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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Growth Before 1850.
An Anglo-Saxon settlement, otherwise unrecorded, is indicated by the reference to Tottenham, `Totta's ham', (fn. 1) in Domesday Book. (fn. 2) Presumably it bordered the Roman road, the medieval Tottenham street, along which most of the population was concentrated until the 19th century. Eastward lay rich pastures on the marshes by the river Lea, (fn. 3) while to the west stretched poorer soil, with woods whose bounds were gradually pushed back towards Muswell Hill in the course of the Middle Ages. (fn. 4)
The existence of a weir by 1086 and of a mill by 1254 (fn. 5) suggest early habitations at the Hale (later Tottenham Hale), midway between High Road and Mill mead, although the name first occurs only in 1318, in a reference to John of the Hale. (fn. 6) The manor-house of Tottenham, described in 1254, (fn. 7) may have stood west of High Road, close to the church recorded by 1134 and the later site of Bruce Castle. After the division of the manor in 1254 there were probably three manor-houses; in addition the farmstead of the 14th-century sub-manor of Mockings was marked by a moat on the south side of Marsh (later Park) Lane, between High Road and the marshes. A rectangular 'homestead moat' was shown in the 19th century in the park of Downhills but was not recorded earlier. (fn. 8) The hospital of St. Lawrence at Clayhanger, once assumed to have been in Clayhanger parish (Devon), probably stood at Clay Hill, mid-way along the border with Edmonton; (fn. 9) it was recorded only from 1229 to 1264 and is not known to have been connected with the equally obscure 15th-century hospital of St. Loy, which itself seems to have disappeared before the Reformation. (fn. 10) Chapels, of unknown date, were later said to have stood by a hermitage close to High Road (fn. 11) and St. Loy's well. (fn. 12)
Accessibility from London led many citizens and religious houses to acquire property in Tottenham from the time of Ughtred of London, who by 1152 held land which afterwards passed to the nuns of Clerkenwell. (fn. 13) The Black Death is not known to have changed the pattern of settlement, although many deaths were presented: in 1348 on the manor of Daubeneys 15 copyhold tenements fell vacant and 10 reverted to the lord, presumably because the heirs had died. (fn. 14) Despite the plague the late 14th century saw considerable pressure of population on the land. (fn. 15)
The centre of Tottenham village, in so far as the roadside settlement possessed one, was marked by the high cross and by a green, the modern Tottenham Green, immediately south. (fn. 16) The cross, crowning a slight rise in High Road, was once associated with the funeral cortege of Eleanor of Castile (fn. 17) but was later found to have been no more than a wayside cross, first mentioned in 1409. (fn. 18) It stood on a mound and was of wood capped with lead c. 1580, some twenty years before its replacement at the expense of Owen Wood, dean of Armagh, who lived on the east side of the green. (fn. 19) Wood provided a plain octagonal brick column of 4 stages, surmounted by a weather-vane. The cross was stuccoed and ornamented in the Gothic style in 1809, since which date its appearance has not changed. (fn. 20)
Except along High Road and at the Hale medieval settlement took place around a number of greens. In the west assarting had permitted the building of a farmstead called Ducketts, north of the later Ducketts Common, by 1293. (fn. 21) Page Green, mentioned in 1348, stretched eastward from High Road a little way south of Tottenham Green, along Broad Lane towards a crossing of the Lea below Tottenham mill; the Page family, recorded from 1319, (fn. 22) still held land there in 1395. (fn. 23) West Green, midway along the lane linking High Road opposite Page Green with Green Lanes at Ducketts, was mentioned in 1384. Beans Green, south of Ducketts at the junction of Green Lanes with Hanger Lane, was recorded in 1393 and Chapmans Green, where Lordship Lane later met Snakes Lane, in 1381, (fn. 24) but there were probably no hamlets at either place during the Middle Ages.
