Edmonton: Social life

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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A P Baggs. Diane K Bolton. Eileen P Scarff. G C Tyack, 'Edmonton: Social life', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham, (London, 1976), pp. 172-175. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp172-175 [accessed 20 June 2024].

A P Baggs. Diane K Bolton. Eileen P Scarff. G C Tyack. "Edmonton: Social life", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham, (London, 1976) 172-175. British History Online, accessed June 20, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp172-175.

Baggs, A P. Bolton, Diane K. Scarff, Eileen P. Tyack, G C. "Edmonton: Social life", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham, (London, 1976). 172-175. British History Online. Web. 20 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp172-175.


Grants of free warren in their demesne lands were made to William de Say in 1245 and Holy Trinity priory in 1253. (fn. 1) There were frequent disputes in the 16th century between Edmonton inhabitants and the keepers of Enfield Chase (fn. 2) and in 1578 illegal hunters were pursued to Bush Hill. (fn. 3) Some of Henry VIII's servants 'dwelling about Edmonton' were imprisoned for hunting in inclosed woods but later the Leakes seem to have hunted at will and in 1597 they were accused of causing scarcity of game in the Chase. (fn. 4) In 1820 Southgate offered 'excellent game' for the sportsman (fn. 5) and the Stag and Hounds in Bury Street was a meeting-place of stag hunts until the end of the 19th century. (fn. 6) About 1800 anglers paid a guinea a year to fish in weirs on the Lea at the Ferry House or Bleak Hall inn at Cook's ferry. (fn. 7)

London merchants, despite their property in Edmonton, played little part in social life before the 18th century. By 1776 the gentry had public assembly rooms, (fn. 8) which adjoined the Angel inn at the corner of Fore and Silver streets and still existed in 1880. (fn. 9) A theatre was built on the south side of Angel Road in the late 18th century. In 1805 it was opened with a company of comedians and was patronized by the ladies of the assembly rooms. (fn. 10)

The Bell at Edmonton, where John Gilpin attempted his rendezvous with his family, was well known. John Savile mentioned it in his account of James I's progress to London in 1603 (fn. 11) and the petty sessions were held there in 1679. (fn. 12) Mention of the New Bell in 1688 (fn. 13) suggests that there must then have been two inns of that name and in 1752 licences were granted to the Old Bell, the Oldest Bell, and the Six Bells. (fn. 14) Probably the Old Bell or Blue Bell, first mentioned in 1700 (fn. 15) and by 1793 called the Angel, (fn. 16) was the original Bell and the New Bell, which then became the Bell, a lesser inn near it. The Angel, on land belonging to Latymer's charity at the crossing point of the London-Ware road with the route from Edmonton marsh to Palmers Green and Southgate, was rebuilt in the 1930s. The Bell, which was replaced by another building in 1878, lay south of the Angel, on the west side of Fore Street. (fn. 17)

There was a tavern in Edmonton in 1285, (fn. 18) an alehouse at Winchmore Hill in 1578, (fn. 19) and an inn at Southgate in the late 16th century in Waterfall Road, on a site approximately opposite Christ Church. (fn. 20) The George, mentioned in the Merry Devil of Edmonton, (fn. 21) may have been an inn of that name mentioned in 1675. (fn. 22) Other early inns were the Hart's Horn in Silver Street (1635), (fn. 23) the Fishmongers' Arms in Winchmore Hill (1668), (fn. 24) the Ship tavern (1671), (fn. 25) the King's Arms (1678), (fn. 26) the George and Vulture near Marsh Lane (1680), (fn. 27) the Swan (1682), (fn. 28) and the White Hart (1694). (fn. 29) The earliest inns that survive, in most cases as new or much altered buildings, are the Rose and Crown in Church Street (1667), (fn. 30) the Cross Keys at Edmonton Green (c. 1680s), (fn. 31) the Cherry Tree at Southgate Green (c. 1695), (fn. 32) the Golden Fleece in Fore Street (1715), (fn. 33) the Cock in Bowes Road (c. 1730), (fn. 34) the Woolpack in Southgate High Street (1743), (fn. 35) and the Green Dragon in Winchmore Hill (1750). (fn. 36) By 1752 there were 26 inns, including the Orange Tree in Highfield Road, Winchmore Hill, the Horse and Groom in Fore Street, the Fox at Palmers Green, the Cart Overthrown in Montagu Road, the Cock in Hertford Road, the Two Brewers and the Bull in Silver Street, the King's Head at Winchmore Hill, and the Golden Lion in Lower Edmonton. (fn. 37) There were 25 inns in 1803 (fn. 38) and 32 inns and beerhouses in 1851. (fn. 39) The proportion of people to each public house, 204 in 1803 and 303 in 1851, (fn. 40) was relatively low and there does not appear to have been a strong temperance movement although some of the churches and chapels had their own temperance societies. (fn. 41)

