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A History


Wood Green first sprang up about the middle of the thirteenth century in the form of a pretty little hamlet nestling at the foot of a high and densely wooded hill. In the middle of the hamlet was a large and very verdant green or common; and it is from this green and the adjacent wooded hill that Wood Green derives its name. The wooded hill, now known as Muswell Hill, was formerly a part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex, and was the famous Tottenham Wood, which remained intact until the eighteenth century. At the dawn of the Christian era the Forest of Middlesex covered the whole of the county. Through it was cut or worn a number of trackways or paths, two of which the Romans converted into famous highways. The first was Watling Street and ran through the western part of the forest; the other was Ermine Street, which went from Cripplegate to Lincoln, penetrating the forest somewhere in the neighbourhood of Wood Green.


The Saxons, becoming tired of warfare, settled down to more peaceful pursuits, and began clearing certain parts of the Forest of Middlesex for agricultural purposes; and it was at this time that the village of Tottenham sprang up in one of these clearings. Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland, was the first Lord of the Manor of Tottenham to reside here. He built a manor house, somewhere about the site of Bruce Castle, and there are evidences of his having built a church behind the manor house. In 1254 the manor was divided into seven lordships, one of which was Dou'cotes or Duckett's situated in our High Road.


In the reign of Edward III, the Manor of Duckett's was in the possession of Sir John de Longford, the Lord Chief Justice. Joan, the widow of William de Brighte, released all rights to Duckett's to John and Alice Dover, and in 1460-1 Thomas Burgoyne and others gave it to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in Smithfield. At the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII seized it and in 1547, granted it to Sir Robert Cecil. It was afterwards held by Lord Burghley; Edward, Lord North; William Parker; Lady Anne Compton; Thomas Sutton, the founder of Charterhouse; Sir Francis Poppam; Sir Edward Scott; and Dr. Edmund Trench, who having scruples about keeping property stolen from the Church sold the Manor, and until within comparatively recent years it was held in turn by a number of farmers. Subsequently the house became a school, and was finally demolished about thirty years ago. The house was not a very pretentious one. It was surrounded by a moat, which was crossed by a bridge, and at one time possessed a fine chimney-piece of sixteenth century workmanship.


In 1609, the construction of the New River was begun, and no doubt caused considerable commotion among the inhabitants of Wood Green. The scheme for conveying water from two springs in Hertford would have been an ambitious one for the Corporation of the City of London to undertake, but for one man to carry out at his own cost was a colossal enterprise. In fact no greater benefactor has London ever known than Sir Hugh Myddleton. No sooner had he begun his great work than a host of obstacles beset him. First the landowners through whose land he proposed to cut the river made strong opposition, but by the exercise of considerable tact Myddleton eventually overcame this difficulty, only to be met with a greater one. The work proved far more costly than he had expected, for, in order to maintain a gradual slope for the bed of the river and at the same time avoid aqueducts and tunnels, the course had to wind about very considerably, as the portion of the old river in Wood Green shows. In Wood Green one of the best examples of these deviations is to be found, where, in order to carry the water one mile the river wound about for nearly nine miles. Myddleton eventually found himself short of funds and the river constructed only as far as Enfield. He sought assistance from the Corporation in vain, and then went to James I, who readily entered into the scheme and provided half the cost of the whole construction. The New River was completed in 1613, and in 1857-8 the course was straightened by the construction of an embankment and tunnel, thus shortening the course be about ten miles.


At the time the survey was made by the Earl of Dorset in 1619, the hamlet of Wood Green consisted of ten houses with a few farmhouses scattered about the district, and there were fifty people here.


No great change took place during the next seventy years, beyond the cutting down of more trees and the building of a few more houses. The population had increased to about 100, and Wood Green then boasted of an inn, "The Three Jolly Butchers", a forge, and a general stores.


