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)



Art and Culture Comedy Community Enfield History Palmers Green Southgate

Theodore Royle, the gentleman bard of Palmers Green

At the beginning of October we once again celebrated National Poetry Day. Now, as we know, the Palmers Green and Southgate area is a veritable wonderland of literature, with our notables including Stevie Smith, V S Pritchett, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Hood and Paul Scott to mention but a few.

But there are very few poems about the area. At least that is what Theodore Royle may have thought, when he stepped into the breach in the early 1900s with his remarkable Rambles in Rhymeland.

Little is known of Royle, except that he was born in High Holborn in 1840 and by 1901 was living with his wife Fanny at the Rowans in the southern part of the borough, roughly New Southgate – his parish was the then largely rural St Michael at Bowes. His trade was as a printer and engraver and therein might lay a clue to how he came to have the wherewithal to publish Rambles, seemingly his only book, printed for private circulation.

Royle made no great claims for its literary merit. The frontispiece bears the quote from Byron, Royle’s jovial bewhiskered face beaming out next to it:

Tis pleasant to see one’s name in print
a book’s a book, although there’s nothing in’t

I think that we might have liked Royle, had we met him in The Fox or Cock Tavern or out for a walk in rural Palmers Green. Though I think that Royle might have liked Royle a bit too.

Theodore Royle

He was certainly nothing if not a sentimental fellow, for several poems tell tales of nature, love and tragic death, often in the traditional I-met-my-true-love-but-then-she-carked-it genre. One can only wonder what Fanny Royle thought of Regrets in which the poet meets his love in the summer, but she is cruelly snatched away, though her memory brings comfort in his dreams. I rather hope that Fanny and not, say, the kitchen maid, inspired the poem The Glorious Summertime, in which he meets his love, apparently covered in foliage –

The birds were singing merrily
In heavens blue vault above,
When in the glorious summer time,
I met my own sweet love;
A wreath of fairest jessamine
She’d twined around her hair,
And on her cheeks the winds rough kiss
Had left some blushes there.

Reader, he marries her.

The inspiration to finally publish may have been due to aspirations political as well as poetic – a good deal of the verse is about the comings and goings in the local administration. On the evidence of Rambles, one wonders why other poets do not decide to plough this obviously rich furrow, for Royle manages 17 pages of verse on the subject of Sir Ralph Littler and the separation of Southgate from Edmonton.

For those who do not know the story, by the 1870s the well to do of Palmers Green and Southgate had become very dissatisfied with the local board’s neglect of the western part of the borough. The final straw had been when Sir Ralph Littler, then resident of Broomfield House, had woken to find the fish in the lake in front of the house dead, the casualties of sewerage from a cracked and ill fitting pipe. He sued the authorities, and efforts were stepped up to separate the borough into two. Of course, the other motivation may have been that rich and well to do Palmers Greeners in their rural idyll didn’t much fancy paying rates for the needs of working class Edmonton, something not entirely disguised in Royle’s doggerel.

Events culminated with a public meeting to vote on the issue of separation in early 1881, coinciding with a great snowstorm, which prevented most of the Edmonton anti separatists from attending. History was, as they say, made, and Southgate Local Board was established. In 1894 Southgate become an Urban District.

In 1882 Royle, delighted with the outcome, apparently got up at a meeting in the village hall in Southgate and sang a ditty, in honour of the good deeds of Sir Ralph Littler and Southgate’s other valiant heroes, sung in swashbuckling terms and packed liberally with in-jokes. The full text is reprinted in the book, and alas, the space I have here cannot do full justice to it, so you are going to have to check it out for yourself.

Enough of that. My favourite poem leaves the travails of Southgate independence behind, and turns to the subject of Royle’s bicycle

My bike! My bike! I gaze on thee now
With quickening breath and a joyous brow…

And who can honestly say they haven’t felt like that?

You can read Theodore Royle’s Rambles in Rhymeland in full at

Picture of T Royle by kind permission of Enfield Local Studies and Archive Team.

