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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

140 Years - over a half-century as a bootmakers and three-quarters of a century as a cafe-cum-ice cream parlour

Along with the Egg Shop on Green Lanes, the Ice Cream Parlour down the road, opposite the Harringay Arena seems to be one of the shops that has created the most lasting impression on those who grew up in Harringay in the 1940s and 50s. As a result, there's been a continual drip of interest in finding tangible recollections of it. I was able to find a photo of the premises from the 80s that had echoes of the earlier period and more recently a HoL member spotted a ghost sign when the shop was being refurbished. But other than that, the shop has been shrouded in mystery. Then one dark steamy night in January as I was rattling along on a train, travelling upcountry from Kuala Lumpur, an email popped into my inbox from Maureen Baggley who had grown up at the Ice cream parlour in the late 1940s and early 50s. After a few exchanges and a bit of digging around on my part, I am now able share a little of the story of the once locally renowned Harringay Ice Cream Parlour.

Before the Ice cream age

In the years following the completion of the five 'Disraeli roads' 1 of the Finsbury Park Estate in the early 1880s, the first terrace of shops on Green Lanes north of Finsbury Park was erected between Enydmion Road and Lothair Road. Facing the still functioning Williamson's Potteries,2 when it was first built, the terrace name followed the nomenclature of the streets in its hinterland and it took the name of Benjamin Disraeli's third novel, Sybil.

1: Photo shot along the front of Sybil Terrace with Williamson's Potteries opposite.

The premises that became the Harringay Ice Cream Parlour was initially number 12 Sybil Terrace. The earliest trace I can find of any shop operating in Sybil Terrace was in 1886, by which time Tilston's Dairy was up and running next door at number 11.

2. Advert for Tilston's Dairy from the Hornsey and Finsbury Park Journal, 13 March 1886.

Within a decade, the fashion for terrace names was passing and 12 Sybil Terrace became 351 Green Lanes.3 For the first quarter century of its life the shop was run as a bootmaker's by master bootmaker, Suffolkman George Ablett. Moving to Harringay from Stoke Newington, George lived above the shop with his wife and four of his six children until a few years before his death in 1918.

The shop wasn't occupied again until George's business was taken on by Dalston based William Nicholls. He ran the business as a boot repairer's until the war. There is no record of what happened to the shop during the war, but by soon after it was empty.

The Ice cream age

By 1948, the premises had been taken on by east enders Alf and Fran Condon. Their daughter Maureen recalled,

"I remember my Dad and Mum taking us to see this dirty old shop ... The next time we went, we were moving in and 351 Green Lanes N4 was our home. I think there was Laundry to one side of the Parlour and an Undertakers to the other.4

Dad had turned that dirty old scruffy space into a gleaming Ice Cream Parlour, all pale green and cream (see Fig. 13) with counters, stalls tables and chairs, and originally a Radio-Gram, later to be replaced by a Jukebox."

"Dad was improving the Parlour all the time, it became ‘the place' to meet in Harringay!"

Maureen added,

"My grandmother and I lived upstairs, where we all lived.

"When there was a lot of 'bread ends' left from sandwich making, my grandmother would make delicious Bread Pudding for the Cafe.

"We would have London Cheesecakes delivered along with jam tarts, cream slices and the bread etc, I have not seen London Cheesecakes in years - (pastry case, jam, sponge, topped with icing and shredded coconut.)"

"Sheila and Mary, two Irish girls, worked in the Parlour and lived-in, also a lad called Ricky seen in one of the photos helped serving behind the counter with my mum.

"Dad had a club-room above the Parlour where the Harringay ice hockey team from the Arena opposite used to store their kit. There was a photo-wall at the rear of the Cafe where groups would have their photos displayed ... I think the photos have been lost over the years.

"Some customers would pick me up and sit me on top of the Jukebox asking what I’d like to hear, I always answered: “How Much is that Doggy in the Window”. I was probably about 4 years of age.

Twenty injured in late night parlour explosion

On 25 June 1950, there was large gas explosion at the parlour in which an R. E, Glenister was injured, He sued Alf and Eastern Gas jointly. Whilst judgement was made against the defendants, the judge explained that the cause was the fracturing of an old service pipe and made it clear that no there was no negligence on the part of the occupier.