In 1843 the population having quadrupled, it was considered necessary for Wood Green to have a church of its own. A piece of waste land at the top of Jolly Butchers' Hill was given for the purpose, and a Chapel of Ease was built there and opened in 1844. A few years later the building had to undergo extensive repairs, as it was found to be in a dangerous condition owing to the slippery nature of the soil. When, however, these repairs were finished in 1858, it was found that the population had increased to about 1,300, and the Church consequently was not large enough to furnish the necessary accommodation. The Chapel of Ease was pulled down with the exception of the chancel, and to this was built a larger church, which was opened in 1862. In 1866 Wood Green was made an ecclesiastical district, and in 1873 a new chancel was built and the church embellished with a spire, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott.


In 1859, the first railway station was built, and this was the starting point of the rise and development of modern Wood Green. In 1849 the Printers' and the Fishmongers' and Poulterers' Almshouses were built, in 1865 the Royal Masonic Boys' School, and Alexandra Palace was opened on the 24th May 1873. The building was totally destroyed by fire on the 9th June 1873. A new building, however, was constructed and opened on the 1st May 1875.


Wood Green now began to grow very rapidly, but was not treated very generously by Tottenham, and consequently the inhabitants began a strong agitation for separation, which culminated in 1888 by Wood Green having its own Local Board of Health, Sir Ralph Littler being the first Chairman. In 1894, Wood Green became an Urban District, and since that time has made rapid strides in all directions.



This institution was established in 1895, and was enlarged in 1903 to provide accommodation for 25 beds for non-infectious cases from Wood Green, Hornsey and Southgate. It is chiefly maintained by voluntary contributions and grants from the authorities of the districts it serves, Wood Green contributing 300 per annum. It is being extended to a capacity of 55 beds.


Rapid growth took place at Wood Green, where the church built in 1844 was found to be far too small by 1863. A direct railway to London, foreshadowed by the G.N.R. line in 1850 and achieved with the opening of a station ten years later, combined with undulating, still partly wooded country to make the area attractive to large institutions, as well as to speculators planning a new middle-class suburb. Wood Green was 'as charming a spot as its sylvan name implies' in 1847, when the foundation stone of the Fishmongers' and Poulterers' institution was laid immediately north of the church. The institution, an asylum for 12 married couples, was opened in 1850. It was designed by Mee and William Webb as an imposing two-storeyed range in the Tudor style, with a central turreted gateway. South of the church the Printers' alms-houses, another two-storeyed Tudor range designed by Webb, were founded in 1849 for 12 couples and opened in 1856. In 1871 two more wings doubled the accommodation, and twenty years later an extension was opened by the duchess of Albany, marking the first royal visit to Wood Green. The Royal Masonic institution opened its boys' school in Lordship House, Lordship Lane, in 1857 and replaced it with a large new building, later the Home and Colonial training college, in 1865. In that year land in Nightingale Road was provided for John Fuller's alms-houses, after the original site in Shoreditch had been sold. Wood Green's first elementary school was opened in 1859 and its first chapel was built, by Congregationalists, in 1864.


Wood Green began to grow neither around the old common nor the new station, but north of the church in the triangle between Green Lanes and Bounds Green Lane. Commerce, Nightingale, Finsbury, Truro, and Clarence roads were all laid out there in the mid 1860s. South-east of Wood Green common, Caxton and Mayes roads were also laid out and near the Hornsey boundary a tobacco factory and reservoir bordered the railway. Cherson House, Wood Green House, and other large residences still overlooked the New River near the common. To the east, along Lordship Lane, Elm Lodge stood with a few cottages at the former Chapmans Green. To the north-east Green Lanes ran past the entrance lodge of Chitts Hill House, which stood with a farmhouse in some 31 a. in 1843, when it belonged to Mary Overend. Mrs Overend still lived there in 1862 and Samuel Page in 1867.


In contrast with the rows of villas leading off the north side of Bounds Green Lane, building on the south side was confined to a group opposite the church and to Nightingale Hall opposite Commerce Road. Nightingale Hall, with grounds and farm-land totalling 72 a. was occupied by Thomas Pearson in 1843; it passed in 1864 from Pearson to his widow, afterwards Mrs Pearson Kidd, who lived there for another 30 years. Farther west the only buildings were at Bounds Green, which possessed some cottages, a tavern, and a brick-works, and at Tottenham Wood Farm, which was approached by a lane from Muswell Hill in Hornsey. The first Alexandra Palace was not built until 1873, although a pleasure ground along the Hornsey boundary was opened ten years later.


