Art and Culture Film History Palmers Green

Every Street in Palmers Green #7: How Palmers Green invented a Raj

Nomination for the local list of heritage assets: 130 Fox Lane and 63 Bourne Hill

Like any other place with a reasonable sized population, Palmers Green has had its fair share of famous people, in particular writers. Most people know that PG was home to Stevie Smith for most of her life, but less celebrated is Paul Scott, writer of The Jewel in the Crown, part of his Raj Quartet. Scott, by then living in Hampstead, won the Booker Prize in 1977 with his sequel to Raj, Staying On.

Scott was born on the 25 March 1920 in the upstairs front bedroom of his parents’ house at 130 Fox Lane. His father, a Yorkshire man, had come to London two decades earlier, and worked as a commercial artist to the fashion trade alongside his unmarried sisters (their studio was a three story Edwardian gabled building called Wyphurst in Southgate High Street).

The Scott family, says biographer Hilary Spurling, allowed themselves the luxury of feeling they were a cut above the neighbours – Tom Scott was the only ‘professional’ man at their end of Fox Lane. The hauteur however was masking something rather different. Scott’s mother Frances, a women who herself had creative ambitions, came from the wrong side of the tracks – the dreaded south London – was the daughter of a labourer and had a sister who was in service. Frances was apparently acutely, almost obsessively aware of their precarious social standing in their new posh suburb. Safe to say, her sister wasn’t a particularly welcome visitor.

Before we allow ourselves to think Frances odd, we need to bear in mind that the hard work involved in maintaining a veneer of respectability in Palmers Green of the 1920s seems to have been all consuming and frankly exhausting. It wasn’t unusual for neighbours who couldn’t pay the bills to suddenly disappear having done a moonlight flit. Other crimes which could lead to being hounded out included such horrors as eating in the kitchen, or doing the washing at the weekend. Palmers Green was new, and its residents new newly respectable. Risk showing it and lowering the social tone – and you were out.
Scott later often said that the social divisions he found when he first journeyed to India in 1943 were little different from those he remembers from his childhood in Palmers Green: “When I lived there we were as aware of social distinctions as they were in Mayapore.”. He did what any good writer would do, and put them in his books. For India, read Palmers Green.

Scott’s Palmers Green childhood was up and down. He and his brother were initially educated at a prep school linked to Winchmore Hill Collegiate School, in a hall just a few steps away from their house (probably Amberley Hall which was on the north side of Fox Lane, now demolished). But the Scotts were forced to leave Fox Lane in 1933, as the depression hit, and moved in with the aunts at Wyphurst, causing all kinds of family tension. By 1934 financial difficulties meant that Paul had also to leave school, though he was not yet quite 15, and forced by his father to become an accountant.

In June 1939, finances improving, the family moved again, first to Cannon Hill – father and son celebrated with a pint in the Cherry Tree – then back to Palmers Green, to 63 Bourne Hill, on the south side of the road near the covered reservoir.

Paul’s room in Bourne Hill was at the front, above the garage you can still see today – he spoke of it as the room where he ‘really began to write’. It was also where he met the poet Clive Sansom and his wife Ruth, who lived next door in a flat at no 61 Bourne Hill. The Sansoms weren’t your typical neighbours. At the time Scott met them, they were rehearsing a part sung, part spoken recital of T S Elliot’s The Waste Land. Scott and the Sansoms became extremely close, and were to have a considerable effect on his early life and writing, sharing ideas and their latest work in a slightly intense and claustrophobic threesome.

Scott joined the army as a private soldier in July 1940, as the bombs fell on Southgate. Though far from the worst hit in London, one hundred and 18 bombs and two mines fell on Southgate in October 1940 alone, including one which hit and demolished two houses in Fox Lane. Later that year, tragedy struck when Scott’s aunts’ house, Wyphurst, was destroyed by a time bomb which had lain unexploded in the house. Both of his remaining aunts were killed, one outright, the other as a result of her injuries. Meanwhile, Scott rose to lance corporal, but was busted back down to private in early 1941, following a mysterious incident which Hilary Spurling indicates was probably related to a sexual indiscretion with another soldier and caused a near nervous breakdown.

