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A year in Palmers Green

And so, we have made it to 2014. The New Year lies before us, full of unknown things and hopeful resolutions.

But before we move on proper, one last look at some of the things we covered on this website in 2013, including one or two stories you might have missed…


2013 kicked off with Betty Wright nee Walton’s amazing story of how she and her brothers and sisters grew up in Southgate Town Hall in the years leading up to and including the war – her father had been a fire officer and the Councils official mace bearer. Sadly letters to local councillors and Mayor Anwar suggesting that Enfield Council open the Town Hall to local people one last time before the developers moved in, and in particular to enable Betty and her family to  see the place where she was born, were simply ignored.

Graham Dalling at work image This is local London
Graham Dalling at work image This is local London

We heard the tale of Dr Alex Comfort, writer of the Joy of Sex and expert on ageing, who also grew up in Palmers Green, and lost fingers in a childhood experiment with fireworks. Sadly, we also learned of the death of much loved local author, historian and Enfield Archivist Graham Dalling, who once worked in the Town Hall.

Myddleton Road apparently became flesh and started tweeting about its unloved state and Enfield Council put on display a rare Constable drawing from its archives.

We discussed the origins of the word Broomfield, only to learn of news that another bid for funding for restoration of the house had failed, though some of the feedback was promising and hopes remained that a way forward could be found.


Space Art Gallery, a pop up venue on Southgate High Street, opened its second exhibition with work by Polish artist Maciej Hoffman. Wood Green’s Banksy was chipped and shipped to a US auction house, then withdrawn from sale at the 11th hour after a vociferous campaign, only to be put up for auction again later in the year. New artwork appeared in its stead, and in proof that you couldn’t make it up, we heard Poundland declare that they were fans of Banksy’s. Who knew? In the local corridors of power (also known as Enfield Council), Bush Hill Tory Councillor Chris Joannides hit the national press after being suspended from the party for making inappropriate remarks on Facebook.

There was news that PG could become better connected (though there could be disruption ahead for our neighbours in the south) – London First published its report on Cross Rail 2, this time linking North to South, and calling at Ally Pally. Still on transport, the third exhibition at Space Art Gallery featured 100 paintings of London Underground stations by Ross Ashmore. Broomfield Community Orchard embarked enthusiastically on the ancient ritual of wassailing.


IMG_3132Southgate underground station celebrated its 80th birthday and we looked at the story of its opening. We also learned about a wartime horsemeat scandal at Southgate Town Hall. A new local debating group was formed, and we heard Chas and Dave sing the praises of the long gone Empire in Edmonton. (There is a rumour that Chas and Dave first met in Palmers Green – does anyone know if it’s true?). There were long queues outside Palmers Green’s flagship branch of Laiki bank, as Greece announced a bank levy, but relief as it was later announced that UK customers would mostly be exempt.


Poor old soul - Truro house in a state of dilapidation May 2012
Poor old soul – Truro house in a state of dilapidation May 2012


An anarchist cell was discovered taking direct action in Winchmore Hill. We learned a little more about the mysterious history of Truro House, and rare footage was discovered of a carnival in Palmers Green in 1931. We also found out, as if we didn’t already have an inkling, that PG is one of the busiest stations on First Capital Connect’s Great Northern Route.

Palmers Green residents were distraught to be deprived of their burger fix when local Scottish brasserie MacDonald’s was closed for a number of days.


May saw the launch of a new website bringing together local community groups, news and activities for the whole area. Designed and managed by webmaster Basil Clarke, Palmers Green Community is an excellent source of news about local groups and issues, and includes a forum and an excellent ‘what’s on’ section. It’s a brilliant addition to Palmers Green life – please sign up and get involved!

The Thatched Cottage in 1903, image by kind permission of Enfield Local Studies and Archive
The Thatched Cottage in 1903, image by kind permission of Enfield Local Studies and Archive

The Centenary Festival, a great programme and the kind weather brought thousands to Grovelands Park to celebrate over two days. We uncovered the story of a past Palmers Green tourist attraction – the flower bedecked Thatched House that once stood on the site of Westlakes and was famed for miles around.


Cameras were rolling again in June as the BBC made a pilot episode of a new drama called Family. Locations included the Fox and a house in Selbourne Road. Our neighbouring site Bowes and Bounds Connected told an amazing tale of the kinky cobbler of Myddleton Road, one of my favourite posts of the year.

Image: Dan Maier
Image: Dan Maier

Open Studios weekend saw the Creative Network team get last minute access to the old Blockbusters building in Southgate and use it to stunning effect. This year, thanks to an Arts Council grant, the weekend also included a number of free workshops, alongside the opportunity to view work by over 30 artists, designers and crafts people. A second craft fair in November was packed out and full of excellent work.