Building in the 1860s mostly took place in the hitherto neglected parts west of Tottenham High Road, particularly around West Green and at Wood Green. While the total population rose by nearly 10,000 Wood Green ward alone saw an increase of some 5,500. By 1869 residents at Wood Green were demanding their own local board and it was clear that their new suburb, enjoying a separate rail link with London, had a future of its own. Inevitably development thereafter spread around High Road in the east of the parish, the railway lines in the south, and Wood Green in the west, leaving farm-land in the centre and north which was not touched until the 20th century.


The crucial factor in the sudden growth of the eastern part of Tottenham was the arrival of the G.E.R., ultimately running from Liverpool Street to Enfield in 1872. The line itself destroyed most of the rural advantages still enjoyed by large houses on or near the west side of High Road, including those in Bruce Grove. More important, the issue of cheap early morning tickets to London, which was strenuously opposed in local newspapers, attracted thousands of working-class immigrants and finally ended Tottenham's reputation for health and gentility. By 1876 housing stretched almost continuously along the two miles from Stamford Hill to Edmonton; much of it was considered commonplace and some of it wretched, although here and there wrought-iron gates or walls with overhanging trees recalled more stately days.


The opening of stations on the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction line, beginning with South Tottenham in 1871, and the construction of the G.E.R. line through West Green in 1878, hastened the spread of building over the south of the parish. By 1875 villas around St. Ann's had been built on ground recently deemed an irreclaimable morass and West Green had been transformed: 'the old village is still there, but it is huddled up against Streets, and Villas, and Places, and all other devices of modern investors'. In consequence the population of the parish more than doubled during the 1870s, when the urgent demand for elementary education frustrated determined local efforts to avoid a school board, and had reached 97,174 by 1891. The effects of the influx were recognised in 1888, when Tottenham, with West Green, was separated from Wood Green. Their differing characters were described in 1894: Tottenham, the most populous of all London's outlying districts, was mainly given over to the lower middle classes, notably City Clerks and warehousemen, whereas Wood Green had many well-to-do residents. For much of the area, including the southern part of Wood Green, the assessment was flattering; standardised by stock-brick terraces formed a working-class railway suburb, where houses stood 40 to an acre, 'with back gardens distinctly minimal and front gardens merely nominal'.


Much building covered the sites of former mansions. Lordship Hall, on the south corner of High Road and Lordship Lane, was demolished for road-widening in 1867. William Salte's house, auctioned after his death in 1817 and empty in 1870, made way for the shopping parade known as Criterion Buildings, dated 1880, and for Ruskin, Cedar and Pembury roads. Soon afterwards Bruce Castle and Birkbeck roads were built up on land which had been auctioned with Fair Lawn, on the north corner of Lordship Lane in 1875. Farther south in High Road the parade called Grove Terrace, opposite Page Green, was also built in 1880 and Suffield Lodge, at the south corner of West Green Road, was offered as building land in the same year. The Rows' residence at Page Green was also sold for housing with 11.5 a. in 1880, as were Markfield House with 80 a. in 1879 and 90 plots on the near-by Earlsmead estate in 1882. Properties auctioned at West Green included West Green house in 1884 and the Woodlands in 1888. The British Land Co. bought Downhills in 1881 and the neighbouring Mount Pleasant estate was offered as 135 building lots along Mount Pleasant Road in 1890.


St. Katherine's college, for women teachers, was opened in 1878 by the S.P.C.K. in the Ferns, a large house north of Fair Lawn; in 1880 it moved to former glebe land in White Hart Lane, where a three-storeyed building, later extended, was built in the style of William and Mary to the designs of A.W. Blomfield.