scottHis life changed with a posting to India as an officer cadet came in February 1943 – he eventually rose to Captain in the Indian Army Service Corps. The war over, Scott returned to London in 1946 and resumed work as an accountant before becoming a literary agent, representing Arthur C Clarke, Elizabeth David and Mervyn Peake among others.
He published his first novel, Johnny Sahib in 1952. From 1960 he devoted himself to writing entirely and began work on the Jewel in the Crown, the first novel in the Raj Quartet, at his home in Hampstead in 1964. The story, beginning with the rape of Daphne Manners and its consequences, is set against the background of the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, one of its key themes, life as an outsider in your own country, just has his family had been in PG.

Scott struggled for most of his career to make money from his novels, plays and poetry and often supplemented his income with journalism. Though The Raj Quartet is the work for which Scott eventually achieved greatest fame, it was his last novel, Staying On, for which Scott achieved widespread recognition, with the award of the Booker Prize in 1977, just a year before his death. Six years later, the Raj Quartet was made into a 14 part TV series under the title Jewel in the Crown by Granada TV; it continues to be one of the most highly rated television dramas series of all time, and made actor Charles Dance famous.
Scott died in 1978, aged just 57, following a struggle with cancer of the colon and the effects of a longstanding difficult relationship with alcohol.

By that time he had not lived in Palmers Green for many years, but his parents appear to have remained here, possibly into the 1960s. Tom Scott died in 1958, and Frances in 1969.

  • This article has been prepared as part of the process to nominate buildings and landmarks to Enfield’s updated local list. For more information see And if you have any suggestions for buildings which aren’t listed but should be included in the local list, please get in touch. But do get in touch soon, as submissions need to be in by the second week in November.
Art and Culture Community Film Palmers Green

All Palmers Green is ‘Here’ on Platform 1

This afternoon’s Palmers Green Community News included a link to this film from the Talkies 2015 short film festival Here. It is filmed from inside Annita’s cafe on Platform  1. And it is a beautiful and moving thing.

There is also the latest on the plans to make Palmers Green more green and cycle friendly, with the usual controversy and comment, and coverage of the  wonderful, Palmers Green Festival. If you arent already on the mailing list, why not sign up?

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Growing up in Hedge Lane in the 40s and 50s

Increasingly often I log in to find something wonderful is posted on the comments section on the website or on the facebook page.

One such recent post was from Carole Benson nee Rabbie who with her Mum, Dad and brother Harold lived in Hedge Lane from 1939 to 1961. These are her memories from the time.

It was a nice place to live growing up in the 40s, 50s and 60s — very neat, “waspy”, middle class, leafy, suburban neighborhood of well-kept front and back gardens, pretty, well maintained parks, lovely old growth trees, an allotment where you could get a very very small bit of land to grow your own vegetables.

Tatum park near the Cambridge Roundabout that had a playground with swings, two slides, and a roundabout and “the field”, a block away from my house — both on Hedge Lane. Broomfield Park on Alderman’s Hill Southgate was magnificent. Our annual school sports day took place there.

Copyright unattributed
Copyright unattributed

The United Dairies and Express dairies delivered our milk (choice of pasteurized, sterilized or Jersey with cream at the top) to our doorstep year round on weekdays, and later bread and eggs. Got free milk each day in school plus artificial orange juice and Radio Malt for our vitamins. We were healthy considering.Walked 20 minutes from my house on corner of Connaught Gardens, to Hazelwood Lane Infants and Primary School — and later on took the bus from the corner on Green Lanes to Glendale Grammar in Wood Green.

During the war, the council gave us concrete and corrugated iron and helped us to make an Anderson bomb shelter in our back garden. It was creepy, smelly, musty, full of spiders and mice and terrifying to sleep in it as a child so my mother took me (my brother wasn’t born till after the war as Daddy was posted to Aldershot and other barracks around the country and was away for 5 years, with hardly any leaves) to family in Edgeware and other relatives much of the time when the bombing was bad. (No homes were bombed near mine but there were some direct hits to factories in the neighborhood.) our garden lawn was never the same after they dug up the shelter. The concrete was left behind and we couldn’t afford to get a digger in to remove it.