By the late 14th century traffic through Tottenham was in places impeded by residents, to judge from fines on tenants who had erected 'levesells' or bowers on the king's highway. (fn. 25) As many as 6 inns were recorded in 1455-6, all of them probably in High Road. (fn. 26) Many were large timber-framed buildings, of which the last remains survived until the 19th century. (fn. 27) Brick-making, the only medieval industry of note, also flourished in 1430. (fn. 28) A tenement called the hermitage was recorded in 1455-6. (fn. 29) Henry VIII, when greeting his sister Margaret at Bruce Castle, made a payment to the hermit of Tottenham in 1517. (fn. 30)
Tottenham itself became well known, presumably because of the many travellers who passed that way. Although it had no fair, a mid-15th-century satire on chivalry called the Tournament of Tottenham describes a rustic joust which was held there, attended by 'all the men of the country, of Islington, of Highgate, and Hackney'. (fn. 31) The expression `Tottenham shall turn French', signifying something that could not possibly happen, was quoted by many local historians from the time of William Bedwell but used as early as 1536 by Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, when assuring Thomas Cromwell of his loyalty. (fn. 32)
Wards, recorded from 1515, were probably created on the basis of population; if their boundaries were those later described by Bedwell, three-quarters of the inhabitants lived in Lower, Middle, or High Cross ward, each of which contained sections of High Road, and the remainder in Wood Green ward, covering the western half of the parish. (fn. 33)
The early 16th century also saw considerable extensions to the parish church, (fn. 34) followed from 1514 by the complete rebuilding of Bruces manor-house (the core of the modern Bruce Castle), on a scale fit to receive royalty. (fn. 35) At the Reformation the hermitage became a private residence (fn. 36) and the division of monastic lands further increased the influx of outsiders, many of whom provided themselves with fine houses. (fn. 37) Alms-people were accommodated in cottages by the churchyard, under a charity established by George Henningham (d. 1536) and a range of alms-houses, endowed by Balthasar Sanchez, was built in High Road south of Scotland Green in 1600. (fn. 38) In the early 18th century it was thought that the alms-houses occupied the site of the offertory of St. Loy, (fn. 39) described by Bedwell as a poorhouse. (fn. 40)
In 1619 (fn. 41) most parishioners still lived along High Road, mainly around the green at the high cross, farther north near the junction with Berry (later Lordship) Lane, and along the stretch from Marsh (later Park) Lane to the Edmonton boundary. The hermitage stood in High Road between Page and High Cross greens. There were many places where farm-land bordered the road, which had no houses on either side between Stamford Hill and Tottenham Green or along the west side for some distance north of the cross. Buildings stood closest together to the north of Marsh Lane, providing a contrast with the deserted portion of High Road in the extreme south of the parish.
East of High Road there were four houses at Page Green, more at the Hale, and a few along Marsh Lane as far as Asplins Farm, slightly east of the modern Northumberland Park railway station. Roses were grown along Marsh Lane, and elsewhere in the parish, (fn. 42) but the marshes themselves lay deserted, save for Tottenham mills, where both flour and leather were made. West of High Road, Berry or Lordship Lane led to the manor-house, the church, and a near-by farm, and Apeland Street (later White Hart Lane) led to the vicarage and rectory houses. Eight buildings around West Green constituted the only hamlet amidst the farm-land in the centre of Tottenham.