Although most of Wood Green became a middle-class suburb, c. 100 a. of the farm-land of Ducketts, adjoining West Green, was bought in 1882 by the Artizans', Labourers', and General Dwellings Co.


The Building Act of 1774 came to be known later as the Black Act, because it was largely responsible for the standardisation of detail and the monotony (now admired as uniformity) of Georgian houses. At the time, however, it was a milestone in the history of improvements in London, for it consolidated the building regulations of previous years and introduced new provisions to combat shoddy building and risk of fire. The Act was drafted by Sir Robert Taylor and George Dance the Younger, and it classified houses into four types, or 'rates', according to their value and their floor area. A first-rate house was one worth more than 850 and having a floor area, excluding outbuildings, of more than 900 sq. ft. (which is less than the minimum three-bedroom house today). A fourth-rate house was one worth less than 150 and having a floor area of less than 350 sq. ft.


Each rate of house had its own standard of structural requirements for foundations and walls, particularly party walls, where the regulations had previously been rather inadequate. Outside ornament on houses was reduced to a minimum, and the use of wood was forbidden except in doors and windows. Bedford Square, which was laid out on the Duke of Portman's estate shortly after the Act was passed, is a good example of how the design of houses became standardised and made use of prefabricated ornament, particularly Coade stone surrounds to the doorways. Only the stuccoed house in the middle of the terrace has any external architectural ornament, such as pilasters and a pediment. The builders were William Scott and Robert Grews, and the architect may have been Thomas Leverton, who lived at No. 1.


Today most Londoners take pure drinking-water for granted without realising the great debt that is owed to one man at the start of the 17th century. This was Sir Hugh Myddleton, a Welsh copper- mining engineer and M.P. who became one of the City's wealthiest goldsmiths and who left behind him an achievement as great as any of Wren or Indigo Jones. At the start of the 17th century London's water came partly from the springs of Holywell and Clerkenwell to the north and partly from the Thames, and these sources had either become dried up or polluted. It will be remembered that the earliest conduit was set up in Cheapside in the 13th century and brought water from the Tyburn at Paddington. In 1609 Hugh Myddleton signed a contract with the Corporation of London to bring water from Amwell, near Ware, in Hertfordshire, more than 38 miles to Finsbury, where he set up the New River Head and reservoir. At one point the work came to a stop through lack of capital, and the City Corporation refused to give any more assistance. So Myddleton appealed to James I, who raised money from the Treasury in return for shares in the water company. The New River was finally completed in 1613, against the opposition of many landlords whose property he had crossed, which had caused the construction of about 200 wooden aqueducts. Myddleton was knighted in 1622 and a statue was unveiled to him in Islington Green in 1862. The water company was taken over by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1902, and their headquarters are still here in Rosebery Avenue. Until 1816 the water was distributed to the city in elm pipes, pumped by windmill. An Act of Parliament passed in 1571 to divert the River Lea to provide drinking-water was never put into effect.



Preceding the Separation Act of 1888 Wood Green formed part of the parish of Tottenham.

In a map of 1619, we find at the top of the lane now called Lordship Lane, a large open space, coloured as a common, and named Wood Greene; the New River ran through this common; there was no bridge across this river, and on the opposite side was the commencement of Tottenham Wood. Owing to the proximity of this common, or green, to Tottenham Wood, it was called Wood Green, - a name which has ever since been given to the surrounding district.


This common consisted of between 70 and 80 acres; the lord of the manor was owner of the soil, subject to certain rights of common. It was stated years ago that "the commoners hve, from time immemorial, exercised a right of common on the land, by depasturing their cattle upon it; and the lord has also exercised ownership over it, by cutting turf". It is also recorded that from the year 1650 to some years ago, the lord of the manor made "numerous grants of parcels of waste land", but in the early part of the last century several houses were built upon the enclosed lands, and roads made across the common, but the lord of the manor objected to such roads being made without his license, and proved by an action in a court, that "he may sustain an action of trespass against the owners of the enclosed lands for making roads without his license".


