Old and New London: Volume 5. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. Public Domain.


Edward Walford, 'Hornsey', Old and New London: Volume 5, (London, 1878), pp. 428-437. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol5/pp428-437 [accessed 22 June 2024].

Edward Walford. "Hornsey", in Old and New London: Volume 5, (London, 1878) 428-437. British History Online, accessed June 22, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol5/pp428-437.

Walford, Edward. "Hornsey", Old and New London: Volume 5, (London, 1878). 428-437. British History Online. Web. 22 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol5/pp428-437.

In this section



"To vie with all the beaux and belles, Away they whip to Hornsey Wells." Spirit of the Public Journals, 1814.

Etymology of Hornsey—Its Situation and Gradual Growth—The Manor of Hornsey—Lodge Hill—The Bishops' Park—Historical Memorabilia—The New River—Hornsey Wood and "Hornsey Wood House"—An Incident in the Life of Crabbe—Finsbury Park—Appearance of this District at the Commencement of the Present Century—Mount Pleasant—Hornsey Church—The Grave of Samuel Rogers, Author of "The Pleasures of Memory"—A Nervous Man—Lalla Rookh Cottage—Thomas Moore—Muswell Hill—The Alexandra Palace and Park—Neighbourhood of Muswell Hill, as seen from its Summit—Noted Residents at Hornsey—Crouch End.

As we have in the preceding chapters been dealing with Highgate—which, by the way, was originally but a hamlet situated within the limits of Hornsey—it is but natural that we should here say something of the mother parish. This once rural, but now suburban village, then, lies about two miles to the north-east from the top of Highgate Hill, whence it is approached either by Hornsey Lane or by Southwood Lane.

The etymology of this locality must be sought for in its more ancient appellation. From the thirteenth to the sixteenth century public records call it "Haringea," "Haringhea," or "Haringey." About Queen Elizabeth's time it was usually called "Harnsey," or, as some will have it, says Norden, "Hornsey." Lysons, indulging in a little pleasantry, observes that "if anything is to be gathered relating to its etymology, it must be sought for in its more ancient appellation, Har-ringe, the meadow of hares." In "Crosby's Gazetteer," 1816, Hornsey is described as "a pleasant village situated in a low valley five miles from London, through which the New River flows. This place is a favourite resort of the good citizens of London." Hornsey and London since that time have approached much nearer to each other, and it appears probable that before long it will form a portion of the metropolis. The opening of the Alexandra Park doubtless tended strongly to stretch London considerably in the direction of Hornsey. The citizens of London, instead of making it a place of occasional resort, have made it a place of residence. Crosby continues:—"In its vicinity is a small coppice, known by the name of Hornsey Wood. The Hornsey Wood House is a famous house of entertainment." Both the Wood and the "Wood House" have been swept away, and the sites have been taken into Finsbury Park. In 1818, as we learn from advertisements of the time, "coaches go daily from the 'White Bear,' Aldersgate Street, at eleven in the morning; in the afternoon at seven, in the winter, and at four and eight in the summer." Such, however, have been the changes brought about by the whirligig of time, that now, during the day, there are railway trains to and from London and various parts of Hornsey to the number of upwards of fifty each way.

The Manor of Hornsey has belonged to the Bishops of London from a time antecedent to the Norman Conquest; and in the centuries immediately following that event, those prelates had a residence here long before they owned a palace on the banks of the Thames at Fulham. Mr. Prickett has shown pretty conclusively, in his "History of Highgate," that the site of this residence is to be looked for in the centre of Hornsey Great Park, about half a mile to the north-west of the "High Gate."

Norden, in his "Speculum Britanniæ," thus describes it:—"There is a hill or fort in Hornsey Park, called Lodge Hill, for that thereon stood some time a lodge, when the park was replenished with deer; but it seemeth by the foundation that it was rather a castle than a 'lodge;' for the hill is trenched with two deep ditches, now old and overgrown with bushes; the rubble thereof, as brick, tile, and Cornish slate, are in heaps yet to be seen; the which ruins are of great antiquity, as may appear by the oaks at this day standing, above a hundred years' growth, upon the very foundations of the building." Lysons, writing at the close of the last century, says that "the greater part of it is now covered with a copse, but the remains of a moat or ditch are still to be seen in an adjoining field." Lysons adds a remark to the effect that "Bishop Aylmer's house at Hornsey, the burning of which put him to 200 marks expense, must have been upon another site." When the bishop's lands were sold, the Manor of Hornsey passed into the hands of Sir John Wollaston, of whom we have spoken in the previous chapter; he held it till his death, in 1658, after which his widow enjoyed it till the Restoration. Mr. Prickett adds, that in his time (1842) the form of the moat which surrounded it was still visible, and that it covered seventy yards square. He writes, "The site of the castle is still uneven, and bears the traces of former foundation; it is somewhat higher than the ground outside the trenches. The portion of the moat which still remains consists of a spring constantly running, and is now used as a watering-place for cattle."

