Manor House, London
Built up during the middle part of the nineteenth century as part of an area called Brownswood Park, Manor House is now a small district without a formal town centre, but distant enough from other town centres that it has come to be recognised as an area in its own right. Taking its name from Manor House tube station on the Piccadilly line, it is centred on the crossroads of Seven Sisters Road and Woodberry Grove. The western border is defined by Finsbury Park in the neighbourhood of Harringay. Its other borders are defined by the New River, which loops around it on three sides. The area consists mainly of the Woodberry Down Estate, but there are also two small shopping areas, a school and a pub.
The Manor House pub
The pub is the source of both the name of the tube station and the area. The first pub on the site was built by Thomas Widdows c. 1810 as a roadside tavern next to the turnpike on Green Lanes. The pub was within sight of the Hornsey Wood Tavern, which had been formed out of the old Copt Hall, the manor house of the Manor of Brownswood. It is likely its name was taken from this connection. Later in the century a tablet was placed on the pub with the following inscription:
|“||QVEENE VICTORIA HALTED HERE
YE 25TH Oct A.D.
However, nothing more is known of the incident. Towards the end of the century the building was remodelled and modernised. In 1930 the old tavern was demolished and the current building erected. Behind the new building, offices were built for London Transport. Although the latter building still exists, TfL no longer occupies it.
In later years the pub was the first employer of Richard Desmond, now the owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star. The building also housed a nightclub that was popular among Goths in the mid-1980s. Two decades earlier it had functioned as a popular music venue for blues enthusiasts, called the Bluesville R.& B. Club, hosting artists such as Cream, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart (then nicknamed 'Rod the Mod'), John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Graham Bond and Zoot Money. The ground floor of the building is now occupied by Evergreen supermarket and Simply Organique cafe.
After the construction of the pub early in the 19th century, building continued on Green Lanes with the appearance in 1821 of a large house at the junction with Woodberry Down. Further north on Green Lanes, Northumberland House, a three-storeyed building with a pillared entrance, balustrade, and urns on its roof, had been built by 1824 just to the south of the New River. It was used as a private mental hospital until it was demolished in 1955; one of its most famous patients was Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot, first wife of the American poet T.S. Eliot, who lived at the hospital from 1938 until her death in 1947.
A thatched cottage, with Gothic windows, was constructed on the boundary with the borough of Tottenham by 1825. Woodberry Down Cottages, four detached houses on the south side of Woodberry Down, had been built by 1829. With the development of Finsbury Park almost a certainty, the land to the south and east of the present-day park was acquired by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as ideal for building. The park was laid out between 1857 and 1869 and the adjacent land was sold to builders.
During the 1860s, Thomas John Angell, who appears to have been a speculator rather than a builder, built Finsbury Park Villas. This was a terrace of at least twelve houses, which, starting with the Finsbury Park Tavern, ran northward along Green Lanes from its junction with the new Woodberry Grove.
At around the same time, Angell and a London builder Thomas Oldis were responsible for development that began to spread eastward along the north side of Seven Sisters Road. From 1868 to 1870 large detached houses with gardens running down to the New River were built at the east end of Seven Sisters Road. In 1867 3 acres (12,000 m2) were leased on the southern side of the eastern end of the road, for the building of four detached or nine 'substantial' houses; three detached houses were built by 1871. An architect, William Reddall of Finsbury, was one of those who leased the houses. Woodberry Down was laid out in 1868, when it was extended eastward from Lordship Road, and villas were built on the south side in the late 1860s. The area was the northern section of a district called Brownswood Park (named after Brownswood Manor) and was regarded as a particularly select suburb.
However, with the increasing suburbanisation of the area, mainly for the middle and lower middle classes, many of the original families had moved out by 1895 and others were being replaced by poorer people in 1913. Social decline continued, until in 1954 the district was inhabited mainly by students, foreigners, and the working class, with most houses containing four or five families and all in decay.
