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Every street in Palmers Green #3: Palmers Green’s Gatekeeper

rp_The-Fox-April-2012-detail-300x225.jpgWhy do I love The Fox? Well, I admit to having had a drink in there once or twice, several trips to Talkies, and even been to a christening. It is also, so far, Enfield’s only Asset of Community Value.

But none of those things are really it. This series is about buildings we think should appear on Enfield’s list of local heritage assets. And The Fox to me fits the bill better than almost any of the buildings that were missed from the last edition.

Why? because in many ways it is the most iconic building in Palmers Green. Coming into Palmers Green from the north, it announces Palmer Green in bold and high Edwardian style, preparing one for the exuberant Sykes architecture further down.

The case for the importance of the Fox was made in the application for The Fox to become an Asset of Community Value earlier this year, so, at the risk of boring through repetition, I will simply allow an edited version of those words to make the case for the Fox also appearing on the List of Local Heritage Assets.

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.

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.

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

I still do not know the architect, having tried all the usual places, but perhaps there will be someone reading this who has a cunning ruse to find out, or can even tell me.

Nomination for the local list: The Fox

  • 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.
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Every Street in Palmers Green #2: A warning to heavy traffic

Deadman’s bridge and the traction engine sign, Green Lanes

If you walk down Green Lanes in the direction of the north circular on the west side of the road you will eventually come to Deadman’s bridge. This stretch of road was once known as Deadman’s Hill, although no one seems to know quite why (unless you credit the fanciful story of Gabriel Haynes and his tragic accident which appears elsewhere on this site).

The name appears to be ancient. A History of the County of Middlesex vol 5 (www/ states that in the sixteenth century Green Lanes was a collection of linked roads, one of them being Deadman’s Hill in Palmers Green. In 1789 they find a reference to “Bowes Farm Bridge, presumably Deadman’s bridge in Green Lanes” where “a single arch, was built…by the road trustees and repaired in 1822 by the county”. It is reasonable to assume that the 1789 bridge replaced an earlier structure, (given that Pymmes Brook always needed to be traversed by those heading north out of London). Presumably too the present bridge is in part or wholly another post 1822 incarnation.

One further curiosity on the bridge is a black on white and well cared for sign which gives warning to traction engines and other heavy vehicles.

‘COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX / TAKE NOTICE that this Bridge / which is a County Bridge is insufficient to carry / weights beyond the ordinary traffic of the / District and that the owners and persons in / charge of LOCOMOTIVE TRACTION ENGINES / and heavily laden CARRIAGES are warned / against using the Bridge for the passage of / any such Engines or Carriages / Richd. Nicholson / Clerk of the Peace.’

IMG_0060The reference to traction engines dates it to the last part of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th, though traction engines were a common sight well into the post war years. My personal guess is that this sign is from before the first world war, when the building boom in Palmers Green began in earnest. There must have been a huge weight of traffic as the builders brought in  materials from all over London and the south east (though much clay was actually extracted locally).

I have written to the National Traction Engine Trust, but so far no reply.  I will get in touch with Enfield Local Archives to see if they know more about Richard Nicholson.

  • 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.
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Every Street in Palmers Green #1: Very ‘Voyseyish’, Mr Sykes

315 -397 Green Lanes, 288 Green Lanes, 286 Green Lanes

IMG_0005If one man above all others could be said to have shaped the look of central Palmers Green it would probably have to be Arthur Sykes.

Sykes was the architect of the amazing and fanciful parade on the west side of Green Lanes up to Devonshire Road and the Grade 2 listed National Westminster Bank on the east side – according to Pevsner, Palmers Green’s gems amid ‘a poor man’s Muswell Hill’. He was also responsible for the more restrained 286 Green Lanes, now home to ubiquitous burger flippers McDonalds.

Born in 1862, Sykes came to London in 1883 to the offices of Sir Robert Williams Edis, but had already set up on his own by the age of 26. Though he built the home of Lilley (of Lilley and Skinner fame) in Clacton, he spent much of his career in designing buildings primarily for the purposes of business and retail. Such skills were much in demand – the turn of the century saw purpose-built parades and arcades springing up all over London, including Muswell Hill, Crouch End, Streatham and Bromley.