It is almost needless to say here that the park of the Bishops of London must have been originally a portion of the great forest of Middlesex, which we have mentioned in our account of Primrose Hill (page 287). It occupied a somewhat irregular triangle, the base of which would extend from Highgate to Hampstead, while its apex reached nearly to Finchley northwards. In fact, a great portion of it still remains as forest-land, though regarded as a part of Caen Wood.

Hornsey Park is not altogether without its scraps of history, for it is said to have been the place where, in the year 1386, the Duke of Gloucester, the Earls of Arundel, Warwick, and other noblemen, assembled in a hostile manner, and marched thence to London to oppose Richard II., and to compel him to dismiss his two favourite ministers—the Earl of Suffolk and Robert Duke of Ireland—from his councils.

As we learn from Stow's "Annals," the Lodge in Hornsey Park, then the residence of the Duke of Gloucester, was, in the reign of Henry VI., the scene of the reputed witchcraft in which Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester was concerned; for here the learned Robert Bolingbroke, an astrologer, and Thomas Southwell, a canon of St. Stephen's, are alleged to have "endeavoured to consume the king's person by necromantic art," Southwell having said masses over the instruments which were to be used for that purpose. Bolingbroke was executed as a traitor at Tyburn; Southwell died in the Tower; whilst the Duchess had to do penance in the public streets, an incident which Shakespeare has rendered familiar to his readers in the second part of the play of Henry VI.

Once more, when the ill-fated and short-lived Edward V. was brought to London, after his father's death, under the escort of his uncle, Richard of Gloucester, he was here met by the Lord Mayor and 500 citizens of London. Hall, in his "Chronicles," quaintly tells us that, "When the kynge approached neere the cytee, Edmonde Shawe, goldsmythe, then Mayre of the cytie, with the Aldermenne and shreves [sheriffs] in skarlet, and five hundreth commoners in murraye, receyved his grace reverently at Harnesay Parke, and so conveighed him to the cytie, where he entered the fourth day of May, in the fyrst and last yere of his reigne."

Henry VII., on his return from a victory in Scotland, was likewise here met by the Lord Mayor and citizens of London, and conducted on his progress to the City in like manner.

Miss Jane Porter states, in her "Scottish Chiefs," that "the remains of Wallace were secretly removed and deposited temporarily in the chapel of Hornsey Lodge; and that Robert Bruce was concealed at Lodge Hill, in the garb of a Carmelite, when Gloucester sent him a pair of spurs, as an intimation that he must depart with all speed;" but it should be added that neither Lysons nor Prickett, in their histories of the place, mention these facts, so that possibly they are somewhat apocryphal.

Few villages near London have retained so rural a character down to quite recent times as that of Hornsey; this may perhaps be accounted for by the fact that both the high north road and the thoroughfare leading to Cambridge leave the place untouched. "The surrounding country," writes the author of the "Beauties of England and Wales," "is rendered attractive by soft ranges of hills; and the New River, which winds in a tortuous progress through the parish, is at many points a desirable auxiliary of the picturesque." Hone, in the second volume of his "Every-day Book," gives an engraving of "The New River at Hornsey," the spot represented being the garden of the "Three Compasses" inn. "But," says Mr. Thorne, in his "Environs of London," "the New River would now be sought for there in vain; its course was diverted, and this portion filled up with the vestigia of a London cemetery."

"About a mile nearer to London than Hornsey," observes the Ambulator, in 1774, "is a coppice of young trees called Hornsey Wood, at the entrance of which is a public-house, to which great numbers of persons resort from the City."

