloisters. I could see no remaining evidence of the cloisters. Standing where the cloisters used to be, one gets a good view of the east end of the abbey church, or, at least, what remains of it. The church that stands today, the parish Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence, is about one third of the length of the original abbey church (see below). The external features of the east wall of the parish church include elements that were once part of the interior of the larger church before it was truncated. For example, the rose window is surmounted by an almost semi-circular stone arch, now part of the external wall, which must have been a Romanesque arch supporting part of the long nave of the earlier longer church.

The Harold Stone at Waltham Abbey

The Harold Stone at Waltham Abbey

A few feet east of the parish church, there is a small upright stone, the so-called Harold Stone, which stands behind a larger horizontal stone bearing a carved inscription. This tells that the Harold Stone marks the site where King Harold is said to have been buried in 1066. It stands behind the place where the high altar stood in the 11th century. Now outside the body of the existing parish church, this simple monument still attracts wreaths with personal messages to King Harold written on labels attached to them.

Waltham Abbey Church west front

Waltham Abbey Church west front

Waltham Abbey Church

Waltham Abbey Church

Norman pillars Waltham Abbey Church

Norman pillars Waltham Abbey Church

The parish church is well-worth entering. Its nave and aisles are survivors of the once longer nave of the much larger Norman church that was built between 1090 and 1150 AD. The circular pillars, some of which are carved with zig-zag chevrons or spiral helices, support Romanesque arches on either side of the nave. There is a fine Tudor funerary monument to the Denny family at the south-east corner of the church, and close to this some other old funerary sculptures.

Ceiling detail Waltham Abbey Church

Ceiling detail Waltham Abbey Church

In 1860, the church was extensively restored under the direction of William Burges (1827-1881), who reconstructed Cardiff Castle and built one of Kensington’s most curious buildings, the Tower House in Melbury Road. The spectacular painted ceiling above the nave was created by the artist and one-time President of the Royal Academy Edward Poynter (1836-1919). Its diamond-shaped panels contain various symbolic images as well as the signs of the zodiac.

Burne Jones windows Waltham Abbey Church

Burne Jones windows Waltham Abbey Church

Poynter’s contemporary, the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) designed the stained glass in the rose window above the high altar. Each of the seven smaller circular windows depicts one of the Seven Days of The Creation. The central, larger window, depicts a seated crowned regal figure with a halo. He holds an orb and behind him there is a group of figures, some with musical instruments.

Market place Waltham Abbey

Market place Waltham Abbey

Green Dragon Inn Market Sq

Green Dragon Inn Market Sq

Welsh Harp Inn

Welsh Harp Inn

I visited Waltham Abbey on a Tuesday, which has been market day since time immemorial. Several market stalls (selling clothes, shoes, food, stationery, and tools) were crowded into the small market square at the western end of Sun Street. On one side of the square stands the half-timbered Welsh Harp Inn whose structure dates from the 16th century. The Green Dragon pub, whose windows were boarded up on my visit, was built in the 19th century on the site of the Market Hall (and an earlier Moot Hall, where the Abbot held courts of justice in mediaeval times).

Sun Str and The Sun Inn

Sun Str and The Sun Inn

Drain 33 Sun Str

Drain 33 Sun Str

South Place

South Place

The Sun Inn on Sun Street is a timber-framed building that was already standing in 1633; it has been enlarged considerably since then. Its next-door neighbour, now an estate agent, has a clapboard façade. The drainpipe of number 33 Sun Street, now Kalik Coffee House, has a picturesque feature decorated by a fleur-de-lys and two thistles. The short South Place leading off Sun Street, has some pretty cottages dating back to the 17th century. The double cottage (it has two adjoining roofs) at the south end of the Place was occupied by a farmer in the 17th century. He farmed the open land, which was, in his time, immediately south of his home.

Former police station Sun Str

Former police station Sun Str

Epping Forest District Museum

Epping Forest District Museum

Number 35 was built as a police station in 1874. It is now no longer used for that purpose. Its neighbour is the town’s library. This is adjoined to a half-timbered building, which houses the small but excellent Epping Forest District Museum. Much of the half-timbered house, first built in about 1520, has been restored, but the rooms of the museum, which are part of that house display parts of its original wooden structural elements: doorways, fireplaces, and timber beams. The building has been beautifully restored and conserved, skilfully blending original elements with new features including a lift for handicapped visitors.