Edmonton fair centred on the Angel and Bell inns. The Angel served as a meeting-place for 17th-century petty sessions, for 18th-century manorial courts (fn. 42) and turnpike trustees, (fn. 43) and for the board of guardians from 1837 until 1841. (fn. 44) The Cherry Tree in Southgate was noted for its skittles alley (fn. 45) and was used by several friendly societies, the first being the Loyal Britain society, which met there from 1800 to 1833. (fn. 46) At Winchmore Hill the Green Dragon was a centre for cock-fighting and prize-fights (fn. 47) and in 1794 was the meeting-place of a benefit society. (fn. 48) The Friendly and Constitutional society (1799-1841) (fn. 49) and the Prudent Sisters friendly society (1805-21) (fn. 50) met at the Golden Fleece; the Society of Tradesmen and Labourers (1794-1825) met at the Fox; (fn. 51) the Three Tuns was frequented by the Amicable Society of Tradesmen in 1794 (fn. 52) and by the United society in 1811. (fn. 53) The Sons of Peace (1804-30) met at the Bell (fn. 54) and the Society of Good Fellowship (1808-13) at the King's Head, Lower Edmonton. (fn. 55) Later societies also met at the Rose and Crown, the Orange Tree, the Crown, Southgate, and, until 1869, at the Jolly Farmers and the Rising Sun, Southgate. (fn. 56) They also met at both Edmonton and Southgate National schools. (fn. 57)

The Edmonton mechanics' institution, which was active c. 1835, probably always met in Tottenham. (fn. 58) In Southgate there were assembly rooms next to the Cherry Tree (fn. 59) and at Winchmore Hill lectures were held at the Congregational church in 1860 (fn. 60) and in St. Paul's school. (fn. 61) Festivities were held on Edmonton Green and menageries were exhibited there, leading in 1880 to a protest against the noise. (fn. 62)

Although most public houses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were licensed for music and dancing, (fn. 63) they were superseded as meeting-places by public halls. Edmonton town hall, built in 1884 with accommodation for 675, was licensed for entertainments and in 1897 a free public library was built in Fore Street. (fn. 64) The Charles Lamb memorial hall and institute, designed by J. S. Alder, was opened in Church Street in 1908. (fn. 65) At Southgate a village hall, designed by A. R. Barker with accommodation for 400, was opened in High Street in 1883 under the auspices of the vicar. A library was erected by subscribers in Chase Side in 1889 and also served as a recreation centre. (fn. 66) In Winchmore Hill a village hall was opened near the green in 1887 and replaced in 1905 by St. Paul's parish hall and institute, which included a gymnasium, billiard room, and reading room. (fn. 67) By 1914 there were halls in Bowes Park, Palmers Green, New Southgate, and Bush Hill Park, as well as in the older areas of Edmonton and Southgate. (fn. 68) Most belonged to churches and chapels (fn. 69) but many were also used for lectures and entertainment. (fn. 70) Broomfield House was taken over by the local authorities and opened as a museum in 1925. (fn. 71)

The 18th-century theatre in Angel Road continued as the Theatre Royal until it was converted into the Hippodrome cinema c. 1920. (fn. 72) It was no longer used by 1952 and was demolished c. 1961. (fn. 73) The Empire theatre or music hall, where Marie Lloyd collapsed at her last performance in 1922, opened in New Road, Lower Edmonton, in 1908. (fn. 74) It was reopened as a cinema designed by Cecil Masey in 1933, renamed the Granada in 1951 and pulled down in 1970. (fn. 75) The Intimate theatre, in Green Lanes, Palmers Green, was opened as a church hall in 1931 and taken over as a repertory theatre by John Clements, the actor, in 1937; apart from a brief period in 1969 when it served as St. Monica's church hall, it has remained a theatre. (fn. 76)

Cinema shows were held in the Grove and at the central hall in Southgate in 1909, (fn. 77) and in King's hall, Lower Edmonton, in 1913 and 1916. (fn. 78) The Edmonton cinematograph theatre opened in Fore Street, Lower Edmonton, in 1911 and closed between 1926 and 1937. (fn. 79) The first large cinema built in Middlesex was the Alcazar, which opened in Fore Street in 1913; it was modernized in 1934, damaged in 1942, and pulled down by 1952. (fn. 80) Other permanent cinemas in existence by 1913 were Queen's hall in Green Lanes, Palmers Green, which closed in 1967 (fn. 81) and the New Southgate, later the Coronation, cinema in High Road, New Southgate, which had closed by 1958. (fn. 82) In addition to the two converted theatres, (fn. 83) there were the Palmadium in Green Lanes, Palmers Green, open by 1922 and demolished between 1948 and 1963, (fn. 84) the Capitol in Green Lanes, Winchmore Hill, in the 1930s, and the Odeon at the Bourne, Southgate, open by 1935 and closed by 1973. (fn. 85) The Regal in Silver Street (fn. 86) and the ABC, formerly the Ritz, in Bowes Road, (fn. 87) opened in 1934 and were still in existence in 1974.

