Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Tollington's a foreign country, they do things differently there.

There are roads round here called Tollington Park,  Tollington Place, Tollington Road and Tollington Way and there's even a Tollington ward but no-one thinks of themselves as living in Tollington. 

This is a shame. Tollington's in the Domesday book

Image courtesy of the wonderful Professor John Palmer and George Slater and domesdaymap.co.uk

John Wittich's Discovering London Street Names says it's in Anglo-Saxon charters even earlier as 'Tollandune' or 'The hill pasture of Tolla'.

I would like it to come back and displace Holloway, Finsbury Park and Stroud Green.

It's about as likely as this place (on the Tollington Way/Hornsey Road junction) re-opening or that bike being rescued.

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She Bangs the drums on Seven Sisters Road

Bangs (est. 1907) has left no trace on t'interweb. I'm hoping there'll be more at the Islington Local History Centre

In the meantime, here's a picture that's almost too clankingly symbolic:

The past was yours/But the future's mine/You're all out of time. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

Durian Cake seems an odd idea (Hua Run supermarket)

In my early days living round here someone more thorough than me at following recipes dragged me round half the shops in search of black bean sauce. 

I should have taken him straight here:


Hua Run (on the corner of Seven Sisters and Hornsey road next to the Eaglet)  is one of those tiny shops that cram in more stuff than seems possible. They sell every Chinese ingredient I've ever heard of as well as many things I don't recognise:

Or know how to use. What does one do with dried fish exactly? 

Or with sweet potato powder? 

Rice I can just about figure out:

And I'm building up courage to try this: 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The murder trial of Sidney Clay, Part III: Sentencing

[Part II is here]

After Dr Gruyther went to the police to report his suspicious behaviour Clay was arrested and tried for 'unlawfully soliciting Eustace Julian de Gruyther to kill and murder a certain male child aged two months'. There was no proof that the child had died of poison rather than neglect and malnutrition.

The defence argued that Dr Gruyther's testimony 'might have been actuated by motives of notoriety' and that there was no other evidence against Clay. Mrs Manning and Maud Morris both testified that he had tried to help the the boy and that they had done their best to care for him.

The jury found Clay guilty and recommended him to mercy on account of this youth and good character. The judge sentenced him to six months hard labour.

Spy:  Justice Lewis William Cave
Vanity Fair, 1893
Wikimeda Commons image

That judge was Justice Lewis William Cave. This is from his obituary: 'Fearless, if occasionally over-confident, and brusque and stubborn in his demeanour towards counsel pressing a point which appeared to him untenable, he shirked no difficulty, did not hide vacillations under a cloud of verbiage or impalpable qualifications and reservations; and, if he was occasionally wrong—and in the early days of his judicial career he was curiously often right—he was always intelligible.'

Justice Cave told Clay said he ‘should have been disposed to have dealt more leniently with him if he had taken advantage of the opportunity he had had of making an honest woman’ of Morris.

Dr Ginger S. Frost, of Samford University, thinks that means Clay would have got a lighter sentence for trying to kill his son if he'd been married to the mother.

The murder trial of Sidney Clay. Part II: 'I want you to get rid of this child for me'.

[Part I is here]

Gruyther and Sidney Clay's third and last conversation was on the 22nd of January 1883. As reported by the doctor, this was the most damning evidence at the trial:

Clay: 'I want you to get rid of this child for me.'

Dr Gruyther: 'What do you mean?'

Clay: 'I want you to put something in your medicine so as to slowly poison the child, and I will pay you any reasonable amount of money.'

Dr Gruyther 'I refuse to have anything to do with it.'

Clay: 'Why not? you will be handsomely paid; other doctors do it and no one is a bit the wiser.'

Dr Gruyther 'You won't tempt me to commit murder for any amount of money.'

1885 advert for a morphine-laced medicine
Clay 'How about the vaccination?'

Dr Gruyther 'The child is not in a fit state to be vaccinated, and if I did do it it would die.'

Clay: 'Then why not do it, it would be an easy way to get me out of my difficulty?'

Dr Gruyther 'If I did it would be murder.'

