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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.

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

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