Sunday, February 1st 2015
As usual for a Sunday we had breakfast at Pret in the N1 Centre before crossing the road to Sainsbury’s to do the weekly shopping. Later, we decided to go on a little outing.
This is where we went – to Crouch End. Crouch End is a part of Hornsey or is it a part of Haringey? Well, actually, it is both. Until 1965, the local government entity under which it existed was the Metropolitan Borough of Hornsey but in the aforementioned year, Hornsey was absorbed into the new London Borough of Haringey. If you look up Haringey, you may find the alternative spelling, Harringay. I think these were once interchangeable but these days the spellings have been stabilised so that Haringey is the name of the borough as a whole and Harringay the name of a district within it.
The different spellings most likely arose from people’s uncertainty as to how the name should be written, given that the pronunciation is the same in either case. It is thought that the name has an Anglo-Saxon origin (no surprises there, then): it is likely that a man called Hering had a hege – an enclosure – in the area and that Heringeshege eventually became modern Haringey (or Harringay).
We got off the bus on the sloping main road called Crouch End Hill and there I photographed the local church, Christ Church, lurking shyly behind trees. The word “end” is often attached to names of places considered remote or to lie beyond major centres. As for the name Crouch, there are at least two theories. Both see the word deriving from the Latin crux, meaning a cross, but one suggests this indicated an important crossroads while the other proposes that it refers to an actual roadside cross, perhaps used as a boundary marker.
Also on Crouch End Hill is the Railway Tavern, a “Tudorbethan”-style establishment dating from 1937. Such styling enjoyed a vogue in the inter-war years and many a pub survives from that period with mock-ancient decor both inside and out. But why the name “Railway” Tavern because, looking around, you see no sign of a railway?
Nonetheless, a rather fetching mosaic mural by Tessa Hunkin on the side of the pub insists on the railway theme. The answer to the conundrum is that there was indeed once a railway passing nearby with its station just up the road. It began operations in 1867 and was to have been modernized at about the time when the pub was built but this work was interrupted by the war. Further plans to incorporate the route into an expanded Northern Line Underground service also foundered and the line closed in the 1960s, followed by the removal of the track and demolition of the station. The pub remains as a bookmark in the pages of the railway’s history.
The pub was advertising Sunday lunch with a vegetarian option, and when Tigger suggested we participate, I was happy to agree and go inside out of the cold. To make things perfect, we found a table beside the fire.
Continuing down the hill and crossing Coleridge Road, you enter the Broadway and come to Town Hall Square. The square, reasonably enough, is dominated by Hornsey Town Hall, designed by R.H. Uren in Modernist style and completed in 1935. A Grade II* listed building, the town hall was the main administrative centre of the now defunct Metropolitan Borough of Hornsey. It is no longer required for local government purposes and a new role for it is being sought.
This side door is topped by a strange device. Is it meant to be an urn or is it a piece of abstract art?
Over the door is a relief representing the coat of arms of the old Metropolitan Borough and beneath this the borough motto, Fortior Quo Paratior, a Latin tag usually translated as “The better prepared, the stronger”.
The door is defended by a handsome wrought iron screen featuring animal figures. Above is a detail of the screen showing a squirrel.
The layout of the square was intended to provide a public amenity but also to enhance the view of the Town Hall. To my eyes, the building has something of the factory or power station about it but, having said that, I agree that it is a lot better than many modern buildings that serve only to degrade our environment.
Walking to the end of the Broadway, you come to a place were many roads meet. Could this, I wonder, have been the “crux” that gave Crouch End its name? Whether it is or not, the confluence of roads leaves a triangle of land on which stands a robust Victorian clock tower.
You might be forgiven for thinking, after a quick glance, that this structure must be one of the many erected by towns and boroughs for some jubilee of Queen Victoria. In that respect, this one is different. It was built in 1895 in honour of the man whose name it bears, Henry Reader Williams.
Not content with a clock tower, those honouring Henry Reader Williams included in one façade a drinking fountain, that archetypical Victorian symbol of social philanthropy. Above it, an inscription explains the origin of the monument:
Erected by subscription in appreciation and recognition of the public services rendered by Henry Reader Williams Esq. JP, to the district of Hornsey during a period of twenty-one years. June 1895.
Above the fountain is a bronze relief carved in the likeness of Henry Reader Williams, looking rather like the head of a monarch as it would appear on coins. Was that deliberate, I wonder, or just a felicitous accident? A succinct account of Williams’s achievements may be found on London Remembers.
This was only a short visit to Crouch End but the winter cold was beginning to tell and, after a chilly wait at the bus stop, we caught a bus home to light, warmth and tea.