Clay: 'If the child dies in a fortnight or so will you give a certificate?'

Dr Gruyther: 'Provided there were no suspicious circumstances I should be compelled to give one.'

Clay 'If I call in a fortnight will you give me one?'

Dr Gruyther: 'You have had my answer.'

Clay: 'It would be easy to get rid of this child by putting something in its food or in your bottles of medicine, and I mean to get rid of it, and I shall call on you for a certificate.'

Dr Gruyther: 'If I suspect foul play I shall withhold it.'

Clay: 'You need not know anything at all about it, it will be done neatly and quietly, and after. You have given the certificate you can ask for what fee you like. I shall call in a fortnight and depend on you for the certificate.'

The boy Sidney died at two months old. 

[I'll post the final part tomorrow.]

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The murder trial of Sidney Clay. Part I: 'If this thing gets about it will ruin me'.

On November 19 1832 Sidney Clay and Maud Morris had a child. He was a tobacconist with a shop on the Holloway Road and she was a dressmaker. They never lived together but Morris named the child Sidney and said at the trial that she had thought Clay would marry her.

A week before Christmas she asked him to find a wet nurse because her milk had run out. On Boxing night he arranged for a Mrs Manning to take the child away.

Mrs Manning lived at number 30, Hornsey Road, but told Morris that she lived in Poplar. Morris mustn't have believed her because she asked Clay where her baby had gone.

Clay told her 'You can see the baby whenever you wish to, but I don't wish you to know where the nurse lives'. He changed his mind when she threatened to tell his customers about his illegitimate child. Mrs Manning kept the boy and fed it on watered down condensed milk from a filthy bottle.

Condensed milk was marketed as food for babies and much used in poor households.

                    Eagle Brand Condensed Milk, 1887

The boy became sick and at 7pm on 8 January 1883 Morris and Mrs Manning took him to Dr Eustace Gruyther. He told them that the boy would probably die unless it got breast milk. 

Later that evening Clay went round to his surgery and they had the first of three conversations that Dr Gruyther would relay at Clay's trial:

Clay:  'I have called respecting a child you are treating, and about which I believe two women have been to you; I am the father of the child.

Dr Gruyther: 'What do you want me to do?'

Clay:  'I believe you ordered a wet nurse.'

Dr Gruyther:  'Yes; if the child has breast milk it will live.'

Clay: 'I don't think I can afford that, it has cost me a lot of money already; do you think it will do as well on artificial food?'

Dr Gruyther: 'It might.'

Clay 'I am a married man, and in business close by, and if this thing gets about it will ruin me.'

Dr Gruyther: 'As far as I am concerned no one will know anything about it.'

Their second conversation was on Thursday 17 at Clay's Holloway Road shop. Dr Gruyther told Clay that his son was getting better and and would probably live.

Clay:  'I am sorry to hear that, for it will be a burden for me for 16 years.'

Dr Gruyther: 'Why, if you pay 5s. a week you need not be troubled with it, any one will keep it and not say anything about it.'

Clay:  'It will never do, if my wife gets to know it there will be a fearful disturbance.'

[Continued tomorrow - I've split this story into three posts because it's so strange and bleak and tangled. Part II is here.

Monday, 23 January 2012


Mizhenka found a survey that helps make sense of last week's post about Hornsey Road getting £571,000.

'The main elements of the scheme are:

• At the Tollington Way/Hornsey Road junction - to raise and buildout the kerbs to prevent vehicles overrunning the footway, widen the crossing on Tollington Way to 2.4 metres to ensure there is sufficient capacity for pedestrians. Further assist the partially sighted/blind by upgrading the tactile paving and cut back the right turn island on Hornsey Road into Tollington Way to ensure vehicles enter Tollington Way on the correct side of the road.

• to relocate the motorcycle bay at the Arthur Road/Hornsey Road junction further into Arthur Road to provide better access to the bus stop.

• to inset the parking bay and car club bay adjacent to the Fire Station on Hornsey Road to allow the fire appliances better access when turning left out of the Fire Station. 