Apart from hunting, there is no record of sport before the 18th century. There was an affray at a bull-baiting in 1746 (fn. 88) and a bowling green in Southgate High Street had been in existence for some time before 1753. (fn. 89) Huxley cricket club was mentioned in 1858 (fn. 90) but it was Southgate which became famous for cricket in the 19th century. Isaac Walker (d. 1853) of Arnos Grove had seven sons, all good cricketers and including Vyell E. Walker, described in 1859 as the best all-round cricketer in the world. There had been a village cricket club, the Southgate Albert, which played on a field of John Walker, the eldest of the brothers, who c. 1850 made a proper pitch and established Southgate cricket club. The club played against local clubs, the universities and, from 1858 to 1863, against an allEngland team before thousands who had been brought by special train to Colney Hatch station. From the Southgate club developed the county club, which played its first match at Southgate in 1859. The connexion of the Walker brothers with local cricket lasted until 1877, when Southgate ceased to be a private club. (fn. 91)

Annual cricket matches took place between the police and local tradesmen in Chapel fields until the 1880s, revived in 1899, and expanded into Southgate village sports in 1901. Enlivened by fireworks and a band, they lasted until c. 1913. (fn. 92) By 1963 there were 13 cricket clubs in Southgate and three in Edmonton, including Edmonton cricket club which was over 100 years old and had played at Starksnest field since c. 1913. (fn. 93)

Southgate football club was founded c. 1883 and played on the field behind the Cherry Tree. (fn. 94) Edmonton's Norsemen football club was founded in 1895 and by 1963 there were seven football clubs in Edmonton and six in Southgate. (fn. 95) Southgate Nondescript bicycle club was formed in 1882, changed its name to the Southgate cycling club in 1886, (fn. 96) and still existed in 1970. (fn. 97) There were five cycling clubs in Edmonton in 1963. (fn. 98)

Public swimming baths were built in 1900 to a design by W. Gilbee Scott as part of the town hall complex in Knights Lane. (fn. 99) They were replaced in 1970 by Edmonton Green swimming pool. (fn. 100) In Southgate swimming baths were erected at Barrowell Green in 1913 (fn. 101) and at Winchmore Hill Road in 1966. In 1974 there was also a Lido in Edmonton, near Jubilee Park. (fn. 102)

Other popular sports in 1963 were tennis, with three clubs in Edmonton and 12 in Southgate, and bowls, with seven clubs in Edmonton and five in Southgate. (fn. 103)

Southgate reading society existed by 1849 (fn. 104) and met in a cottage near Chase Corner until the library was built in 1889. (fn. 105) In 1861 the Edmonton Mutual Improvement and Recreation society replaced the Edmonton literary institute, which had recently dissolved. (fn. 106) There were literary societies at Winchmore Hill and Palmers Green by 1909. (fn. 107) Palmers Green orchestral society and Palmers Green and Southgate choral society were founded in 1908, (fn. 108) Edmonton central hall choir existed by 1911, and by 1963 there were 20 music societies in Edmonton and 4 in Southgate. Of the 13 dramatic societies in 1963, the Thespians had been founded in 1924 and the Latymer Players in 1927. Edmonton Hundred Historical Society, usually meeting at Edmonton, was founded in 1938. The 15 horticultural societies in 1963 included Edmonton and Tottenham police society's horticultural section, founded in 1904, and the Edmonton allotment and horticultural association, founded in 1910.

