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‘Intimate’ destruction?

There may soon be one fewer historic building in Palmers Green following news this week of plans to demolish the Intimate Theatre and replace it with a new parish centre and flats.

There have long been rumours that the Intimate’s days were numbered. St Monica’s, who own the site, first made a successful planning application to replace the theatre (also known as the Large Hall) with a single story parish centre in 1992.

This week’s parish newsletter announces plans to demolish it and to also sell the current Parish Centre on Cannon Hill – which is a Grade 2 listed regency villa.

As you may be aware, the Large Hall and Parish Centre at Cannon House require major investment. Even after such investment they remain, in design, a theatre and private residence. Existing expenditure on maintaining these building is costly and will continue to be in the future. The buildings are not energy-efficient and some areas cannot be accessed by those with impaired mobility. To meet the present and envisaged future needs of the parish, it is proposed to build a new Parish Centre, one that will be a legacy for future generations.

Of course, the Intimate already has a legacy, and was successfully nominated for Enfield Council’s Local Heritage List two years ago. The site of Sir John Clements’ famous theatre company, the first play ever to have been broadcast live on television was beamed from the Intimate and it is one of the last surviving local theatres in London. Those who have trodden the boards include Richard Attenborough (making his stage debut), Irene Handl, Anna Wing, Nicholas Parsons, Roger Moore, Arthur Lowe, Bill Owen, John Inman, Dad’s Army writer Jimmy Perry and his wife Gilda, Tony Blackburn, Stephen Berkoff, Davy Graham, David Bowie, The Wurzels, Joe

David Bowie appeared in Poirrot in Turquoise for four nights in the late 1960s

Brown, George Melly, Tommy Trinder, Hinge and Bracket, and, in panto, Bill Pertwee, Ruth Madoc, and John Noakes.  Many of those have of course passed now. And it seems that so too will our old Intimate.

St Monica’s are holding a parish meeting about the plans on 18 September at 7.30. At the Intimate Theatre.


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Guest post: Palmers Green’s Cormac O’Duffy: the music of reconciliation

A memory of a talented Palmers Green family by journalist Frances Sealey.

Visiting Dresden in the last week was quite an emotional experience in several wayand not least that it reminded me of a remarkable family that lived in Palmers Green.

The O’Duffy family were a multi talented one. Michael the father was a very accomplished singer of Irish folk songs and he performed on several occasions for the Enfield Committee For Racial Harmony at some of our events including a huge event of over 300 people in the Edmonton Banqueting Hall with contributions from our ethnic communities that ended with a West Indian Steel Band.

His eldest son Paul was a talented music producer who I think worked with Paul McCartney.

But it was the youngest son Cormac who had the links with Dresden. Cormac was a music teacher and taught many young people including my daughter the piano. Cormac was passionate about bringing communities that had been in conflict together to heal and reconcile.

With him I once arranged a showing at his church of the banned BBC film “The War Game” that dramatized the effect of nuclear war on London – a film that impacted on all who saw it.

But Cormac also felt the tragedy that people went through in Dresden as a result of the mass bombings on that City during the War. Equally he was also concerned with what had happened in Coventry.

Dresden was bombed in February 1945 with 39,000 tons of high explosive killing around 25,000 people through both the blast and the following fire storm. The blitz on Coventry took place in 1940 with over 4,300 homes being destroyed as well as the Cathedral.

Cormac wanted to bring the communities of Coventry and Dresden together and composed a Requiem for that special occasion that was performed in front of an audience from both communities.

I felt the emotion of that whilst I stood in the square to listen to two young people singing opera to the audience gathering round in such beautiful tones that it made me think of Cormac and his deployment of music to express common humanity.

As the singers finished lightening lit up the sky and blasts of thunder could be heard across the city and again I thought of 1945 knowing that was the sound they heard then – only that time it brought not lightening but bombs and death.

Cormac O’Duffy from Palmers Green helped the world to move on from that dreadful time and through his Requiem find peace and reconciliation.

A Dresden Requiem – Cormac O’Duffy Music

— Read on

architecture Art and Culture Community History Palmers Green Shops

A present to Palmers Green

I hope you had a great Christmas. We did, though there were some recent losses amongst family and friends, and not everyone was as well as I would have liked them to be. But it’s a cathartic time, and one where  we hopefully end the year reminding ourselves, if we are lucky, of the love all around us, and that however difficult life is sometimes, there can still be sparkle and possibility.

This year we all got one other, amazing present. The Bourlets clock, long fallen  into sad decay, and telling the right time only twice a day, re-emerged from behind scaffolding and covers, beautiful and fully restored. No fuss, no ceremony, just there, renewed.

