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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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Thanks for that. There's another of his works that describes a fictionalised version of the school in more detail, including the headmaster, but I can't put my finger on it now.

William Wilson ?.

Spot on. That was the one.

Here's a picture of the school:

(Note: The man who built the original Manor House Tavern was one Thomas Widdows of Church Street. I wonder if the premises next to the school were his?).

You can see more of an account of Poes's days at school in Stoke Newington about half-way down the page in this article. It quotes freely from 'William Wilson'.

And a cough from me too! That's what I said earlier.

So many coughs around today!

And indeed, both you and Xavier were spot-on. The work was 'William Wilson'. I didn't get round to checking my source till Xavier posted.

Hugh, that's brilliant!, I didn't know of any existing photos of the school, many thanks for the research.

Apologies to Angela, I didn't read the new entries on the upper threads.

I would like to think that the waterworks and lake could have been the mansion and tarn in The Fall of the House of Usher, but that would be an anachronism.

I'm coming around to the idea that Woodbury Town and Woodberry Down were two parts of the same thing. I think Woodberry Down refers to the hill down from Amherst Park down to Tottenham and perhaps the whole area from around Manor House down to Hanger Lane  (St Ann's Road) and that 'the Town' as we always knew it, was in fact, what was known as Woodbury Town, when developed in the 1880s. Why otherwise would the trams have the name as a via point on the sides? Trams certainly didn't travel along what we now know as Woodberry Down.

Woodberry Down is part of a much older country lane that led eastwards from Green Lanes down to the Lea Valley. I don't think too much should be made of both being in different Parish Boards. The whole area was part of Middlesex until 1889, when the County of London was created, with Hackney & Stoke Newington then becoming part of London and Tottenham & Hornsey remaining in Middlesex. Perhaps that change was the reason the name Woodbury Town fell out of use, with the locals continuing to refer to it just as 'the Town' well into the 1970s.

It's a real shame that the landlady who used to run The Woodberry/No. 8 has moved out, as I'm sure she'd have known all about this. Will try and find out if any of the more long-standing residents I know have heard of 'the Town' and report back!

There used to be a newsagents next to the Woodberry - now green space.. I did a paper round for them for a while at school to get some money..

I think the evidence shows pretty unequivocally that prior to suburbanisation, Woodberry Down was a fairly concentrated hilly area the borders of which are more or less described by present day Green Lanes to the east, Seven Sisters Road to the north, Lordship Road/Woodberry Grove to the east and the West Reservoir to the south. We have no evidence for it referring to any wider an area.

From the early-mid part of the 19th century this area was built up as a very desirable residential area. As with other areas, people were keen to take advantage of the cachet the name was beginning to offer. So its reach grew. The same happened in a much more exaggerated way with Hampstead.

The evidence we have suggests that its growth was modest, however. Green Lanes seems to have remained the western boundary. In the north, it stretched a little further to the New River that runs along Hermitage Road, but no further (though I have been unable to find any evidence that Northumberland Park was ever considered to be in Woodberry Down'). Growth of its southern boundary seems to have been halted by the New River reservoirs and the predominance of 'Stoke Newington' beyond that. The most significant growth seems to have been to the east. It leapt over Woodberry Grove/Lordship Road to as far east as present day Bethune Road. That seems to have been the limit of Woodberry Down proper. However, we do have evidence that the name was used at points further north east along Seven Sisters Road - Woodberry Down Chapel and the Woodbury Tavern. I'm assuming this was Hampstead style stretch-naming. 

I'm also assuming that the use of 'Woodbury' and 'Woodberry' on maps has the same low level of signficance that the interchangeability of Haringey and Harringay did at around the same time. In both cases one variant was by far the most common. In this case it was the 'berry' spelling.

As far as 'Woodbury Town' is concerned, we don't have much evidence that it was significant. There are very few references to it anywhere online. The only one that's been turned up so far is a rather obscure patent. That's unusual these days. Where a name was in common use in the Victorian times, it's now pretty easy to find multiple references online. There are many references to Victorian 'Woodberry Down' for example. However, Stephen's picture of the name 'Woodbury Town' on the side of a tram can't be brushed aside. If it was thought significant enough by the tram company it must have had some currency. So my interest would be to track down evidence as the what meaning it implied or, failing that to make some reasoned assumptions. As yet no evidence has presented itself. So I'm going to go with the reasoned assumptions route.

Looking at the other areas listed on the route board, we have Finsbury Park, Woodbury Town, Tottenham and Edmonton. The other names are either recognised towns of significance - Tottenham and Edmonton - or in the case of Finsbury Park a key transport hub. The tram company clearly wanted to identify a via point between Finsbury Park and Tottenham. It seems to me that Woodberry Down would be too close. So they'd need to look further along the route. Seven Sisters seems to have been an obvious point, but perhaps that was just considered to be Tottenham. Further to the south-east was an area of shops along Seven Sisters Road between the junction with St Ann's Road and the junction with Amhurst Road. That stretch includes the Woodberry Down Chapel and the Woodbury Tavern. I wonder if this is what they meant by Woodbury Town?

errr.. cough, that's what I said wasn't it?



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