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Every street in Palmers Green #6: How Palmers Green went round in circles

Rosalie Skating Rink exterior image (c) Enfield Local Studies Archive by kind permission
Rosalie Skating Rink exterior image (c) Enfield Local Studies Archive by kind permission

If you think that nothing about Palmers Green has ever been cutting edge, then think again. Or perhaps not.

In October 1910 John Cathles Hill, a speculative builder who had been responsible for much of the development of the Bowes Manor Estate (and two of north London’s most beautiful pubs, Crouch End’s Queen’s Head and Green Lanes’ The Salisbury), opened  a vast hall to cater for the craze of the age – roller skating.  Named the Rosalie, on its opening day, 700 people thronged to whizz round on the maple floor, to the accompaniment of a military band.

Dignified whizzing around (c) Enfield Local Studies Archive by kind permission
Dignified whizzing around (c) Enfield Local Studies Archive by kind permission

Unfortunately Hill had opened his new amenity just a little too late. After a rousing start, visitor numbers quickly fell off a cliff and by 1912 the building was sold to the London Omnibus Company. The failure of the rink may have been the last straw for Hill, who at one time had been a major builder and owner of the largest brick kiln in the world. In 1912 he was also declared bankrupt  with a deficit of over one million pounds.

The roller rink building is still standing, now the home of rather more enduring wheeled transport in the form of Arriva buses. In 2004 Maurice Cullum, Mike Wormall, Ted Simpson  Arriva employees at the garage, decided to research the history of the bus garage further.  The result was  Palmers Green Bus Station – a comprehensive history, a 140 page tome detailing the history of the building and of London buses in the area. If you see it, grab it, because it now often goes for extortionate prices on the internet.

Nomination for the local list: Palmers Green Bus Station

  • 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 the second weeks in November.


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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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Digitization prompts fears for local archive

Times are tough for cash strapped local authorities as they seek to provide a plethora of essential services. Unsurprising then, that Enfield Council has been looking for areas in which it can find economies. One such appears to be Enfield Local Studies Centre and Museum.

The Enfield Local Studies Centre identifies, acquires, and preserves archival materials that document the history of the London Borough of Enfield, and makes records available for the benefit of all. If you haven’t been there personally, you will have to take my word for it that it’s run by an amazing staff, who have a brilliant knowledge and a genuine enjoyment in revealing the uncovered history of the borough.

The archive probably doesn’t bring in much hard cash directly, but it performs wonders in developing a sense of place in Enfield, working across the generations and helping promote the borough, and helping others to do so. Palmers Green Jewel in the North wouldn’t have anything like its current content without help from the team, in particular in sourcing photos and references.

Until 18 October, Enfield Council is running a consultation on big changes to the archive. The aim is to digitize the entire collection so that it will be available online, but – to avoid a drop in service while that digitization is happening – if the plans go ahead you will only be able to visit by appointment. It will be exciting to be able to access the archive online but once the digitization is complete there is no indication of what might happen to the service and the team, and that is where my concerns for the service really set in in earnest.

A petition has been set up via 38 Degrees – I am not sure that it is quite accurate in that the petitioners seem to think that the intention is to make the digital archive available via, which is not the case from my reading of the consultation information. Enfield Council has also not explicitly said that the service will be cut, although obviously that is a reasonable fear. You can sign the petition here – more importantly, if you care about the archive, please respond to the consultation by clicking here.

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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.