• to widen the pedestrian island on Hanley Road at the Hornsey Road junction to 2.00 metres to make this crossing point safer for pedestrians.

• Extend the pedestrian island on Beaumont Rise at its junction with Hornsey Rise to make the crossing point safer.

• Install new shared use inset parking bays in the Spears Road/Lambton Road area.

• Upgrade tactiles, extend the footway width and adjust the position of the centre island for the Zebra crossing at the Hornsey Road/Lambton Road junction.'

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Saw this on the TfL website

'£571,000 towards the second phase of a three year programme to regenerate Hornsey Road and improve the safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Particular attention will be made to improving access to local shops and reducing accidents.'

Anyone able to translate? 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Lion, surviving

This scruffy stucco lion looks out over the Hornsey Best Kebab House. 

He's unloved, uncared for and tangled up in wires but he's still here while the Methodist Chapel isn't and the Hornsey Road Baths have become flats and Campbell Bunk's gone, and the Astoria's become a church. 

Does this count as a cat post?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Niebisch and Tree Harps

Here are Andreas Niebisch and Nigel Tree in the late 1980s, with Sioned Williams playing the harp:

In most of zone two London a sign saying 'Niebisch & Tree Harps' would mean that Niebisch and Tree had once made harps there, but had had to move out because of rent hikes. 

In the Hornsey Road microclimate this firm still works out of the Bavaria Workshops near Libertea and have  taken on Alexei Spencer-Tree (who'd already qualified as a cabinet-maker) as an apprentice.

I'd never realised how much musical instrument-making skills are handed down from person to person rather than through books. 

So it matters that Nigel Tree trained trained with Munson & Harbour, who trained with John Sebastian Morley, who trained with John George Morley, who worked for the great Sebastien Erard, who fled to London to escape the French revolution and held the first English patent for a harp. 

S√©bastien √Črard (wikicommons image)

I also hadn't realised how long harps can last. 

Andreas Niebisch died suddenly in 2011 and is very missed. 

 Imogen Barford opened the eulogies at his funeral by saying 'I am honoured to speak on behalf of the harpists, and to try to convey to all those who loved Andreas how important, how essential, he was to us, and what an enormous gap he leaves in our community. We want to say thank you to him for the harps he created and the harps he repaired with such care.

Those harps made, mended and regilded off the Hornsey Road will be played for hundreds of years.

For more, take a look at the excellent company website.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Rus in Urbe behind closed doors.

When I was a child I didn't realise that people wanted to live in the countryside. 

I also thought allotments were shanty-towns because I couldn't conceive of anyone choosing to leave a proper building and huddle in a shed surrounded by mud.

That's all changed, but I still don't understand why people build miniature rural replicas inside city houses.

Take this two bed flat on the Hornsey Road:

Battered stainless steel wardrobes, distressed floorboards, grey everywhere. It's all very post-industrial and urban until you get to the wooden logs:

There's nothing sinful about little-house-on-the-prarie fantasies, but why live one out on the Hornsey Road?

Thanks to Kate in the Attic for finding this.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Seven Sisters swings

On the north-east side of the Hornsey Road/Seven Sisters junction there are big wooden doors where there you'd expect a building. Peer through a hole cut into the doors and you see this: 

This sign suggests that something might be about to happen: 

It'll be a building of some sort. It might even be a good, useful, liked building.

I kind of wish someone would loop ropes over those big steel girders and set swings up.

Or (and this is almost on the fringes of possibility) that someone like Transition Finsbury Park would take it over for a while as happened with the Blackstock Greenhouse.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Finsbury Park Community Hub

The Andover Community Centre is now better funded and renamed the Finsbury Park Community Hub to signal that you can go there even if you don't live on the estate.

Here's their activity calendar: 

As I wrote earlier, I think the Andover's unusual and worth seeing.

So if you walk through there to go to the Community Hub or if you live there, tell me if you agree with me on its architecture and on this non-Hornsey Road wonder being the best building in London.

Monday, 9 January 2012

If no-one is around to write about Perfect Fried Chicken, will it have existed?

