A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6, Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey With Highgate. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.
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Growth before the mid 19th century. (fn. 1)
Implements of the early Stone Age have been found in the three streams that cross northern, central, and southern Hornsey. (fn. 2) An early Bronze Age flint dagger of c. 1900 B.C. has also been found. (fn. 3) No Roman road in the parish is known but finds of coins at Highgate and Muswell Hill and a hoard at Cranley Gardens indicate settlement on the higher ground in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. (fn. 4) The hoard was hidden not far from where, in the north part of the modern Highgate wood, two kilns were operating in the late 1st century A.D. (fn. 5) As the sites of the discoveries were waste or woodland during the Middle Ages, it is unlikely that there was continuity of settlement between the Roman and early Saxon periods.
At an unknown date the parish was included in a grant of Stepney to the cathedral church of St. Paul and before 1066 it was divided between the bishop of London and the chapter, (fn. 6) represented then or later by a canon whose successors were prebendaries of Brownswood. The bishop's and prebendary's shares were divided by the watershed later marked roughly by Ridge and Dickenson roads. The enclosure which is indicated by the name Hornsey (fn. 7) was probably near where the church was built, at the corner of High Street and Church Lane. It was not far from the Moselle or from Green Lanes, perhaps already a major road. (fn. 8) As the village gave its name to the parish it was probably the earliest place to be inhabited. Later settlement may have extended westward and to the south, where glebe and copyhold lands lay, towards Crouch End.
Crouch End was the junction of four locally important roads, perhaps including the road from London to the north, and was the early centre of cultivation, where the farmsteads seem to have been grouped. (fn. 9) An estate of 1½ hide and 1 virgate in 1066 was apparently Topsfield, immediately to the east; farther east lay Farnfields, which was granted away by 1175, small open fields, and land cultivated by 1294 which was later part of the manor of Ducketts. To the west was Rowledge farm, the grange of the bishop, which was being exploited by 1318. A villein and 6 bordars dwelt near Crouch End as early as 1086. (fn. 10)
South of the northern hog's back Brownswood manor was on the low-lying area around Stroud Green, whose name was still apt in 1548, when bushes were to be cleared. (fn. 11) The high rent demanded for buildings may have contributed to their absence in 1577, when there were only three houses for the nine copyholders who together held 223 a. (fn. 12)
By 1406 there were 63 tenants of the manor of Hornsey, including such important local families as the atte Felds, atte Fryths, Mayhews, and Maynards, (fn. 13) some of whose names were given to roads. Former tenements were already divided, in at least some cases into minute fragments. Wills of the 15th and early 16th centuries show local society dominated by resident priests and a few prominent tenants, among them Giles Eustace (d. 1495) and Geoffrey London (d. 1453) and his son John (d. 1461). (fn. 14) There was no resident lord whose household stimulated local supply, no known industry, and pilgrims to Muswell Hill, where there had been a chapel since at least 1159, were not economically significant.
Already by c. 1400 outsiders were acquiring land, especially Londoners like the Oughams and their successors as lords of Topsfield and aldermen John of Northampton (d. c. 1398), William Horne (d. 1496), and John Stokker (d. 1485). (fn. 15) In the 16th century Sir John Skeffington (d. 1525), alderman, Ranulph Cholmley (d. 1563), recorder, Sir William Rowe (d. 1593), lord mayor, and John Draper (d. 1576), brewer of London, all founded important local estates and the first three also built large houses. Other outsiders were Sir Julius Caesar (d. 1636), Master of the Rolls, who possessed the freehold mansion of Mattysons at Muswell Hill in 1619; (fn. 16) Sir Thomas Stapleton at Stroud Green; (fn. 17) and Alderman Nicholas Moseley (d. 1612) at Hornsey. (fn. 18) At least 90 Londoners held copyhold land of Hornsey in the 17th century, many of them at Highgate. (fn. 19)