"Hornsey Wood House," for such was the name of this place of entertainment, stood on the summit of some rising ground on the eastern side of the parish. It was originally a small roadside public-house, with two or three wide-spreading oaks before it, beneath the shade of which the weary wayfarer could rest and refresh himself. The wood itself, immediately contiguous to the house, for some time shared with Chalk Farm the honour of affording a theatre for cockney duellists. The building was just beyond the "Sluice House," so celebrated for its eel-pies in the last generation. Anglers and other visitors could pass to it through an upland meadow along a straight gravelwalk anglewise. It was a good, plain, brown-brick, respectable, modern, London-looking building. Within the entrance, to the left, was a light and spacious room of ample accommodation and dimensions, of which more care seems to have been taken than of its fine leather folding screen in ruins, which Mr. Hone, in his "Every-day Book," speaks of as "an unseemly sight for him who respects old requisites for their former beauty and convenience." "It still bears," he further tells us, "some remains of a spirited painting spread all over its leaves, to represent the amusements and humours of a fair in the low countries. At the top of a pole, which may have been the village May-pole, is a monkey with a cat on his back; then there is a sturdy bear-ward in scarlet, with a wooden leg, exhibiting Mr. Bruin; an old woman telling fortunes to the rustics; a showman's drummer on the stage before a booth beating up for spectators to the performance within, which the show-cloth represents to be a dancer on the tight-rope; a well-set-out stall of toys, with a woman displaying their attractions; besides other really interesting 'bits' of a crowded scene, depicted by no mean hand, especially a group coming from a church in the distance, apparently a wedding procession, the females well looking and well dressed, wearing ribbons and scarfs below their waists in festoons. The destruction of this really interesting screen, by worse than careless keeping, is much to be lamented. This ruin of art is within a ruin of nature. 'Hornsey Tavern' and its grounds have displaced a romantic portion of the wood, the remains of which, however, skirt a large and pleasant piece of water formed at considerable expense. To this water, which is well stored with fish, anglers resort with better prospects of success than to the New River; the walk round it, and the prospect from its banks, are very agreeable."

With advancing years, the old tavern became more and more frequented, and in the end it was altered and enlarged, the grounds laid out as teagardens, and the large lake formed, which was much frequented by cockney anglers. For some time previous to the demolition of the house, in 1866, the grounds were used for pigeon-shooting by a gun-club section of the "upper ten thousand;" but it was soon superseded as such by the attractions of the "Welsh Harp" and of "Hurlingham." Hone, in the first volume of his "Every-day Book" (1826), speaks thus of the old house and its successor:—"The old 'Hornsey Wood House' well became its situation; it was embowered, and seemed a part of the wood. Two sisters, a Mrs. Lloyd and a Mrs. Collier, kept the house; they were ancient women, large in size, and usually sat before their door on a seat fixed between two venerable oaks, wherein swarms of bees hived themselves. Here the venerable and cheerful dames tasted many a refreshing cup with their good-natured customers, and told tales of bygone days, till, in very old age, one of them passed to her grave, and the other followed in a few months afterwards. Each died regretted by the frequenters of the rural dwelling, which was soon afterwards pulled down, and the oaks felled, to make room for the present roomy and more fashionable building. To those who were acquainted with it in its former rusticity, when it was an unassuming 'calm retreat,' it is, indeed, an altered spot. To produce the alteration, a sum of £10,000 was expended by the present proprietor; and 'Hornsey Wood Tavern' is now a well-frequented house. The pleasantness of its situation is a great attraction in fine weather." The lake was used not merely for fishing, but also for boating, which was largely indulged in during the summer months. Indeed, the attractions of the place seem to have been so great as to inspire the mind of the prosaic antiquary, Mr. Hone, who commemorates it in the following sentimental lines:—
"A house of entertainment—in a place
So rural, that it almost doth deface
The lovely scene; for like a beauty-spot
Upon a charming cheek that needs it not,
So 'Hornsey Tavern' seems to me. And yet,
Though nature be forgotten, to forget
The artificial wants of the forgetters
Is setting up oneself to be their betters.
This is unwise; for they are passing wise
Who have no eyes for scenery, and despise
Persons like me, who sometimes have sensations
Through too much sight, and fall in contemplations,
Which, as cold waters cramp and drown a swimmer,
Chill and o'erwhelm me. Pleasant is that glimmer
Whereby trees seem but wood. The men who know
No qualities but forms and axes, go
Through life for happy people. They are so."

We are told in the "Life of Crabbe," by his son, that Hornsey Wood was one of the favourite haunts of the poet when he first came to London, and that he would often spend whole afternoons here in searching for plants and insects. "On one occasion," writes his son, "he had walked further than usual into the country, and felt himself too much exhausted to return to town. He could not afford to give himself any refreshment at a publichouse, and much less to pay for a lodging; so he sheltered himself upon a hay-mow, beguiled the evening with Tibullus, and when he could read no longer, slept there till the morning."

