After I added the story about Goulding Court on Turnpike Lane recently, someone asked if the site of that building had also been the site of Prospect Place. Having adding a few hurried responses, my mind kept coming back to the query and I ended up digging around to answer the questions that had formed in my mind.
Now, rather than continuing to add the story piecemeal, I thought it better to set out what I learned in one narrative. So here you are, my journey into Prospect Place’s history, with the usual forays, investigating shiny baubles that catch my eye on the way.
PROSPECT PLACE, HORNSEY
Prospect Place was a building, or series of buildings, on the north side of Turnpike Lane (or Tottenham Lane as this part of the road was known till the end of the nineteenth century), just to the east of Hornsey Bridge as the bridge over the Great Northern Railway bridge used to be known.
Prospect Place isn’t remarkable and it’s that very ordinariness that intrigues me. The histories of notable buildings or families are interesting and worth researching: it’s certainly a lot easier to dig up information about them. But, I rather like to root around and find out about the more humdrum sort. Doing so regularly, both helps to build up a richer tableau of our area’s history and to balance my understanding of our past. It also often entails researching subjects that have been hereunto largely untouched by research and I do love the thrill of the chase.
Prospect Place’s high score on the humdrum-scale presented its challenges but a combination of maps, official records and newspapers have enabled me to build up a satisfactory picture of its story.
Dating Prospect Place through Maps
Maps provide my earliest references to Prospect Place.
Rocque's excellent eighteenth century map stops just short of Hornsey High street. So, our point of interest is just frustratingly off that map.
I have the legible appearance of Prospect Place on a map of Hornsey in 1819. (In reproduction, the map is credited to Edward Walford's book of 1881, Old & New London. In his book about the Origin of the name of Hornsey, Sidney Madge credits the map from which the one below was probably taken as 'Greenwood' (probably Christopher and John).
The map is clearly not aiming for pinpoint accuracy because the actual name, Prospect Place, is marked on the map running along Tottenham/Turnpike Lane from the New River to Green Lanes. But, it's interesting that it was considered by the cartographer to have been of sufficient note to mark it on the map.
In fact Prospect place was on the part of Tottenham/Turnpike Lane just after the junction with the the High Street, Tottenham/Turnpike Lane as it continued north for about 50 yards before turning sharply to the east (roughly where Clarendon Road was subsequently laid out) and back to its present day route.
After the Great Northern Line was built, Tottenham Lane to the south of the High Street was angled to the west to create room for the railway line. The resulting road layout changes flattened the turn to the east and ended up setting Prospect Place back from the road. This can be seen in the 1869 Ordnance Survey Map below. You can make out the former route of Tottenham Lane where the strip of land is just to the north of where the railway crosses the New River.
Having been able to confirm the location of Prospect Place in Greenwood's map of 1819, I was then able to use my poor copy of the 1815 Hornsey Enclosure Map to go further.
Extract from 1815 Hornsey Enclosure Map
At a larger magnification, I can see a terrace of four houses and two detached ones. The legend above the terrace shows 'Mrs G Nichols'.
I was then able to use the Hornsey Land tax records to identify her a Mrs Gertrude Nicholls. She was named as a landowner in her own right from 1810. By 1820 she was paying tax on 5 separate properties. In 1825, a Thomas Nichols appears as the proprietor for some of them. He paid tax on '2 cottages', She paid tax on four as well as 'waste now stable'. The Nicholls were recorded as the proprietors until 1840, when poor rate assessment records fail me!
Prior to 1810, the land was held by Nathan Nicholls back until 1793. I presume he was Gertrude's husband. During this time, he is apparently being taxed for 'Land and 2 houses'. Might we assume this is the two detached houses? The 1793 entry shows the land as being 'late Baily'. Mr Baily or Bayley can be traced as the landowner from 1783. Apparently he was the occupier of one portion of his land and the other was let to Richard Toft. I can go back no further than 1783.
So, whilst I haven't yet been able to establish the exact date that Prospect Place was built, it is reasonable to conclude that it goes back at least to the early nineteenth century and, some of it a least probably further than that. The name is not a unique one and other Prospect Places seem mostly to have late eighteenth century origins. So, given the available evidence, that’s what I’ll use as my working assumption. It also helps picture them.
The 1815 map also shows one slightly larger house just to the north of the New River. The proprietor for that is Thomas Hale. He doesn't appear after 1830. I'm assuming that his property was next to but not part of Prospect Place and that it was demolished when the railway was built.
Visualising Prospect Place
No photos of Prospect Place remain, as far as I’m aware, but it is possible to get some clues about what the buildings were like. The 1893 Ordnance Survey Map suggests a cluster of buildings, including a terrace of three, a pair of semi-detached houses and one detached. Two of the houses in the terrace are shown with steps leading up to their front doors.
