Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

I found this little article recently written by a chap called Peter Kay. Some interesting bits of history which are new to me, some nice photos and a lot of railway stuff!. I thought other locals may find of interest:

The Great Northern Main Line In London Harringay Station

There was nothing at Harringay in the first decades, save for the short-lived and never commissioned junction with the curve from the Tottenham & Hampstead (described in LRR32 and shown on the OS map, page 76). This junction seemingly never got as far as having a name, so far as the GN was concerned. As late as 1870 there was not a single house anywhere near the line here. The name 'Harringay' first appears in GN terminology in 1882 when an intermediate signal box of that name was opened. As this seems not to have been put up for inspection, it was probably just a break-section box. The signalling work was (probably) done by the Gloucester Wagon Company (1). By this date the GNR had already been approached as to the construction of a station here. Oakley reported to the Board in June 1881 that a "Mr Hodgson building houses one mile north of Finsbury Park asks for a bridge over the railway and a station". Hodgson was the owner of the 'Harringay House Estate', the area between the GN line and Green Lanes, stretching from Turnpike Lane at the north end to the T&H line at the south end. It was agreed in July that Hodgson would pay for a 40ft wide road bridge over the line and in return the GNR would provide a passenger station as soon as the likely traffic justified it. Oakley also suggested that a 'coal yard' be opened at an early date. However in December 1881, Hodgson sold the estate to the British Land Company. Their Secretary H.G. Brown informed the GNR of this in February 1882, asking on what terms they might be willing to open a station 'within twelve months'. By this date Richard Johnson the GNR Engineer had prepared plans of the proposed station including a goods and coal yard on the up side, at the (large) estimate of £13,736 (including the bridge). The correspondence then goes silent until February 1883 by which time the Land Company had agreed that a footbridge over the line at the new station would suffice, and Johnson produced amended plans totalling £10,800. It was also now agreed that a road bridge be provided over the T &H line immediately east of the GN line bridge, to link to Lothair Road, both to give the inhabitants of the Land Company's new roads direct access to Finsbury Park, and to give residents in the Endymion Road area access to the new station. More discussions ensued but at the end of 1883 there was still no definite agreement. By this date the Land Company had laid out Wightman Road and the sequence of nineteen straight east-west roads between Wightman Road and Green Lanes that became known as 'the ladder'. There were 149 houses completed at the north end (convenient for Hornsey station) but only 13 at the south end, which the Land Company said was due to the absence of a station making it difficult to sell the plots.

A formal agreement was eventually made in April 1884, with the Land Company contributing £3,500 to the cost of the station, and agreeing to bear the working costs of the station for an initial period. The GNR then circulated for tenders in July 1884, for both the station (including the footbridge) and the road bridge over the T&H line. The contracts for both went to S.W. Pattinson of Ruskington for £8,000 and £3,999 respectively in August.

The Land Company asked that the station be named 'Harringay Park'. Oakley accepted this and it was approved by the GNR Traffic Committee on 18th September.

There is little information on the construction of the station, as the Engineer's Reports for 1885 do not survive. It was opened for passenger traffic on 1st May 1885. On 30th April the Traffic Committee approved the staff complement of Station Master, two Assistant Clerks, two Ticket Collectors, and three Porters. Despite the above decision the station was in fact named 'Harringay' from opening (GNR public timetable, May 1885 issue). However it was only on 17th October that the GNR wrote to the Board of Trade to inform them that the "works in connection with the new passenger station and goods sidings at Harringay Park [sic!] are ready for inspection." Marindin inspected at the end of October and found all satisfactory. The exact date of opening of the goods yard for public traffic is not recorded.

The station entrance/Booking Office was situated on the lengthy (300ft) footbridge which stretched from an undistinguished station approach off Wightman Road to the west side of the cutting, where Quernmore Road would eventually be built some fifteen years later to provide a corresponding urban approach to that side also. The timber-built hipped-roof Booking Office building was carried on girders alongside the footbridge, supported by the same substantial brick piers on each platform. It served as a model for the similar overhead Booking Office buildings subsequently provided at New Southgate (1892), New Barnet (1896), and Hornsey (1900), albeit the architectural details were not identical. The footbridge soon became a public right of way. Up to this date there had been no public route across the railway in the 11/4 miles between Endymion Road and Turnpike Lane. This had caused no inconvenience so long as there were no local inhabitants, but would soon have brought complaints once the vicinity became solidly built-up.

Photo 1: A Broad Street - Enfield train calls at the down platform in the 1890s - the piles of earth may indicate that early work is under way for the 1900 changes. The fencing of the c1888 platform extension at the north end is conspicuous. The west end of the footbridge is seen in its original form, with a short lattice span between the main pillar on the down platform and a narrow brick pillar west of the Down Goods, and a rather crude wholly-timber-built section with several intermediate supports rising to the cutting top. The houses on the east side of Stapleton Hall Road have now appeared, but not those at the east end of Quernmore Road.