The first floor Epping Forest District Museum

The first floor Epping Forest District Museum

Lucien Pisarro in Museum

Lucien Pisarro in Museum

Amongst the numerous exhibits, several caught my attention. On the top floor, there is a painting by the impressionist Lucien Pisarro (1863-1944), who first visited the UK during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), and then returned to settle permanently in London in 1890. Just after he married (in 1892), he lived in Epping between 1893 and ’97. The painting depicts the garden of his house in Epping, where his daughter the artist Orovida Camille Pissarro (1893-1968) was born.

Museum. Possibly Edward III

Museum. Possibly Edward III

There is a carved stone head on the floor below. This was carved in the 14th century, and was originally in the Abbey’s Chapter House. It is believed to be a portrait of King Edward III, who was a patron of the Abbey, which he visited often. According to the museum label the beard and hair of this sculpture bears traces of the gold that used to cover the whole piece.

Museum -  part of pannelling from Waltham Abbey

Museum - part of pannelling from Waltham Abbey

The ground floor contains some elaborately decorated wooden panelling (dated about 1526) that has survived since the demolition of Waltham Abbey. It is owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has lent it to the Epping Museum.

Mammoth tusk found Waltham Abbey

Mammoth tusk found Waltham Abbey

The oldest exhibit in the museum is in a cabinet on the wall of the main staircase. Dated roughly 12,000 BC, it is the curved tusk of a woolly mammoth, which was discovered near Waltham Abbey. It is believed that these beasts roamed around today’s Lea Valley during the ice ages.

The museum has a pleasant little garden decorated with a large mosaic. From the garden, there is a good view of the east end of the museum, which, although restored, looks like it must have done several centuries ago.

Lea Valley Church

Lea Valley Church

Facing the eastern end of Sun Street, there is a brick building trimmed with white stone and topped with a tiled steeple supported by slender columns. This was built in 1902 for the Methodists (Wesleyan). In 1974, it became a Roman Catholic church, and then later it became the Lea Valley Church (see: https://www.leavalleychurch.org.uk/), which is neither Methodist nor Roman Catholic (nor Church of England).

Greenwich Meridian line Sun Str

Greenwich Meridian line Sun Str

Returning westwards along Sun Street, we reach a mosaic that stretches almost the width of the pedestrianised roadway. A red line runs in the middle of it from north to south. This marks the path taken by the Greenwich Meridian, which separated the east from the west. Along with Greenwich, the town of Waltham Abbey has at least one thing – the Meridian – in common with Accra in Ghana. According to recent measurements, the line of the Meridian may, really, be some 334 feet east of its present accepted position (based on observations made in 1884) at Greenwich (see: The Daily Telegraph, 20th October 2017). The Waltham mosaic was constructed before this discovery.

Leaving Waltham Abbey along Highbridge Street, we pass an undistinguished looking modern (yellow and red) brick building facing the large traffic roundabout. This is the current ‘avatar’ of the Francis Greene Alms-house. The original alms-house on this spot was built by Francis Greene in 1626. It was rebuilt in 1818, and survived until 1945 when it was destroyed by a German V2 missile. The present building replaces the post-war building, which was constructed in 1953.

Francis Green almshouses: old memorial stone

Francis Green almshouses: old memorial stone

'WD' stone Just west of Francis Greene House

'WD' stone Just west of Francis Greene House

The alms-house stands on a corner plot separated from its neighbour by a small street, Grove Court. The brick wall on the western corner of Grove Court and Highbridge Street is of recent construction, but it includes a much older corner stone (not brick), which bears the letters ‘WD’ separated by an upside down ‘V’. This resembles, but is not identical to, the letters carved on stones by the War Department (after 1954, the Ministry of Defence). On old large-scale Ordnance Survey maps, a surveying benchmark is marked close to the position of the stone that I spotted.

The western end of Highbridge Road is the bridge crossing the River Lea Navigation. The River Lea, which rises in the Chiltern Hills near Luton, flows mainly through north-east and east London, and joins the River Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf (described elsewhere) near Canning Town. Along much of its course, the Lea divides into various separate channels, some of them narrow clogged-up streams and others much bigger.

During the 16th century, efforts began to create a navigable channel along the course of the Lea. The civil engineer John Smeaton (1724-1792) was largely responsible for designing what is now called the River Lea Navigation, work on which was completed by 1771. Smeaton’s work, effectively a canalised part of the river, ensured that there was a wide enough channel that always contained sufficient water to keep it deep enough for vessels to navigate its length. Modifications and improvements on his canal have been made subsequently. A good footpath runs alongside it.