Wood Green from early times was one of four wards in the parish of Tottenham. It is not recorded at what date the division of the parish took place. Bedwell, 1631, says at his time each ward contained near enough to say equal population; but Wood Green was "more than thrice so great, as all the three" others as to "quantity of grownd"; it "comprehendeth Westgreene, Hangers, Dou'cotes, Chapmangreene, Woodgreene, the Hill, Tottenham-wood and Boundes-brooke".


In 1619 the hamlet of Wood Green consisted of sixteen houses, half of which were clustered round the green. Down to 1798 there was little change to record. In 1811 the population of the ward was 429. In 1841 the population was larger, but misleading owing to the presence of a considerable number of haymakers in the district. The census of 1861 gives the population of 3,154 with 565 houses, and a much quoted authority gives it as less than 2,000 in 1863, but states that there was a "rapidly growing population". In 1840 the hamlet consisted of ten houses on the common, "some of which were formerly good residences", and fifty inhabitants.


Included in the Wood Green ward was Tottenham Wood Farm; this estate belonged to Thomas Rhodes, a relative of Cecil Rhodes. It is stated that when Thomas Rhodes died the estate was sold to the company that erected the old Alexandra Palace on a part of it. (See "Tottenham Wood", in first series and "Alexandra Palace" in this).


Dissatisfaction at being merely a ward in the parish of Tottenham was apparent in early days when Wood Green commenced to increase in population. A meeting was held at the King's Arms, Wood Green in February 1869, with the object of taking necessary steps for securing a separate Local Board for Wood Green; but it was not until 1888 that Wood Green was partly separated from Tottenham, and a Local Board formed. The first few years of the Board's existence proved unsatisfactory; during the first year little business was transacted; it is reported that little went on at the Board's meetings excepting quarrels and personalities between the members. The surveyor was discharged, and the clerk asked to resign, but he was afterwards reinstated. The first half-year's rate for 1890 was 2s. in the , which was not enough, and a sixpenny supplementary rate was made; the next half-year the rate was 2s 3d. During this year the clerk resigned.


Up till 1902 Wood Green formed part of Tottenham for educational purposes: at this date the Wood Green Council elected its own Education Committee. Wood Green was included in the Tottenham Parliamentary Division prior to the last General Election, when it became part of Southgate Division.


Area of Wood Green, 1,625 acres; population, 1891, 34,233; 1911, 49,369; 1921, 50,716; houses, 1913, 10,249.


The following is taken from Cassell's "Greater London", 1898:- "Twenty years ago, or even less, Wood Green was a retired country spot, hemmed in by green lanes, and shady hedgerows, and having here and there a cosy tavern and tea gardens, whither the ruralising cockney might betake himself - or herself , or both - in the summer time. The transformation here, however, is almost as great as at Finchley. Since the establishment of the Alexandra Palace, and the formation of a railway through its centre, Wood Green has become quite a busy town, built round the large open space which was once a green, and fringing the Southgate Road. In the centre of the Green is a drinking fountain, surmounted by a tall granite obelisk; it is inscribed to the memory of Mrs. Catherine Smithies, of Earlham Grove, Wood Green, the founder of the 'Band of Mercy' movement. Not far off is the pleasant seat of Nightingale Hall, standing in its own grounds, and shewing by its name that it was once a rural and sequestered spot. What will perhaps most attract the attention of visitors to this locality is the architectural beauty of the various asylums and institutions devised by charity and public spirit for the succour of the aged, and the education and protection of the young and helpless. Of these institutions, the Printers' Almshouses, a handsome Tudor range of buildings near the Church, were erected in 1850. Close by is the Asylum for Aged Fishmongers and Poulterers, a red-brick building of Elizabethan architecture, also dating its erection from about 1850. Then there are Fuller's Almshouses in Nightingale Lane, erected in 1865."