Much woodland survived in groves interspersed with fields in the western third of the parish. There were isolated houses at Hangers Green, where Black Boy Lane joined Hanger Lane, and at Ducketts Green, but there was none at Beans or Chapmans greens. The sole hamlet was Wood Green, where four houses occupied plots beside the New River and others faced the green itself, which was backed by the slopes of Tottenham wood. Close by, a little to the east, there were a few dwellings where Green Lanes joined Lordship Lane at Elses Green and White Hart Lane at Smiths Cross. There was also a farm at Clay Hill. (fn. 43)
A notable feature from the 16th century was the number of large houses, most of them leased to Londoners as country retreats. The Black House, in High Road opposite White Hart Lane, was said by Bedwell to boast an inscription recording that Henry VIII stayed there as George Henningham's guest. (fn. 44) Awlfield Farm, next to the church, was described as a fair tenement in 1585, as was the moated manor-house of Mockings, (fn. 45) although neither was among the grander buildings in 1619. By far the most imposing were the 'lordship house' or Bruce Castle and the parsonage house, together with Mattisons, the seat of Sir Julius Caesar, on the far side of Tottenham wood and in reality in Hornsey parish. Several spacious houses bordered High Cross or Tottenham Green, while others stood at Tottenham Hale or farther north, along High Road; Ducketts farm-house was termed a mansion and Asplins farm-house was large, as were Willoughbies along a lane to its north, and Crokes farm-house, belonging to Sir Edward Barkham, at the south corner of White Hart Lane and High Road. (fn. 46) The Black House survived as Rydley, belonging to Alderman William Gore and perhaps already a summer retreat for Sir John Coke, the secretary of state, who was to stay there regularly between 1625 and 1640. (fn. 47) Rydley was considered sumptuous, as was a newly built house of Nathaniel Martin. On the north side of Wood Green another fine house belonged to Ambrose Wheeler. (fn. 48) It was partly an interest in benefactions made by the Barkhams, Wheelers, and other wealthy families which prompted William Bedwell to write his 'Brief Description' in 1631 (fn. 49) and which later led Henry Hare, Lord Coleraine (d. 1708), to compose his 'History and antiquities of the town and church of Tottenham', a work expanded by his grandson and namesake. (fn. 50)
Bedwell singled out three local wonders, all of them arboreal. The chief one was a walnut tree, which flourished without growing bigger and was popularly associated with the burning of an unknown Protestant. It stood, encircled by elms, at the eastern end of Page Green beside High Road, where trees were shown in 1619. Bedwell, who supplied no name, made it clear that interest centred on the walnut itself, (fn. 51) which survived in 1724. (fn. 52) The clump was known as the Seven Sisters by 1732, when the lord's licence was sought for the lower boughs to be lopped. (fn. 53) Although the walnut had died by 1790 (fn. 54) the clump survived or was renewed, to give its name to the new road in 1833 and, (fn. 55) like the high cross, to a locality.
The construction of the New River and the wholesale felling of trees were deplored by Bedwell, (fn. 56) who saw that they greatly changed the appearance of the western part of the parish. A residence built south of the church by Joseph Fenton, in modern times called the Priory and converted into the vicarage house, survives as an example of the activities of wealthy Londoners. (fn. 57) Other examples were the mansion used by Sir John Coke where, according to Bedwell, the former Black House served as outbuildings, (fn. 58) and a large house on the north side of Tottenham Green owned by Sir Abraham Reynardson, (fn. 59) who restored it in 1647 and lived there after his deposition as lord mayor of London in 1649. (fn. 60) In 1664 there were at least 15 large houses assessed at more than 10 hearths, headed by Sir Hugh Smithson's with 22 and Sir Edward Barkham's with 21. The population was still fairly evenly distributed between the wards. Lower ward contained 56 houses, Middle 57, and High Cross 72; there were 58 houses in Wood Green ward, where no building was assessed at more than 8 hearths. (fn. 61)
In 1631 Bedwell found the air wholesome and temperate and described the marshes as pleasant meadows, sometimes flooded but too remote to be dangerous. (fn. 62) Such praises were repeated in 1724 (fn. 63) and, combined with easy access from London, may explain why Tottenham attracted many private schools. At least two select academies preceded the endowment in 1686 of a local grammar school for boys, which also had to compete with institutions run by the Society of Friends. The Friends, who were to provide the district with many distinguished names during the next two centuries, opened their first permanent meeting-house in High Road in 1714. (fn. 64)
While building continued during the late 17th and 18th centuries, the pattern of development remained essentially that of 1619. (fn. 65) Defoe, in the 1720s, was struck by the many new houses along the main road from London to Enfield, notably in Tottenham and Edmonton where they seemed to form 'one continued street'. (fn. 66) In reality builders tended to concentrate on those stretches of High Road which were already popular: around Tottenham Green, the high cross, and northward, especially along the eastern side. Apart from some houses on the boundary at Stamford Hill, the southern stretch remained empty as far as Page Green in 1754, when there was also open country on the west side of High Road between Lordship and White Hart lanes. North of the cross building had become almost continuous along the east side of High Road by 1800 and most of the gaps on either side had been filled by the grounds of big houses. South of Page Green, however, the road still passed through fields, presumably because of damp ground near Stonebridge stream. The open approach and the juxtaposition of large and humble dwellings perhaps explain a comment that Tottenham village, with an unpleasantly flat situation, chiefly comprised one long street of straggling and unequal houses, with little rural charm. (fn. 67)