The up platform was an island serving the Up Main and Up Slow, but the down platform was single-sided serving the Down Slow only. Exactly the same 'three lines between the platforms' arrangement (with no Down Main platform) had been provided at Holloway, Hornsey and Wood Green on quadrupling, but seemingly from constraints rather than policy in those cases; so one wonders why Harringay as a new station did not get a Down Main/Down Slow island (3). 75ft Waiting Rooms/WCs blocks were provided on both platforms, with canopies.

There were expansions of the track layout in 1888 when a new Down Goods line was brought into use, running behind the down platform on the formation of the earth siding; plus Up Goods No.s 1 and 2 lines from Hornsey, of which the former continued to Finsbury Park. These extra lines had been allowed for by Johnson in the station design, but still required alterations to the goods yard connections and the removal of the existing signal box which was in the way. The opportunity was taken to introduce separate Up and Down boxes here, in accordance with the general policy of the 1880s. Harringay Up box was a GNR Type 3 timber box situated at the south end of the up platform; its 35-lever frame (unusually) was transferred from the old box. Harringay Down, also a Type 3 box, was correspondingly situated at the north end of the down platform. Here too economy prevailed, as the 15¬lever frame was supplied second-hand to the signalling contractor (McKenzie & Holland) by the GNR for them to "fix and re-lock". Also in (or by) 1888, both platforms were extended at the north end.

Photo 2: Two singles, led by 872, head through in the 1890s with a down express. Behind them is the 1888-1924 Harringay Up box.

In the 1890s the west end of the footbridge still disgorged passengers on to a field - probably waste scrub in practice, as one cannot imagine any farmer still farming on this residual piece of undeveloped land! The area between Oakfield Road and the railway was not built up until the turn of the century. The footpath leading north from the west end of the footbridge led to the Ridge Road 1 Uplands Road junction. The footpath southwards from here, with its own bridge over the T&H line, had been provided to give access from Dagmar Road/Beatrice Road to the station. Correspondingly the 1885 Wightman Road bridge over the T&H gave the residents of Lothair Road / Alroy Road / Endymion Road (developed a few years previously) a route to the station.

Photo 3: This is the only known photograph showing the 1888-1900 Harringay Down box. The signalman leans on the balcony railings in the afternoon sunshine; his job was one of the easiest in the London area, as the box controlled no point work. It would seem to have been considered acceptable at this period for somersaults to come off at any angle from 30 degrees to 90 degrees. Note the Down Main and Up Main signals on the same post. The two ladies may perhaps have become familiar by this date with the idea of strange gentlemen making photographs of trains, but one of them has been very successful in the then common middle-class practice of hiding one's face whenever a photographer was about.

In 1900 when the 'Down Slow No 2' passenger line was added, the down platform was made an island and widened throughout. This was done at minimum cost with no alterations to the platform building/ canopy. A new Down Goods line was laid to the west of the Down Slow No 2, plus a second shunt spur for Ferme Park Down Yard (see 1912 OS). To squeeze in four lines vice two north of the footbridge, the cutting side had to be excavated away and a retaining wall constructed. Even so the new Down Slow No 2 had to be closer to the Down Slow than the previous Down Goods line had been, requiring the removal of the 1888 Down box. A new Down box was provided a few yards south of the 1888 box (4). The down platform was reduced in length at the north end by 100ft, and lengthened at the south end in compensation.

Also in 1900 the Up Goods No 1 to Up Slow, and Up Slow to Up Main crossovers were provided at the south end. The principal purpose of this was to enable light engines from Hornsey shed (opened 1899) to run towards Kings Cross on whichever line was available. With the previous layout they had in the first few weeks of the shed's life only had access to the Up Goods lines, on which there were often 'queues' of goods trains waiting to get through the Finsbury Park bottleneck.

Finally in 1903 a Down Main - Down Slow No 1 crossover was provided at the south end, to enable some down suburban trains to run Main line to here. The facing points were an excessive 300 yards from the 1900 Down box, so yet another Down box had to be provided, at the south end of the down platform. This 1903 Harringay Down box was however destined to last until the end of mechanical signalling!

After this there followed the usual period of 'nothing changed for two generations' except that in 1924 Harringay up box was abolished and the 1903 Down box became both-ways. It was generally referred to as 'Harringay Passenger' box latterly.

Some connections were removed in the 1960s but there was no major change until August 1973 when all lines through the station were realigned to reduce the curvature. In effect each line was moved one track further to the west (with the number of down lines reduced to three). This left the Down Slow (ex No 1) and Up Slow lines serving the opposite sides of the islands. The signal box was abolished at this date.

Photo 4: The station buildings remained unaltered for eighty years after 1885, as seen in this 1950s view, with B1 61139 passing on an up express. Note the alterations made to the west end of the footbridge in 1900, with a sloping lattice span followed by a rebuilt timber section.

The 1885 Booking Office building suffered fire damage in the 1960s and was almost entirely removed by 1969, a small timber shack having been provided in lieu as a 'Booking Office'.

Photo 5: A late 1960s view, after the Booking Office fire.

Photo 6: May 1969 and, whilst all remains well at platform level, the old Booking Office building has almost disappeared.

In 1975 both platforms were made single sided (the west sides) and a replacement Waiting Room/canopy block was provided on each. Since 1976 only the central part of the footbridge, and the fire-blackened girders that formerly carried the old Booking Office building, remain from the 1885 station structures.