Edmonton arts council, sponsored by the borough council, was in 1963 a federation of 46 societies. In 1957 Salisbury House was established as the first arts centre in London to be provided by a local authority. (fn. 109)

A newspaper called Paul Pry was published in Edmonton c. 1839 (fn. 110) but indulged in personal attacks which led to its early closure. (fn. 111) The Southgate Messenger, which existed by 1857 (fn. 112) had apparently become the North Middlesex and Southgate Messenger by 1858. (fn. 113) The Southgate Chronicle, one of the Barnet Press newspapers, was founded in 1859 and the Southgate and Friern Barnet Sentinel in 1895. The Recorder for Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill and Southgate circulated in 1909 and the Palmers Green and Southgate Gazette was founded in 1910. The Palmers Green Weekly Herald, one of the North London Weekly series, was founded in 1971. The latter survived in 1973, as did the Palmers Green and Southgate Gazette (fn. 114) and the Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald, a successor to the Tottenham and Edmonton Advertiser. (fn. 115)


  • 1. Cal. Chart. R. 1227-57, 282, 427.
  • 2. D.L. 1/121/E 5, /131/W 15, /170/54.
  • 3. Hist. MSS. Com. 9, Hatfield House, ii, pp. 174, 179, 189, 191-2; xiii, p. 155; Sturges, Edmonton Heritage, 36-9, 150-2.
  • 4. Hist. MSS. Com. 9, Hatfield House, vii, p. 321.
  • 5. Ambulator, 12th edn. (1820), 291.
  • 6. Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, i. 99.
  • 7. Sometimes wrongly identified as the inn visited by Izaak Walton: J. Dugdale, New British Traveller, iii. 458; Fisk, Edmonton, 65-9; Edmonton Publ. Libr., D 119.
  • 8. Quoted in Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, i. 31.
  • 9. Illust. in ibid. i. 27; M.R.O., MCC/A/Pl. 1.
  • 10. Mdx. Monthly, iii. 30-2; Sturges, Edmonton Heritage, 72-5. For an engraving of 1805, see J. Winston, Theatric Tourist, pl. facing p. 46.
  • 11. Fisk, Edmonton, 106.
  • 12. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks., 1679-82, 21.
  • 13. Prob. 11/399 (P.C.C. 86 Dyke, will of Peter Beilby).
  • 14. M.R.O., L.V. 7/29.
  • 15. Mdx. Cnty. Sess. Bks. 1689-1709, 222.
  • 16. Edmonton Publ. Libr., D 119; Robinson, Edmonton, 146.
  • 17. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. VII. SE. (1865 edn.); Fisk, Edmonton, 109; Briggs, Mdx. Old and New, 74; ex inf. Mr. D. O. Pam (1974).
  • 18. C 260/4 no. 5.
  • 19. Hist. MSS. Com. 9, Hatfield House, xiii, p. 155.
  • 20. Hatfield C.P.M. Suppl. 27.
  • 21. Robinson, Edmonton, 111; see above, p. 131.
  • 22. C 10/201/50.
  • 23. C 3/418/99.
  • 24. Mason, Southgate Scrapbook, 61.
  • 25. C 7/14/30.
  • 26. C 5/496/89.
  • 27. Robinson, Edmonton, 9.
  • 28. M.R.O., Acc. 349/92.
  • 29. Prob. 11/444 (P.C.C. 55 Lort, will of Geo. Waller).
  • 30. C 5/182/12.
  • 31. Robinson, Edmonton, 9.
  • 32. C 7/644/29.
  • 33. M.R.O., MR/RR 22/5.
  • 34. Robinson, Edmonton, 9. The Cock in South Street was mentioned in 1691 but may not have been an inn: M.R.O., Acc. 698/5-6.
  • 35. M.R.O., Acc. 98/83-8.
  • 36. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks., 1719-22, 100.
  • 37. M.R.O., L.V. 7/29. The Golden Lion was recently demolished.
  • 38. M.R.O., L.V. 10/111.
  • 39. H.O. 107/1703.
  • 40. Census, 1801, 1851.
  • 41. Recs. penes Greater Lond. Rec. Off. (County Hall) N/C/64; M.R.O., MA/CL 1888, 27e.
  • 42. See pp. 169, 176.
  • 43. Pam, Stamford Hill, Green Lanes Turnpike Trust, i. 6.
  • 44. Richardson, Edmonton Poor Law Union, 1837-54, 11.
  • 45. Mason, Story of Southgate, 39.
  • 46. F.S. 1/428/1118; F.S. 1/430/1272; F.S. 1/445/1827; F.S. 1/479/2993. Mason, Story of Southgate, 40.
  • 47. Cresswell, Winchmore Hill, 38.
  • 48. Indexed in F.S. 2/7.
  • 49. F.S. 1/428/1102.
  • 50. F.S. 1/425/1049; F.S. 1/439/1719.
  • 51. F.S. 1/420/656.
  • 52. F.S. 2/7.
  • 53. F.S. 1/432/1383.
  • 54. F.S. 1/439/1717.
  • 55. F.S. 1/429/1180.
  • 56. F.S. 1/429/1238; F.S. 1/437/1584; F.S. 1/471B/2694; F.S. 1/481B/3351; F.S. 1/491/4298.
  • 57. F.S. 1/450/1908; F.S. 1/495/4712.
  • 58. T. Kelly, George Birkbeck, 314. See below, p. 340.
  • 59. Round, Southgate and Winchmore Hill, 39-40; Newby, Old Southgate, 52-3.
  • 60. North Mdx. and Southgate Messenger, Mar. 1860 (no. 43), penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 61. Regnart, Winchmore Hill, 27.