In 1664, when Highgate contained 161 houses, there were only 62 in the rest of the parish (Hornsey Side). (fn. 20) The number had grown threefold by 1801 but in 1821 the proportions in Hornsey and Highgate sides had scarcely altered. (fn. 21) In Hornsey Side in 1664 there had been four houses with more than 20 hearths, eight with 10 or more, eighteen with more than 6, twenty-two with 3-5, and only eleven with 1 or 2. Nobody was too poor to be assessed. (fn. 22) In spite of such apparent prosperity there was considerable pressure of population, which resulted in overstocking of the commons and encroachment. Illegal cottages were a problem throughout the 17th century and as many as twelve were presented in 1654. Most formed an extension of Highgate over Southwood common but there were others at Muswell Hill common and at Fortis Green. (fn. 23) Between 1647 and 1815 the commons were much reduced and the woodland was halved. (fn. 24) In the fifteen years before 1795 c. 40 houses were built (fn. 25) and immediately before 1793, when the graveyard needed extension, there had been a substantial increase in population. (fn. 26) By 1791 the influx enabled landlords to raise the rents of cottages previously let to labourers, who were driven into the workhouse. (fn. 27) The newcomers, for whom the cottages were improved, may have been occupied in trade or handicrafts, which by 1821 and probably by 1801 employed more people than agriculture. (fn. 28)
In spite of the construction of the New River, no new settlements were established and immigrants were absorbed by existing communities, especially Hornsey village, which in 1795 was much larger than Crouch End. (fn. 29) In 1816 there were several big houses in Hornsey village but increasingly they came to be concentrated at Crouch End and at Muswell Hill, (fn. 30) where many of the largest had stood in 1664. (fn. 31) About 1773 it was a subject of satire that Londoners could retire to country seats in Hornsey and in 1782 businessmen retreated there for summer weekends. (fn. 32) In the early 19th century the parish was a place where the prosperous retired to comfortable villas, with which Hornsey was studded by 1858. (fn. 33) In 1834 42 gentry resided in Hornsey Side. (fn. 34)
In 1816 only Coldfall wood and wasteland lay north of Fortis Green and west of Coppetts Road. (fn. 35) Several houses stood near the junction of Fortis Green with Muswell Hill Road, where the scattered dwellings included the parish poorhouses and Upton Farm. The angle of Muswell Hill Road with Colney Hatch Lane was occupied by the Limes, a three-storeyed house with portico and two-storeyed wing, which was approached by a double carriage drive from impressive gateways. The large grounds extending to Tetherdown included a lake. (fn. 36) Opposite lay Muswell Hill pond, behind which a cluster of buildings included the stone-built Green Man inn (fn. 37) and Bath House academy, which was formerly the property of the Pulteneys. It also included the Elms, a squat three-storeyed house later improved by Thomas Cubitt (d. 1855) and with 11 a., part of which was to be laid out by Sir Joseph Paxton. (fn. 38) A short distance down the north side of Muswell Hill was the Grove, of three storeys and nine bays, with pedimented projections at each end. (fn. 39) It stood in 8 a., which contained a 200-yd. avenue of oaks, and by 1774 was occupied by Topham Beauclerk (1739-80), the friend of Dr. Johnson. (fn. 40) A little farther down stood Grove Lodge, also in wooded grounds. (fn. 41) Altogether eight seats in Muswell Hill were worthy of note in 1817. (fn. 42) Parallel with Muswell Hill a track known as St. James's Lane ran across a triangle of waste. Houses were already dispersed along it and at the foot was Lalla Rookh, a two storeyed villa with wide verandah rented in 1817 by Thomas Moore, the poet. (fn. 43) Others were apparently cottages or huts, both single and in terraces. (fn. 44) The scattered village of Muswell Hill thus consisted mainly of detached villas in large gardens. (fn. 45) In 1787 it was said that nowhere within 100 miles of London was there a village so pleasant or with such varied views. (fn. 46)
Hornsey village in 1816 straggled along the later High Street and Priory Road. Building was mainly north of the road and more concentrated towards the east. West of Middle Lane there were only a few isolated houses, among them Jacob Warner's new red-brick seat of three storeys, which was considered too tall for its width. His family replaced it c. 1826 with a castellated Gothic mansion called the Priory. (fn. 47) Farther east the parish watchhouse, school, and workhouse were grouped together and immediately beyond the first bridge over the New River stood two buildings, one of them apparently the Elms, a large single-storeyed villa that existed until 1939. (fn. 48) Beyond it in 1876, halfencircled by the Moselle, was the Rectory, shortly to be rebuilt. Farther on stood