 One night last year, to charm a customer or to pass the time, a man working here started whistling bird songs.

Mark Twain writes about a whistle that 'consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music'. It kind of sounded like that.

Fried chicken joints like this don't often remind me of the Mississippi Delta, but they do make me curious.

London is full of them. American Fried Chicken, Chicky Chicken, Sam's Chicken, Hollywood Fried Chicken, and my favorite for the Gertrude Stein relentlessness of its name: Chicken Chicken Chicken.

Millions of tipsy Londoners have scarfed down their food, thousands must have worked at one, but they go un-reviewed and are invisible online.

Time Out's Cheap Eats doesn't go that cheap, foodbloggers walk on by, they don't get tweeted about or shared on facebook. The Guardian and the Independent ran pieces about them, but as health hazards, not as restaurants.

I want to know why two portions of chicken and chips is always £1.99. Is it the lesser-spotted perfectly competitive market where everyone is a price taker? How long has it been £1.99? Does everywhere use the same recipe? Are some places better than others? Is Tennessee Fried Chicken worth a detour? Is it different North and South of the river? Is there a West London fried chicken style? Why are they so popular now? Why were they so much less popular ten years ago?

One day food fashions will change. These places will vanish like Lyons tea houses did before them and in 2112 a  historian researching an article on 'Fried Chicken Licken: How the sky fell in on early 21st century fast food fashion.' will come across this blog and wish it were more use.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Lucky the cat at Express Mini Cabs

This is the first of what I hope will be many Hornsey Road cat posts. 

Jengis from Express Mini Cabs has put a tour of his office up on the web. It looks comfier than I'd imagined.  I am glad to know there are sofas and a coffee machine behind the ceiling height wood paneling that divides the staff from the customers.

I'm even more glad to hear an excerpt of the eternal dialogue between man and cat. 

Jengis: 'That's our little kitten. Actually it's not a kitten it's a massive cat. Hallooo Halloo. We call it Lucky because it's a black cat.'

Lucky glares and walks off

Jengis: 'Wow, looks like evil'

Minicab driver chorus: 'Where is Lucky? Lucky!'

Jengis: 'Hello Lucky!'

Lucky: 'Mrow'

Jengis: 'Lucky!'

Lucky walks off. 

Where:  456 Hornsey Road 
Tel: 020 72729110 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Hornsey Pool & Amusements into flats

Last year I wrote about the old Hornsey Pool and Amusements building at number 384 and that I couldn't understand how it had gotten into such a state. 

Image courtesy of Alex Pink

I don't like not understanding things, so I went to look at the Islington planning website to see if I could find out more. 

Turns out that the owners have planning permission to turn the whole building into three flats, if they start work by September 2013.

Their application for that planning permission includes a letter from the estate agent that sold them the building and in which the agent refuses to 'take the shop on a to-let basis' because no-one would would be interested in it as a shop. I wonder how that conversation went - flats are a lot easier to shift than shops round here, for the reasons discussed earlier

The planning officer's report into the architect's drawings says:

'All units have dual aspect and acceptable light and outlook. Floor areas for all units comply with Planning Standards Guidelines. The ground floor unit and the upper maisonette each has an outdoor amenity space.'

I think that's planning officerese for 'they should be decent enough.'

Number 384 had similar planning in 1984. The then owners started the work and then gave up, I don't know why and I can't think of a way to find out. Drat.

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Eaglet & the Zeppelin

In honour of the New Year today's post is about renewal and transformation. This is what the Eaglet on the corner of Seven Sisters and Hornsey Road looks like now:

Those beautiful tiles are much younger than the building above. At the end of September 1917 the pub was hit by a Zeppelin raid. Two photographs (here and here) taken the day show the ground floor wrecked, with the glass and woodwork smashed and the beer barrels clattered down from their storage loft.

Even though it has a better story to tell than most, the Eaglet isn't a nostalgic pub. The landlords haven't decorated it with sepia photographs of the Hornsey Road, old theatre playbills, or First World War newspaper reports. There's a mural with an Elvis impersonator instead: 

Where: 124 Seven Sisters Road.