Sunday, 1 July 2012

Communism à la Hornsey Road.

This Dutch style building opposite Platform is now the Derek Higgins Construction Training Centre, and I'd love to know more about both. 

So far, I've discovered that it used to be the headquarters of the Holloway Communist Party. 

Photographed during last winter's snow.

A.L. Morton (who'd grown up on a farm and been to Cambridge and must have seemed like he'd come from a different planet in pre-war Finsbury Park) wrote this rueful letter to the History Workshop Journal in 1980:

 'Jerry White's study of Campbell Road turned my thoughts back nearly 50 years to the early 1930s, when I was a member of the Holloway Group of the Islington Local of the Communist Party. At that time our headquarters were in a disused workshop in Andover Yard, just opposite the Hornsey Road Baths,  and much of our work was concentrated in the angle of Hornsey Road and the Seven Sisters Road. 

We canvassed most of the streets in the area, and at last were persuaded by two comrades living in the nearby Pooles Park to tackle Campbell Road As they said, it was the poorest street in the district and the one where people lived in the worst conditions. 

We were not, of course, unaware of Campbell Road's reputation and I think approached it with some trepidation. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised at the friendly way we were received. Everyone we say seemed ready to talk and we gathered a stack of information about bad housing, high rents, lack of amenities and so on. 

This we passed on to one of our number who undertook to prepare a piece for the Daily Worker, which he did in a style not lacking in colourful detail. With this we planned to make a second visit. Unfortunately our comrade, a tough Cockney who certainly ought to have known better, made the fatal mistake of using the word lousy in his report, copies of which must have reached the road before we arrived. This time our reception was distinctly frosty and I think we decided that we were not going to make much headway. 

Looking back, I am inclined to think that we would not have made much headway in any case, but I would like to put on record our impression that a large proportion of the people in Campbell Road seemed to us perfectly ordinary working-class men and women making the best of perfectly appalling circumstance.'


  1. Ahh fascinating! What more do we know about the Communist Party organisation in Islington?

    I wonder when the Red Rose on Seven Sisters Road first became associated with the local Labour Party?

  2. Hi Ben,

    Thank you! I don't know much more yet, but will try to find out. I didn't even know that the Red Rose was a Labour pub. I wonder if the name came after or before the link?

  3. Very interesting!


  4. My great-great grandfather, Edwin Church, ran the North London Chocolate and Confectionary Works from Andover Yard, Hornsey Road from the end of the C19th. Glad of any information about this.

    1. Graham,

      I hadn't heard about it, but I'm now intrigued and will dig. Thank you!