(c) Sue Beard 2014. This article first appeared in Palmers Green and Southgate Life.

Enfield Green Palmers Green Planning and open spaces Southgate

(I dont want to) go to Chelsea

Palmers Green and Southgate could be better connected to central London following the announcement this week of the preferred route for Crossrail 2.

In previous plans, the terminus of the route would have been Alexandra Palace, but following responses from the public, TfL is now proposing the incorporation of New Southgate into the plans – there is little or no further cost, as it utilises existing railway land.

If it goes ahead, it’ll be possible to travel from Ally Pally and New Southgate across London, to Angel, Tottenham Court Road, Victoria, Chelsea, Clapham and Wimbledon, all without having to change trains. The capacity created would allow for as many as 30 or 40 trains an hour.

So even if you ‘dont want to go to Chelsea’, in the words of Elvis Costello, you know, you could. When it opens in the early 2030s.

Crossrail 2 map regional route Oct 14


Art and Culture Community Enfield Green Palmers Green Palmers Green Planning and open spaces Southgate

Town Hall sold

Southgate Town Hall from the New River December 2012 Image Sue Beard
Southgate Town Hall from the New River December 2012 Image Sue Beard

Surely Southgate Town Hall was sold ages ago?

Apparently not, it seems, but it is now. Contracts have been exchanged with Hollybrook Homes, and work begins this month on the development of  the Town Hall and current car park area to create 37 new flats, some of which will be affordable homes (to use the modern parlance).

The deal has netted Enfield Council £2million in a deal which also provides for the refurbishment of Palmers Green Library and the creation of public space on the corner between the two buildings (surmounted by another clock tower in versions of plans issued earlier this year).

Hollybrook’s signs are already up outside the building.




Community Enfield Green Palmers Green Palmers Green Planning and open spaces Southgate

The Enfield Experiment tackles the growing housing crisis

Just a few miles away from Westminster, Enfield’s local politicians are making a series of gambles that parliament’s big beasts wouldn’t dare try. They come with serious political and economic risk. But if even some of the things being tried by Enfield work out, they might … point to some radical solutions to Britain’s housing crisis.

I hear lots of people complaining about Enfield Council. But the latest article in Aditya Chakrabortty’s Enfield Experiment series for The Guardian shows the difficult circumstances in which Enfield’s Housing team are forced to work, and the Council adopting forward looking solutions.  Well worth reading:

Art and Culture Community Enfield History Palmers Green Planning and open spaces Southgate Uncategorized

An open letter to Enfield Councillors: a little kindness

scan0006Dear Councillors

Last summer I wrote to the Mayor about Southgate Town Hall about Betty Wright (nee Walton) a lady who had written to me via the Palmers Green Jewel in the North website with a unique connection with the Town Hall. She was born there in 1927 and lived there until she married in 1951 – her father was fireman and Mace bearer and she had many happy memories from that time. I believe George Walton may appear in one of the pictures in your Enfield history display upstairs at the Dugdale Centre.

Cllr Cranfield kindly sent my letter on to a number of other colleagues on Enfield Council, saying at the time that she felt that it was a reasonable request. But despite having sent various reminders to the Mayor’s office and others, I have never had any kind of response or acknowledgment.

I fully understand that Enfield has some very serious issues to deal with and this was never going to be a number one priority. However, while press this year and last indicated that Town Hall had been sold, I understand now from the local papers that in fact the sale was only completed very recently indeed.

I had originally requested that you give Palmers Greeners one last opportunity to view their town hall before it goes into private hands. I am no longer asking this, though of course, given Palmers Green Jewel in the North’s emphasis on history and people and valuing the local area, I would love it to happen.

But it seems to me that you or Council staff might still be in a position to use your good offices to grant Betty Wright and her surviving siblings the opportunity to view her old home once more before the work begins in earnest.

It is something she would dearly love to happen. Amidst all the business and complexities and difficulties of Council life, it would be an act of kindness on your part, which I hope you will be in a position to agree to or facilitate.

With kind regards

Sue Beard

Palmers Green Jewel in the North