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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

In a current discussion about Haringey Council's Review on monuments, building, place and street names in Haringey, a comment was made about the origin of the name of the former Black Boy pub on West Green Road.

Eager to understand as much as possible about the facts on this issue, I emailed Bruce Castle Museum to ask what they could tell me.

It is with many thanks that I publish below, with their permission, their response to me drawn together from known original archival sources and past research for exhibitions and books. I'm enormously grateful for the time taken to do this.

I'd like to keep this discussion focussed on the history aspects of this issue. If you have any comments about the politics relating the the present-day name issue, please add them to Brian's discussion (linked above).

West Green Road, looking west, c1900, The Black Boy Pub is on the far right

The lane, which eventually became known as Black Boy Lane, can be seen on the 1619 Dorset Survey of Tottenham map. It is unnamed. Nearby is Blackhope Lane, with a neighbouring field and a grove also named after it; this particular lane is now West Green Road. The unnamed lane must have been called ‘Black Boy Lane’ at a later date than this map survey; it would seem likely that it takes its name from when the Black Boy pub first appears.

Evidence from 1690, in the Manorial Court rolls for the Manor of Tottenham at Bruce Castle, provides the first documented reference to the name of Black Boy pub. In the half-yearly rental list of pubs in the area, there are two listings for the name ‘Black Boy’. Publicans had to apply to the Manor Court for a licence to serve ale.

Excerpt from the Court Roll taken from Sylvia Collicott’s book Haringey Connections.

The two entries are listed close together on the document. Whether this is the same pub mentioned twice for whatever reason or in fact two separate pubs, is unclear. One of the entries says ‘Black Boy Hanger Green’.

This seems likely to be when the pub first appears near to or on the unnamed lane now known as Black Boy Lane. ‘Hanger Greene’ on the 1619 map is at the south end of the unnamed lane, with ‘West Greene’ on the north side. The Field Book that goes with the 1619 map, documenting names of land owners or tenants and some of the buildings, sometimes refers the unnamed lane as ‘Hanger Greene’, but which end of the lane would the pub have been in 1690?

Looking again at the 1619 map to see if there are any possibilities for the pub building, there appears to be a building on or around the site where the Black Boy pub stands today (at the junction where West Green Road meets the lane). The Field Book for the 1619 map unfortunately does not help in identifying the nature of that building; all that can be said is that the field/ land was John Bolton’s, and the ‘Tw.’ references the manor of Twyfords. Across the road, the small building on the corner / east side of the lane where it meets West Greene (just above the letter ‘n’) is identified as ‘Ale Croft’ (what this means is unclear at the moment). The larger building on the west side of the lane is called the ‘Customarie Tenement’ (a multiple occupancy dwelling). The building set back off Hanger Greene is not as yet identifiable in the Field Book.

Extract from 1619 Dorset Survey Map - As with many old maps south is at the top
©Bruce Castle Museum

Regarding background/ local context, there were prominent men who were living in Tottenham during the 17th century who were there because of the slave trade. One was Walter Anberey who in 1610 was baptised at All Hallows Church; he had been a Muslim, was the son of Nosser from the ‘Kingdom of Dungala’ in Africa. The references to his name can also be found in Haringey Connections, on page 14. Other sources, not known to at the time when Haringey Connections was written, record Walter Anberey as the Churchwarden at All Hallows, an important position in the community. The earliest visual record shows a painting of a young African male servant in the household of Bruce Castle, c.1675; he has no name and wears a silver collar around his neck. By contrast, and far earlier, Balthazar Sanchez, who was a comfit-maker to King Philip of Spain and likely to have been a Spanish Moor, lived in Tottenham. He was very wealthy and died in 1600 leaving money to the poor in Tottenham. The Bruce Castle Museum exhibition Links & Liberty in 2007 provides context for 17th century Tottenham and the black presence at that time in Haringey, and can be seen online here.

There is no general consensus as to where the origin of the name ‘Black Boy’ for pubs comes from. Looking at different sources and discussion online, pubs known as the ‘Black Boy’ begin to appear in records around the country from about 300-350 years ago, although the oldest known pub with this name in this country, dates back to the 16th century. There are strong associations connecting this name to the slave trade, but there are other suggestions, including reference to King Charles II being known as ‘Black Boy’.

