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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

The State of Harringay's Hermitage Brook & the Desire for its Culverting

I noticed an interesting short light-humoured article with a serious message in a 1903 copy of the London North Mercury & Crouch End Observer. It consisted chiefly of a (pretty poor) rhyme which used the fate of the Hermitage Brook as a way of highlighting some contemporary local concerns.

Its overarching theme was the state of the brook itself. As urbanisation overtook the countryside around London, its many waterways were badly mistreated. The Hermitage Brook, which used to run from Crouch End  Hill to the River Lea, was no exception. 

The bucolic world depicted by water-colourist Harold Lawes in the painting below in 1883 was soon to be swept away. The picture shows the view looking west along Hermitage Road towards Green Lanes. On the right in the distance is one of the kilns of the Williamson Potteries. Although most of the Hermitage Brook to the west of Harringay had already be covered over, its eastern stretch still flowed. Its course is marked in the painting by the line of trees on the extreme right of the picture.

By the time that the 1903 article was published, the scene looked more like that depicted in the photo below from 1897. It is shot in roughly the same direction (you can make out the tile kiln behind the central tree) but the view is rotated to look in a more north-westerly direction. Behind the tree on the left of the picture are the new buildings on Green Lanes. Just to their right, you can make out Harringay Bridge. In the distance to the right of the central tree is, I think, the station building. 

Somewhere in the scene, the brook still runs, but according the the rhyme it is now stagnant and strewn with rubbish. Elsewhere on the site was a pond, the site of several tragic deaths of local children.

Much to the chagrin of local residents and managers of St Ann's Hospital, the area to the right of the picture was used as a rubbish dumping ground by the dustcarts of Stoke Newington Council. It took many years for Tottenham Council to stir itself into action and prevail on its neighbour to stop dumping. In the meantime, the state of the site continued to deteriorate.

The mention of "Hill's town" in line 7, is referring to the Gardens and Grand Parade which had recently been built up by John C Hill.

It's interesting to note how over a century ago respectable opinion sough the culverting of rivers, whilst today the move is is clean and open them (props here to the Haringey Rivers Forum for its work on improving the Moselle).

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I can recall the 1961 works on the Hermitage Brook in front of the Oakdale Pub. As kids we used the channel as a play area. Shown on this first 1893 map at E.

A wider view shows the course of the Hermitage Brook westwards until it disappears underground.

In this 1944 map, the course of the Brook can be seen between Beechfield and Hermitage roads can be seen, as well as a short open air section west of Ashfield Road. The brook crossed Hermitage Road at the Oakdale and there was originally a pond there on the east side, the location of which can be see as a gap in the terrace of houses on the east side of Hermitage Road. During WW2 this space was used as a concrete lined water holder. The current building on the site, Green Court, was built in 1968.

During the 1961 works, the Hermitage brook, which turns in a L form from west to north between Hermitage & Tiverton Roads was re-culverted and covered with concrete, which still can be seen in the Tiverton back gardens on this shot. I believe it follows a course to the south of the railway behind Templeton Road.

An the course west of Ashfield is here somewhere.

My Maternal grandfather ran his business from a site south of Seven Sisters Road (It was known as the yard in the family). The Stonebridge Brook ran between the buildings and I can just about recall playing there as a small kid. My grandparents lived on St George's Road (17) and my maternal great-grandparents ran a second hand business (would be called antiques now) at 2 Culvert Road. At 4 Culvert Road my grandfather's sister ran a cleaning business.

St George's Road was demolished in 1972 and disappeared from the map. By coincidence, my grandparents' house (17) and my aunt's (16) were the last two houses on the street to survive intact. I spent a lot my childhood here, as did my mother.

I still have the Street Sign here in Berlin :-)

Amazing research and personal history! 

With more time would really relish looking at these maps and photos in person together and piecing together the dates and routes of the various lengths of culverting of both streams with our existing info and maps from Thames Water and the EA via LBH flood teams. They'll certainly also be interesting for our research project and I'll share with our contact at Thames Water with their lost rivers project. Are you around at any point over the next few months to do that compare? 

