Huxley Farm

Owned by the Huxleys of Weir Hall in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Huxley Estate was at one time immense, stretching to Silver Street though by 1920 it had been reduced to 179 acres. Huxley Farmhouse – a fine, porticoed building – was situated roughly on the corner of today’s Ash Grove and Hedge Lane. (At one time, Kings Arms Lane (now Oakthorpe) meandered north east towards the farm from the site of Truro House. The road continued via Firs Lane into Winchmore Hill).

Alan Dumayne states that William Watson became the final owner of the farm in 1905 (his predecessors were John Smith from the 1880s, and before that, Richard Smith). Says Hilary Spurling in Paul Scott, a life

 A friend of Paul’s, who grew up in Hedge Lane remembered Farmer Watson of Huxley Farm striding along in his thick country tweeds and leather leggings, followed by a train of derisive schoolboys from the newly-built terraced houses round about. To the farmer these strange urban boys, and their white-collared fathers who disappeared each morning with rolled umbrellas down the underground, represented the hordes of invading barbarians who had laid waste to his world. For the boys, ‘Potty Watson’ with his red face, truculent manner, and a defiant red rose in his buttonhole, was a crackpot senselessly trying to stem the tide of progress and civilisation which would inevitably root out his  hawthorn hedge and pave over his cornfields, just as it had already chopped down the orchard, filled in the ponds, and reduced Winchmore Hill wood to a manageably, decorative remnant of the great forest belt that once stretched from Barnet and Enfield Chase to Lea marshes in the Thames valley.

Henrietta Cresswell gives a charming description of Huxley Farm as passed by the horse bus which made its slow meandering way from the city to Winchmore Hill (a journey which took two hours)

Firs Lane and Hedge Lane, as the continuation of Silver Street was called, made an angle where the great rick yards of Huxley Farm stood behind the low house covered with creepers. At one end of the house was a conservatory – a place of beauty on which to gaze through the iron railings. When the trees were bare there was a wonderland of waxen camelia, scarlet and white with glossy green leaves; but in summer the lane itself held flowers enough and to spare, not only to long for, but to gather freely in handfuls. Honeysuckle and wild hops clambered over the hedges round the stackyard, wild roses were on both sides of the way. White briony and lack briony draped the quickset with festoons of greenery. A bend in the streamlet formed a small pond full of forget-me-nots, and the sides of the road on the hill to the New River Bridge were rich with lush grass…

What was left of the estate was sold off between 1929 and 1932, beginning with the area immediately south to what is now the North Circular in 1929 (according to this was to Lawes, a builder from Crouch Hill). The remainder of the estate to the north was sold in lots between 1930 and 1932. The handsome farmhouse survived until 1931.

Papers of the Huxley and Tatum families and relating to the business of the farm can be viewed in the London Metropolitan Archives

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