Snippet of 1893 Ordnance Survey map with the buildings of Prospect Place circled
An 1840 for sale advertisement in the Morning Post gives us a little of an idea about what one of the houses in Prospect Place was like.
Morning Post, 25th June 1840
My research into Prospect Place happened to start with the 1871 census, which showed me a group of occupants who don’t match the occupant I’d imagine for the property described above. And, as my research continued, I found that Prospect Place may have referred to a set of buildings which included one that was larger than the rest. I believe that this single larger property was 1 Prospect Terrace and was set at the north end of the group (at the top of the circle in the map above, surrounded by cross-hatched squares).
To help illustrate the story of Prospect Place, I've given outline pen pictures of a few of the occupants. We meet the first the year after Queen Victoria came to the throne.
A Jewel Prospect
A Sun Fire Office insurance record of 1838 places a ‘working jeweller’, Benjamin Pilkington at number 2. Pilkington is variously described as a jeweller, goldsmith and gold seal-maker. His main place of business was in Clerkenwell, but all official records confirm that he lived in Prospect Place, Hornsey. The 1841 census shows him with with his wife, Sarah, their three children and a servant. By 1851 Benjamin had moved his family to a house in Tottenham Lane where they lived with a servant. He’d done well enough to be included under ‘Gentry’ in the Post Office directory for that year.
Though things didn’t go so well for son Alfred. In 1851, the London Gazette records Alfred Pilkington as being in prison as an insolvent debtor with a rather sorry-looking history:
So, wayward sons apart, as Victoria’s reign began, I get the impression of properties that were, at least in part, housing for the middling sort.
The 1841 census adds a little more flavour. However, since that census provides neither property location nor in many cases the occupations of those recorded, it’s not possible to be certain of the identity of the occupants of Prospect Place. We can however locate Pilkington quite precisely and censuses tend to be ordered to a great extent by geography. So, for 1841, I have focussed on those people located in the lines before and after Pilkington. These show individuals with the following occupations.
George Press, Gardener and Nurseyman
One of the gardeners listed in the 1841 census was George Press. He moved to Prospect Place in about 1840, aged 54 and lived there until his death in 1855. Prior to this Press had lived in Hanger Lane (now St Ann’s Road) and had worked as a gardener for the keen plantsman and wealthy landowner, Edward Gray of Harringay House.
The job of gardener to a large house clearly carried some notability and a decent salary. Evidence of the first comes from Press’s inclusion in Pigot’s Directory of 1826. He was clearly considered to be of sufficient import to be one of only fifteen tradesmen listed for the whole parish of Hornsey. As to the salary, voting records from at least as early as 1832 show that George Press owned five freehold houses in West Green.
After Edward Gray died in 1838, Press apparently didn’t let the grass grow under his feet. He bought the Prospect Place property, probably at the Garaway sale in 1840 shown in the clipping above, and had set up in business at a nurseryman. His son and namesake carried the business on until the late 1860s.
The Great Northern Railway
Five years after the 1841 census, Parliament passed legislation allowing the construction of the Great Northern Railway. The cards of Prospect Place seem to have been well and truly marked that year. Land acquisition for cnstuction started soon after and the tinge of more respectable residents ebbed quickly away.
So, by the time of the 1851 census, the picture of tenants living in Prospect Place has already begun to take on a more solidly working-class character. This census is more helpful than the one produced a decade earlier. But it’s still difficult to place people exactly in a particular building.
The census uses the phrases 'known as Prospect Place' to refer to four houses and 'Passage at the back of houses' to refer to three others.
Looking across all the material I have, I’ve made assumptions about which house is which and marked them on the 1893 Ordnance Survey Map. I chose this map for its clarity and because, as far as I’m aware, the buildings didn’t change in the nineteenth century.
The assumptions I've made to allocate numbers to properties may not be exactly right. But I think they’re close enough for the purposes of better understanding the story of Prospect Place and its occupants.
In 1851, we see a more rank-and-file group, including the arrival of railway workers. We can now locate George Press as the occupier of Number 1 Prospect Place and the land behind it. He is still using it as the base for his nursery. The list of other occupants was as follows.
In ‘Passage at the back of houses’
The ‘houses’ are described as ‘known as Prospect Place’ and are not numbered. Based on my current knowledge I have made the following assumption as to where each family might be placed. The properties listed below, and throughout this text, are shown west to east.
Whilst I can’t be sure, I suspect that the house just visible in the middle ground of the photo below (just under the ‘…ine’ of the watermark) is 1 Prospect Place.
Another ten years on, and the census continues to confuse on which property is which. The 1861 Census showed 1 to 7 Prospect Place. Comparing this census with the 1871 census, it is very probable that numbers 1 to 3 on the 1861 document were referred to in the later one as 1 to 3 Prospect Terrace: and that is how I will refer to them here. Prospect Terrace was immediately to the east of Prospect Place.