A Summary of Discussions Found Online

During the 17th century Charles II was known as the Black Boy King of England – his mother Henrietta Maria of France started to call him this because of his dark complexion and hair (he had mixed heritage, with certainly Italian and Spanish (perhaps Moorish) ancestry). It is said this name was adopted by Charles’ supporters fighting for the restoration of the Monarchy in the 1650s. Inns using the Black Boy name were possibly declaring their Royalist allegiance against Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians.

​There are also other references to the  word ‘’Stuart’ – his line – also comes from the Old Nordish root ‘Svart’ which means ‘black’. Stuart is the same word as ‘swarthy’, which means ‘black’ in Old English. The suggestion from some is that Charles II was considered to have black heritage because of his dark hair and swarthy skin. It is also said that during his escape after the Battle of Worcester, he was referred to as ‘a tall, black man’ in parliamentary wanted posters.

The photographer Ingrid Pollard, whose photographs from 1989 is represented in the collections at Bruce Castle Museum, and whose mother lived on Broadwater Farm, undertook research over 20 years about the origin of the pub name ‘Black Boy’. Her own website includes an interview about her project and book (published in 2008) with a summary of her conclusions on pp.32-35 of the 2009 publication of research papers called Street Signs here, and there is further discussion on other websites that refer to her work. 

The following is extracted from one article online about a Black Boy pub in Wales:

Another artist, Ingrid Pollard, published a book based on 20 years of research of Black Boy pubs in Britain. In ‘Hidden in a Public Place’, Pollard writes, “It is my contention that pub signs can be used to tease out hidden histories and heritage stories.” Pollard states that she is not primarily interested with pinning down a definitive explanation for this existence of Black Boy pubs, “because what I now believe is that the meanings of the linguistic and visual signs, have many points of origin and no one fixed meaning".

You can read the full article here.

A further suggestion in online discussions says that the ‘Black Boy’ pub name is a reference to chimney sweeps. There is no obvious evidence of this connection historically in the locality, although the pub in more recent times had a picture of a chimney sweep as its sign. In the 1980s, this sign had replaced the racist pub sign showing an offensive grass-skirted ‘picaninny’ caricature; following a successful community campaign it was removed when it was pointed out that children had to pass it daily on their way to school.


In summary, it is most likely that Black Boy Lane in Tottenham takes its name from the Black Boy pub. Although it is inconclusive as to the origins of the name of this pub, it is known to have been around this particular location since the late 17th century.


Tags for Forum Posts: blackboy lane name change, review on monuments, building place and street names

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That's a really interesting piece of history there Hugh, thanks to you and the Bruce Castle team for helping lay some of this out.

I love this map, not only because it is upside down (top = south, not sure I know why that is), but also because of the Knights of St Johns land in the top right corner, present day St Anns Hospital. I find it interesting that it is hospital land today, and I am curious about how that transition from the Knights to the NHS occurred if anyone has an insight.

Thanks for linking that, Gordon. Glad to see they've credited HoL as the source. (Though, strictly speaking, the first main para is copied from one of the Harringay history articles I wrote on Wikipedia when I was putting together the first ever written history of Harringay. This also included the articel on Riddell)

The detail of the ownership of the land is quite interesting, Justin, with a few interesting owners. When I get the time I'll share all that. 

Thanks Hugh, that would be great.

Great info. I was driving in California a few years ago on Blackie Road. Found it quite a shocking name. Found out a few years ago about the origin of Black Boy Lane through good old Google but nice to read a bit more background. 

It's not shocking at all.

Blackie is a common nickname for someone with black hair.

Just like "Ginger "

It's also a common surname. Examples from Wickipedia -

First class information about the area and the lands where st. Anne's hospital now sits. My brother was isolated there for 3 months in 1953 with whooping cough as a baby. I also remember the chimney sweep pub sign.

Did you visit him there? Do you remember whet the building was like? 

No, I wasn't born until 1956.

Ah okay. I think in those days the wards were all still in huts. I have a photo of the children’s hut from 1935. I’d wondered if you’d recognise it. 

Excellent write-up Hugh, much appreciated. 

Excellent work, Hugh & Bruce Castle. Thanks a lot. 

(Just wondering: is your reference to "Brain's discussion" a typo, or a comment on my supervillainesque intellect?")



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