In July a few lucky ticket holders got an opportunity to travel the whole of the Piccadilly Line from Cockfosters to Edgware on a 1938 vintage train as part of London Underground’s 150th anniversary celebrations. By then we were in the grip of a summer heat wave, but learned that it was far from as hot as PG has ever got according to In August 2003, the temperature reached 100 degrees. The coldest temperature recorded was just 17 degrees on January 12, 1987.

Enfield Council consulted on plans to ‘open up the park’ and build a new school on an unused Thames Water site adjacent to Grovelands park, splitting opinion in the area, given the love of the park and the desperate need for school places in the area. Meanwhile Alexandra Park celebrated its 150th birthday.

Image by kind permission of Leithcote, Creative Commons
Image by kind permission of Leithcote, Creative Commons

We investigated Palmers Green’s strong connections with the suffragettes and the Pankhurst family, including a riot in Palmers Green Triangle. Good thing then that July also saw news that spitting would be banned across Enfield.

Finally, an excellent film was launched to promote the restoration of Broomfield House.  Created directed and produced by Christine Lalla, the film celebrates Broomfield’s unique history and heritage in the words of local people. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should.


August saw our neighbours in Winchmore Hill out on the Green again for the Summer Art Exhibition including work by some of the area’s most interesting artists, photographers, sculptors, ceramicists and jewellers. There was a UFO sighting in Enfield and we explored the story of how one man’s unofficial green belt policy shaped the future of Palmers Green


September’s Palmers Green Festival in Broomfield Park was the biggest and best for many years, and the park was positively buzzing. The Palmers Green Tales project – recording memories of local residents – was launched at Ruth Winston House as part of the festival, and Southgate Photographic society produced and excellent video showing how familiar views in PG had changed during the last 100 years. We also revisited the story of the Cuffley airship, and a world war one dog fight which was witnessed by thousands of people in North London’s skies.


And so the nights began to draw in. In October, a worrying PG betting shop shortage was averted with the news of the opening of another bookies; people danced in the streets.  We investigated some of Enfield ghosts but found that although the borough has more than its fair share, PG itself just isn’t that spooky. Unless you know different.

IMG_0758Joe Studman launched the first local history course for 30 years at the Dugdale Centre, accompanied by six themed walks. The course was so successful that it will run again in April – book your place now, it’s selling fast. Palmers Green Triangle’s underground toilets were sealed off and the clutter in the triangle removed though there is still no news about how long we will have to wait for more substantial improvements to the area and the reinstatement of our lost tree. We told the story of the terrible night in 1941 when the Princes Dance Hall was bombed with great loss of life. Betty Walton’s father was one of the first on the scene.


In November, the library was closed for the first part of the changes to the Town Hall area, and hoardings were put up around the Town Hall itself. But on the upside, we had our first real Christmas tree in many a year.


With the sad death of Nelson Mandela, we explored the role of Alexandra Park in the fight against apartheid. The BBC screened a follow up to the programme it filmed 10 years ago on the buildings at risk in London, including Broomfield House. And Palmers Green featured in an award winning feature film writtenby local lads Sam Bourke and Stefan Georgiou, Dead Cat, screened at Talkies Community Cinema.

On the subject of Talkies, it would have been difficult to mention all the great events that the Talkies team has run in the last 12 months; the programme has been varied and interesting and is becoming an indispensable part of PG’s social glue. As has Palmers Green Life, the new monthly magazine set up by Anthony Webb estate agents, featuring history, people, local groups and events. PG has needed something like this for years and now we have it.

Finally, a thanks to everyone who has been so kind about this website and the articles we have provided for Palmers Green Life. We had more than 10,000 individual visitors to the site this year, ad 34,000 ‘hits’ which is gobsmacking. I hope that you enjoyed what you read. If, perchance, you would like to contribute an article to the site, please do get in touch.

Here’s to a great 2014. Happy New Year!





Art and Culture Comedy Community Enfield History Palmers Green Spooky stories Winchmore Hill

Where are Palmers Green’s ghosts?

After more than 100 years of modern-day Palmers Green, dripping with requisite potentially spooky Edwardiana, you would have thought that Palmers Green would be groaning with ghosts. But we seem to have just two ghostly sightings to my knowledge.