Hornsey Wood House was pulled down in 1866, at which time the tea-gardens and grounds became absorbed in the so-called Finsbury Park, a large triangular space, some 120 acres in extent, laid out with ornamental walks and flower-gardens. It was opened by Sir John Thwaites, under the auspices of the Metropolitan Board of Works, in 1869, as a public recreation-ground and promenade for the working classes. Why the place is called "Finsbury" Park it would be difficult for us to say, seeing that it lies some miles away from Finsbury, the districts of Holloway, Islington, and Hoxton intervening, and that the site has always been known as Hornsey Wood. It ought to be styled, in common honesty, Hornsey Park.

The Illustrated London News, in noticing the opening of the park in 1869, says:—"The Act sanctioning the formation of this park was passed so far back as 1857. The site is what was formerly known as Hornsey Wood, which is associated with many interesting events in the history of North London. It commands a view of Wood Green, Highgate, the Green Lanes, and other suburban retreats. The ground has a gentle southern slope, from Highgate on the west and towards Stoke Newington on the east; and is skirted on the south by the Seven Sisters Road and on the east by the Green Lanes. The Great Northern Railway bounds it by a cutting and embankment on the western side, and latterly the London, Edgware, and Highgate Railway has been made with a station adjoining the park. There are several pleasant walks and drives, and in the centre of the park a trench has been cut, into which water will be brought from the New River, and in this way a pretty artificial lake will be added to the other attractions. The cost of the freehold land was about £472 per acre. The funds were principally raised by a loan, in 1864, of £50,000, at 4½ per cent., for thirty years, and £43,000 borrowed on debenture in 1868."

The lake above mentioned is an oblong piece of water surrounded by pleasant walks, and in parts shaded by trees, and in it are one or two islands well covered with young trees, which give to the lake somewhat the appearance of the "ornamental waters" in St. James's Park, a similitude borne out by the number of ducks and other water-fowl disporting themselves on its surface.

The Seven Sisters Road, skirting the south side of Finsbury Park, was constructed in 1832, prior to which time there was no thoroughfare through Holloway and Hornsey to Tottenham.

In a map of the suburbs of London in 1823, "Duval's Lane" is shown as running from Lower Holloway towards Crouch End, with scarcely a house on either side. A small and crooked road, marked Hem Lane, with "Duval's House" at the corner, leads also through fields towards "Hornsey Wood House," and so into the Green Lanes—all being open country. The now populous district of Crouch End appears here as a small group of private residences. Between the "Wood House" and Crouch End is Stroud Green, around which are five or six rustic cottages. On the other side of the "Wood House" is the "Sluice House," where privileged persons and customers of "mine host" went to fish in the New River and to sup upon eels, for which that place was famous, as stated above. Upper Holloway itself figures in this map as a very small collection of houses belonging apparently to private residents.

A pretty walk from Finsbury Park to Hornsey Church in fine dry weather is by the pathway running in a northerly direction over Mount Pleasant, a somewhat steep hill, from which some pleasant views are to be obtained of the surrounding country, embracing Highgate, the Alexandra Palace, Epping Forest, Tottenham Church, and the valley of the river Lea. The summit of Mount Pleasant is upwards of 200 feet above the level of the river; and its eastern end, from its peculiar shape, has been called the Northern Hog's Back.


The parish church of Hornsey lies, at some little distance from the village, in a valley near the Hornsey Station on the Great Northern Railway, and its tower forms a conspicuous object in the view from the neighbouring uplands. With the exception of the tower, the present fabric is comparatively modern, dating only from about the year 1833; it is built of brick, and is of Gothic architecture. Its predecessor, which was pulled down in 1832, is stated by Norden and Camden to have been built with stones taken from the ruins of the palace of the Bishops of London, about the year 1500. The Ambulator, in 1774, describes the church as "a poor, irregular building, said to have been built out of the ruins of an ancient castle." The tower, which is now profusely covered with ivy, is built of a reddish sandstone, and is embattled, with a newel turret rising above the northwest corner. On the western face of the tower are sculptured two winged angels, bearing the arms of Savage and Warham, successively Bishops of London, the former of whom came to the see in 1497. It is probable that both of these prelates were contributors to the fabric. Some of the windows of the present church are filled with stained glass, and among the monuments are a few preserved from the older building. Among these is a large mural slab, on which are engraved the kneeling figures of a man, two females, and a boy; the dress appears to be of the latter part of the sixteenth century, and the monument was erected to the memory of George Rey, of Highgate. A Corinthian column, surmounted with armorial bearings, commemorates Dr. Lewis Atterbury (brother of the celebrated bishop), some time rector of the parish, who died in 1731. This monument was brought hither on the demolition of the old chapel at Highgate, where, as we have stated in a previous chapter, Dr. Atterbury was for many years preacher. Samuel Buckley, the editor of Thuanus, who died in 1741, is commemorated by a monument; as also is "Master Richard Candish [Cavendish], of Suffolk, Esq." An inscription in verse upon the latter monument informs us that "this memorial was promised and made by Margaret, Countess of Cōberland, 1601."


