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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Magic Lantern Slides offer a Peek into Comfortable Middle Class Edwardian Life at 'The Laurels', Hornsey

I recently came across a marvellous set of late nineteenth and early twentieth century magic lantern slides. They show a slice of life inside the Laurels in Hornsey. I've found mention of a Laurels in Tottenham Lane through a record of their selling a parcel of land to the Great Northern Railway Company.


The map snippet below  from the 1893 Ordnance Survey shows the location of the house.

The house was also shown on the 1869 map. By the early 20th century, it was being encroached on by the new electricity works next door (1938 OS below).

It seems to have survived until shortly after the war when the house was demolished and the land was taken over by the electricity company (1955 OS below). 

The occupant of The Laurels for much of the last part of its life, and at the time the photos were taken was one Edward Charles Cornish. Born on 8th July 1845 to parents James and Sarah Cornish, Edward grew up above his father's bookselling business at 297 High Holborn, just to the west of Chancery Lane. By the time of 1851 census, his younger brother, James, his 18 year old cousin Thomas and two servants were also living at 297.

James Snr died in 1873 and Edward took over the business together with his brothers James and Alfred. They ran it as James Cornish & Sons up to 1912 from the same High Holborn premises. 

By the time of 1881 census, Edward was 35. He was living at 1 Florence Villa, Bounds Green Road, apparently still a bachelor and described as a bookseller. Before the end of the decade he had moved into The Laurels.

Edward seems never to have married, By 1901, aged 55, he was living with two servants and a boarder Lilly Bale, four years his senior. By 1911, he was described as a publisher and still apparently unmarried. Still living with him was Louisa Ellen Bale ( I assume the person previously described aa Lilly).

Edward died in 1924, splitting his estate evenly between Louisa and one Cornelius Combidge, bookseller. Louisa seems to have stayed in the house for another year or two, but from 1927, the property's occupant is listed as Clifford March. In 1939 March was appointed as Deputy Chief Electrical Engineer for the Hornsey Electrical Company. He is listed as residing in Sussex Way, Barnet. So I suspect that the house had been purchased by the company and was being used as offices.

In 1948, March was appointed as acting chief engineer. Shortly after, the house was demolished and the land subsumed into the company's plot. Perhaps this had been inevitable since the arrival of the electricity company. In fact they purchased a large part of The Laurels's garden as early as 1900.

Looking back before Cornish's time, the 1861 census shows the occupant of The Laurels as Charles H Ashley. Whilst he is described in the records simply as 'Newspaper Reporter', he was in fact rather more than that.

Born in Sheffield in 1834, where his father kept a hotel, Ashley was apprenticed to the printing trade on the Sheffield Times. He developed an interest in sport and took on reporting horse racing for the paper. In 1862, at the age of 28, he joined Sporting Life as a racing reporter. He then became principal reporter on The Sportsman when it launched in 1865. Very much the entrepreneur, he left soon after to set up a sporting news agency supplying sporting information to a variety of newspapers. In 1874 Ashley returned to The Sportsman when he became its co-owner. 

The census records for 1871 show Ashley as still in residence. However, I cannot trace exactly when he moved on. The 1851 census gives no house names, making it equally difficult to link owner to property. 

The Post Office Directory for 1880 gives us the occupant name of John Maskell, but he was no longer in occupation by 1882. 

The 1879 register of electors shows an Arthur C Thrope in residence. The 1881 census shows Arthur C Thorpe and his wife, Mary, together with their 21 and 20-year-old sons Arthur and Elphinstone and their 7-year-old daughter, Edith. Thorpe was a jeweller and his 21-year-old son, Arthur a diamond broker. he family were still recorded as being in residence in the 1886 register of electors. 

Two years later they had moved to 29 Endymion Road and by 1891 were at 476 Seven Sisters Road, a grand house with a circular drive (almost opposite this one) that backed on to Woodberry Down. By this time Thorpe senior was also describing himself as a diamond broker. 

I don't know if Ashley was the first tenant of the house. But  I suspect not. The Victoria County History tells us that

In the early 19th century buildings were scattered along the east side of Tottenham Lane from near the junction with Church Lane to near the modern Ferme Park Road.

So, it may be that the house dates back to the earlier Nineteenth Century. Although, it's diffcult to be sure, the 1815 enclosure Map suggests that it does.

The 1807 Ordnance Survey Drawing is similarly inconclusive, but it shows a large house in the right position to be The Laurels

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Yes that's my favourite too. I liked the fact that it seems to have been taken before everyone was ready. I thought the guy looks like old Tum-Tum too.

Most interesting. I would be good to get these slides professionally scanned and the images cleaned up.

this is fabulous! thank you so much x

Yes, Hugh, they are wonderful!  Thanks so much.

Above updated with more info on the Thorpes. Arthur landed on Endymion Road after his time in The Laurels.

Thank you, Hugh.  It's good to re-read this research on the lives of the middle classes.  I know from the censuses that my grandfather's family lived similarly in Maidenhead, though any residual comfort was subsequently frittered away by the several children.  With all that Edwardian clutter in the home it's little wonder they needed servants.  Something we have in common, though, a flutter of snow and out come the cameras.

I wonder what is the tower looming over the snow dusted garden.  Maybe, it belongs to the electrical company.

In 1897 Hornsey Council did a three-way deal over land on Tottenham Lane. They bought the Laurels with its garden that stretched almost down to the railway line. They swapped the long thin back part of the land with the Great Northern Railway Company in exchange for a slice of land to the east of and adjoining the Laurels alongside Tottenham Lane.

The Laurels itself, along with its cut-down, but still large garden, was leased to Cornish (see above) for 40 years. The council's original aim was to build a swimming bath on the land. But, plans were soon adapted to focus on the building of Hornsey Council's own electricity generating station. 

In 1904, Cornish released another 60 feet of land at the bottom of his garden to allow the council to build two further cooling towers. (See 1912-14 map below)

By 1938, with the house in the hands of the electricity operation, more of the Laurels' garden had been lost to further electricity generation related buildings. (See 1938 map in the original post).

As to what the snowy picture shows, I am not sure. Given the date of the photo, it could certainly be one or both of the cooling towers. It could be the house, but I'd probably plump for it being the tower/s.

Absolutely magnificent! Such a treat to see all the objects in situ. Shane that the watermark is plastered over everything. Not entirely sure of its purpose. 

Yes it is a fabulous  set of pictures. 

An amazing set of pictures, thank you for sharing them, and a great historical source. My grandma always used to say: In my time, children were seen and not heard. We used to sit under the table listening while the adults talked. No wonder! If the moved around or played together any number of accidental breakages could have occurred. 

I remember so well being under the table.  I quite liked it there.



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