The Fox - at the heart of PG
The Fox – spooky goings on

The first concerns the Fox. In the 1980s and 1990s the back rooms of the Fox (as The Fox Theatre) became home of several theatre companies in succession, including in 1996 the Fact and Fable Theatre Company, whose performance of Pin Money by Malcolm Needs was directed by June Brown, Dot Cotton of Eastenders. It was during another performance in November 1996, according  to Gary Boudier his 2002 book, A-Z of Enfield Pubs (part 2), that a Mr Sullivan from Archway felt himself being tapped on the shoulder but turned to find no one there. Bar staff and customers also reported unexplained noises, only some of which were attributable to the effects of alcohol.

The Intimate Theatre also reputedly has its ghost, according to the BBC’s Doomsday Reloaded project of a few years ago, though it’s not much of a story, only a ghostly presence in the auditorium.

You have to go slightly further afield for a proper ghost story, courtesy of Henrietta Cresswell’s Winchmore Hill, Memories of a Lost Village (you can read the book in full on

In 1800 a common was enclosed which lay between Vicarsmoor Lane and Dog Kennel Lane, now called Old Green Dragon Lane. It was known as Hagfield or Hagstye field, on account of a witch who infested it on stormy nights with her proper accessories of a broomstick and a black cat! The right-of-way across the common was left as an enclosed footpath. In the sixties there were five stiles in it marking the field boundaries. This is still called Hagfields, and not long ago was strictly avoided after  dark. The Clapfield Gates, now Wilson Street, had also a bad name. They were said to be haunted by a black bull.

And here’s another

At the top of Bush Hill is a footpath which avoids the long bend of the high road. It used to pass slightly to the west of its present position and was known as “The Poet’s Walk” or Stoney Alley. It passed under an avenue of limes which met overhead, and on its left was a black and sullen looking pond. Towards the Enfield end there was a high red brick wall, overhung by ancient yew trees, which made it exceedingly dark at the close of the day. It was reputed to be haunted, and few people would go through it after dusk. The ghost was said to be a lady in full bridal costume, who appeared on the top of the wall, gave a piercing and unearthly shriek and vanished. After a time it transpired that a white peacock found the wall under the trees a pleasant roosting place, and when disturbed it uttered its unmelodious cry and flew away.

Further afield, in Green Street, Brimsdown, was the site of the manifestation of the Enfield poltergeist. This really isn’t one for those of a nervous disposition. The story is taken up by London teacher turned Taxi driver Rob in his excellent View from the Window blog – click here. I don’t recommend watching the video clips but it’s up to you…

If you know a Palmers Green spooky story, please tell us!

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New course and walks explore Enfield’s history

joeFor more than 30 years there has been no adult education offering dealing specifically with the history of Enfield as a borough.  London tour guide and story-teller Joe Studman is changing all that this month with a six-week course at the Dugdale Centre.

Joe will be telling the story of Bush Hill Park, Edmonton, Enfield, Winchmore Hill, Palmers Green and Southgate from earliest times to the present day, looking at people, places and some of the national events which impacted on the local area.

The course is £50 and will run from 7.15 to 8.45 on Mondays, beginning on 6 October. Its been selling fast and there are just a few places left. so if you are interested, book now by emailing  or phoning 0787 553 7295

To coincide with the course, Joe is also running a series of six Sunday walks exploring different parts of the borough:

  • BUSH HILL PARK Sunday 13th October 2013 Meet Bush Hill Park Station Queen Annes Place Exit 2pm
  • ENFIELD TOWN Sunday 20th October 2013 Meet Enfield Town Station 2pm
  • EDMONTON Sunday 27th October 2013 Meet Edmonton Green Station 2pm
  • CHASE SIDE Sunday 3rd November 2013 Meet Enfield Chase Station 2pm
  • ENFIELD LOCK Sunday 10th November 2013 Meet Tesco Car Park Enfield Island 2pm
  • WINCHMORE HILL Sunday 17th November 2013 Meet Winchmore Hill Station 2pm.

The walks are £5, £3 concessions or £2 or those who are taking part on the course. No need to book, just turn up and enjoy a fascinating afternoon in good company.

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A creative beginning

Creative Exchange logoA new network for local creatives receives its formal launch on 1 October in Southgate.

Creative Exchange is a collective of designers, craftspeople and artists based in Southgate, Palmers Green and Winchmore Hill in North London though members are also welcome from further afield. You may perhaps have already heard the name at this summer’s fantastic Southgate and Palmers  Green Open Studios and Art Trail event – now in its second year and growing fast, and an indication of just how much collaborative work can achieve.

Dan Maier of Southgate’s Extraordinary Design describes the exchange as being on a mission: to build a dynamic creative hub which benefits creatives in the area, residents and local businesses – by championing the arts.

