Edmonton: Public services

Pages 179-181

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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By wills proved 1560 and 1612 John Sadler and Robert Brett left money for buckets, ladders, and hooks to be kept in the parish church. (fn. 1) A fire-engine was first provided in 1772, when a paid engine-keeper was appointed. (fn. 2) A proper carriage and harness were ordered in 1786 and sold in 1793, although the engine was still in use in 1796. (fn. 3) A volunteer fire brigade was formed in 1877, with a small contribution by the local board. There were complaints about its performance in 1882 and the local board set up an engine committee in 1887, and formed a brigade under the direction of the surveyor. (fn. 4) A fire station existed by 1893. (fn. 5) The modern station in Church Street was erected in 1940. (fn. 6) Southgate, which had its own fire brigade by 1933, (fn. 7) had a new station in the High Street by 1972.

Although an order was made in 1714 for two watch-houses or cages in Church Street and Fore Street wards respectively, (fn. 8) only one apparently was erected. In the 1730s it was the 'new prison' and seems to have been a cell next to the parish church. (fn. 9) The Stamford Hill turnpike trust provided watchmen over its roads from 1774. (fn. 10) During the 1780s and 1790s there were several requests for a cage at Southgate because the constable was finding it difficult to transport felons to Edmonton. (fn. 11) A new watch-house was built on the north side of Church Street in 1833 (fn. 12) and after Edmonton became part of the Metropolitan Police district in 1840 (fn. 13) it became the police station. (fn. 14) A new station was built in Fore Street c. 1870s (fn. 15) and rebuilt in 1916. Other police stations were erected in Chase Side by 1878, (fn. 16) in High Road, New Southgate, in 1888, and in Green Lanes in 1915. (fn. 17) The Chase Side station was rebuilt in 1970. (fn. 18)

The abundance of gravel facilitated the construction of wells in Edmonton and there were a few deep wells in the chalk at Winchmore Hill, (fn. 19) notably Vicarsmoor well, which was very pure. (fn. 20) In the western part of the parish, however, many cottages were still relying on rain-water butts in the late 19th century. (fn. 21) The New River was an additional source of supply from 1613, although initially only for the larger houses. (fn. 22) The New River Co. carried out improvements during the 19th century, drawing on the river Lea (fn. 23) and constructing a reservoir in the Chase in the 1870s, from which water mains were laid along some roads. (fn. 24) It was many years, however, before the company provided piped water to the whole area. In 1877, when the Bush Hill Park Co. built a housing estate near the New River at Bush Hill, its water was obtained from a specially sunk artesian bore. (fn. 25) In 1904 the Metropolitan Water Board took over the local water companies, including the New River Co., and the new Banbury reservoir on the borders of Tottenham. (fn. 26) In 1935 work started on the very large William Girling reservoir, which was not completed until 1951. (fn. 27)

Well-water was easily polluted, especially in densely populated Upper Edmonton, where sewerage was totally inadequate in the mid 19th century. (fn. 28) The streams had always formed open sewers and in 1622 a presentment was made for fishing in the common sewer. (fn. 29) Maintaining the common sewers was in 1650 stated to be the lord's responsibility, (fn. 30) but in practice it was the tenants whose lands bordered the streams who were charged with maintaining them. (fn. 31) The growth of population and especially its concentration during the 19th century made the open sewers dangerous. Edmonton local board of health made only slow progress, laying sewers in the most populous areas during the 1850s, (fn. 32) and it was not until the 1870s that sewage works were constructed at Deephams Farm. (fn. 33) Southgate's case for separation in 1881 was largely based on complaints about sewage (fn. 34) but by 1893 both Edmonton and Southgate were said to be wellsewered. Sewage was treated at the 200-acre Deephams Farm, (fn. 35) which was extended in 1927. (fn. 36)

From the 18th century there was a parish physician and apothecary and after 1837 a medical officer. (fn. 37) About 1836 Winchmore Hill Independent Medical Club was set up to provide medicine and surgical attendance outside the parish system. It was financed by subscription. (fn. 38) An infirmary which formed part of the union workhouse buildings was too small and in 1844 sheds had to be converted into fever wards. (fn. 39) In 1910 a new union infirmary, with accommodation for 400 and an adjoining nurses' home, was opened east of the workhouse. (fn. 40) It was used as a military hospital during the First World War and in 1930, when the poor law union was dissolved, became a county hospital. In 1948, as the North Middlesex hospital, it came under the control of Edmonton group hospital management committee and catered mainly for acute cases. (fn. 41) By 1973 it had 667 beds and, like all the hospitals in Edmonton and Southgate except Grovelands and Highlands, it was administered by Enfield group management committee. (fn. 42)

