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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Our top-floor flat in Wordsworth Parade had a bay window that gave a grandstand view over a section of Green Lanes with Frobisher Road and the Queens Head opposite. There were no traffic lights on the junction as Alfoxton Avenue then formed a separate "T" junction with Green Lanes slightly nearer Turnpike Lane. I spent many hours at this window watching life go by.

My earliest recollections of Duckett's Common was that it was covered with wartime allotments.

The Queens Head was a noisy place in the evening, especially in the summer with the doors open. The word "Flowers" was written alongside the pub name and I wondered why a pub would sell flowers until I was told it was the name of the brewer! This later changed to "Watneys" which meant the arrival of keg beer and (fortunately) the rise of CAMRA. One bit of excitement was seeing the beer delivered. The cellar doors would be opened and the empty barrels raised up. The burly draymen would place a short ramp at the back of the motor dray and roll a barrel down on to the ground. A stout rope was then wound once round the barrel and it was lowered down the special rails into the cellar. Once all the barrels had been delivered the empties were put back on the dray which departed and (relative) peace returned.

Like the brewer's dray by the early 1950s a lot of horse drawn vehicles had been replaced by the plentiful supply of motor lorries after the War. Still remaining were the horse drawn milk floats used by Express Daries and United Dairies for their daily deliveries. They all seemed to be well turned out and they could be seen trotting quite fast along Green Lanes to and from their rounds. The horses which were still used by the "rag-and-bone-men" were not usually so well cared for.

The usual practice for daily deliveries was that you had a standing order which could be modified by placing a note in the clean empty bottles put out for collection - "One pint extra, please". Milk came in bottles with a broad neck with a foil cap, the colour of the cap denoting the quality of the milk. "Gold Top" was the creamiest and most expensive followed by "Red Top" and "White Top". (Not totally sure about the latter but I am sure someone can remember better than me!" The other milk available was "sterilised" which came in a taller bottle.It lasted longer in the days before fridges but tasted horrible.

Soon, the horses were all gone. The scene now was that the smartly trotting horses were replaced by electric milk floats grinding slower and slower along Green Lanes, hoping to get back to the depot before the batteries ran flat. Such is progress!

The milkman called to collect the payment for the week's deliveries on a Friday. I seem to remember that there was a robbery of the takings at the United Daries Depot in Station Road Wood Green that resulted in a murder.

Another familiar sight was the policeman patrolling his beat. There were the (pre-Tardis) blue Police Boxes where anyone could contact the police directly. Now and then a black patrol car with its shiny bell on the front ringing (no sirens or blue lights in those days) would speed past. They had two-way radio and as "wireless cars" could be contacted by police control which led to the phrase "Calling all cars" to be common in comics, films and early TV programmes. The 1950 film "The Blue Lamp" captures the atmosphere exactly. Later the foot patrols were issued with Velocette motor bikes which were immediately christened "Noddy Bikes". Later still they, in turn, were replaced by "Panda Cars", pale blue Morris Minors with white doors. When these were eventually sold off they were much sought after at the car auctions held on the old railway station site at Alexandra Palace.

A more dramatic happening resulted in my first sight of death. A motor bike with three riders was going quite fast towards Harringay. As it approached the Frobisher road junction the man on the back fell off backwards and landed flat in the road. The motorbike stopped a little way down the road and the other two riders ran back. A small crowd gathered around the man who lay motionless. A policeman soon turned up and took control of the situation. A short time later the ringing of a bell announced the arrival of an ambulance. They brought a stretcher from the back of the ambulance and set it down beside the man. After a brief examination the placed the body on the stretcher and covered it with a blanket. They then placed the stretcher in the ambulance, closed the doors and drove off. There was no need to ring the bell. The crowd dispersed.

Surprisingly, being so detached from it all, I was not really upset by watching all this. More traumatic was seeing a dog run over some time later!

Tags for Forum Posts: harringay alumni memories, harringay memories, stephen holliday's childhood memories, world war II harringay

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Stephen, we still have bobbies on the beat (and home milk deliveries replete with communication by scribbled note). Almost unbelievably in Harringay we have one Geordie bobby, Glyn Kelly, who's been pounding our beat for thirty years. Quite something - you can't put a value on that.

Good to hear that some of these things have survived despite "progress".