Small settlements away from High Road attracted little attention in the 18th century. Tottenham Hale, which possessed an inn and which was marked separately in 1754, remained the one hamlet of any size; although comparatively close, in 1818 it had yet to be connected with High Road by building along High Cross Lane. East of the Hale there stood only the mill on the Lea and, far to the north, a few buildings in Marsh and Willoughby lanes. In the centre of the parish West Green still comprised no more than half a dozen houses in 1800. North of it stretched the largest park in Tottenham, around Mount Pleasant, which had been built on the site of an early-18th-century residence, Downhills House. (fn. 68) Wood Green was the only settlement named in the west in 1754, and was still very small in 1818. Its houses were widely scattered, some facing the green itself, known as Wood Green common, others to the north where Green Lanes ascended Jolly Butchers (later Clay Bush) Hill, and a few to the east along Lordship Lane. On the slopes farther west, the woods had dwindled to a few groves among ploughed fields by 1800. There were no houses save Nightingale Hall, on the south side of Bounds Green Lane by 1754, two buildings in the extreme north-west, facing the long strip which was Bounds Green itself, and Tottenham Wood Farm near the top of Muswell Hill.
Most visitors, finding nothing of great note, discussed the antiquities and proverbs mentioned by Bedwell. Such character as the parish possessed still came from the substantial merchants' homes. Defoe considered them 'unequalled in their degree, . . . generally belonging to the middle sort of mankind, grown wealthy by trade, and who still taste of London'; many owners, dividing their time between the City and the country, were immensely rich. He singled out one villa, the first to strike a traveller from London, newly built by a former goldsmith called Wanley; (fn. 69) although small, its architecture and gardens made it the most beautiful house in the entire region. (fn. 70) Such houses stood mainly around Tottenham Green or along the west side of High Road.
Much costly new building, alteration, and landscaping took place c. 1800. (fn. 71) Near Stamford Hill, on the east side of High Road, Markfield House was built by William Hobson, a Quaker building contractor, (fn. 72) who acquired neighbouring farm-land to make an estate of 37 a. by 1840. At the Seven Sisters, on the corner of High Road and Page Green, an earlier house was replaced c. 1800 by a villa which was afterwards bought by Hobson and occupied by the first minister of Holy Trinity chapel. Cottages on the south side of Page Green were replaced c. 1806 by the residence of William Row, set in 12 a. of grounds laid out by Humphry Repton and considered one of the finest in the parish. (fn. 73) Row also bought a neighbouring villa at the eastern end of Page Green, built at about the same date and later called the Hurst. On the north side of Tottenham Green Reynardson's house made way for two villas c. 1810 and on the west side Grove House, a boarding school from the mid 18th century, was greatly altered. Dean Wood's house by the high cross was divided and in 1820 three villas were built where a pond had been filled in at the corner of High Road and High Cross Lane. Farther north, at the corner of Lordship Lane, stood a house possibly dating from before 1700 but refaced in the Palladian manner and provided with curved flanking colonnades c. 1740, when it had been owned by a London merchant named Philip de la Haize. It passed to a City draper, Samuel Salte, and was enlarged by his brother William, in whose day it was called the Corridor and for whom the gardens were landscaped by Repton. William Salte, noted for his lavish but informal hospitality, entertained the dukes of Cambridge and Sussex there in 1808. (fn. 74) Alterations were also carried out at the early-17th-century Asplins farm-house, which received a three-storeyed façade c. 1750, (fn. 75) and, in the 1820s, at the near-by Willoughby House.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the spread of villas along some of the lanes branching off High Road was more noticeable than the growth of separate hamlets. The most uniform building, made possible by the break-up of the manorial estate in 1789, took place along the new road called Bruce Grove; superior, semi-detached houses, soon associated with rich Quaker families, (fn. 76) lined part of its south-western side by 1800. At the north-western end of the row the residence later called Elmhurst had been built by 1818 and on the south side of Lordship Lane Elmslea faced the park of Bruce Castle by 1843. (fn. 77) Building also took place along the north side of White Hart Lane: in 1816 it boasted several capacious villas, probably including Moselle House and Moselle Villa near the vicarage, and the new Tottenham Terrace, whose only defect was thought to be that the dwellings stood too close together. (fn. 78) The same row contained Trafalgar House, from 1821 the home of the topographer and local historian William Robinson, (fn. 79) who acquired many neighbouring properties. (fn. 80) Farther west the lane passed between Rectory Farm, on the north, and the park of the rectory house, then called the Moated House. Beyond lay open country, apart from a farm afterwards called Tent Farm on the site of the late-19th-century potteries.
