What's in a name - Hornsey Park - its history and why it's important

View over Hornsey Park from Sky City

View over Hornsey Park from Sky City

Hornsey Park is a real place and since it was planned in the 1860s, has had a clear identity, first as part of the borough of Hornsey and, more lately as the eastern neighbour of Wood Green’s town centre. Early records tell us there was another Hornsey Park (or Hornsey Great Park) but it was at the opposite end of Hornsey parish and, today probably forgotten, with the area preferring its associations with Highgate and Hampstead: today, we are the only Hornsey Park. Soon, there will be a new quarter to Hornsey Park, as the Heartlands development on the land of the former holders is to take the name of our area. It’s a choice we applaud and recognises Hornsey Park as an historic but also a vibrant modern community.

So, where did it all start. It seems what shaped our area was the coming of the Great Northern Railway in 1850: before this, the area was open countryside, a short walk across the fields from the medieval centre of Hornsey village in the west and overlooked by a moated 16th century ‘brick’ manor house. To the east, the area was an equally short walk along the parish boundary (still marked today by 1887 parish boundary posts) from the turnpike (Green Lanes) and another moated medieval manor house, Dovecotte House (also known as Ducketts). The dominant physical features were the ridge to the west on which Hornsey village stood, the Mosselle brook and field boundaries defining the parish boundary east of a turn in the brook (and still discernible on today’s maps). The New River lay some distance to the north and west on its old course around Wood Green Common and Hornsey Village. The nearest settlements were Hornsey village, with its medieval church tower and a small hamlet clustered around Wood Green Common (said to be the original Wood Green) a short distance to the north. To the south lay the ancient Tottenham Lane (now Turnpike Lane) and the Hornsey Turnpike (famously jumped by Dick Turpin escaping the Middlesex militia. Farther afield stood Harringey House on high ground to the south, whose owner held the land on which Hornsey Park would be built (at least until its sale 1838). Tottenham Wood (now Alexandra Park) lay to the west and Tottenham and the River Lea to the east. Aside from the turnpike and a droving road (now Mayes Road leading from the commons along Green Lanes to Wood Green Common), the area was completely off the beaten track. The New River we see today, concealed by the railway embankment is a new course brought about by the railway and major re-engineering in 1850.

It seems that economic and social factors strongly shaped our area: the country was booming throughout the 1860s when Cocksfield, the land on which Hornsey Park was built, first became available for development. While the new suburbs provided homes for the middle classes, they also needed coal and gas – something the railway could support. Clarendon Road, next to the new Hornsey station was just such a place. A small gas works was built when a fragment of the Cocksfield, left over from the construction of the railway was purchased for the purpose in 1867 (conveniently concealed from the village by the railway embankment but also well sited for the logistical purpose of moving coal for processing).

The earliest 26” OS map shows a newly laid out entrance to Hornsey Park but no plan of the roads to be built: to the north of Malvern Road are open fields. There are often repeated but unsourced references to the earliest plans being on a grander scale than ultimately built. The name Hornsey Park Estate seems to support this suggestion. The roads were wide with deep front gardens and tree-lined. One of the earlier residents was a young Arnold Bennett, who surely chose the area as one that was reasonably salubrious, if not convenient for the train. Proximity to a railway station, a lack of development land towards Crouch End and Hornsey (as owners of country houses refused to give up their land) and the economic boom still underway, would have supported the case for a substantial development. Sadly, the country was hit by a great depression in the early 1870s and the land for the Hornsey Park Estate sold to be developed by the Imperial Property Investment Company. It seems that by the time the country began to recover, the new owners took a more cautious approach, noting the arrival of muddled development on Turnpike Lane near the railway from the early 1860s, increasing activity and need for more land by the gas company and railway, the impact of the railway, the potential menace of the Moselle (an open watercourse and something the Victorians would have been suspicious of for public health reasons) and a burgeoning interest in good quality housing for working people of modest means (the Noel Park Estate being an example) after reforms governing new housing. Land to the north of Malvern Road was developed by the British Land Company Ltd as the Park Ridings Estate from the early 1880s and included the norther ends of Hornsey Park Road and Alexandra Road as well as Park Ridings and Brampton Park Road.

in 2002, at the request of PMRA, new road signs celebrating our area’s heritage were installed and included the heraldic oak in the coat of arms of the former Hornsey Borough. We are spoilt for names we could to describe where we live – Hornsey, Wood Green, Turnpike Lane, Noel Park, but only one is accurate – Hornsey Park, N8. We are a place and should celebrate it.

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