Waltham Town Lock

Waltham Town Lock

The Waltham Town Lock is just north of the bridge to which Highbridge Road leads. It is surrounded by the greenery of the southern end of the Lea Valley Regional Park. I explored the part of the Lea Navigation (‘Lea’) that flows from this lock southwards towards that at Ponders End.

Waltham Town Lock house

Waltham Town Lock house

River Lea Navigation Entrance to small dock near Station Rd

River Lea Navigation Entrance to small dock near Station Rd

Just south of the bridge on the western shore of the Lea, there is a currently disused brick building (whiteish bricks with occasional rows of red bricks). This was the lock house built in 1878 beside the old Waltham Town Lock (see: http://www.leeandstort.co.uk/Waltham_Town.htm). The latter was removed in 1922, when the present lock was built further north on the other side of Highbridge Road. A short footbridge crosses the watery inlet to a small dock next to the disused lock house. Before WW2, this dock had its own travelling crane for loading and unloading goods. Now, it is being converted into a water feature for a new housing development.

Pumping station near Waltham Abbey

Pumping station near Waltham Abbey

We next pass a Water Board water treatment plant whose grounds contain an elegant yellow brick building with stone trimmings. It has tall circular arched windows and a porch supported by pillars with Doric capitals. This was built as a pumping station, constructed in the late 19th century (between 1884 and 1898, according to detailed maps).

River Lee Navigation M25 crossing

River Lee Navigation M25 crossing

River Lee Navigation M25 crossing looking west

River Lee Navigation M25 crossing looking west

River Lee Navigation M25 crossing looking east

River Lee Navigation M25 crossing looking east

A little further south, the canal and its footpath pass beneath a large bridge that carries the busy traffic on the M25 London Orbital motorway. There was a pitched tent and a vandalised car as well as various bits of junk under the bridge. Although I saw no one, this encampment had the look of still being in use. South of the bridge, the Lea flows through open countryside. To the west, there is the vast expanse of Ramney Marsh. To the west, there is a wide swathe of uninhabited land separating the Lea from a housing estate.

Ramney Marsh from River Lea Navigation

Ramney Marsh from River Lea Navigation

River Lea Navigation Ramney Marsh Lock

River Lea Navigation Ramney Marsh Lock

River Lea Navigation Ramney Marsh Lock cafe

River Lea Navigation Ramney Marsh Lock cafe

Ramney Marsh Lock was first built in 1768, and rebuilt several times since then, the last time being 1902. Parts of the supports of the footbridge across the lock consist of blocks of Portland stone recovered from the old Westminster Bridge, which was demolished in about 1862. The footbridge leads east to the Narrow Boat Café, at which I did not stop. A map surveyed in 1895 shows that there was a nitro-glycerine factory on the land east of the lock. For years, this area was used for testing munitions, but now it has been rendered safe for all. Its presence is remembered today by naming the open land, now a public open space, ‘Gunpowder Park’.

Just south of Ramney Marsh Lock River Lee Navigation

Just south of Ramney Marsh Lock River Lee Navigation

Just south of Ramney Marsh Lock River Lee Navigation

Just south of Ramney Marsh Lock River Lee Navigation

Just south of Ramney Marsh Lock River Lee Navigation

Just south of Ramney Marsh Lock River Lee Navigation

South of the lock, the canal was lined with moored barges, electricity pylons, and occasional small canal-side gardens, often quirkily decorated. After passing the stone supports of a demolished bridge that once carried pedestrians and a large-bore pipe over the river, a stream branched off from the Lea at the northern point of a slender island.

Remains of bridge  south of Ramney Marsh Lock River Lee Navigation

Remains of bridge south of Ramney Marsh Lock River Lee Navigation

Northern part of Government Row River Lee Navigation

Northern part of Government Row River Lee Navigation

Southern part of Government Row River Lee Navigation

Southern part of Government Row River Lee Navigation

On its west shore there are rows of identical terraced two-storied houses built of brick along a road named Government Row. These were once homes for workers at the Royal Small Arms Factory, which was behind them to the east. The factory was opened in 1816. It produced rifles and other small arms for the British Army throughout the 19th century. Its products included the famous Martini Henry and Lee Enfield rifles, as well as the Sten (Shepherd, Turpin, and Enfield) Gun. The factory and its site closed in 1988. Since then, a housing development has been built on the land behind Government Row.