Photo 7: A last view of the 'old' Harringay, taken in February 1973. The photographer is standing on the formation of the Shunt Spur line which had just been shortened. With the full length of the footbridge visible here, we can see how much the ground rises from east to west. Around 1968 the two western spans of the footbridge had been replaced by this single sloping span.


(1) The box did not exist at January 1882, as an accident report of that date makes clear that the block section was still Finsbury Park No.s 5 & 6 to Hornsey. The October 1882 Appendix Supplement includes 'Harringay' box with opening hours. No mention of the box has been located in Richard Johnson's reports for 1882. There is a Way & Works Committee minute of 4.5.1882 giving a £290 contract to the Gloucester Wagon Company for "works between Finsbury Park and Hornsey". The likely opening date, therefore, is August/September 1882. Break section boxes with no track layout alterations did not have to be put up for inspection, however the lack of any inspection report cannot be relied on to prove that it was purely a break-section box, given that the GNR was happily not advising the Board of Trade of major changes at this period. However the low price of the signalling contract is consistent with a minimal location. No photographs are known of this 1882-8(?) Harringay box.

(2) This 1881-4 correspondence is in National Archives RAIL 236/337/1.

(3) It will be recalled that Finsbury Park on quadrupling in 1867 (until 1874) had the opposite layout viz a Down Slow / Down Main island but no Up Main platform. This rather scuppers any notion of there having been a deliberate policy of enabling Up Main trains to stop at these stations but not Down Main trains. Johnson's February 1883 plans for 'Harringay Park' had involved putting both platforms 'outside the slow lines', so the final form was not decided until the later stages of planning in 1883/4.

(4) No photographs known of this 1900-1903 Harringay Down box.
For Harringay Down (1888-1973) signal box see the British Railways Illustrated article. For Harringay Up Goods signal box see article in LRR35. For the Harringay curve see article in LRR32.

See more old photos of Harringay Station here.

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Replies to This Discussion

Nice to see the shot of the North London Railway's Broad Street - Enfield service via Canonbury & Dalston Junction.. There was plenty of running over other railways metals and this service which commenced in 1875 provided a connection into the City. There was also a connection from Harringay into Moorgate via King's Cross & the widened lines via Farringdon, which originally continued through to Victoria via the Snow Hill Tunnel & Blackfriars.. The Victorian Londoners were much more mobile than we give them credit for

I seem to remember the fire at Harringay West station, but had forgotten how 'olde-worlde' the station still looked even at the end of the 1960s. - Thanks for adding this!
Thanks Hugh once again. Really interesting. Now can we please have our wonderful booking office, 75' waiting rooms with toilet blocks, Station Master, two ticket collectors and three porters returned again intact - and not just from 7 to 10am Mon-Fri ?
Having commuted from Harringay West to both Moorgate and Broad Street in the days of steam I would ask " who wants the crowded dirty compartments with steam heating and today even if the waiting rooms were still there who would be keeping up the coke fires we enjoyed?
You're right Keith, sometimes the nostalgia crowds out the reality.

Steam trains were dirty - for the passengers, as well as for those whose houses they passed and whose washing hanging out to dry used to get covered in cinders.

I remember getting 'blacks' I think they called, in my eyes after poking my head out of a moving train. And then there were the fires - all along the tracks in summer, after hot cinders landed on the dry embankments.

The waiting rooms were well heated in winter and you could warm your hands on the stove.. but they were also smelly and dirty..
Have just added another photo of "Harringay West" here.


Thanks for this amazing article. In the early sixties I would get the train home from school at Stationers quite often. If we could get out a bit early we could catch the Flying Scotsman at about 4pm.IIRC sometimes it would be pulled by Mallard.

I am recreating this part of ECML in a train simulator. These photos and info are very helpful. I wonder if there is similar info for Hornsey and Wood Green stations.


Mick Berg

Try the North London Railway Historical Society. 

I have been searching for an image of the original Harringay station for a while now, with a window to recreating or highlighting the visual charm that existed and survives at other stations like Bowes Park and Palmers Green.

I hope to understand how the Victorians rationalised the station for service, considering how poorly the station works for residents today. You can only hope to replicate the regular usage it saw in its prime, (as the main provider for rapid transport for the area.)

It would be interesting to see if demand now exceeds the peak capacity achieved over the last hundred years, allowing seven to eight carriages in peak times, and less in low volume times.

Everyone knows how rammed it can be in the mornings and afternoons commuting. It is now no longer acceptable, and a user group should be formed to force Govia and Network Rail to address modern transport needs of the residents of Harringay, Hornsey, Stationers Park/ Stroud Green, Hornsey Rise and Hornsey Vale.

After a 130 years of public service, accessible transport should allow all passengers to be able to access rail services from Hornsey, Harringay and Alexandra, Palace. Finsbury Park is underway with a lift to underground platforms, (only one stop from an international terminal at St Pancras, (London's gateway to Europe.)

Where's Lynne's lift?

Catherine West can consolidate on the aim of accessible transport for all, and call on providers to finally deliver.

Thanks Hugh, great find.



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