Campsbourne Lodge, with ten bedrooms and landscaped gardens, including a lake. (fn. 49) Beyond stood, as they still do, Eagle Court, a large four-storeyed house with a pedimented doorcase, (fn. 50) and the adjoining Eagle Cottage, a two-storeyed house of the early 18th century. (fn. 51) Manor House, with conservatory and large grounds, (fn. 52) evidently stood farther west, near a row of weatherboarded, two-storeyed shops. Archways led to Allen's and Preston's courts, where wooden three-storeyed cottages with mansard roofs were ranged around yards. (fn. 53) The fewer houses south of the road included the Three Compasses, a red-brick Georgian inn of three storeys with bay windows and a mansard roof. (fn. 54) Grove House stood back from the street, near Middle Lane, down which lay the large house later called Frieze House. St. Mary's church stood by itself on the corner of Church Lane, with the glebe to the south. Between the church and the houses to the north the street divided either side of a strip of waste, preserved in 1816 to maintain a rural appearance. (fn. 55)
In the early 19th century buildings were scattered along the east side of Tottenham Lane from near the junction with Church Lane to near the modern Ferme Park Road, where they became continuous. Harringay or Ferme farm-house was a stone building of two storeys and three bays, to which two bays had been added at one end and sheds at the other. (fn. 56) Since 1781 or earlier large houses had stood on the sites later occupied by Lightcliffe and Alresford houses. Beyond were Linslade House and Old Crouch Hall; the second, which already existed in 1681, was of brick with a thatched roof and had two storeys and dormers, mullioned windows, and a heavy oak doorcase. Next door, across the alley to Broadway chapel, was Lake Villa, a long low building with its upper storey weatherboarded and gable-end facing the street. Only Holland House stood beyond the junction with Crouch Hill. It was a three-storeyed bow-fronted villa erected after 1781. (fn. 57) In the angle of Crouch and Crouch End hills there was a jumble of shops and cottages with an inn and smithy. The cottages known as nos. 1-14 Wright's Buildings had probably already been built on the east side of Crouch End Hill and a further nine, later nos. 20-28, on the west. (fn. 58) There were houses on the west side of Crouch End Hill, including the King's Head, which abutted on Rowledge Farm, and farther north, opposite the corner of Tottenham and Middle lanes, Crouch End academy. (fn. 59) On the corner of Middle and Tottenham lanes Topsfield Hall was erected c. 1790 and another large house in 7 a. was on the corner of Park Road and Middle Lane.
There were no houses between Crouch End and Archway Road to the west and only the huge Harringay House between Crouch End and Green Lanes. To the south Stapleton Hall stood alone at Stroud Green, near the recently inclosed common and Hornsey Wood House, and several cottages were in Wood Lane. A path led south-west to a bridge over the New River. On the opposite side, facing Blackstock Road, had stood since before 1804 the old Eel-Pie house, later Highbury SluiceHouse tavern, with riverside gardens by 1847 and the sluice-house itself immediately to the south. (fn. 60) Other than those and houses in South Hornsey detached, there was nothing south of the hog's back.
Much of the parish was empty in 1816. There was a density of 1.4 people per acre and the marked recent growth had been absorbed without difficulty by existing hamlets. The country houses were secluded in their grounds, the trees on the hills imparted a wild character, (fn. 61) and in Hornsey village the meandering New River enhanced the picturesque appearance fostered by the inhabitants. Rustic scenes were celebrated in art (fn. 62) and in verse. (fn. 63) Muswell Hill, too, was noted for its views (fn. 64) and the setting of Lalla Rookh was thought beautiful. In the east Harringay House, on a knoll in a curve of the New River, stood in a timbered park (fn. 65) and the enlarged Hornsey Wood House, where country pastimes were enjoyed, was apostrophized by poets. (fn. 66) Hill and woods separated the hamlets and even after the inclosure of the commons there remained 394 a. of wood, which was only halved over the ensuing century. Observers continued to stress the rural character of the parish: Hornsey itself was seen as a country village in 1876, (fn. 67) although by 1841 it had changed so much since 1802 that it might be considered almost part of London. (fn. 68) In 1848 it could be described as a metropolitan district, (fn. 69) although both in 1855 and 1889 it was excluded from the area of metropolitan government.