In 1886 the Metropolitan Asylums Board purchased a 36-acre site from the Chaseville Park estate on former Chase land, where it opened a convalescent fever hospital. Control passed to the L.C.C. in 1930 and to the Northern group hospital management committee in 1948. The Northern hospital, after 1948 called Highlands hospital, consisted of 16 separate blocks with accommodation for 480 patients. (fn. 43) In 1973 it was a hospital for acute cases with 550 beds. (fn. 44)

In 1902, following a severe outbreak of smallpox, a temporary wooden building was erected by Edmonton U.D.C. in Picketts Lock Lane as an isolation hospital. It was pulled down after 1927. (fn. 45) In 1905 Edmonton and Enfield agreed to maintain a joint hospital for infectious diseases other than smallpox at South Lodge, inside Enfield but adjoining Highlands hospital. (fn. 46) About the same time Southgate U.D.C. opened an isolation hospital in Tottenhall Road. After the Second World War it became Southgate maternity annexe, then successively a children's hospital specializing in ear, nose, and throat cases, a hospital for the chronically sick, and a geriatric unit linked to the North Middlesex hospital. (fn. 47) In 1973, as Greentrees hospital, it had 73 beds for geriatrics. (fn. 48)

For most of the 19th century Millfield House in Silver Street housed children of the Strand poor law union. An infirmary was added in 1874. In 1917 the whole building was taken over by the Metropolitan Asylums Board as an epileptic hospital, which passed to the L.C.C. in 1930. (fn. 49) The hospital, then called St. David's hospital, had 328 beds in 1949 and was closed in 1971. (fn. 50)

Grovelands House was lent to the Middlesex Voluntary Aid Detachment in 1916 as a military hospital. In 1921 the detachment bought the house and 6 a. which it gave to the Royal Northern hospital as a convalescent home. Another 20 a. was purchased and the hospital was officially opened in 1926. (fn. 51) In 1973 Grovelands was a pre-convalescent unit of 56 beds run by the North London group hospital management committee. (fn. 52)

Edmonton churchyard was extended in 1772 (fn. 53) and 1862 (fn. 54) but burials were forbidden at Weld chapel in 1854 (fn. 55) and at Edmonton church in 1882. (fn. 56) In 1880 a cemetery was opened in Waterfall Road, Southgate, and administered by a burial board of 6 members. (fn. 57) In 1882 Edmonton local board purchased 30 a. in Church Street from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (fn. 58) which they opened in 1884 as Hyde Side cemetery. (fn. 59) In 1884 a Federation cemetery belonging to the Western Synagogue in St. Alban's Place (Islington) was opened west of Montagu Road. (fn. 60)

In 1815 the Stamford Hill turnpike trust introduced street lighting along Fore Street as far as the 7-mile stone and along Church Street to the parish church. (fn. 61) Edmonton vestry set up a watching and lighting committee soon after the 1833 Act (fn. 62) and by 1840 Edmonton village was said to be efficiently lighted with gas. (fn. 63) The Tottenham and Edmonton Gas Light and Coke Co. was founded in 1847 and built gas-works in Dyson's Road, from which the eastern part of Edmonton was supplied. The company expanded, absorbing other companies in 1914, 1928, 1930, and 1938 before itself being taken over by the Eastern Gas Board. (fn. 64) In 1938 it took over Southgate and District Gas Co., which had been formed in 1858 as the Southgate and Colney Hatch Gas Light and Coke Co., whose gasworks in south-west Southgate supplied the western side of Edmonton parish. (fn. 65)

The first house in Southgate to receive electric light was Arnos Grove, in 1896. (fn. 66) In 1898 the Tottenham and Edmonton Gas Act (fn. 67) empowered the Tottenham and Edmonton Gas Light and Coke Co. to produce and supply electricity. Edmonton U.D.C. was made responsible for electric lighting in 1902 (fn. 68) and Southgate U.D.C. in 1904. After 1922 electricity for both districts was supplied by the North Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Co. (later the Eastern Electricity Board). (fn. 69)