For the most part, based on the larger buildings still extant, Sykes’ style seems to have been dignified and restrained, often with a slightly Italianate or classical bent. In 1899-1901 he was commissioned to design huge premises for Pontings in Kensington. Six stories high, including two floors in the mansard roof, the new Pontings cost £14,000, an astronomical figure at the time. 1905 saw another substantial Sykes designed building, Kingsway House, springing up in Holborn and in 1911 the Lilley and Skinner shoe and boot warehouse, another six story red brick colossus.

Perhaps the restrained look was simply what his clients were asking for, for Sykes had already designed an arts and crafts shopping parade in Acton, and seems to have finally given vent to his creative energies in Palmers Green.

IMG_0003The effect he achieved in our humble home streets must be pretty much unique in the UK. The parade on Green Lanes from the Triangle to Devonshire Road, originally known as ‘The Market’, was built in seven stages, inching its way north between 1909 and 1913, and featuring ellipses, balconies and tall steep new Tudor style gables on four storey buildings. Its style was described by Pevsner in Buildings of England (London: North) as ‘Voyseyish’ and the Nat West Bank over the road at 288 ‘a triumphant essay in rusticated brick, with purple and red brick dressings, and dramatically composed chimneys’. (Voyseyish, by the way, is not a Pevsnerish term of abuse, but a reference to the leading arts and crafts architect and designer Charles Voysey). Number 286, built in 1924-5 by comparison is ‘sober’. If you stand in Lodge Drive with a degree of care and an eye out for passing cars, you should be able to contrive to see all three of Sykes’ Palmers Green creations together – the monumental parade, which could admittedly do with a lick or two of paint, no 286 and the ‘sedate 17th century style’ bank.

Sykes had already headed north before his work was done in Palmers Green, partnering with Bill Stocks of Huddersfield, getting involved in the creation of Alwoodly Golf Club in Leeds and becoming an alderman of Huddersfield, where he died in 1940. If you are visiting, you can still see the Sykes designed and grade 2 listed Empire Cinema, at 80 John William Street. Though judging by my internet search this afternoon I am afraid it appears to be a sex shop.

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Developer with a sense of humour?

evocative of ancient Greece
Evocative of ancient Greece

In ancient Greece. a Prytaneum or Prytaneion, was the town hall of a Greek city-state, normally housing the chief magistrate and the common altar or hearth of the community. Ambassadors, distinguished foreigners, and citizens who had done signal service were entertained there.

Why mention it now? Well, it’s the name of the new Southgate Town Hall development. The restored and extended building now consists of one and two bedroom apartments, and if you want to have a sneaky nose inside to see what has become of our Town Hall, there is an open day on 26 September).

Dear Palmers Greeners, in case the penny isn’t dropping, they have called it, essentially, Greek Town Hall.

I think I sort of like that…

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Every street in Palmers Green

Part of Arthur Sykes Palmers Green streetscape
Part of Arthur Sykes Palmers Green streetscape

What do you love in Palmers Green? Are there buildings, monuments, or spaces that you think are worthy of recognition, either because of their value in their own right or historical or social associations? Now’s your chance to have your say.

Over the next few weeks a team of local volunteers will be tramping every street in Palmers Green – and Enfield as a whole – to take a look at it’s the streets to suggest what buildings, monuments and other items should be included in the next edition of Enfield Council’s Local List.

The project is being led by Enfield Council working in tandem with the Enfield Society and Urban Vision, and volunteers have been trained up and allocated specific sections of the borough. The aim is to look beyond those buildings which already have formal listed status via English Heritage and produce a longer list of things which, though perhaps not as nationally significant, are still of local importance.

IMG_0018Buildings and other items can be proposed on the basis of age, rarity, historical association, archaeological interest, architectural quality, landmark status, group value (or example a collection of buildings together), urban design quality, designed landscape, social and community value, aesthetic merit or literary or creative association.

The volunteers for central Palmers Green are

• Andy Barker and Fran Carman of Fox Lane and District Resident’s Association (looking at the area west of the railway line including the Lakes Estate) contact
• Sue Beard of Palmers Green Jewel in the North (looking at East of the railway line, including central Palmers Green on Green Lanes and the triangle of roads inside the boundaries of Hedge Lane and the North Circular Road) contact; and

Palmers Green's bus station, which began life as a roller rink
Palmers Green’s bus station, which began life as a roller rink

We’re keen to hear your ideas, particularly if you think that there are gems you know something about and that could potentially be missed. I will be posting about some of the suggestions we will be putting forward as part of the project – and if you would like to volunteer to write any of the submissions, perhaps about a place you care about in particular that you think should be listed, we will bite your hand off…!