There was a prisoner of war internment camp nearby (i don’t remember exactly where) and the prisoners could be seen doing road repairs and manual labour. One family facing us were Italians and were met with suspicion and were ostracized by most of the fearful neighbors.

Food and everything such as shoes, clothes, linens, were on ration and very scarce. Sainsbury’s for cheese and bacon, sliced from slabs and a butcher with cheap cuts, including rabbit, a decent baker with great doughnuts and a Fishmonger frequently sold out so you had to be in the queue when they opened to be sure to get your supplies. (When you had enough coupons or money.)

Nice department store near The Triangle, Evans & Davies”. a drapery shop near Fox Lane, with a wire to convey invoices and money across the ceiling in a pod to the cashier’s kiosk) and Etam’s, i remember, for stockings and undies.

Hardly anyone had a car. Petrol was scarce. Everywhere was walking uphill and downhill. The family doctor Seifert whose home and office were next door was the only person i knew personally who had a car.

The local policemen were nice to kids, i recall. I don’t remember hearing about any crime in our neighborhood growing up.

We were required to take in lodgers in our spare room for the war effort. We had a nice refugee Jewish family (the father was a psychiatrist who was obliged to work as an orderly in a local mental hospital) from Czechoslovakia for a year or so and a after that a Welsh schoolteacher who took me with her to school when i was 3 so i learned to read at that age. We were lucky. Keeping warm was a challenge in the winter. Coal was on ration and virtually unobtainable, wood was impossible to get so we used coke which was cheap and inefficient. One hot bath a week in a freezing bathroom had to suffice.

After the war when my Dad came home from fighting for King and Country, my Dad drove his own London taxi, so we could go to Westcliff or Brighton for the day and have peppermint rock and prawns, cockles and mussels and jellied eels and fish and chips when the weather was nice. We were lucky.

Loved the three movie houses in Palmers Green. There were 2 near The Triangle –the Palmadium was the big one. There was another one The Capitol, in Winchmore Hill where i took my younger brother Harold to see The Ten Commandments. Mummy preferred American musicals to British movies but i loved them all. Went nearly every Thursday, rain or shine. Sat in the one and nines if we were flush.

Remember fabulous Victory Party on Huxley Place (where some of my relatives lived) and other celebrations in Palmers Green. Tea and buttered toasted tea cakes in Lyon’s tea shop on the Triangle with Wall’s ice-cream wrapped in paper in a cone was next to heaven. Of course, going up West to Lyon’s Corner House at Marble Arch for a knicker-bocker glory really was heaven.

Don’t remember much about going to pubs as i was too young. Remember sitting outside with a lemonade while the grown up Mums chain smoked and chugged a port and lemon.

If you remember Carol, she’d love to hear from you – especially her friend Valerie Rowe (born Knight).

Art and Culture Bowes Park Film Palmers Green Southgate Turnpike Lane Wood Green

A trip on the Oxo to Cofo

A most enjoyable little jaunt

Art and Culture Comedy Community Enfield Film History Music Southgate

Farewell, Ron Moody

Ron Moody Opening the Southgate May Day Fayre in 2014, photo by kind permission of Christine Matthews ( Creative Commons LIcense)
Ron Moody Opening the Southgate May Day Fayre in 2014, photo by kind permission of Christine Matthews ( Creative Commons License)

Our thoughts this week are firmly with the family and friends of Ron Moody who sadly passed away on 11 June aged 91. Living for many years near the Cherry Tree, he was often seen around Palmers Green.

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist was already loved by many, but it was Lionel Bart’s film production of ‘Oliver!’ that made it forever part of so many people’s lives – not for Mark Lester’s saccharine Oliver but for Moody’s amazing Fagin.
Moody had been horrified by the anti Semitism in Alec Guinness’ 1948 film and he and Lionel Bart set out to “get Fagin away from a viciously racial stereotype, and instead make him what he really is – a crazy old Father Christmas gone wrong.”