Enfield Lock looking north

Enfield Lock looking north

Enfield Lock seen from the north

Enfield Lock seen from the north

Enfield Lock is situated at the southern end of Government Row. This was first built by 1722. The present structure was built in 1922. It is located next to the Lee Conservancy headquarters. This organisation was founded in 1868 to look after (maintain) the Lea Navigation, to keep it clean and navigable. The lock house at Enfield Lock bears a sign that states it was built in 1889 by the Conservancy. The headquarters of the organisation is immediately south of the lock on the Lea’s west bank. It is housed in a low brick building (cruciform in plan, built 1907) with a reddish tiled roof with a small centrally-located clock-tower surmounted by a weather-vane.

Enfield Lock Lee Conservancy 1907

Enfield Lock Lee Conservancy 1907

A Swan and Pike Pool River Lee Navigation

A Swan and Pike Pool River Lee Navigation

The charmingly rustic Swan and Pike Pool, an old dock surrounded by trees and joined to the Lea by a short channel, is opposite the Conservancy, across the water. The Pool was “…once a bathing pool and a turning point for barges that serviced the nearby Gunpowder Mills” (see: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/). It is named after a pub, the ‘Swan and Pike’, which existed close-by until the early decades of the 20th century. This hostelry existed as an isolated structure in the marshes lining the Lea Navigation before the 19th century and the construction of the small-arms factory (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp212-218).

Between Enfield Lock and Ponders End

Between Enfield Lock and Ponders End

Out of curiosity I decided to explore south along the Lea to Ponders End Lock, a distance of just over two miles. Take it from me that unless you are fascinated by electricity pylons there is not much point walking along this stretch of water. Immediately south of the Conservancy, there are several modern factories. For most of the distance, the Lea is bordered to the east by the high grassy bank of King George’s Reservoir. Constructed between 1908 and 1912, it was opened by King George V. It is the largest of London’s reservoirs. The steep bank of the huge reservoir is grazed by sheep. I also saw horses wandering amongst the pylons in the muddy fields between the water-storage area and the Lea. The west side of the Lea is bordered by vegetation which conceals various industrial concerns.

Sheep on the reservoir slopes  Between Enfield Lock and Ponders End

Sheep on the reservoir slopes Between Enfield Lock and Ponders End

A sculpture  Between Enfield Lock and Ponders End

A sculpture Between Enfield Lock and Ponders End

Apart from a group of Geese that landed in the water with balletic precision, and one barge travelling slowly, there was little of interest to see. At one point, I came across four small metal sculptures by the footpath. Why they were there is not clear to me. As with the path north of Enfield Lock, I met with several other walkers and some cyclists, but far less than I had encountered above that lock. Eventually, I reached Ponders End Lock, a double lock with two parallel lock chambers. The lock was first built there in the early 18th century. The second chamber was included as part of a rebuild done in the 1950s. Canal users now have the choice of using the newer mechanised lock or the older manually operated one.

Ponders End Lock looking north

Ponders End Lock looking north

Between the lock and Ponders End railway station, I passed a small square bungalow with neo-gothic windows. This building on Wharf Road was once part, an entrance lodge, of the former Wright’s Flour Mill. It was built in the early 19th century. There had been mills on this site since the 16th century, maybe since the Domesday Book’s era. George Wright took over the mill in 1870. Originally water-powered (by the River Lea), it was later run by electricity when the waters of the Lea were diverted to fill the nearby reservoir.

Mill Lodge, Wharf Rd, Ponders End

Mill Lodge, Wharf Rd, Ponders End

When I was about ten years old, I managed to persuade my grandmother, then in her seventies and visiting from South africa, to join me on a series of bus journeys using a Red Rover. This ticket, costing six shillings (30 pence) in those days, allowed its holder a whole day’s unlimited usage of London Transport’s red buses. Granny and I set off from Golders Green, and after a few hours ended up in Ponders End, which looks no more attractive today than it did then. Having reached this place, which neither of us had ever heard of, we decided that enough was enough, and then returned to Golders Green. This is how I felt many decades later having reached there from the far more attractive Waltham Abbey.

Waltham Abbey, which still resembles a small country town far from London, is now a part of the city. Its well-preserved historic centre is surrounded by modern housing. The River Lea and its various channels supply London with water, now via the reservoir, and earlier via the New River. It has been one of London’s important transportation arteries, which has served industry in the past (before motorised road transport and the railways), and is now a valued leisure facility. Exploring the area described above brings one into contact with many aspects of history from prehistoric times until today: from wandering mammoths to mammoth motorways.

Reservoir slope  Between Enfield Lock and Ponders End

Reservoir slope Between Enfield Lock and Ponders End

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 14:51 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged monastery lee essex enfield pylons locks lea explosives hertfordshire waltham_abbey river_lee pre-raphaelite Comments (2)

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 (5)

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