Enfield: Social life

Pages 239-241

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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The town of Enfield was presented at quarter sessions for playing unlawful games c. 1555, (fn. 1) perhaps the year when 11 persons were accused of playing dice, cards, and bowls. (fn. 2) Major highways and the proximity of the Chase seem to have contributed to disorder in the 16th and 17th centuries, when there were several complaints of illegal gatherings and games. (fn. 3) Complaints were also made in 1675 of the excessive number of alehouses in the parish. (fn. 4)

There was a rabbit warren of 8 a. near Forty Hall in 1656. (fn. 5) Izaak Walton fished in Enfield, presumably on the Lea, (fn. 6) and in 1635 there were fisheries at Rammey Reach and on the Old Pond in the Chase. (fn. 7) There were frequent complaints of illegal hunting on the Chase (fn. 8) and in 1675 the use of guns in particular was condemned. (fn. 9) Efforts were made to halt the destruction of game and fish in Honeylands manor in 1787. (fn. 10)

Despite an attempt in 1632 to publicize medicinal baths at Enfield House, (fn. 11) no permanent spa was established. A bowling alley near Turkey Street in 1656 (fn. 12) seems to have given its name to Bowling Green House, near the site of the later Myddelton House. (fn. 13) Part of a field north of the King's Head inn in Enfield Town was a bowling green by 1762 and was still one in 1851. (fn. 14)

Horse races were started on the marshes at the end of Green Street in 1788 and revived in 1816 near the later Wright's flour mill; (fn. 15) racing afterwards took place near Enfield Lock but had died out long before 1858. (fn. 16) The races drew disreputable crowds: 20,000 people gathered in 1801 to see a boxing match which was eventually banned, whereupon they were dispersed by local volunteer associations and the Hertfordshire Yeomanry Cavalry. (fn. 17) Racing was revived in 1870 by the owner of Bycullah Park, who ran well attended steeplechases in his grounds during Easter week until 1878. (fn. 18)

The first friendly society, the United society, began to meet in the Sun and Woolpack inn, Enfield Wash, in 1794, when extra branches were also formed at the King's Arms and the Black Horse. (fn. 19) In the same year the Amicable Union society began to meet in the Goat, Forty Hill, and the Society of Good Fellowship in the Falcon, South Street. (fn. 20) The Amicable society met at the New Inn at Coopers Lane gate from 1796 and the United Benefit society at the Three Horseshoes from 1800. (fn. 21) Among early19th-century societies was the United Sisters' friendly society for women, at the King's Head from 1810 to 1820. (fn. 22) After 1812 (fn. 23) there were no new registrations until that of the Enfield benefit society in 1838, meeting in the free school, Enfield Town, and subsequently in the temperance hall. (fn. 24) Several new societies, all of which used inns, were founded in the next 20 years. (fn. 25)

There was a savings bank and a penny club in 1826 (fn. 26) and another successful bank was established in 1839 to promote saving among the middle and poorer classes. (fn. 27) The Enfield coal club, which operated from the temperance hall, was established in 1841 (fn. 28) and the Enfield literary and scientific institution, a mechanics' institute, existed by 1851. (fn. 29) The Enfield young men's mutual improvement society was meeting in the infants' school in Baker Street in 1859. (fn. 30) The Enfield ladies' visiting society was founded in 1828, to give occasional relief in kind and help to suppress mendicity. (fn. 31) The Enfield philanthropic institution was founded in 1836 and survived in 1911. (fn. 32)

Attempts were made to make Enfield a local social centre after 1800. A subscription assembly was held for three nights in the assembly rooms by the King's Head in 1801, families paying two guineas and receiving tea and coffee. (fn. 33) The assembly rooms were used in 1858 for public meetings, large vestry meetings, lectures, and entertainments. (fn. 34) Enfield cricket club existed by 1814 (fn. 35) and held practices twice a week in 1857, (fn. 36) when the Society of Enfield Archers first met in Chase Side. (fn. 37) In 1830 Charles Lamb wrote that people in Enfield did not look like country folk and that they had a circulating library. (fn. 38) Another library was established in 1850 by J. H. Meyers 'for the principal families'. (fn. 39) Meyers also founded the monthly Meyers' Enfield Observer, which first appeared in 1859 and continued in 1971 as the weekly Enfield Observer. The weekly Middlesex Observer had been founded by 1890 (fn. 40) and the weekly Enfield Chronicle and the monthly Enfield Illustrated Magazine were published in 1899. (fn. 41)

Rural pastimes persisted. A maypole was erected annually until the mid 19th century, although the practice had ceased by 1859. (fn. 42) The North Middlesex and South Hertfordshire farmers' club, formed in 1853, met monthly at the King's Head and arranged annual ploughing matches and agricultural shows. (fn. 43) The Enfield Chase staghounds were established by Col. Sir Alfred Somerset in 1885; in 1899 the kennels were moved from his house, Enfield Court, to Barnet (Herts.) (fn. 44) and soon after the First World War the hunt was disbanded. (fn. 45) A hunt called the Enfield Chase foxhounds held point-to-points in 1955. (fn. 46)