Do you remember the Stonebridge Brook as being foul smelling? - or is that the kind of thing one doesn't remember as a child? I grew up in an urban village outside Wolverhampton, and played in streams all the time. No memory of their condition then. None of them are above ground any more.   

Haha, Ceri. I understand where you are coming from, but no, I can't remember. Nothing has remained burned into my memory, apart perhaps from it flowing pretty fast. I won't be in London until the late summer. August or September are  usually the months that I tend to visit London.

I recall the Hermitage Brook as being not much more than a dribble in 1961, but I presume that is weather related.

Hi Stephen, lots going on here in Friends of Chestnuts Park research into the route of the stonebridge culvert and plans to daylight it in the park.  It would be great to talk with someone who remembered the Stonebridge and the Hermitage Brook wherethey were above ground. You mentioned being in London in August or Sept. Let us know dates? We're also hoping to arrange a meeting with Hugh to look at the various historic maps. 

I was pleased to come across the following snippet today. Published a few months after the piece above, it seems like our journalist got his way:

hi Hugh, we've visited haringey archive to look at the Contracts for culverting the Stonebridge in 1959 and 1960.  See pic of covers of the docs. All interesting, but the actual maps were in the appendices and not included in the archive. Am now researching whether the maps are still stored by LBH Flood team. A UCL postgrad student is working on options for daylighting the Stonebridge as part of her course, and is talking to our Friends AGM at 1800 on 22 July about her research. (You'd be welcome to join us). At some point before or after this date, we'd love to come and talk to you and look at the various historical maps, in order to mark the moving position of the various culverts, and possibly get closer to a picture of today's route. Let us know any times good for you if you've got time for this? 

Attachments:

Sorry, missed the 22/7 meeting.How's the project coming along?

Project to investigate possibility of daylighting the Stonebridge Brook in Chestnuts Park continues well. I've written a bit about it in your recent thread here https://www.harringayonline.com/forum/topics/the-sound-of-the-stone.... The Environment Agency has now awarded the LBH Flood Team £30k for feasibility work in the coming year 19/20. Work is going on now to draw up a brief for a contractor, which Friends of Chestnuts Park is contributing to, as is LBH Parks Service. If the feasibility project makes a strong case, then there could be much larger monies available, from the EA and elsewhere, to create whatever is appropriate in terms of the park and flood relief - most likely a SuDs/Rain garden/SWALE, plus possibly small stretch of deculverted brook and wetlands area able to absorb larger volumes of water when needed. We would always make sure that any project also deals with the poor drainage of the main field, and gets that levelled at the same time. Probably completion date would be 2024.

At our AGM postgrad Engineering Exchange student Silke Mason shared a Powerpoint presentation on some of these options. I'm going to try and upload it here as separate jpeg pics in my next post as the Powerpoint is too big a file. 

At the our Friends of Chestnuts Park AGM on 22 July we formed a sub group of people specifically interested in this project, and we welcome new members. Maybe we should call ourselves Friends of Stonebridge Brook! Our next steps include trying to talk in person to you and others writing here who have taken an interest in the Brook, including the writer above who remembers it and the Hermitage when they were above ground. In the meantime, anyone at all interested in being in the loop is welcome to email us at friendsofchestnutspark@hotmail.co.uk and we'll give you regular updates/invite you to join our subgroup. Karen Thomas, editor of the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management's house mag the Environment, lives in the Ladder and is attending our meetings with LBH and following the process of this project, with an eye to a future article, and has also joined our email group. Haringey Rivers Forum is also a key support. 

I'm attaching Silke's powerpoint

PPT_AGM_FCP%20s.pdf

This presentation gives some basic options on where the wetlands/rain garden may go. But still lots of unanswered questions. Thanks Hugh for uploading. 

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