The churchyard is sheltered by rows of tall elms, which impart to it an air of retirement and seclusion. Here, amongst other tombs, on the northern side of the church, is that of the poet Rogers, of whom we have spoken in our account of St. James's Place. (fn. 1) It is an altar-tomb, resting on a high base, and surrounded by an iron railing. The following are the inscriptions on the face of the tomb:—"In this vault lie the remains of Henry Rogers, Esq., of Highbury Terrace; died December 25, 1832, aged 58. Also of Sarah Rogers, of the Regent's Park, sister of the above; died January 29, 1855, aged 82. Also of Samuel Rogers, author of the 'Pleasures of Memory,' brother of the above-named Henry and Sarah Rogers; born at Newington Green, July 30, 1763, died at St. James's Place, Westminster, December 18, 1855." Near the south-east corner of the churchyard an upright stone marks the grave of Anne Jane Barbara, the youngest daughter of Thomas Moore, the poet.

Amongst the rectors of Hornsey there have been a few who have become known beyond the circle of the parish. Of these we may mention Thomas Westfield, who resigned the living in 1637, afterwards Bishop of Bristol, and who is described as "the most nervous of men." His biographer says that "he never, though almost fifty years a preacher, went up into the pulpit but he trembled; and never preached before the king but once, and then he fainted." "Yet he was held in such esteem by all parties," writes Mr. Howitt in his "Northern Heights of London," "that on May 13, 1643, the committee for sequestrating the estates of delinquents, being informed that his tenants refused to pay his rents as Bishop of Bristol, speedily compelled them, and granted him a safe conduct for his journey to Bristol with his family, being a man of great learning and merit, and advanced in years. His successor at Hornsey, Thomas Lant, did not meet with quite such agreeable treatment. He was turned out of his living and house with great cruelty by the Puritans, who would not allow him even to procure a place of retirement. Samuel Bendy, rector in 1659, petitioned the committee, setting forth that his income was only £92, out of which he had to pay £16 to the wife and children of the late incumbent. The committee made him recompense." The Rev. William Cole, the Cambridge antiquary, and the friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole, held the rectory for about a year in the middle of the last century.

At the end of the lane running west from the church, and at the foot of Muswell Hill, is Lalla Rookh Cottage, where Moore was residing in 1817 when he wrote, or, at all events, when he published, the poem bearing the title of "Lalla Rookh," for which, as we learn from his "Life," he received £3,000 from Messrs. Longmans, the publishers. In this house his youngest daughter died, as above stated.

A native of Dublin and a son of Roman Catholic parents, Moore came over to England when still young to push his fortunes in the world of literature, and became the poet laureate of Holland House and of the Whig party. During his latter years he occupied Sloperton Cottage, a small house adjoining Lord Lansdowne's park at Bowood, near Calne, in Wiltshire, where he died in 1852, at the age of seventy-three. Lord Russell claims for Moore the first place among our lyric poets, but few will be willing to allow his superiority to Robert Burns, though he was certainly the English Beranger. He was probably the best hand at improvised songwriting on the common topics of every-day life, but he had no real depth of feeling. A refined, voluptuous, and natural character, equally frank and gay, he passed, after all, a somewhat butterfly existence, and has left behind him but little that will last except his "Irish Melodies."

Continuing along the pleasant lane westward from Lalla Rookh Cottage, we come to Muswell Hill, a place which has now become familiar to Londoners—and, probably, to the majority of readers—from the fact that its summit and sides are for the most part occupied by the Alexandra Palace and Park, which covers altogether an area of about five hundred acres. Before venturing to give a description of this place of amusement, or a narrative of its unfortunate career, we may be pardoned for saying a few words about the hill whereon it is situated.