Many societies were formed in the late 19th century. A temperance hall was opened in Brigadier Hill in 1859 (fn. 47) and St. Andrew's temperance club existed in 1890. (fn. 48) Enfield musical society was founded in 1862 and a Conservative society, a freemasons' lodge, and a working men's institute were all active in 1869. (fn. 49) A co-operative society was founded at Enfield Lock by workers in the Royal Small Arms factory in 1872; it later became Enfield Highway co-operative society, taking over other similar societies in Enfield Town (fn. 50) and Hoddesdon (Herts.). (fn. 51) Parish tea meetings were advertised in 1889, (fn. 52) the Walker church institute, Sydney Road, was built in 1889, (fn. 53) and a Church of England working men's club was meeting in Silver Street in 1890. (fn. 54) E. A. Bowles of Forty Hall arranged lectures and concerts in the local elementary school in the late 19th century. (fn. 55) A church institute was built in Napier Road, Ponders End, in 1893 (fn. 56) and another was opened to serve the new suburbs north of Lancaster Road in 1896; a coffee tavern, working men's club, and library were provided, together with a hall for temperance meetings. (fn. 57) St. Mark's institute, Bush Hill Park, was built in 1907 and also accommodated temperance organizations. (fn. 58) By 1890 there was a Constitutional club meeting in London Road, a Radical club in Lancaster Road, a Conservative working men's club at Enfield Wash, and Conservative, Liberal, and Radical clubs at Ponders End. (fn. 59) Working men's clubs had been founded at Cockfosters and Bush Hill Park by 1898. (fn. 60)

An anonymous writer in 1905 considered Enfield suburban to the core, citing the pretentiousness of the literary union but praising the dramatic society. (fn. 61) A tennis club was founded at Hadley Wood c. 1895 and assumed a prominent place in local social life. (fn. 62) Bush Hill Park golf club was founded in 1896 and later acquired its 18-hole course in Enfield Old Park. Enfield golf club was established with a course south of Windmill Hill in 1902, Crews Hill golf club was founded in 1915, (fn. 63) and Hadley Wood golf club at Beech Hill Park in 1922. (fn. 64)

By 1921 the Ponders End electric theatre was open in Hertford Road and the Queens Hall cinema in London Road. (fn. 65) The Rialto picture theatre opened in the 1920s, providing a tea room and lounge. (fn. 66) There were four cinemas in 1955 (fn. 67) including the Plaza, Ponders End, which was taken over by Enfield B.C. in 1956 and renamed the Howard hall, to be used for plays and receptions. (fn. 68) Choral, literary, musical and dramatic groups also existed. (fn. 69) The Hadley Wood association was founded in 1964 to provide social facilities in its part of the parish. (fn. 70)


  • 1. M.R.O., Acc. 275/507.
  • 2. Hist. MSS. Com. 39, 15th Rep. II, Misc. Papers, p. 258.
  • 3. e.g. Mdx. Cnty. Recs. ii. 81; M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks. (1652-7), 93-4, 156.
  • 4. Ibid. (1673-9), 59-60.
  • 5. M.R.O., Acc. 16/8.
  • 6. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 269.
  • 7. D.L. 42/125.
  • 8. e.g. Cal. Treas. Bks. 1679-80, p. 503.
  • 9. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks. (1673-9), 59- 60.
  • 10. Bodl. MS. Top. Mdx. b. 1, f. 71.
  • 11. Tuff, Enfield, 37n.
  • 12. M.R.O., Acc. 16/8.
  • 13. See p. 217.
  • 14. M.R.O., Acc. 903/88-90.
  • 15. Robinson, Enfield, i. 23-4.
  • 16. Tuff, Enfield, 30.
  • 17. Ford, Enfield, 108-9.
  • 18. Whitaker, Enfield, 89, 250.
  • 19. FS. 1/419/618; FS. 1/574; FS. 1/604.
  • 20. FS. 1/565; FS. 1/584.
  • 21. FS. 1/809; FS. 1/1130.
  • 22. FS. 1/1310.
  • 23. FS. 1/1101; FS. 1/1309; FS. 1/1421.
  • 24. FS. 1/464; FS. 1/2304.
  • 25. FS. 1/2305; FS. 1/2447; FS. 1/3173; FS. 1/3240.
  • 26. Robinson, Enfield, ii. 131.
  • 27. Tuff, Enfield, 216.
  • 28. FS. 1/2454.
  • 29. T. Kelly, George Birkbeck, 314.
  • 30. Meyers' Enfield Observer, Jan. 1859.
  • 31. Tuff, Enfield, 220.
  • 32. Ibid. 218; Whitaker, Enfield, 82.
  • 33. Bodl. MS. Top. Mdx. b.1, f. 109.
  • 34. Tuff, Enfield, 223.
  • 35. Boro. of Enfield, Official Guide [1955].
  • 36. Tuff, Enfield, 215.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Whitaker, Enfield, 82n.
  • 39. Tuff, Enfield, 216.
  • 40. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 41. Willing's Press Guide (1899).
  • 42. Meyers' Enfield Observer, May 1859.
  • 43. Tuff, Enfield, 214.
  • 44. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 262.
  • 45. Briggs, Mdx. Old and New, 63.
  • 46. Boro. of Enfield, Official Guide [1955].
  • 47. Meyers' Enfield Observer, May 1859.
  • 48. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 49. Meyers' Enfield Observer, Jan. 1869.
  • 50. Existing in 1890: Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 51. New Enfield Hist.
  • 52. Meyers' Enfield Observer, Mar. 1869.
  • 53. Whitaker, Enfield, 184.
  • 54. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 55. F. Wilson, Memories of Forty Hill, 10.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 57. Kelly's Dir. Tottenham (1898-9).
  • 58. Kelly's Dir. Enfield (1921).
  • 59. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 60. Ibid. (1890, 1898).
  • 61. Enfield Tatler, Mar. 1905, p. 35.
  • 62. Clark, Hadley Wood, 93.
  • 63. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1931).
  • 64. Clark, Hadley Wood, 45.
  • 65. Kelly's Dir. Enfield (1921).
  • 66. Enfield U.D.C., Official Guide [n.d.].
  • 67. Boro. of Enfield, Official Guide [1955].
  • 68. Ibid. [1962].
  • 69. Ibid. [1955].
  • 70. Clark, Hadley Wood, 103.