In 1821 there were 1,810 people living in 283 houses in Hornsey Side. By 1851 there were 3,925 in 661 houses, of whom 1,036 in 180 houses lived in South Hornsey detached. (fn. 70) Hitherto a relatively unimportant part of the parish, it was the closest to London and the first to be built up: building begun c. 1838 accelerated in the 1840s. (fn. 71) In the rest of the parish population was already growing in 1816 but may have been restrained by shortage of housing plots, a need satisfied at least in part by allotments inclosed from the commons. (fn. 72) James Wright the elder (d. 1828), carpenter of Crouch End, built the 'Victoria' and three cottages in Park Road on allotments at Muswell Hill by 1817, (fn. 73) and other houses were erected in Muswell Hill Road in 1818 (fn. 74) and at Crouch End by 1820. (fn. 75) Most of the newcomers were probably poor, like those who arrived in large numbers between 1821 and 1831, (fn. 76) but there were also many new villas. In spite of the Brownswood Estate Acts of 1821 and 1826, which provided for building leases of the demesne, (fn. 77) Stroud Green remained empty. Only c. 1850 did speculative builders begin operations at Crouch End.
Fortis Green was still almost empty in 1816 but in 1851 there were 61 houses, (fn. 78) most of them on former wasteland between the road and Coldfall wood. The inhabitants were mainly labourers, who presumably erected the quaint wooden cottages. (fn. 79) Among large houses were the residence of the Haygarth family and the villa built for Benjamin Watson Jackson by Salvin, which was approached by an avenue of sycamores from Finchley High Road. Each had a park stretching to Highgate wood. (fn. 80) By 1851 there were 58 houses in St. James's Lane, many of them poor and 16 forming alleys at the foot of the hill. (fn. 81) Among the few large houses in Colney Hatch Lane the most substantial were North Lodge and Essex Lodge. Essex Lodge, built for a farmer, was a stuccoed detached villa on two floors with a pilastered porch. (fn. 82) Altogether 795 people lived north of St. James's Lane in 165 separate dwellings; (fn. 83) they were served by St. James's church, which stood by itself at the top of St. James's Lane, equidistant from the several settlements in the chapelry. In 1848 Muswell Hill was a place of elegant villas to which the wealthy retired, as in Thackeray's Vanity Fair. (fn. 84)
Just outside the St. James's district, cut off from it by woodland and from Highgate by Archway Road, part of what had been Southwood common had been laid out as Wood Lane. On either side small two-storeyed detached villas were constructed and near the eastern end the Priory was built c. 1848 for Dr. Henry Willmer. (fn. 85)
Hornsey had appeared ready for expansion in 1810, when a landowner had laid out roads on his estate between Middle Lane, Park Road, and High Street before offering it for sale. (fn. 86) Nothing had happened then and even in 1851 the most ambitious project consisted of the Nightingale tavern and 14 wooden cottages in Nightingale Place north of High Street. (fn. 87) The workhouse had been demolished, the Priory and Rectory rebuilt, and Manor Place, a three-storeyed terrace of eight weatherboard cottages with mansard roofs, stood west of Tottenham Lane; (fn. 88) there were probably other cottages. At Crouch End itself there were several new villas, among them Oakfield Villa in Crouch End Hill, a small two-storeyed house with a verandah at the rear, (fn. 89) the larger Oakfield House in Crouch Hill, (fn. 90) and Crouch Hall. The house in the angle of Middle Lane and Park Road was demolished between 1850 and 1854, when the 3-a. site was laid out as New Road and the narrow Back Lane, with 78 cottages, by Joshua Alexander and William Bradshaw. In 1847 they had acquired two smaller plots in Park Road, on which they had built the Maynard Arms by 1851 and 8 cottages by 1854. (fn. 91) James Wright the elder had erected 10 cottages on two plots, partly by building leases, between 1818 and 1829 (fn. 92) and his son James (d. 1870) had erected 2 more by 1844. (fn. 93) The 12 cottages of Maynard Place, later Park Villas, were being built from 1846 under leases of Amelia Wright, widow. (fn. 94) There were also several smaller groups of cottages in 1851, when 41 houses stood in Park Road and another 45 were under construction: (fn. 95) there had been none in 1816. Even excluding Park Road, 1,048 people inhabited 167 houses in Tottenham Lane, Crouch End, and the area south and east of them. (fn. 96)
There were 160 communicants in Hornsey in 1547, (fn. 97) 119 adult males took the protestation oath in 1641, (fn. 98) and in 1801 there were 2,716 inhabitants. The population thereafter rose by nearly a quarter in each decade to 1851, when it numbered 7,135. (fn. 99)