Below is a listing of the occupants in 1861. No census after 1861 listed any house in Prospect Place with a number higher than 6. So, looking at the 1861 census, I have subtracted 1 from each of the house numbers for 4 to 7. This gives us the following list of inhabitants.
I’m particularly taken by the occupation of Walter Watkins – baker and clerk to a solicitor!
George Press Senior had died in 1855. So, the George Press listed in the census for 1861 is one of his sons.
The photo below shows Turnpike Lane, just to the east of Horney Bridge, in 1904. It is shot facing east towards Green Lanes. On the extreme left is a part of 1 Prospect Terrace. At a higher magnification, you can just make out the ending of the name, Prospect Nursey on the signage on the front of this building. The next building to the right contained numbers 2 and 3 Prospect Terrace. Sod’s Law has ensured that Prospect Place is out of shot.
By 1871, the census shows that there had been a notable increase in the number of railway employees living in Prospect Place. All addresses below are as given in that census. I am assuming that Nursery Cottage is 1, Prospect Terrace.
Before the end of the decade, George Press Junior had sold up and moved around the corner to Alma Villas in Clarendon Road.
The picture in 1881 was very similar to a decade earlier. All occupants of Prospect Place were by that point railway employees. There was a new proprietor for the nursery, which was referred to for the first time in official documents as Prospect Nursery, but also as Ivy House. Both 1 and 2 Prospect Terrace were trading as retail businesses.
Brewer in the House
The name of Walter Watkins' lodger at 1, Prospect Terrace caught my eye. Samuel Frank Rhodes was the son of Samuel Rhodes, who either owned or ran the Hornsey Brewery just behind Tottenham/Turnpike Lane in Clarendon Road.
Before retiring in 1868 Samuel senior had run the Railway Hotel opposite Ribbesdale Road on Tottenham Lane (to be run by Colin ‘Lotus’ Chapman’s father in the next century). Samuel Junior had grown up between the pub and his father’s house next to the brewery on Clarendon Road. It may well be that as he grew up he and Walter Watkins’ daughter, Eliza became childhood sweethearts. At any rate, they were married in 1879 and this explains Samuel’s presence in 1, Prospect Terrace. (Given the relationship between Samuel junior and the family, it seems rather odd that he should be described as a lodger, but perhaps this observed some social nicety).
The last decade of the nineteenth century saw Prospect Place and Prospect Terrace eased into the twentieth century with the adoption of the citywide move to street numbering. The houses in Prospect Place were numbered 146 to 136A Turnpike Lane, with 6 Prospect Terrace taking the highest number. The properties in Prospect Terrace became 136 to 132 Turnpike Lane. Other than that the nature of the occupants changed little.
During the 1890s, the Great Northern Railway was widened. Numbers 142, 144 and 146 (4-6 Prospect Place) were demolished to accommodate it. By 1901, only five houses remained and only one occupant was employed by the railway.
Four years later the two shop-houses in Prospect Terrace (132 and 134 Turnpike Lane) had been demolished.
Sarah Gray, the widow of George, the former foreman porter at the railway stayed on at 138 till 1931 when she was 81 years old.
Number 140 was now next to the railway bridge. From 1910 until 1931, the address was used for both a resident occupant and a commercial one. The 1915 Ordnance Survey map suggest that a workshop was built alongside the pavement on land to the side and cut-in to the new railway embankment. It was used as by succession of monumental masons. Although Kelly’s Street Directory continued to list it as 140, Kelly’s Trade Directory started listing the address as ‘Railway Arch, Turnpike Lane’.
Alex McGregor continued to run the florist at 136 until 1931. In 1920, Kelly’s Directory adds a listing for “The Cottage” next to number 136. I suspect that this was the former 1 Prospect Place / 136A Turnpike Lane that McGregor brought back into use.
In 1931, the story of Prospect Place finally draws to a close when all the remaining properties were demolished to make way for Goulding Court. You can travel the journey of another seventy years of the Prospect site with my outline of Goulding Court.
All the above is sourced from original research, mainly using primary documentation.
Good meticulous research, Hugh, with working assumptions clearly highlighted
Hugh, you post the most amazingly well-researched and informative articles. Thank you.
How nice that near the site of the former Hornsey Brewery we now have the Goodness Brewery - I like this continuity.
Having looked at the map, I can see that Goodness's premises are pretty much on the same location as the Timmins & Davis screw factory - the Hornsey Screwery?
Looking for something else, I stumbled across a better copy of the 1815 Hornsey Enclosure Map I got in 2007. WIth that and Land Tax Records, I've now been able to fill in a few gaps prior to 1820 and get the history back to 1783. Rather than add the comments here, I've edited the original text.
I made another edit and added another map snippet yesterday about the rerouting of Tottenham Lane when the GNR was built.
Ah, that photo from just east of the bridge is lovely. Heartbreaking to see what was lost, compared to the quality of its replacements.
Another excellent article on a place i hadn't heard of before