We have a four hundred year old man made waterway, a five hundred year old house that keeps burning down under strange circumstances, a spooky overgrown house by the main road and a railway that until the 50s knew the atmosphere and smuts of steam…And yet, after more than 100 years of modern-day Palmers Green, dripping with requisite potentially spooky Edwardiana, ghost stories about the area are very rare.
But there are a few.
The first concerns the Fox. In the 1980s and 1990s the back rooms of the Fox (as The Fox Theatre) became home of several theatre companies in succession, including in 1996 the Fact and Fable Theatre Company, whose performance of Pin Money by Malcolm Needs was directed by June Brown, Dot Cotton of Eastenders.
It was during another production in November 1996, according to Gary Boudier in his 2002 book, A-Z of Enfield Pubs (part 2), that a Mr Sullivan from Archway felt himself being tapped on the shoulder but turned to find no one there. Bar staff and customers also reported unexplained noises, only some of which were attributable to the effects of alcohol.
The Intimate Theatre also reputedly has its ghost, according to the BBC’s Doomsday Reloaded project of a few years ago, though it’s not much of a story, only a ghostly presence in the auditorium.
But my favourite story concerns the appropriately named Dead Man’s Bridge.
If you don’t know Deadman’s bridge, it’s the second bridge you cross as you head down Green Lanes towards the north circular. The story of the bridge dates from when Palmers Green was a rural area and comes from E Ploton’s long out of print Tales of Old Middlesex.
In those days, London imported food for people and livestock from miles around the surrounding area, Essex, Middlesex, Hertfordshire. Carts loaded high with straw made their way along Green Lanes, winding their way into a then more distant London.
One such carter was Gabriel Haynes, who had done the journey so many times that his old horse knew the way off by heart. Days were long and the gentle rocking of the cart meant that Gibby had got into the habit of catching a few moments sleep on the return journey as night began to fall and he drew his coat around him.
It was in this state that Gibby atop his cart, and drawn on home by his trusty horse approached the bridge over Pymmes Brook one night in early November, when a large black dog came running out from the side of the road.
Startled, the horse swerved to the side of the road. Thrown from the cart, Gibby was pitched onto the bank of Pymmes Brook and rolled into the water. He might have emerged from the shallow waters with just some bruises had cart and startled, flailing horse not come tottering after. Hauled from the water, a badly injured Gibby was carried to the Cock Inn, where he died a few hours later. Strangely it is not Gibby who E Ploton tells us was often seen in the shadows by the bridge – but the black dog who caused the death of Old Gibby.
I am not aware of any recent sightings – unless of course you know different.
There is one more local tale which is set around Christmas. You are going to have to wait until December for that one.
This article first appeared in the October edition of Palmers Green and Southgate Life