Muswell Hill, then, we may observe, derives its name from a famous well on the top of the hill, where formerly the fraternity of St. John of Jerusalem, in Clerkenwell, had their dairy, with a large farm adjacent. Here they built a chapel for the benefit of some nuns, in which they fixed the image of Our Lady of Muswell. These nuns had the sole management of the dairy; and it is singular that the said well and farm do, at this time, belong to the parish of St. James, Clerkenwell. The water of this spring was then deemed a miraculous cure for scrofulous and cutaneous disorders; and, as tradition says, a king of Scotland—whose name, by the way, does not transpire—being afflicted with a painful malady, made a pilgrimage hither, and was perfectly cured. At any rate, the spring was much resorted to, and became an object of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages; indeed, for some considerable time there was a great throng of pilgrims to the shrine of Our Lady, who came laden with their offerings and buoyed up with their hopes from all parts of the country.

Lysons, writing in 1795, remarks that "the well still remains; but," he somewhat naïvely adds, "it is not famed, as I find, for any extraordinary virtues." Muswell farmhouse, with the site of the chapel, together with the manor of Muswell, was alienated in 1546 by William Cowper to William Goldynge, and, after a few other changes of ownership, passed into the hands of the Rowes, in whose possession it continued at the end of the seventeenth century. It soon afterwards came into the family of Pulteney; and, according to Lysons, on the death of Lady Bath, devolved, under Sir William Pulteney's will, on the Earl of Darlington. Muswell Hill, it may be added, was in former times called also Pinsenhall Hill.

Shortly after the close of the second International Exhibition (that of 1862) at South Kensington, it was resolved to erect on this spot a place of popular entertainment for the working classes of northern London, which should rival the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. To the great mass of people in the north of London the Crystal Palace, except on great occasions and great attractions, is so distant as to be almost inaccessible; and it is reported, as was proved by railway returns, it is mainly the south London population which keeps up the great building "over the water." There seemed no valid reason, therefore, why the north of London, with at least three times the number of inhabitants, should not be able to support a Crystal Palace of its own. It was considered, moreover, that the Alexandra Palace—for such the building was to be named, in honour of the Princess Alexandra—would not be dependent on support from local influences. The rare beauty of its site, which probably has not its equal anywhere round London, together with the special attractions in the building, would be sure to make it a universal favourite with both the north and south of the metropolis.

With regard to the palace itself, it was decided to purchase some portion of the materials of the International Exhibition, and with them to erect the building on the summit of Muswell Hill, in the same manner as the originators of its prototype at Sydenham had purchased for that purpose the materials of the Great Exhibition of 1851. The new palace, therefore, was almost entirely built out of the materials of the Great Exhibition of 1862, but totally altered and improved in their re-construction. It had only one of the noble domes in the centre transept, with two less lofty octagon towers at either end. It had one main nave, exclusive of the entrances, about 900 feet long, and three cross transepts of about 400 feet each. The building was beautifully decorated in the Renaissance style; and round the eight columns which supported the great central dome were ranged groups of statuary surrounded by flowers. Behind this ornamental walk were placed the cases for the exhibitors, mixed, as in the nave itself, with flowers and statuary. Then there were a variety of courts—such as the glass court, china court, furniture court, courts for French goods, courts for American, Indian, Italian—in short, all the courts which we are accustomed to find in a regular exhibition. At the north end of the centre transept was built a splendid organ by Willis, decorated in a style to be in harmony with its surroundings, and in front of this was the orchestra. A large concert-room was in another part of the building. Then there was a theatre capable of holding 2,000 spectators, and having a stage as large as that of Drury Lane Theatre.

During the progress of the building, sundry stoppages and hindrances arose from various causes; and in the grounds great difficulty was at times experienced through the subsidence of the soil; indeed, to use the words of one of the contractor's foremen, the hills round Muswell had during one winter "been slipping about like anything." Strange as such a statement may seem, it is literally true. The hills, it is asserted, had been moving in all sorts of directions. They are mostly of gravel, but resting, at about twenty feet deep, on a two-feet seam of soapy clay, which, when the superincumbent mass was thoroughly penetrated by the constant rain, allowed it to slip. Fortunately, the Alexandra Palace was so deeply moored in its foundations that it never shifted or showed the slightest signs of any subsidence or yielding in any direction; yet a very formidable landslip took place close by it, and in one night between three and four acres slipped quietly down a few feet. Another hill came forward as much as three inches in a single night, but beyond this landslip none of the hills round the palace have moved to any material extent, except where the viaduct for the railway crosses over a small valley just before arriving at the palace.