“The aim of Creative Exchange is to create a mutually supportive group to combat the isolation which can be an unfortunate side effect of being a sole practitioner. The intention is to create a forum for meeting and sharing experiences, opportunities and support; we are  also working together to create new outlets for selling work, meeting the public, and contributing to the community.  The Network has just installed it’s latest exhibition of Members’ work in the former Blockbusters store at Southgate tube which has notably improved the area and the next event is a new Designer Craft and Art Fair on November 17th.” (More details of that soon).

“If you are interested in meeting like minded people, being part of a burgeoning creative community or participating in future events, why not come and meet us and find out more about what we do,” says Dan. “and if you are a local business interesting in getting involved in our events or supporting us we’d love to see you.”

Space is limited, so if you would like to be on the Guest List, please send your details to Ruth Berenbaum:

History Palmers Green Planning and open spaces Southgate Winchmore Hill

Mr Taylor’s green belt

It’s strange to think that, just over 100 years ago, the farms of Palmers Green were readying themselves to bring in the harvest. The fields and rural lanes may be long gone, but Palmers Green still has more green space than many parts of London. Look carefully and you will sometimes catch a glimpse of an ancient tree in a back garden that looks older than the house itself. It may well be.

The modern day character of the area is often attributed to the actions of one man – John Donnithorne Taylor. Born in 1798, Taylor was one of the famous Taylor Walker brewing family of Limehouse and acquired Grovelands on the death of his uncle, Walker Gray in 1839. Four years later, he sold out his interests in the brewery and settled to private life in the country and pursuit of his two loves, hunting and property acquisition.

Or did he? There seems to have been rather more to the story: shortly before, Taylor’s wife, Elizabeth, had left him, citing adultery. Taylor then refused to allow her to return to the marital home, and when the courts found in her favour, Taylor appears to have resigned from the company and even temporarily fled the country to avoid taking Elizabeth back.

Taylor was determined to prevent any disturbance to the sylvan surroundings and rural character of his estates (though he was quite happy to pull down the rustic cottages near The Woodman which were interrupting his view). By his death in 1885 the Grovelands estate had expanded threefold to over 600 acres, and included much of the frontage onto Green Lanes, the whole of the present day Lakes Estate and roads to the north – nearly one sixth of the borough of Southgate.

J D Taylor: "stop shaking yer carpets or I'll buy your house!"  image reproduced by kind permission of Enfield Local Studies Archive
J D Taylor: “stop shaking yer carpets or I’ll buy your house!” image reproduced by kind permission of Enfield Local Studies Archive

Taylor appears somewhat haughty and stern in some photographs we have of him. Certainly, Herbert Newby describes him as a strong personality. After being unable to prevent the coming of the Great North Railway, Taylor habitually snubbed Palmers Green station, instead taking a pony and trap to Colney Hatch station (now New Southgate) whenever he wanted to go into town.

Newby tells another story about Taylor’s horse being startled one day by the landlady of The Fox shaking out her carpets. Following Taylor’s remonstrations, the landlady declared she would shake her carpets when she liked. Taylor is said to have replied “Yes, but not where you like,” and promptly bought the inn, giving her notice to quit. Perhaps he mellowed, for in later years he could often be seen in a peasant’s smock digging up weeds, for all the world looking like a farm hand.

Taylor was attempting to hold back a tide stronger than he, and it was only a matter of time before the spell would be broken. On his death, his estate passed to his son, and then in 1901 to his grandson John Vickris Taylor. With London encroaching, the land was hugely valuable, and in 1902 the whole estate was put on the market in a series of lots. Some of the land was eventually bought by the Borough to become Grovelands Park, but most fell to speculative builders who began to build ‘artistic’ residences for the discerning customer wishing to escape to the fresh air of London’s northern heights.

Palmers Green was no longer, in the words of Leigh Hunt in the 1820s, a place ‘lying out of the way of innovation’. For a time, the old and the new coexisted. It must have been a strange sight, to see country people using public transport alongside smart city folk, the harvest still being gathered, and a thatched cottage still in the high street. By the first world war, Palmers Green’s transformation into a modern suburb was largely complete.

This article first appeared in Palmers Green life

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Winchmore Hill’s arty party

Summer_Exhibition_winchmore_hill_green_N21_Final_webThe Winchmore Hill Festival is back next Saturday with a Summer Exhibition on the Green and at the Kings Head.

The exhibition will include work by some of the area’s most interesting artists, photographers, sculptors, ceramicists and jewellers, some of it for sale.

There is also a chance to wet your whistle at the Get Together Bar.

The event runs from 10 to 6. Bag yourself a beautiful bargain …