Just in case you are curious, local buildings and other features which have already been listed in the past Enfield as being of special architectural or historical interest include

• Appleby Court 128 Old Park Alderman’s Hill built by J B Franklin in an arts and crafts style, although the original features seem to have been lost as early as the 1930s. It is now flats
• 397 Green Lanes, the former site of Grouts, now Skate Attack. The frontage may be original dating from 1913.
• 84 and 86 Hoppers Road.

Sadly, the often fondly remembered Pilgrims Rest restaurant, made up of two C18th cottages, and previously on the list, was lost to developers in the 1990s.

If you are wondering what holds the higher, Grade 2 listed, status in Palmers Green, here is the list

• Parish Church of St John the Evangelist Palmers Green, including the Parish Room
• Broomfield House, Broomfield Park, walls around Broomfield Park on Broomfield Lane
• Menlow Lodge and the former Minchendon Lower school, Fox Lane
• Truro House including some parts of the wall and gate piers
• National Westminster Bank, Green Lanes/Lodge Drive.

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The schoolmaster and the sweet pea

Autumn is just around the corner, and time to gather in the last sweet peas and then say goodbye to their sweet summer fragrance. But the sweet pea might never have made it to the United Kingdom at all had it not been for a Sicilian monk and a school master from Enfield with a plant mania and great connections.

The first known mention of the sweet pea in print was in 1695 by Father Franciscus Cupani. Cupani had not long become the director of a botanic garden near Palermo and sometime in the late 1690s set about sending the seeds of this fragrant delight to his connections all over the world, including to the Enfield home of Dr Robert Uvedale.

Uvedale was the master of Enfield Grammar School and was on Cuprani’s mailng list due to his fame as a botanist and hothouse pioneer. According to J. Gibson, writing in 1691, ‘[He] is a great lover of plants, and, having an extraordinary art in managing them, is become master of the greatest and choicest collection of exotic greens that is perhaps anywhere in this land. His greens take up six or seven houses or roomsteads. .. His flowers are choice, his stock numerous, and his culture of them very methodical and curious.’

Uvedale had taken up his post at Enfield when he was still in his early 20s, and gone on to expand the school with the lease of the Manor House just south of Enfield market place (where Palace Gardens is now) for a new cohort of private boarders. He’d also given Enfield Grammar his own family motto “Tant Que Je Puis” (As Much As I Can).

By kind permission of Enfield Local Studies & Archive
By kind permission of Enfield Local Studies & Archive

Perhaps the full motto was more aptly “as much as I can get away with”. Despite his odd but sedate appearance in the portrait, left, Uvedale seems to have been a bit of a character. While still living with his family in Westminster, a sixteen year old Uvedale had nipped up and stolen an escutcheon from the funeral hearse of Oliver Cromwell, something which remained with the Uvedale family (framed and with an account of his exploits on reverse) for several generations. In 1676 Uvedale nearly lost his post at the school for neglecting his duties at the grammar in favour of looking after his more lucrative private boarders. There was also a curious allegation that he obtained an appointment as an actor and comedian at the Theatre Royal from the lord chamberlain to protect himself from the execution of a writ.

Uvedale seems to have shown off the plant to the Royal Professor of Botany and former  classmate Dr Plukenet in around 1701. In 1713 sweet peas were flowering at Chelsea Botanic Garden and eleven years later, they were on sale commercially.

Sadly Uvedale’s amazing botanical collection didn’t remain in Enfield for long after his death, but the Cedar restaurant at Pearsons’ is a nod to the great Cedar of Lebanon he is said to have planted in the 1660s. The cedar, and Enfield Manor, the home of Uvedale’s cash rich boarders, survived until 1927.

You can still buy an approximation of the Cupani/Uvedale/Plukenet sweet peas, which are said to be particularly fragrant (try Sarah Raven). Plant them soon under cover and you will have good sturdy plants for next year.