After a delay of some six or seven years beyond the first appointed time, the palace and grounds being all but completed, the place was opened to the public on the 24th of May, 1873. The proceedings, though not graced by the presence of royalty, were as successful an inauguration of a national institution as could possibly have been expected. The opening was inaugurated by a grand concert, presided over by Sir Michael Costa, in which some of the leading singers of the day took part. But, alas! about mid-day on the 9th of June the whole building fell a prey to the flames, and all that was left was a melancholy and gutted ruin. The fire originated at the base of the great dome, where some workmen had been employed in "repairing the roof," and had, possibly, let some lighted tobacco fall into a crevice. During the brief period the palace was open (fourteen days only) it was visited by as many as 124,124 persons, and its success was no longer doubtful. Thus encouraged, the directors resolved at once to rebuild the palace, and in its re-construction they availed themselves of the experience so dearly purchased, particularly with reference to arrangements for protection from fire.

The new building, which was opened on the 1st of May, 1875, occupies an area of about seven acres, and is constructed in the most substantial manner. It contains the grand hall, capable of seating 12,000 visitors and an orchestra of 2,000; the Italian garden, a spacious court in which are asphalte paths, flower-beds, and a fine fountain; also the concert-room, which has been erected on the best known acoustic principles, and will seat 3,500 visitors. The conservatory is surmounted by a glass dome, and in close proximity are two spacious halls for the exhibition of works of art; also the corridor for displaying ornamental works. The reading-room is a very comfortable apartment, and near thereto are the modern Moorish house and an Egyptian villa. The theatre is of the most perfect kind, and will seat more than 3,000 persons. The exhibition department is divided into two parts, the space occupied being 204 feet by 106 feet. The bazaar department is 213 feet by 140 feet. The frontage of the stalls is upwards of 3,000 feet, and they are so arranged as to give the greatest facility of access to visitors and purchasers. The picture-galleries are on the northern side of the building, and comprise six fine, large, well-lighted rooms. The refreshment department is of the most complete and extensive character, including spacious grill and coffee rooms, two banqueting rooms, drawing, billiard, and smoke rooms, and private rooms for large or small parties, and the grand dining saloon, which will accommodate as many as 1,000 persons at table. For the efficient supply of this vast establishment, the plan of the basement is considered to be the most perfect as well as the most extensive of its kind ever yet seen. Also, within the building, are numerous private offices for manager and clerks, and a spacious board-room.

The park is richly timbered, and of a pleasingly undulated surface, intersected by broad carriage drives, and there are several ornamental lakes of great beauty in connection with the surrounding scenery; a number of Swiss chalets and other rustic buildings, also horticultural gardens, with extensive ranges of glass houses. At the foot of the hill on which the palace stands there is a racecourse upwards of a mile in length, and the grand stand is one of the handsomest and most substantial buildings of its kind in this country. There is also a trotting ring on the American principle, and, in connection therewith, an extensive range of stabling for several hundred horses, thus rendering the property well adapted for horse and agricultural shows; and a grand stand and paddock. The cricket-ground is ten acres in extent, with two pavilions, and every convenience for cricketers. There is also a Japanese village, comprising a temple, a residence, and a bazaar. In the bazaar articles of Japanese work were offered for sale. A circus for equestrian performances was likewise erected in the grounds, together with a spacious banqueting hall, an open-air swimmingbath, and other novel features. Besides all these attractions, there is a charming and secluded nook in the grounds, called the Grove, bordering on the Highgate Road. In a house here, Thrale, the brewer, is reported to have lived, and to have had among his guests the great lexicographer of the Georgian era, as is testified to this day by a pathway shaded by trees, called Dr. Johnson's Walk. The Grove has been described by an able writer as "a wild natural garden, clothed with the utmost beauty to which the luxuriance of our northern vegetation can attain. On one side a low, thick hedge of holly, pillared by noble oaks, flanks a great terrace-walk, commanding a noble view over a slope which descends rapidly from the prickly barrier. Very few such oaks are to be found within this island: lofty, sturdy, and wellgrown trees, not marked by the hollow boles and distorted limbs of extreme old age, but in the very prime of vegetable manhood. Turning at right angles, at the end of this semi-avenue, the walk skirts a rapid descent, clothed with turf of that silky fineness which denotes long and careful garden culture, and set with a labyrinth of trees, each one of which is a study in itself. A noble cedar of Lebanon rises in a group of spires like a foreshortened Gothic cathedral. A holly, which, from its perfect and unusual symmetry, deceives the eye as to size, and looks like a sapling close at hand, has a bole of some fifteen feet girth, rising for twenty-four feet before it breaks into branches. Towering Scotch firs look down from a yet loftier height. Farther on, the walk is bordered by laurel hedges, and overlooks a wide sweep of country, undulated, wooded, and studded by many a spiry steeple to the north; and here we meet with an elm, standing alone on the turf, as perfect in its giant symmetry as the holly we have just admired. Then, perhaps, the monarch of all, we come upon a gigantic chestnut, which seems as if, like the trees once in the Garden of Eden, no touch of iron had ever fallen upon its limbs. Its twining and bowing branches droop to the very ground and rise again; resting, not rooting, to emulate the vegetable peristyle of the banyan." This pleasant, shady avenue is just within, or on the borders of, the Alexandra Park.