These are fascinating memories, Stephen!

One question comes to mind to ask you: as you grew up shortly after WWII can you remember any bomb shelters still visible? It looks as though there may be one underneath Green Gate Common by Alfoxton Avenue - there are concrete slabs in a couple of places.

As far as I can remember there were no shelters there but there were underground public lavatories with, I believe, a flat concrete roof.  The only other shelter that comes to mind is the one here at Hornsey Loco Shed.

Ah, that could explain it. Thank you.

I enjoyed reading your account of Hornsey Loco Shed, especially about the coal.

There was a book published about ten years ago - a thriller set in the heyday of steam - called 'The Necropolis Railway'. It describes the life of someone working on the railway in those times.

Thanks for the information on the book. I'll see if I can order a copy. The Necropolis Railway always had a macabre fascination!

A good read, Stephen!   I recall red top milk was homogenised whereas white/silver-top was not.  Our United Dairies horse was a grey named Mary.  We had an Anderson bomb shelter in our back garden but never used it.  Instead, I am told, we either dived under the bed or through the door under the stairs.

Great memories from Stephen.  My family came to live in Harringay in 1951 when I was seven years old.  Can't say I remember a lot of what Stephen talks about but I can relay my memories.  We lived at 5a Grand Parade above the Tescos store.  At the corner was the Salisbury and outside the pub was a newspaper stand ran by Mr. Fone who lived in Wood Green.  When Mr. Fone wasn't there it was run by a man named Tom.  I worked for them after school and apart from delivering newspapers I also filled in when Tom went in the Salisbury for "a quick one".  I can also remember going round the corner to a cafe, run by Len I think, and getting a jug of tea and a bacon sandwich for him.  I went to Woodlands Park School from 1951-1955 when I passed the 11 plus and went to Tottenham County School.  The playground had a slope in it and when you arrived at school a football game was always going on.  The first question you asked was which team is playing up and which team is playing down.  If it was Spurs v Arsenal, which it usually was it was a no-brainer - Spurs.  My Dad and his Dad came from Tottenham Hale so that was easy.  I have a photograph of my school mates, probably taken around 1953, and can identify almost all of them.  I have recently been in touch with my old neighbour, Andrew Wilson, who's now in Australia.  My travels have taken me around the world, and am finally living in not so sunny California.  Going back to Grand Parade, I can certainly remember the shops on our block.  Next to the Salisbury there was Charlie Brandons, the tobacconist, then a surplus store, then Dewhurst the grocer, Piries the chemist, Tescos, Eastmans the butcher, Alfreds the fishmonger, another grocery store, Perks the grocer, Disney the furniture shop - who had a big fire in 1965, and then Allardyces the baker.  I think the trams had just been taken out of circulation when we arrived in Harringay in 1951, but of course I remember the trolley buses with the mmm sound as they left a bus stop.  I also remember the 171 bus which took us to Bruce Grove in Tottenham - it was a very erratic service.   My Mum worked at Coopers the ladies dress store further along Grand Parade, and later at Broadmeads who sold electrical appliances and records.

Brian, fascinating to read your memories. I, too went to Tottenham County School (1956-1963). You no doubt remember the headmaster, "Bert" Thomas and the fearsome "Aggie" Norris! I recently discovered the school film made by a couple of teachers in the early 1950s. You can see it here


Thanks for sending me that link.  It was fascinating to watch the film of Tottenham County School.  Yes, I do remember Bert Thomas, although I nver knew his first name.  To us he was Dr. Thomas.  Didn't he have a glass eye?  Two other teachers I remember are "Pop" Ellis and Dr. Kelvin, whose name I saw in the film.

I have an anecdote about Wordsworth Parade.  Sometime in the late 60s I had a friend who lived there.  We played chess every week - one week at his flat, and one week at ours.  He was married and one evening I turned up at his flat, knowing (I don't remember how) that he wasn't at home.  Well, I made a pass at his wife - firmly rejected - and I had played my last chess game with him.  Ironically, we made contact with each other just a few years ago.  He's an emminent scientist in Canada, and divorced from his first wife.  He didn't remember the incident.

Hi Stephen, 

If you have a look at The Facebook site, Tottenham County School you will be able to read a fascinating history of the school, written by Denys Hart.

I too was a pupil at the school from 1962 until 1968.



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