The clock a few months ago

The renovations were carried out by Frix Vasou whose family owns the building and for many years ran the audio visual shop which occupied the premises up until 2014, Frix had  long wanted to restore the clock but the costs looked like they would be astronomical. Then the shop was leased to Costa Coffee, and leaks to the building following heavy rain meant roof repairs and scaffolding –  Frix asked for it to be reconfigured so he could get a look of the clock up close. The clock was then gutted, rubbed down and painted, and new clock faces, hands, motors and LEDs from a clock tower specialist were modified by Frix to fit the clock. There is now a new electric supply and remote control capability so that the clock can be reset in spring and autumn and a few more tweaks since the clock reemerged to get it to a state where Frix is happy with it,

‘but its done and it’s finally working, which is what counts.’

It will be up there for many years to come. I have enjoyed bringing it back to life and hope that it brings enjoyment to others too.’

and now

If one person can do that what could we all do, if we gave up moaning about this and that, and just got on with what we can do for our area, here and now…?

So I wonder what 2018 will hold for us. For me, it seems like time to take some real pride in Palmers Green, take advantage of the cleaner, newer streetscape, polish the pilasters, remove the taxi card stickers, cherish the old and build something new.

Happy New Year!

architecture Art and Culture History Palmers Green Planning and open spaces Shops

Where has Bourlet’s clock gone? 

The clock a few months ago

Look up if you are passing Costa Coffee and you will see that an old friend is missing. The casing is still there but the two faces of Bourlet’s clock, together with the mechanism, have been taken out.

Of course Bourlet’s clock hasn’t told the right time – or its two faces the same time – for years and though iconic for us locally it’s long been looking a bit sad.

Has someone taken pity on it and taken it down for repair? It’s hard to see but looks like the casing might have had a lick of paint.

Or – please no – has it been permanently removed. Please get in touch if you know more.

and today
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Something to lift the spirits

And so Christmas is nearly here and the accolade of Palmers Green story of the year has been stolen at the last moment by Ian Puddick with his Old Bakery Gin, created in a rediscovered illegal still just south of the North Circular. Ian made it to ITV news this week.


We’ll be back in the New Year with more stories about where we  live. In the meantime, wishing you a Merry Christmas, and all best for 2017.

architecture Art and Culture Community History Palmers Green Planning and open spaces

Every street in Palmers Green #10: Two elderly folk from Mile End

a little peek

If you fancy a modest little outing this weekend, wait for a break in the weather and put on a hat and coat. Turn left from Green Lanes at the Fox and then cross the road, passing under the majestic holly arch and into Pellipar Close. Walk right to the end to the railings and look for the roof of an outbuilding in the well-kept gardens of Skinners Court.

Then, stand on tip toe. There, through the vegetation, you might just catch a glimpse of one of the oldest things in Palmers Green: two weather-beaten figures in stone, a man and a woman, the man with a crutch looking out imploringly, the woman also of straitened circumstances, perhaps barefoot. The figures didn’t start their life in Palmers Green – but they have spent their last one hundred years here.

a better look - image (c) by kind permission of enfield local studies archive
a better look – image (c) by kind permission of enfield local studies archive

Their original home was at the Skinners Almshouses which once stood 8 miles away in London’s East End. The first Skinners Almshouses, at St Helen’s Mile End were set up for the accommodation of six freemen of the Skinners Company, following a bequest in the will of Sir Andrew Judd in 1551. In 1683 the will of Lewis Newbery made further provision for twelve Skinners widows as long as they did not remarry.

Though often depicted as picturesque in contemporary pictures, the Mile End almshouses were modest, laid out as two rows of cottages, the doors of which gave onto a single room but with extensive gardens behind. The occupants were given a small pension, including an allowance for coal, and were expected to attend prayers twice a day.

skinners almshouses in 1955 (c) with kind permission Enfield Local Studies Archive
skinners almshouses in 1955 (c) with kind permission Enfield Local Studies Archive

And so it continued for two hundred years until the land was sold in 1895. New land had already been purchased in Palmers Green on the site of a farm owned by a Mr Graves, and new almshouses, designed in a simple yet graceful art and crafts style, took shape. The buildings were on three sides around a garden which faced onto Green Lanes, and in pride of position, set into pillars at the gate, were two figures which had adorned the Mile End site – the same figures you can still see in the gardens today. Alan Dumayne in his book Once upon a time in Palmers Green recalls that the old almshouses were a peaceful spot and the gardens a suntrap. Residents could often be seen sitting outside on deckchairs on a fine day.

(c) Enfield Local Studies Archive
(c) Enfield Local Studies Archive

Sadly the new building was only to last 70 years. It was destroyed by fire in 1966 and half the plot, that nearest Green Lanes, was developed into flats, separated from the new Skinners Court by Pellipar Close (Pellipar being a reminder of the old name of those who earned their living from the getting, fashioning and selling of furs). Incidentally, the site occupied by the flats was part of old Palmers Green’s original green.

The new Skinners Court is a modern, inviting building, with lovely gardens and a friendly demeanour. It still provides shelter for the retired, but not necessarily the destitute. But the two figures remain as a reminder of what destitution once meant.

  • 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  If you have any suggestions for buildings which aren’t listed but should be included in the local list, I’m afraid it’s too late as today is the deadline, but I have, you know, been asking yer…