The view from the top of the hill on which the palace stands is, perhaps, unrivalled for beauty within many miles of London. At our feet, looking northwards, is Southgate, of which Leigh Hunt wrote that it was a pleasure to be born in so sweet a village, cradled, not only in the lap of Nature, which he loved, but in the midst of the truly English scenery which he loved beyond all other. "Middlesex is," he adds, "a scene of greenery and nestling villages, and Southgate is a prime specimen of Middlesex. It is a place lying out of the way of innovation, and therefore it has the pure sweet air of antiquity about it." And the remark is true, with a few exceptions, of all the towns and villages of this district. Look along the line of railway that branches off at Wood Green, and you will see the Enfield where Keats grew to be a poet, and where Charles Lamb died. Look a little to the left, and there is Colney Hatch Asylum, with its two thousand inmates. A little farther on lies Hadley Wood, a lovely spot for a picnic; and there rises the grey tower of Barnet Church, reminding you of the battle of Barnet, fought but a little farther on. A little on our left is Finchley Common, where they still show us Grimaldi's Cottage and Dick Turpin's Oak. If we look over Wood Green, now a town, but a short time back a wild common, we see in the far distance Tottenham and Edmonton, and what remains of Epping Forest. Hornsey, with its ivy tower, is just beneath; to our right is Highgate; and a little farther on is Hampstead Heath.

Johnson's friend, Topham Beauclerc, it may be added, lived for some time on Muswell Hill; and Sir Robert Walpole, it is asserted, also resided at one time in this locality. Boswell is silent as to the connection of the former with this place, and for the residence of Sir Robert Walpole here we have only a local tradition.

Among its inhabitants during the last century was Lawrence, the "mad" Earl Ferrers, who lodged here for some months previous to committing the murder of his steward, for which he was executed at Tyburn. (fn. 2) His conduct even whilst here was most eccentric, and such as might fairly have consigned him to a lunatic asylum. He mixed with the lowest company, would drink coffee out of the spout of a kettle, mix his porter with mud, and shave one side of his face. He threatened more than once to "do for" his landlady, and on another occasion he violently broke open on a Sunday the stable where his horse was locked up, knocking down with his fist the ostler's wife when she asked him to wait a few minutes while her husband brought the key.

Another resident at Hornsey in former times was the learned John Lightfoot, the commentator, who selected this spot in order that he might have access to the library at Sion College. Lightfoot, who was born at the beginning of the seventeenth century, is stated to have published his first work, entitled "Erubhim; or, Miscellanies Christian and Judaical," in 1629, the next year after settling at Hornsey. He was a strong promoter of the Polyglott Bible, and at the Restoration was appointed one of the assistants at the Savoy Conference. In 1675 he became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

Crouch End, which lies to the south-west of the village, is connected with the Highgate Archway Road by the sloping lands of Hornsey Rise. Stroud Green, of which we have spoken in our account of the manor of Highbury, (fn. 3) is in this district; and although it is fast being encroached upon by the demon of bricks and mortar, it has still some few shady lanes and "bits" of rural scenery left. On rising ground on the south side of Crouch End stands Christ Church, one of the district churches of Hornsey. It was built in 1863, from the designs of Mr. A. W. Blomfield, and is a neat edifice, in the Gothic style of architecture. The church was enlarged about ten years later, when a tower and spire were added. St. Luke's Church, Hornsey Rise, built in 1861, from the designs of Mr. A. D. Gough, is a respectable common-place modern Gothic building; and consists of a nave with side aisles, transepts, and chancel with side chapels.

At the beginning of 1877 a handsome Gothic church was consecrated here; it is dedicated to the Holy Innocents, and stands near the railway station. This church was the third which had been built during the incumbency of Canon Harvey, in which period Hornsey has grown from a mere village into a town of some 10,000 inhabitants.


  • 1. See Vol. IV., pp. 172—175.
  • 2. See ante, p. 192.
  • 3. See Vol. II., p. 275.