Twentieth century redevelopment
From 1949 through to the 1970s much of the area was redeveloped, the old houses being demolished and replaced with a large council development known locally as Woodberry Down. The LCC compulsorily purchased the area for this purpose in 1934 in order to alleviate chronic housing shortages, but work did not begin till after the Second World War . Construction began in 1949 and the 57 blocks of flats were completed in 1962.
Initially, the estate offered greatly improved living conditions for tenants. However, over time, the estate suffered the problems of comparably idealistic, post-war, social housing projects. By the late 1980s, many of the flats were in a poor state of repair, while many more were empty and boarded up with metal shutters.
1980s squatter community
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the increasing number of abandoned properties on the estate became occupied by a growing squatter community. The squatters at Woodberry Down Estate were predominantly young punks from all over the UK and Ireland. Several had squatted previously in the Noel Park area in Wood Green. The squatters’ relationship with tenants ranged from amicable to antagonistic, but the two communities generally managed to co-exist without too much hostility. The strong community spirit, which existed among residents in the 1950s was still evident to a lesser extent during this time, and the estate managed to avoid the more extreme crime and social problems often associated with inner-city housing projects. The sharp increase in numbers of squatters has clear links to the huge increases in homelessness in London that resulted from Thatcherite policies, such as the Right to Buy scheme (introduced in the Housing Act 1980).
Manor House in the twenty-first century
Woodberry Down is currently subject to a phased redevelopment that is seeing modern flats built on the site. The plan was initially conceived during a time of economic growth under the New Labour administration in the late 1990s. A structural assessment in 2002 concluded that 31 out of 57 blocks (54%) were beyond economic repair. Following this, Hackney Council struck a deal with Genesis Housing Association, Berkeley Homes for the estate’s demolition and redevelopment. It is among the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK. The first phase of the development produced 117 homes let by Genesis on social rents, and won the top prize for social housing at the Daily Telegraph British Homes Awards 2011. This regeneration has been controversial, with some commentators calling the plans 'state sponsored gentrification'.
Nicholl House (council estate) at Woodberry Down featured in the famous film Schindler's list (1993)
- For details of education in Manor House, London see the London Boroughs of Hackney and Haringey articles.
Transport and locale
Nearest railway stations
- The Reservoirs Nature Society (TeRNS)
- Harringay Online - online community network for Harringay and surrounding areas
References and notes
- Google map showing the rough boundaries of Manor House.
- T. F. T. Baker & R. B. Pugh (Editors) (1976). A History of the County of Middlesex, Volume 6: Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey with Highgate. Accessed online at British History Online.
- Baker & Pugh (see previous reference) state that the pub was built "by 1832". However, the date of c. 1810 is probably more accurate since the building is not shown on map OSD 152 / Serial 104 Hampstead 1807 - 08 at Hackney Archives, but does appear on the 1814 Map of the Parish and Prebendal Manor of the Parish of Stoke Newington, also at Hackney Archives
- See also Settlement section in History of Harringay Prehistory to 1750
- North London Recorder, 28 February 1930
- in a room on the first floor 'The Catacomb' nightclub accessed 14 April 2007
- Roberts, Andrew. Northumberland House, The 1832 Madhouse Act and the Metropolitan Commission in Lunacy from 1832, Middlesex University, accessed 11 November 2009. Roberts cites Murphy, Elaine (2000) The Administration of Insanity in East London 1800-1870 PhD Thesis, University of London.
- Seymour-Jones, Carole. Painted Shadow, Doubleday 2001.
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2001/oct/14/features.review Tom and Viv... and Bertie, The Observer, Sunday 14 October 2001
- Thatcherite policies condemned for causing 'unjust premature death'
- GLA press release 27 Jul 2001 accessed 14 April 2007
- Genesis scoops top social housing prize at Daily Telegraph awards, 29 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-30.
- Couvée, K, Woodberry Down in Hackney: How ‘Regeneration’ is Tearing up Another East London Community
- Chakrabortty, A and Robinson-Tillett, S The truth about gentrification: regeneration or con trick?