Rich parishioners left their mark in many charitable institutions, nearly all of them housed along High Road. The Blue Coat school was built in 1735, Reynardson's alms-houses were opened in 1737, and the Pound or Phesaunt's alms-houses, after demolition of the old structures around the churchyard, a few years later. Close to High Street, in Marsh Lane, a workhouse was built in 1783. The Green Coat school of industry was established in 1792, followed by Lancasterian schools in 1812 and 1815. While Quakers continued at their meeting-house, other nonconformists used private rooms from the 1790s until the first permanent chapel was built, for Methodists, in 1818. Roman Catholics worshipped in Queen Street, close to the Edmonton boundary, from 1793.
The residential nature of most new building gave late-18th-century Tottenham the appearance of an extended, semi-rural suburb rather than a town. Industry, apart from brick-making, was virtually confined to riverside mills until the construction of a lace-factory in 1810 and a silk-factory five years later, a tanyard in the grounds of White Hall having proved short-lived. (fn. 81) The factories, near High Road in Love and Factory lanes respectively, passed through several hands before 1837, when one of them became a rubber mill, whose owners soon faced lawsuits for causing pollution. (fn. 82) There were no other businesses of any size, except breweries, in the mid 19th century. Meanwhile private schools continued to benefit from the relatively healthy air; among them were establishments opened in 1827 at Bruce Castle and in the following year at Grove House, both of which became nationally known. As late as 1859 the authoress Mrs. J. H. Riddell described Tottenham as a very quiet and secluded town, where fortunes could be made by enterprising traders or craftsmen who secured the patronage of the local gentry. West Green, where she lived, might be a hundred miles from London and did not take easily to strangers from Tottenham itself. (fn. 83)
A doubling of the population between 1811 and 1851 was reflected in many new schools and chapels and in the first modern Anglican church, built at Tottenham Green in 1830. (fn. 84) The opening of a railway station in 1840 and of a church at Wood Green in 1844 presaged the establishment of a local board in 1848 and a transformation of the old parish, when the social standing of much housing along High Road would be lowered and the contrast between concentrated development there and open country to the west would be ended. In 1840, however, it was still possible for William Robinson to claim that the pattern of settlement did not differ greatly from that of 1619. All but a few of the inhabitants lived in or near High Road. Tottenham Hale was a village with with an inn and some 125 houses, containing over 600 people. Around West Green there were about 18 houses, some of them considered respectable family residences, and at Wood Green Common there were only ten. (fn. 85)
Tottenham had 355 communicants in 1547. (fn. 86) The protestation oath was taken by 252 adult males in 1641-2 (fn. 87) and there were 87 conformists and 43 nonconformists in 1676. (fn. 88) Some 119 houses were recorded in 1619 (fn. 89) and 243 in 1664. (fn. 90) By 1801 there were 3,629 inhabitants, whose numbers rose steadily over the following decades to reach 6,937 in 1831 and 9,120 in 1851. The population remained fairly evenly distributed between the three wards covering High Road: Lower, Middle, and High Cross wards contained 1,612, 1,343, and 1,187 persons respectively in 1811 and 3,165, 2,273, and 2,413 in 1851. Wood Green ward, which included West Green, contained 429, less than a tenth of the total, in 1811 and 1,269, less than a seventh, in 1851. (fn. 91)