In May 1844, an appeal was made by the building committee for this church; the following is an extract: "The hamlet of Wood Green contains a population of 400 persons. In the beginning of last year an effort was made to supply the inhabitants of this hamlet with a church. From the kind manner in which the appeal was responded to, a church of stone, capable of accommodating 200 persons (and easily admitting of enlargement) has been erected. As the vicar of the parish at once kindly consented to be answerable for the gratuitous performance of Divine service, there will be no pew-rents for the payment of the officiating clergymen."


The architects of the church were Messrs. Scott and Moffatt; it was consecrated Oct. 3, 1844; its cost was 1,776 18s. 2d.


In 1861, during the Rev. W.J. Hall's time, the church was a chapel-of-ease to Tottenham. It is stated that in 1865 a new church was erected from the designs of Mr. Curzon. In 1874 the building was enlarged; the tower was built, and a peal of bells and a clock were added by the generosity of Mr. Samuel Page, of Chitt's Hill, in memory of his late wife; the cost was between 2,000 and 3,000. In September 1901, two stained glass windows were dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria; the memorial was subscribed to by the congregation, and the children of the Sunday and day schools. The present vicar is the Rev. C.G.A. Midwinter, formerly a curate at All Hallows' Church.


Mr. J. Harman Judd, of Lamb's Cottage, Edmonton, was one of the early organists of this church, - officiating for two years. In June 1856, the late Mr. James Langran (organist many years at All Hallows') was appointed organist of St. Michael's; there were 53 applicants for the post - the salary being 20 a year. At this time the choir consisted of six school children "and a few elderly ladies from the Printers' Almshouses close by".



The property in which this building stands was acquired by the Local Board in 1893. The grounds, consisting of 28 acres 23 poles, situated in the High Road, were included in the purchase price of 28,180. Recent additions to the building, costing 8,000, provided for a new council chamber, committee rooms, etc., and accommodation for the police and county courts.


Before this estate was purchased by the local authority, the house was a private residence known as Earlham Grove House. Earlham Grove was brought into world-wide prominence some few years ago in connection with the R.S.P.C.A.; juvenile branches, called Bands of Mercy, existed in America. A philanthropic family named Smithies resided at Earlham Grove, Wood Green; Mrs. Catherine Smithies, in 1875, called a meeting at Wood Green, and the first branch, in England, of the Band of Mercy was formed with 51 members, - by 1894 the membership had increased to 400 - this was the largest in this country. Meetings were held at Earlham Grove, and amongst the remarkable persons who gave addresses there were missionaries, policemen, Chinese ambassadors, the original Uncle Tom, etc. Mr. Smithies' hospitality was unbounded; he constantly stated "All this is lent; it is not mine".


On the evening of the first meeting of the Band of Mercy the weather was dreadful, - a sloppy snow storm; it was on this occasion Mrs. Smithies remarked that she always called Wood Green "Mud Green" - an epithet that stuck to the locality for years. Mrs. Smithies died at Earlham Grove, July 20 1883.


BOWES PARK is the name formerly given to a small ecclesiastical district which was formed in 1874, in the neighbourhood of Bowes Manor. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, - sometimes called St. Michael's-at-Bowes, - is in Palmerston Road, and was built from the designs of Sir Gilbert Scott. The population in 1891 was 5,309. Bowes Park is now a ward in Wood Green parish.


NOEL PARK is an industrial district near Green Lanes Station, G.E.R., developed some years ago by a building company. There is a church on the estate built in the Early English style, dedicated to St. Mark. This estate covers a part of Duckett's Manor. Noel Park is now the name of a ward of the parish.



Foundation stone laid by Mr. Passmore Edwards, Aug. 1914. Mr. Edwards contributed 2,000 towards the building.


At Wood Green are several churches other than those mentioned above. There are also churches for Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Welsh Calvinists, Primitive Methodists, Roman Catholics, Catholic Apostolics, Unitarians, and Friends, and Salvation Army and other mission halls.


In 1851 a ten-acre field at Wood Green was sold for 75 an acre; in 1876 the same field was sold for building purposes for 800 an acre.


Wood Green Station, G.N.R., was opened 1859. In 1885 arrangements were being made for laying tram lines along Green Lanes.


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