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
Community family history Food Shops

Lunch at Dom’s

Every so often a post or a comment prompts someone else to write beautifully about their memories of Palmers Green. This one is from David Todd:

My memory goes back to 1956, I would have been 8 years old and my Dad used to take myself & my younger brother to Dom’s most Saturday’s during the summer holidays for a midday lunch ‘treat’, He would put us on one of the 5 bar stools which were positioned at the rear of the cafe on the right hand side, we would pick up the menu because it looked grown up! ….and ALWAYS ordered egg, sausage & chips. Our Dad would pay the 2/6d, and pick us up 45 minutes later as he worked nearby. After the last chip was scoffed the owner would place in front of us a huge strawberry milkshake made with the soft ice cream they were known for, this shake was always served in a heavy fancy thick glass with a straw to slurp up the last visible clinging bubbles.

The ice cream was served from a sliding glass hatch facing the street, so you didn’t have to go inside if an ice cream was all you wanted, in the summer the servery was always open otherwise a light tap on the glass and brother or sister would serve you with beautiful soft ice cream in a cone and a smile all for threepence.

The owners were brother and sister Dominic & Anna both born in Italy who arrived in England after the second world war,they were very hard working & organised, so much so they only lived 200 yards opposite in Tottenhall Rd. They ran the cafe on their own with no other help.

Dom drove a maroon Renaualt Dauphine, which I remember being the first foreign car I saw in Palmers Green.

Dom’s is still there, though perhaps not quite the same…

Art and Culture Community Food History Palmers Green Shops Uncategorized

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 Community History Palmers Green Planning and open spaces Shops Uncategorized

Every Street in Palmers Green #9: The wonder that was Grouts (now Skate Attack)

grouts as it wasTalk to any Palmers Greener who has been here much more than a decade and the name Grouts will send them of into a trance of dreamy remembrance. The place with the cash railway, for schoolwear, for underwear, for you-just-couldn’t-get-anywhere-else wear.

The exercise to compile the local list of heritage assets isn’t just about proposing new entries, but checking on old ones. Some of them have been lost since it was last updated, like the Pilgrim’s Rest in Hazelwood Lane. Grouts is gone too, but not the building, and not quite all of the frontage (in fact, not even the last signage – you can still just about make it out in Devonshire Road) though some has been lost.

The last local lists said that the frontage of Grout’s was possibly original. Sue Whittemore, whose family owned Grouts from its opening during the First World War, has got in touch to confirm that it is indeed original, or at least it was until the shop doors closed in 2002. She has also provided the proof – six pages of documents from Pope’s the shop fitters of Kilburn dated at the end of 1914. The original Grouts lettering was in gold leaf, the woodwork in polished mahogany with inserts in matchwood, polished glass frontage complemented with beaded glasswork.

Grouts quote from 1914

Sadly the individual glass panes you can see on the photo of Grouts dated xxx have been lost, replaced by single sheets, and the colour scheme of Skate Attack tends to the garish. But the overall shape and top fascia are there, as are some of the original floor tiles.

Is that enough for repeat listing among Enfield’s Heritage Assets? I don’t know, but I know that Grouts is forever listed in Palmers Greeners memories…

In case you haven’t seen it, here is a wonderful video about Grouts by Tec Evans– featuring Sue Whittemore. There is also more about Grouts and its ‘Terminal Vests’ here

  • 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 22 November.
architecture Palmers Green Planning and open spaces Shops Uncategorized

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.