3.Western Daily Press, 26 June 1950
(British Newspaper Archive)

The Parlour in Photos

Below is a series of uncaptioned pictures sent to me by Maureen and John. We might guess at which are Alf and Fran, but I cannot say for sure. As the images supplied were very small, I have upscaled a version then merged that version with a resized 'original', with faces and any writing left as original (hence the blurriness in places).

4. One of the staff outside the parlour

5. Inside the parlour

6. Staff at the counter

7. Group outside the parlour

8. Group inside the parlour

9. Inside the parlour

10. Motor cycling crowd outside the parlour. Far right are speedway starsVic and Ray Duggan

11. 1951 calendar card

12. Alf and Fran with Maureen

Many thanks to Maureen for all these photos.

The Condons move on but the ice cream parlour continues

The last record I was able to find of the Condons running the ice cream parlour at 351 Green Lanes was in the 1952 London Telephone Directory.

12. London telephone Directory, 1952

In August the following year, the family were still in residence, but apparently the business had closed in the summer of 1952.

The next photo surfaced in 2021 when HoL member Matt Buxton noticed it as the premises was being refurbished. I'm guessing the green revealed beneath the cream paint is the colour that Maureen recalls inside the shop.

13. Ghost sign, probably from the 1950s, uncovedr in 2021 ©Matt Buxton

The last photo from a series of 1985 Bus-spotter photos shows that the ice cream parlour lasted at least another 30 years after Maureen's family had left.

14. 351 Green Lanes in 1985, still trading as an ice cream parlour, (Note the change of allegiance from Coke to Pepsi!)

At some point between the date of Fig. 14 and 2008, the premises was converted to a cafe. By the end of this period, it was trading as Cafe N4.

15. Cafe N4 in 2008 (Google Street View)


1: The five roads of the Finsbury Park Estate are, Alroy Road, Coningsby Road, Endymion Road, Tancred Road and Venetia Road. All were named after novels written by Benjamin Disraeli (Earl of Beaconsfield), Conservative prime minister between 1874 and 1880.

2: The Beaconsfield Hotel and the shop attached to it were constructed after 1886 following a design by architects Messrs. Alexander and Gibson. It was named after Disraeli's honorific title.

3: Behind the former Sybil Terrace, was Sybil Mews. Originally built as stabling for the shop houses, today it is one of last (if not the last) remaining Victorian mews in Harringay. It has been home to a series  of small commercial premises since 1929 and still retains its original name to this day.

4: Maureen's memory is spot-on. At 349 Green Lanes was funeral director Frederick Richards & Sons. At 353 was a Cyprus Laundry receiving shop. The actual laundry was just up the road on Hermitage Road.

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Replies to This Discussion

Oh the memories this brings up Hugh.  I so wished my friends and I would have taken photos of us in the back of the parlor, sitting on stools and listening to the juke box!  I think maybe I started visiting it around 1959/1960, when I was about 13 years old.  I lived in Stanhope Gardens, so it was just a quick walk over to it.  There was also a Fish and Chip shop near by.  I live in the States now, try to get home once a year, but nobody left in Harringay, so I have not been there in years!

I would love to have seen those photos, had they been taken!

Yes Meryl there was a Fish and Chip near by.  My Aunt who also lived in Stanhope Gardens worked there.  In the school holidays my cousin and I often had a Fish and Chip lunch.

I can remember it as the ice-cream bar. There was also a newsagent somewhere along there where you could buy tickets for coach journeys from Victoria Coach Station.

Oh brilliant piece of recent history and the personal connection to Maureen makes it just that much more interesting.  Great photos as well.  The Parlour does appear to have been very well modelled.  Great stuff Maureen and Hugh.   Isn't it absolutely amazing......."  rattling along on a train up country to Kuala Lumpur and an email pops up........."  !

Maureen.........meant to add thanks for mentioning London Cheesecakes !  I loved them, still do if/when I find them.  Majority of people I mention them to hardly know what I'm talking about....mind you it probably hasn't helped by me emigrating to Norfolk in '72 !  Got my mouth watering now, oh sweet memories.  Good luck to you.



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