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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Harringay Ladder road name origin: second airing for a sound speculative explanation

Some exchanges on my road WhatsApp group today sent me back to see if I could learn anything new about how the roads on the Ladder were named. So I searched online for how British Land Company estates in general tended to be named. Even though I searched from an incognito/private window and my search parameters didn't include the words Harringay or Hornsey, I was still sent back to this website!

Once back here, I quickly found Dick Harris's Harringay Ladder – Speculative Attributions of Street Names posted on Harringay Online in 2011. When I first saw it 13 years ago, I under-appreciated it. Then six years later I rediscovered it and apparently appreciated it a bit more. However, I think I still missed its true value. Looking at it again today, I think it is very much the best speculative explanation I've seen. 

When Dick first posted it, he presented it and referred to it as a list. Looking at it today, there's a very evident pattern there which Dick may very well have seen, but which wasn't brought out. It quickly became evident to me that the pattern of Dicks' colour coded explanation mapped on pretty well to the sub-estate sections in which the Ladder was developed. Having seen that pattern, I think that Dick's is a pretty convincing speculation. So, I'm giving it the second airing it very much deserves. 

I've reformatted Dick's original list a bit to make it clearer and I've also added a new second column, indicating the various estates which reflect the way the Harringay House was developed and I think also map back nicely to Dick's colour-coding.:

  • Hornsey Station Estate - the northern part of the Ladder and the earliest part ro be developed
  • Harringay Park Estate - souther part of the Ladder, north of the Finsbury Park Estate
  • Harringay House Portion (later part of the Harringay Park Estate) - thsiu portion of land was held back for some while as British Land attempted tp sell it and Harringay House ot a school lof smillar institution. Aftyer the attempt failed, it was absorbed into the Hrringay Park Estate. 
  • Finsbury Park Estate - the first part of the Ladder to be developed in a development unrelated to the British Land Company.

The text below the table is Dick's original narrative. 

Lausanne may seem not fit any of these but, at the Restoration (1660), this Swiss city was a place of refuge for English republicans so perhaps that is the connection.

Hewitt fits both iii) and iv).

Sir James Pemberton does not fit any unless he has an unknown local connection.  It is, perhaps, worth knowing that the old parish of Hornsey was quite large and extended as far south as Newington Green.  Moreover, before 1832 it was in the same administrative district of Middlesex (known as the Finsbury Division) as most of what are now LBs of Islington, Haringey, Barnet and Hackney.  Before the early 17th century, it was in the Ossulstone Hundred of Middlesex which included the whole of modern central London north of the Thames from Chiswick to the Isle of Dogs except for the City itself.  This rather widens the scope for local connections while also obscuring them.

General Wightman is an exception to ii) as a soldier from the Hanoverian period before Culloden.  Wightman road was probably built a bit earlier than all the rung streets so it might have been named by the company that built it – perhaps under contract to the railway.  Wightman is not a common name.  According to the 1881 census, there were only a dozen or two Mr Wightmans living in London.  Maybe one was a borough engineer or councillor or maybe a horse called Wightman won the Derby.

Overall, the naming of the northern ladder rungs seems rather different from the southern ones but neither group follows a single theme that has yet been spotted.

Tags for Forum Posts: harringay mysteries, ladder road names, wightman road

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I have no answer to the naming of Wightman, but possibly a few more hints. 

The first comes from the British Land Company's sale ads. Some local historians have previously said that the sales started in 1882. In fact the first five sales were held in 1881, the first being at the Queen's Head at 7 o'clock in June 13th 1881. The advert for that sale referred to 

"...the new road to be called Wightman-road, being the intended new approach from Tottenham lane to Hornsey Station, and to the new road called Sydney-road..."

So we know that the road had been given a provisional name by 1881, but not why. Seven years later, in July 1888, the Hornsey Journal revealed that the council was debating the adoption and making up of Wightman Road, meaning that up to mid-1888 the road that had existed as Wightman Road, sometimes referred to as 'The Wightman Road' was a private road owned by the British Land Company. I'm not au-fait with the intricacies of late 19th century road naming procedure, but I assume that we'd be safer to assume that the naming was in the hand of the owner than the local authority. I imagine that the council would have approved the name on the road's adoption.

It's interesting to note that Wightman Road is mentioned alongside Sydney Road. If Sydney and the other Hornsey Station Estate roads did have common roots, then we should probably look to bracket Wightman along with them. So we'd be looking for a seventeenth century historical figure. The only 17th century Wightman I could find was one Edward Wightman of Burton-on-Trent who was the last person to be executed by burning at the stake for heresy in England in 1612. As interesting a connection as that may be, I can't see the BLC naming a road after him in straight-laced Victorian England! 

Another snippet I came across some years back is a bit of a long-shot, but worth a mention. This was a newspaper advert from 1862 by the station manager of Fenchurch Street Station, a certain A. Wightman. Could he possibly have taken a role with GNER and taken responsibility for the road building project and the road took his name by early common usage and it just stuck? (He probably wasn't the station manager as I imagine Hornsey would have been a step-down for Fenchurch Street. In 1882 the Post Office Directory records the 'Station Master" as John A. Clayton, but I don't have earlier records. Could he have taken a more senior role?) 

From this Advert in The Building News, June 10 1881?

A similar advert in the Ham & High in May.

Once again, big thanks Hugh - and to the original 'brains' behind the explanations. I have so often wondered how on earth to remember the order of the street names on the ladder and where they emerge along Green Lanes. Now I know not to blame my aged memory!

"Mr. Wightman Cooper, chemist, of the Hornsey-road, and chairman of the London Trading Bank

Thanks. He comes up a lot in the newspapers of the time. I tried to find any link between the bank and British Land or the Railway and couldn’t. So, I couldn’t find any reason to suggest him other than his name. Also, I think in this case Wightman is his first name. Normally, if roads were named after people, they were named after family names, or sometimes titles. But you never know.

This is so interesting and thorough! Thank you Hugh and Dick.




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