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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Over on another thread, a discussion started about the origins of the Woodberry Down name. This happened to coincide with some occasional research I've started doing recently on the Woodberry Down area.

Till relatively recently I'd always thought that Woodberry Down was a council confection to sugar the pill of a fairly brutal looking council estate. It doesn't take much rooting around to discover that this was a very incorrect assumption.

In fact, in extreme contrast to its character for the second half of the twentieth century, Woodberry Down was developed as a home to the wealthy. It included some huge houses with gardens stretching from Seven Sisters Road down to the New River. Here's a potted history I added to Wikipedia some years back. 

That entry ends explaining the radical change the area experienced about seventy years ago:

With the increasing suburbanisation of the area, mainly for the middle and lower middle classes, many of the original families had moved out by 1895 and others were being replaced by poorer people in 1913. Social decline continued, until in 1954 the district was inhabited mainly by students, foreigners, and the working class, with most houses containing four or five families and all in decay

You'll note that this text is on the entry for Manor House, London, rather than for Woodberry Down. This is another classic London story of 'What's my neighbourhood's name'.

In Victorian times, the area from Manor House Junction, north and south to the New River (as it loops around) and east as far as South Tottenham was widely known as Woodberry Down. After the building of the council estate given the name "Woodberry Down Estate" however, 'Woodberry Down' fell out of fashion as a name for the wider area, the majority of which had been subsumed by the estate anyway.

With the 'regeneration' of the area, Berkley Homes have clearly decided that they like the name and so it is experiencing something of a revival. I was keen to learn if this was just property developer's hype or whether there were any local roots to the name. So I started digging around.

The earliest reference I have to the history of the name so far is from The Survey And Valuation of The Manor of Stoke Newington in 1649. I found the following two excerpts:

One parcel of Pasture Ground, called by the name of Berrie Downs, in the occupation of Mr. Leverett, abutting on Mr. Chace's land on the north, containing by estimation 21 acres, which we value, to be worth per ann. £35.

One parcel of Wood Ground, called by the name of Berrie Down Wood, in the occupation of Colonel Alexander Popham, abutting on the New River on  the north, containing by estimation 5 acres which we value to be worth per ann 35s.

The next reference is from a 1734 map of the demesne lands of Stoke Newington Manor. It shows 'Wood Berry Downs Meadow'. Next to it it shows 'South Berry Meadow' and 'North Berry Meadow'. The common name here obviously was 'Berry'. Fascinatingly for me, ancestry.co.uk seems to think that 'berry' would have referred a 'fortified manor house'. 

As in many old maps, 'north is not up'. In this case east is at the top of the page.

With regards to the other part of the name, 'down', my understanding is that it refers to an area of rolling, grassy, treeless upland used for grazing.

An 1844 map suggests that a century after the demesne map the wider area had taken on the 'Woodberry Down' name.

Excerpts from old Ordnance Survey maps showing the northern part of the old borough of Stoke Newington

So Woodberry Down certainly seems to have authentic local roots. As to 'Manor House', I've always been interested in how tube and train stations get their names. This case has proved the tipping point for me to actually try and get some hard information on this. I asked StephenBln if he could help and within a few hours his network is pointing towards the LU Design & Heritage Manager. So it sounds like we might get closer to an answer. I'm sure that one of us will report back on the findings.

In the meantime however, it seems that whether by intention or accident, London Underground's naming of the tube station as Manor House may not have been far off the historical mark.

See some images of old Woodberry Down here.

And of course, this is a great opportunity to remind you that on 1st May. the London Wildlife Trust is re-opeinung Woodberry Wetlands as an all-singing all-dancing wetlands nature reserve. Information about free opening weekend tours here.

Tags for Forum Posts: manor house / woodberry down, stonebridge brook

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I think we're pretty much on the same track.

I've found another (deeply obscure) reference that kind of confirms this - this one places it in Netherton Road, which is where the present day scrap metal plant is, next to Tiverton School:


 It's interesting that it's turned up on this type of document, as the conclusion I was reaching was that it was more likely to be a local 'in joke' than an official name (like 'Brixton Beach'). But sounds like someone was using it for business purposes.

The reason I think the name is on the side of the trams, is because of the depot. Perhaps, at times, some would terminate there? Therefore it would be useful if it's location on the line, between Tottenham and Finsbury Park was indicated.

For years, I'd always wondered why the locals, my grandparents lived on St George's Road, always called the shopping area between St Ann's Road and Moreton Road the Town.

Somewhere along the line, the Woodbury must have been dropped.

@Abster I did a lot of scrolling, but I didn't find what you wanted us to see.

Now that makes absolute sense.

I guess what Abster wanted us to find was:


I think it's question of history repeating itself. At the end of the 1880s, this was a new housing development. Perhaps the developers wanted a fancy name, just like the developers of today's Woodberry Down Estate.

It obviously didn't catch on.

Yes, more of a ctrl-f job than a scrolling one in afraid :)

So I think this is this a view of what, from your account, Stephen, may at the time the photo was taken have been called 'Woodbury Town'. (Click the picture to go to the view on Google Maps Street View.)

Yep, it was still like this in 1970: There also used to be a fish barrow in front of what later was an off licence.

Such a shame those buildings haven't been looked after - I used to wonder if they'd ever been attractive, and this photo makes it clear that they once were. The pub (I assume) on the left of this picture now has scaffolding up on what appears to be a permanent basis (5 years and counting)... 

I just added a better version of this image here.

Thanks Hugh, this is incredibly fascinating - a great level of detail! Your posts like this really bring the area to life!

Interesting your point that "Berkley Homes have clearly decided that they like the name" - Perhaps I'm misremembering but I'm 99% certain that a few years ago when the regen began, the signage was all labelled 'Woodberry Park', as if they were trying to move away from the - no longer so well regarded - Woodberry Down moniker. At some stage, Down made a comeback, possibly due to someone like yourself pointing out the history, or perhaps a resident decrying the attempt to rebrand a place people live.



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