I have updated this post by adding two photos that Tigger took while I was feeding the geese in Chase Green Gardens.
We weren’t really going to Enfield. Really, we were going to Wood Green to do some shopping, but we put that off until later and decided to take a look at Enfield in the meantime. Earlier, for reasons I can’t quite remember, though I think they had something to do with looking for breakfast, we found ourselves on the borders of Fitzrovia, where I was attracted by this sight of a pigeon perched above two oversized Remembrance Day poppies.
We eventually found breakfast in Kentish Town. How did we get to Kentish Town from Fitzrovia, seeing as we were intending to go to Wood Green? I’m not sure but that’s what we did…
As we arrived in Enfield, I caught a glimpse from the top of the bus of this remarkable building. From the bus, I could see just about the whole building and the sun was shining through it, making it translucent. It’s hard to photograph from close up because of its sheer size. The tubular shaped features seem to be a cross between balconies and sun lounges. Each flat has one and I imagine in sunny weather they must catch the heat. In many cases they are furnished with tables and chairs.
Building began in the 1960s and was controversial because house owners in the neighbourhood complained of the loss of light caused by the massive building and the loss of privacy from being overlooked. Car parking also became a problem because of the influx of vehicles. Comer Homes who built the place is seeking to extend it still further, stirring up further opposition from local residents. (See also the comment by Chris Holman below.)
We headed towards the Market which is on a main road called, unusually, The Town. Nearby is a Victorian drinking fountain, erected in 1884, as the inscription tells us, and restored in 1994, according to a bronze plaque, which also says that the work was funded by the London Borough of Enfield, “with contributions from the customers of Marks & Spencers, Enfield.” I would like to know the story behind the installation of the fountain but have not so far been able to discover any further information.
Enfield is proud of its market and understandably so as it is a very ancient one. Permission to hold a market was first granted to one Humphrey de Bohun by Edward I in 1303, and in 1618, King James issued a Royal Charter. The market was reinstituted in 2002 and is held on Mondays. A plaque on the floor of the Market House was unveiled by the Queen and Prince Philip in October 2003. It’s a pity that the scene is somewhat spoilt by the tatty wooden shed.
It’s sometimes hard for us to remember that in times past there was no running running in ordinary folks’ homes and that most people had to obtain it from public pumps. This one stood in the Market Place between 1842 and 1904 and was returned here in 1979. Where was it in the intervening 75 years? Sorry, I have no idea.
Adjoining the Market Place is this handsome late Victorian building currently occupied by Barclays. The Victorians would have understood banking well enough but if they could return and read the blue plaque this might puzzle them. It commemorates an historic first.
As with water, it is hard for us now to imagine a time when there wasn’t a “hole in the wall” cash point on nearly every corner. Nonetheless, so it was and they had to be invented and the first one installed. To Enfield fell the honour of hosting it.
Behind the Market Place stands the Parish Church of St Andrew. The first written evidence of a church on the site occurs in 1136 but there had probably been one long before that. The earliest parts of the building date from the late 12th century and others from the 14th but, of course, there has been much alteration and rebuilding of the fabric during the centuries. Dissecting old churches is a complex, if fascinating, task and often produces surprises.
One thing that intrigued me was what looked like a flagstone – albeit is a rather large one – on the main path to the church door. Though it is badly worn, one can read a few lines of the inscription which runs as follows: ENTRANCE TO THE FAMILY VAULT OF JOHN STRANGE ESQUIRE.
Is this really the vault entrance – right on the pathway – or has the stone been “recycled” and relocated here, perhaps to replace broken paving? The existence of a vault is not unlikely as I soon spotted another example.
This handsome memorial stands on a platform and the inscription informs us that the remains of Samuel Garnault, sometime treasurer of the New River Company, who died in 1827, lie in a vault beneath it. An addition to the inscription reveals that in 1841, a second Samuel, surnamed Carver, also found his final resting place here. I wonder how many other vaults there are in this burial ground and whether they remain intact.
As is common in burial grounds today, many of the gravestones have been uprooted and placed against the boundary wall. This set of 18th century stones contains particularly nice examples of the art. The one I have singled out reads
Here Lyeth ye Body of
of this Parish Coachman
who Departed this Life
Ianuary the 5th 1759
Aged 39 Years
I like the abbreviation for ‘the’, with ’e’ superposed on a thorn, in the first line (though the word is written in full in the date), the archaic long ‘s’ in ‘Parish’ and the Latinate replacement of ‘J’ by ‘I’ in the name of the month – a classic piece of work. The carving shows a book, presumably the Bible, between two skulls, the whole decorated with scrollwork. Stone is of course not nearly as durable as it is often held to be and it is a pity to see these carvings being allowed to rot away. They are, after all, historical documents as well as works of funerary art.
We had found some interesting buildings and other features but Enfield as a whole was not really grabbing my imagination, though whether this was Enfield itself or my mood is hard to say. This changed, however, when we arrived at Gentleman’s Row and, more particularly, Chase Green Gardens.
Gentleman’s Row (whose houses are just out of sight beyond the right edge of the above photo) is, as its name suggests, a rather prestigious place to live. At least two of the houses go back to the 17th century and several are listed. We, however, preferred to explore the gardens. Through them runs the New River which Hugh Myddelton used to bring much needed water to North London.
We walked up the left-hand side of the water, which gave us a pleasant riverside walk, until we arrived at the top end where there is a small pedestrian bridge.
We soon saw that the Canada geese were paying us close attention. Though they have plenty of good grazing in the gardens, they are always ready for a hand-out. This proclivity led to an ‘incident’.
A mother with two young children arrived. They had bread for the geese. As they started to distribute it, the geese, en masse, swarmed towards them, as is only to be expected, and the children became afraid. I suggested they give me some bread with which to distract the geese while they made their escape. No sooner said than done.
Though Canada geese can be aggressive, it’s only with one another, and they were soon feeding from my hand. That was my best moment of the day, I think.
Although I am sure the geese have plenty to eat, they came rushing forward on sensing the possibility of a snack. They are obviously used to people feeding them and the bolder ones will take food from your hand without any qualms.
The goose in the above photo was so impatient for his next morsel that he kept trying to eat the flap of my handbag!
At the bridge, someone else was feeding the birds, and the photo gives you an idea of how many birds there were and the mix of species. There were Canada geese, ducks, black-headed gulls (wearing their winter costume without their black caps), pigeons and some others. It was a very lively scene.
Beyond the little bridge, the New River continues along Chase Side but we turned back, crossed the bridge and walked down the other side of the gardens.
Not that the wild life cared which side of the river we were on: they remained alert to our presence, just in case we had more snacks to hand out. I noticed, though, that in between whiles, the geese were busy grazing and I took this to be a good sign, showing they were not dependent on people for their food.
It’s amusing to think that we could have followed the New River all the way back to Islington and practically to our front door. Throughout the trip, we continually crossed and recrossed it. Instead of following it, though, we caught a bus to Wood Green where we did our shopping, and then returned home. Perhaps we shall go back to Chase Green Gardens with something more appropriate than bread for the ever hungry geese and pigeons.