By 1845 there were post offices in Fore Street, Southgate and Winchmore Hill. (fn. 70) There was another in Church Street by 1851 (fn. 71) and two in Southgate by 1865, one at Southgate Circus and the other in High Street. (fn. 72) The High Street post office moved to Southgate Green by 1890, by which date there were also post offices at Palmers Green, Angel Road, Hertford Road, and Lower Fore Street. (fn. 73) The first telephone exchange was opened in 1905 (fn. 74) and a new one was built in Green Lanes in 1936. (fn. 75)

The Passmore Edwards library, designed by Maurice Adams, was opened in Fore Street in 1897 and extended in 1931. A library had opened at Bush Hill Park by 1923 and branches opened in Houndsfield Road in 1937 and in Silver Street in 1938. (fn. 76) A new library opened in Ridge Avenue, Bush Hill, in 1963. (fn. 77) There were four public libraries in Southgate borough by 1963 (fn. 78) and a new branch was opened there in 1966. (fn. 79)

Edmonton U.D.C. bought the 53-acre Pymmes estate in 1898 and opened it as the first public park in the area. (fn. 80) The Church Commissioners sold 20 a. at Church Street to the U.D.C. in 1902 for a recreation ground. (fn. 81) Thirty-seven acres west of Hertford Road was acquired by the council in commemoration of George V's Silver Jubilee (1935) and were being laid out as a park and recreation ground in 1939. (fn. 82) Edmonton acquired another 50 a. of open space at Firs farm after the war. (fn. 83)

Southgate U.D.C. purchased most of the Broomfield estate in 1903. The 54-acre grounds became a park and the house was converted into a local museum in 1925. (fn. 84) In 1911 the council bought 64 a. of Grovelands, later increased to 91 a. and forming the largest park in the area. Oakwood Park (64 a.) and Arnos Grove (44 a.) were purchased in 1927 and 1928 respectively. (fn. 85) Chapel Fields cricket ground was a gift of the Walker brothers. Among other sports grounds Bramley (20 a.) and Hazelwood (12 a.) were the largest in 1963. (fn. 86)

Edmonton was one of the districts most affected by the scheme to transform the derelict Lea riverside into a recreational area. The Lee Valley regional park authority, representing the local authorities, was constituted in 1967 and Pickett's Lock centre, containing many recreational facilities and set in woods and park-land alongside the William Girling reservoir, was opened in 1973. (fn. 87)