Though Moody, to his frustration, became primarily associated with that role and complained at times of typecasting, he was multi-talented, with a degree in sociology, philosophy and psychology. He was a writer as well as a performer, producing the words and music for a play about Joseph Grimaldi in the 1960s. And he came close to becoming the third Dr Who instead of John Pertwee.

His last reprise of the voice of Fagin was three years ago, in this wonderful short film Fits and Starts of Restlessness: a night walk tracing the path of the lost Fleet River, through the shadowy streets of Saffron Hill where Dickens located Fagin’s den in Oliver Twist. The film includes extracts from  interviews with juvenile offenders undertaken on board the Euryalus prison hulk, Chatham, and from the passages in Oliver Twist in which Oliver enters  London. It’s just over 5 minutes and well worth your time. (Go straight to if you are  unable to view)



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The Fox becomes Enfield’s first ‘Asset of Community Value’

The Fox - at the heart of PG
The Fox – at the heart of PG

Palmers Green’s The Fox has become the first Asset of Community Value to be created in Enfield following a decision of Enfield Council’s Evaluations Committee last week.

Under the Localism Act, Councils must maintain a list of ‘community assets’, nominated by community groups. The successful nomination, made by Southgate Civic District Trust, does not give total protection to The Fox, but it does mean if the owners want to sell the pub or change its use, SCDT must be informed. The status means that the community can also then potentially make a bid for ownership.

Becoming pub owners may not be on the cards, but the application places a marker on the importance of the pub for Palmers Green. As the application said, ‘If Palmers Green were ever to lose its landmark pub, and this landmark building, it would lose part of itself’.

In accordance with the criteria, the application placed a particular emphasis on the community use of the building and its importance to the area. You can read an extract below.

If you have ideas for other potential Assets of Community Value and would like to get involved in putting together an application, please contact SCDT.  For more about Assets of Community Value and the criteria for making an application, visit

The Fox stands in a prominent position on the corner of Green Lanes and its namesake, Fox Lane. Tall and imposing, for those coming to Palmers Green from the north, it acts as a gateway into Palmers Green’s main shopping area.

The Fox has a number of accolades. It is the oldest remaining pub in Palmers Green to have continuously stood on the same site – there has been a Fox on the site for over 300 years. It is also the only purpose built public house still remaining open on the main route between Wood Green and some way north of Winchmore Hill, the others being shop conversions with little architectural or historical merit.

The current building, of 1904, was built as part and parcel of the Edwardian development of Palmers Green. The size and grandeur of the building is a reminder that Palmers Green was once a place of enough significance to require a hotel and associated dining for travellers. Before the coming of the car, the Fox was the terminus of the horse drawn bus service into London, run by the Davey family of publicans who had stables at the back. Once the trams came, it was a major landmark on the journey from London. All taxi drivers still know the Fox.

The Fox, then, holds a position of huge cultural significance in an area, which tends to think of itself as having a short past. It is a well loved landmark and social hub. If Palmers Green were ever to lose its landmark pub, and this landmark building, it would lose part of itself.

As a former bus and train terminus, and a hotel, the Fox has always been at the centre of Palmers Green’s social and community life. June Brown, Dot Cotton from Eastenders, ran her theatre company from it, bands, including big names like Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, have played in it, famous comedians perform in it to this day, and the famous have drunk in it – locals like Rod Stewart and Ted Ray and visitors including the famous names who trod the boards at the Intimate Theatre.

Today, as the only remaining live performance venue in central Palmers Green, the Fox host a monthly comedy night attracting top Perrier nominated comedians. It hosts a community cinema, Talkies, desperately needed now that there are no cinemas for several miles. It hosts exercise and dance classes, and until recently bands and Irish music. As the only town centre room-for-hire, it has hosted wedding receptions, christenings, parties and bar mitzvahs, giving it a special place in many local people’s personal histories.

The loss of the Fox, in its current form as a public house, would leave the community impoverished; the loss of the building itself would take something beloved and iconic for local people.

For this reason, we wish to make an application for the Fox to be recognised as an Asset of Community Value, so that, should it ever be threatened, it will be clear that this is a both building and social hub valued in the local area, and that local people might have some kind of option to intervene.