  • 62. Fisk, Edmonton, 104-5.
  • 63. M.R.O., MR/LMD; MCC/C/ENT passim.
  • 64. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908); Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963], 25.
  • 65. The Times, 13 Nov. 1908; datestone (1907).
  • 66. Kelly's Dirs. Mdx. (1890, 1908).
  • 67. Regnart, Winchmore Hill, 27; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 68. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. VII. SE., SW. (1913-14 edn.).
  • 69. See sections on churches and protestant nonconformity.
  • 70. e.g. M.R.O., MCC/C/ENT 8/43, 57, 105.
  • 71. Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963].
  • 72. M.R.O., MCC/S. EL 7; MCC/C/ENT 11/9; O.S. Maps, 1/2,500, Mdx. VII. 15 (1914 and 1936 edns.).
  • 73. Edmonton U.D.C., Official Guide [1939]; Kelly's Dir. Edmonton (1952); ex inf. Mr. D. O. Pam (1974).
  • 74. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908); M.R.O., MCC/C/ENT 8/34; illust. penes Edmonton Hund. Hist. Soc.; Evening Standard, 29 Jan. 1974.
  • 75. Edmonton U.D.C., Official Guide [1939]; Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963]; ex inf. Mr. D. O. Pam (1974).
  • 76. Ex inf. the manageress (1973).
  • 77. Recorder for Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill and Southgate, Sept. 1909, penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 78. M.R.O., MCC/C/ENT 8/40.
  • 79. M.R.O., MCC/C/ENT 8/168; Kelly's Dirs. Mdx. (1926, 1937); ex inf. Mr. D. O. Pam (1974).
  • 80. M.R.O., MCC/C/ENT 8/41; MCC/S. EL 8; Kelly's Dir. Edmonton (1952); Edmonton U.D.C., Official Guide [1939].
  • 81. M.R.O., MCC/C/ENT 8/58; ex inf. Mr. D. O. Pam (1974).
  • 82. M.R.O., MCC/C/ENT 8/104; Mdx. Quarterly, N.S. xv. 14.
  • 83. i.e. the Hippodrome and Granada: see above.
  • 84. M.R.O., MCC/C/ENT 20/1-16; Mason, Story of Southgate, 34; Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963].
  • 85. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. VII. 10 (1935 edn.); Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1937).
  • 86. Ex inf. Mr. D. O. Pam (1974).
  • 87. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963].
  • 88. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks., 1745-7, 81.
  • 89. M.R.O., Acc. 262/2/6.
  • 90. North Mdx. and Southgate Messenger, Oct. 1858 (no. 26), penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 91. W. A. Bettesworth, The Walkers of Southgate.
  • 92. Newby, Old Southgate, 99.
  • 93. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963]; Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963].
  • 94. Mason, Story of Southgate, 41.
  • 95. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963]; Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963].
  • 96. Newby, Old Southgate, 40-1, 43.
  • 97. Enfield L.B., Official Handbook [1970].
  • 98. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963].
  • 99. Building News, lxxviii. 755; Fisk, Edmonton, 134.
  • 100. Boro. of Enfield, Official Guide [1970].
  • 101. Incorp. of Southgate Boro. (1933) [programme penes Broomfield Mus.].
  • 102. Boro. of Enfield, Official Guide [1970].
  • 103. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963]; Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963].
  • 104. Catalogue of bks. (1849) penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 105. Round, Southgate and Winchmore Hill, 39-40.
  • 106. North Middlesex and Southgate Messenger, Mar. 1861, penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 107. Recorder for Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill and Southgate, Sept. 1909, penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 108. Southgate, Fifty Years of Progress (1931) [pamphlet penes Broomfield Mus.]; Mdx. Quarterly, i (1953), 2.
  • 109. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963]; Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963].
  • 110. Sturges, Edmonton Heritage, 82-6.
  • 111. Couchman, Reminiscences of Tottenham, 73.
  • 112. Mason, Story of Southgate, 40.
  • 113. North Mdx. and Southgate Messenger, 1858-61, penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 114. Willing's Press Guide (1896 and later edns.); newspapers penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 115. See p. 342.