  • 1. Prob. 11/43 (P.C.C. 49 Mellershe); /119 (P.C.C. 15 Fenner).
  • 2. Fisk, Edmonton, 92.
  • 3. Hoare, Work of the Edmonton Vestry, 13.
  • 4. Fisk, Edmonton, 92; engine cttee. mins. 1887 penes Edmonton Publ. Libr.
  • 5. Kelly's Dir. Tottenham etc. (1893-4).
  • 6. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963].
  • 7. Incorp. of Southgate Boro. (1933) [programme penes Broomfield Mus.].
  • 8. See above, p. 176.
  • 9. Avery, Edmonton Workhouse Cttee., 12.
  • 10. Pam, Stamford Hill, Green Lanes Turnpike Trust, ii. 1, 5.
  • 11. Hoare, op. cit. 13; Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, ii. 170-1.
  • 12. Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, ii. 171.
  • 13. Lond. Gaz. 13 Oct. 1840, p. 2250.
  • 14. Poor Rate Valuation (1852), no. 899, penes Edmonton Publ. Libr.
  • 15. Kelly's Dir. Tottenham (1893-4); photographs penes Edmonton Publ. Libr.
  • 16. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1878).
  • 17. Datestones on bldgs.
  • 18. Ex inf. Southgate police station.
  • 19. Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, i. 76; Cresswell, Winchmore Hill, 97.
  • 20. Robinson, Edmonton, 33. Name said to derive from a vicar who sunk the well, according to Cresswell (Winchmore Hill, 93) in the 17th cent. but it is more likely to have been derived from the medieval Viker family: see p. 134.
  • 21. Cresswell, Winchmore Hill, 93.
  • 22. Robinson, Edmonton, 14-19.
  • 23. M.R.O., 144; Mdx. Quarterly, N.S. i. 24-5.
  • 24. Newby, Old Southgate, 89.
  • 25. Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, i. 77. The bore was filled in in 1925, leaving the tower of the water-works, the Wells: Robbins, Mdx. 361.
  • 26. See p. 346.
  • 27. Ex inf. Metropolitan Water Board (1973).
  • 28. Mcllven, Edmonton Local Board of Health, 19.
  • 29. M.R.O., Acc. 695/43 (end); S.C. 6/Chas. I/627 m. 3d. The fact that fish could be found in it suggests that the stream was not too polluted.
  • 30. M.R.O., Acc. 695/15 (end).
  • 31. e.g. 1799: M.R.O., Acc. 695/41.
  • 32. Mcllven, op. cit. 12-13.
  • 33. Sturges, The Silver Link, 1.
  • 34. Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, ii. 177.
  • 35. Kelly's Dir. Tottenham (1893-4).
  • 36. The Times, 5 Jan. 1925; 19 July 1927.
  • 37. See pp. 177-8.
  • 38. Prospectus penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 39. Richardson, Edmonton Poor Law Union, 39, 62.
  • 40. The Times, 26 July 1910; Building News, xciii. 37.
  • 41. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963]; Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, ii. 176.
  • 42. Hosp. Yr. Bk. (1973), 143.
  • 43. Kelly's Dir. Tottenham (1893-4); Hosp. Yr. Bks. (1947-9).
  • 44. Hosp. Yr. Bk. (1973).
  • 45. Fisk, Edmonton, 192; The Times, 3 Sept. 1927.
  • 46. Local Govt. Bd.'s Provis. Orders Confirmation (no. 17) Act, 5 Ed. VII, cxi. See p. 244.
  • 47. Ex inf. acting hosp. sec. (1973).
  • 48. Hosp. Yr. Bk. (1973).
  • 49. 'Rep. of Superintendent of Management Cttee., 1948' (TS. supplied by acting hosp. sec., N. Mdx. hosp., 1973).
  • 50. Ex inf. acting hosp. sec., N. Mdx. hosp. (1973); Hosp. Yr. Bks. (1947-9).
  • 51. Ex inf. the matron, Grovelands hosp. (1973).
  • 52. Hosp. Yr. Bk. (1973).
  • 53. Edmonton Publ. Libr., D 15, 18, 20.
  • 54. Fisk, Edmonton, 31.
  • 55. Edmonton Publ. Libr., D 17.
  • 56. Ibid. D 14.
  • 57. Ibid. D 13, 21; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 58. Church Com., file 23019.
  • 59. Kelly's Dir. Tottenham (1893-4).
  • 60. Plaque at cemetery.
  • 61. Pam, Stamford Hill, Green Lanes Turnpike Trust, ii. 1, 5.
  • 62. See above.
  • 63. Pigot's Dir. Mdx. (1840).
  • 64. M.R.O., Acc. 1153/I; see pp. 346-7.
  • 65. M.R.O., Acc. 1153/II; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Mdx. VII. 13 (1867 edn.).
  • 66. Newby, Old Southgate, 75.
  • 67. 61 & 62 Vic. c. 161 (Local Act).
  • 68. Electric Lighting Orders Confirmation (No. 1) Act, 2 Ed. VII, c. xci.
  • 69. North Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Act, 12 & 13 Geo. V, c. lxxvii.
  • 70. Home Cnties. Dir. (1845).
  • 71. H.O. 107/1703 p. 212d.
  • 72. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. VII. SW. (1865 edn.).
  • 73. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 74. Sturges, Edmonton Past and Present, i. 131.
  • 75. Datestone on bldg.
  • 76. Edmonton U.D.C., Official Guide [1939].
  • 77. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963].
  • 78. Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963].
  • 79. Photographs penes Edmonton Publ. Libr.
  • 80. Acquis. of Pymmes Pk. Act, 61-2 Vic., c. lxiii.
  • 81. Church Com., S 4 Survey, p. 368.
  • 82. Edmonton U.D.C., Official Guide [1939].
  • 83. Boro. of Edmonton, Official Guide [1963].
  • 84. Pamphlet penes Broomfield Mus.
  • 85. Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963]; Mason, Story of Southgate, 5, 54, 64.
  • 86. Boro. of Southgate, Official Guide [1963].
  • 87. Evening Standard, 25 June 1974.