I've had a digital copy of the above image for several years now. The British Museum describe it as originally having been identified as depicting Hornsey village, but that it was subsequently located by John Bewick expert Nigel Tattersfield as showing Crouch End.
I've looked at it in passing on a number of occasions, each time, never quite convinced about where it was and each time promising myself that I would get to grips with working out what's what.
Finally, at the end of last week, I entered in to a short correspondence with Nigel Tattersfield and then sat down and worked out what each of the buildings might be. I'm now satisfied that I have a good handle on it.
The artist, John Bewick (1760 - 1795), was an accomplished wood engraver, illustrating mostly children's books. His more famous brother, Thomas Bewick is well-known for his well-regarded wood engravings of animals and birds.
John Bewick arrived in London in 1786, and was apparently the first person to make a living entirely as a wood engraver and book illustrator. He contributed to at least sixty titles in his short career.
Fig. 2: The Sparrow's Nest' from The Looking-Glass for the Mind, 1792, drawn and engraved by John Bewick.
Bewick arrived in Crouch End in about 1790. According to Nigel Tattersfield, he first lived in a cottage on Mount Pleasant (at the top of Crouch Hill). However, he had very bad consumption and so moved to lodge with an old widow near the New River in Hornsey. From 1790, as well as making a living from engraving, he gave drawing classes at Crouch End Academy.
Now, back to that picture. It is thought to have been painted in 1791. The following extract from the 1869 Ordnance Survey map covers the area included in the picture and even though it shows the situation seventy or eighty years after the painting was done, there were not huge changes over this period.
Fig. 3: Extract from 1869 Ordnance Survey map.
Bewick's viewpoint whilst he was painting would most probably have been from in front of the Blacksmiths at the bottom of the hill where Crouch End Hill and Crouch Hill converge (by today's Nat West bank).
If you'd like to work out the picture for yourself, you should stop reading now. But for those of you still with me, I'll work through the picture from left to right. I recommend that you right click on Fig. 1 an open it in a new tab. This will open a significantly larger version which you can keep off to one side of your screen for easy reference.
In the foreground of the picture, you can see a village pond. Whilst this isn't marked on the 1869 OS map, you can see it clearly marked, roughly where Dunn's is today on the 1815 Enclosure Map, below. It is also shown on the 1827 plan shown in Fig. 2, on my recent article about Old Crouch Hall. It would have been very conveniently placed for the blacksmith's.
Fig. 4: Extract from Hornsey Enclosure Map, 1815.
Beyond the pond, and slightly to its left, is a small white building embellished with what looks like a wheel surmounted by a crucifix. I had originally thought that the tower behind this building was in the distance, but in fact, it is attached to the back of the white building.
What we're looking at here is what became known as Broadway Hall. It is thought that this was probably a remnant of an outbuilding of Old Crouch Hall. It was officially opened for use as a Baptist chapel in 1806 or 1807. This Bewick painting suggests that it was perhaps in use informally for a decade or two prior to that date.
Fig. 5 Broadway Hall, with lake Villa to the right of the photo, c 1900.
The above image shows the hall in 1900. The gothic windows and small cupola were added to the tower in 1851. On the right of the photo is the northern face of Lake Villa.
Looking again at the painting, just to the left of Broadway Hall, half obscured by trees, is a grayish-blue weatherboarded building with its gable-end facing the street. I'm fairly certain that this is Lake Villa.
Fig. 6: Southern face of Lake Villa, 1926.
As you can see from the 1926 photo in Fig. 6, Lake Villa was quite long, certainly longer than the building in the Bewick painting, and not reaching back to Broadway Hall as it did later, as shown in Fig. 5. Local histories state that Lake Villa was built in the early nineteenth century. But I suspect that it was just extended at that time from an earlier building. Looking at fig. 5, it is possible to detect what could be two stages of building. All the topography fits for it to be the villa and there is at least photographic evidence to suggest that the nineteenth century building may be an extended version of an older building.
Peeking out from behind Lake Villa is gabled roof-line. Once again, initially, I took this to be somewhat more in the distance. But, in fact, I think it's somewhat closer to the Broadway Hall than I first thought. It could be either Colquon House1, which was the next property north of Linslade (shown on the 1869 map on Fig. 3), or Holmesdale House,1 the one after that. But, it could also just be Old Crouch Hall (immediately south of Linslade, but not marked on the map). At the time the painting was executed, the occupant would have been the famous furniture maker, William Ince. The painting below leads me to give Old Crouch Hall a chance as a candidate for the building. (Though of course if the memory of the 1911 Hornsey Journal reader, that the roof was thatched at this time is correct, (as reported in my recent article on the Hall), then the building is not Old Crouch Hall.
Fig. 7: Old Crouch Hall School, unknown Artist, 1880.
To the left of the gabled-roof building, in the centre of the picture, behind what looks like a row of poplars, is Topsfield Hall. At the time of the painting the person who commissioned the building of the hall, Samuel Ellis, had just died (leaving £300 in a trust to feed the poor of Hornsey). The last owner of the house was Henry Weston Elder (after whom Elder Avenue was named). See the link under Fig. 8, below for more on the house.
Fig. 8: Topsfield Hall, showing the sale or let sign c1892. (More about the hall and the photographer here)
On the left-hand side of the picture, in the foreground is a barn with a building behind it. The building is probably Rowledge Farm with the barn belonging to it. Within three decades of the painting being done, gin distiller John Booth had bought the farm (along with Topsfield Hall and Old Crouch Hall) and had built a new Crouch Hall to replace the farm along with with extensive gardens.
Finally, beyond the barn, close to the road, is a pair of buildings, one angled away from the other. These sit on what is now the junction of Broadway and Park Road. At the time the painting was done, they were in use as Crouch End Academy (Crouch End School), where John Bewick took his art classes.
Fig. 9: Crouch End Academy, Broadway/Park Road facing Middle Lane, c1880. (For more on the school, see here)
We're lucky enough to have a photo from around 1875 which covers the ground shown in the right half of Bewick's painting. The four-storey terrace just to the north of Lake Villa had been erected. Old Crouch Hall is probably still standing behind the terrace. Lake Villa is still there, although by then extended. To the left of the picture Topsfield Hall is on its last legs.2
Fig. 10: Crouch End Broadway, c1875. (Read more about the fountain on the right of the picture, here.)
If you'd like to learn more about John Bewick, Nigel Tattersfield has written a book which is available from various online outlets - John Bewick: Engraver on Wood, Nigel Tattersfield, The British Library & Oak Knoll Press, 2001.
1. For more detail on Colquon/Holne House, see the article Old Crouch Hall, Linslade House and Colquon (Holne House)
Holmesdale was home to barrister and metropolitan police magistrate Frederick Flowers, until his death in 1886.
2. After being sold in 1892, Topsfield Hall was demolished in June 1894.
It's not a great photo, but you can see the rather unprepossessing houses here. on the right.
Was the garden of Lake Villa a public park before they pulled down all the buildings in the photo? Looks like someone with a pushchair coming towards the gates. Am I right in thinking that the council bought the land in the mid-1920s but didn't start on the town hall until the early 1930s?