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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

A collection of Harringay memories:

Growing up in Harringay on the 1920s

I was born in Hornsey in 1923, and spent the first 10 years of my life living with my parents in the top flat at 257 Wightman Road. The ground floor was occupied by Mr and Mrs Dan Costigan. Mr Costigan was a bus driver, and they had one child, a daughter, who was greatly prized. In 1928, I was enrolled at the school which occupies the space between Mattison and Pemberton roads. Very happy memories of that school, including one year being chosen to be Father Christmas in the school play! My best friend, at the same school, was Norman Parsons, who lived at 108 Wightman Road. 257 Wightman Rd was at the bottom of a hill down which horse-drawn bakers' and milkmens' carts used to come, with a steel 'shoe' under the rear wheels to stop the cart overtaking the horse!

At the bottom of our garden there was (is) a steep bank at the top of which runs the New River. As a small boy, my father would take me up that bank (I was not allowed to go there on my own in case I fell in!), to watch men fishing for pike. I was told that there was one pike in that stretch of the river which was so big that it would pull a fisherman in if it were to be hooked. At that age, of course, I believed them!

Other memories include walking to and from school in thick London pea-souper fogs; watching my mother light the gas mantles in our flat; watching the lamp lighter walk down Wightman Road with his long pole; walking along Green Lanes with my parents on winter evenings looking at the stalls selling all manner of goods, from meat, fish and vegetables to china and sweets; seeing a dancing bear on the corner of Fairfax Road and Green Lanes, with a man collecting pennies for its 'performance'; seeing wounded soldiers (and amputees) from the 1914-18 war busking for pennies along Green Lanes; being taken to Harringey motorcycle speedway stadium by my father (I can still smell the cinders and the burnt oil!); going to Finsbury Park to fly kites made by my father; going to Clissold Park to sail my boats; going to a sweet shop (at the Turnpike Lane end of Wightman Road) to spend my Saturday penny; and seeing one of the local roads thickly lined with straw, to reduce noise because someone was dangerously ill in one of the houses.

In 1933, my father moved us to a new house just built in Surrey, and my association with Hornsey effectively ceased. But its memories are still extremely powerful. In Surrey, a year later, I sat for a scholarship to a grammar school, and got one, the credit for which must go entirely to the teachers at Mattison Rd/Pemberton Rd school.

Looking Back

I was born in St Peters St, Islington, 1935, bombed out late 1943, with nowhere to go, had a makeshift home in Aloysius College for a time until we were given a place in 4 Montague Road, Honsey, N8, that's where I knew what it was like to be hungry. I remember to this day with my three sisters & mother given different colour tickets to show at the YMCA to prove we were homeless, waiting all night to have a nice breakfast in the morrning, only to find out that the YMCA was bombed during the night, and was reduced to rubble. I thought I was going to die of hunger, as a result of that I never leave a scrap of food on my plate. I went to Crouch End Infants then Crouch End Secondary. After the war we used to go every Friday night to the Harringay speedway meetings, most of the weekends we would go to the Alexandra Palace roller rink. (If you hadn't been there then you hadn't lived.) Getting back to 1944, I remember many an air raid, on one very bright moonlit night the air raid warning sounded but we stayed put & didn't go down in the shelter at Britain's Pickles factory, as my father always told us it was very safe under the stairs, so thats where we got, my three sisters, me and my mother, who I might add tried to shelter us from any harm had we got a direct hit. We also had a black cocker spanial dog, he wasn't going to be left out. We heard the buzz bomb from a long way and as it got near it got louder, it was now right overhead of us when the engine cut out, we all thought this was our destiny, but for the grace of God it glided on to Cranley Gardens near Muswell Hill. Another time together with two of my sisters we went to see Roy Rogers at the Ritz in Turnpike Lane, it came up on the screen that there was an air raid and that we could leave if we wanted to, my two sisters left but I stayed, then it came up on the sceen, all clear. Ten minutes later there it was again, yes another warning, that was too much for me, I got up and left. Just as I was going up Turnpike Lane this buzz bomb came over the top of us and stopped. Everybody ran for cover, and so did I, into a shop doorway with glass all around me. Next I knew I was slung to the ground, in the gutter of all places, by some big copper. The buzz bomb landed in Hornsey Park Road on a church.

The next time was one morning getting ready to go to school and my elder sister asked me to hold a glove so that she could undo it and knit something else. As we were doing this a V2 rocket dropped on the weight bridge, Warrens coal yard in Tottenham Lane alongside the Railway Hotel, in fact I worked there soon after for Lotus cars, Colin Chapman. The back of our house was badly damaged and I was knocked unconscious, as a result I hit my head after going over the gas stove on the butler sink. A young girl was on her way to the train station when the rocket went off and she was never seen again, very sad day. We all had jobs to do in those days, my first job was to go down to the gas company and get the coke on Saturday morning for mother, then go around to the wet fish shop and cut the ice up to lay on the fish that was on display, then go inot the greengrocer and deliver all the orders to the old people in the area. On Sunday I went to all the people that had newspapers delivered all week and collected the money, that took from 9 untill 1 o'clock.
On Monday I did a paper round morning & night, but on Wednesday I did another round for the Victoria Wine company, and on Friday I cooked the beetroot for the greengrocer. I am now 73 years of age and still working, is it any wonder.

I could go on but Iam running short of words now. I went in the army in 1953 in the Middlesex Regiment then transferred into the parachute Regt, got demobbed in 1957. Married my childhood sweetheart but she sadly died in 1982 at the age of 42.

How has Hornsey changed? It would be easier to ask how the whole country has changed.

Memories of the 1960s

I was born in Stroud Green in 1950, and lived in the same house in Oakfield Rd N4 for 28 years before moving up and over the hill to Inderwick where I still live. I remember going with mum to pay the rent at Hornsey Town Hall, and seeing 'Over the Rainbow' there I think, and still have a programme for Wilfred Pickles 'Down your Way'. I don't remember the cars parked against the North Thames Gas Board though.

Wightman Road, 1960s

I was born in England and lived at 399 Wightman Road for seven years of my life from 1961 to 1968. My parents were poor immigrants from Jamaica, W.I. Our family consisted of myself, my sister, my brother and my parents. I remember our apartment building had two storeys. We lived in the flat above an older couple named the "Grandons". Across the street to the left was a meat store and further down the street to the right was a candy store. My school was North Harringay Primary School. There was also a Catholic church nearby. I have since moved to The United States, but the memories of Hornsey are always with me.
All from the Francis Frith site.

Tags for Forum Posts: harringay alumni memories

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Replies to This Discussion

The first of the memoirs above was written by Arthur Astrop (86 yrs) who, I'm delighted to report has just joined our site.
Aren't these wonderful?

I can still smell the cinders and the burnt oil!

It's remarkable how smells can take you back or how they stay with you all your life.
There is a fragrant hedge on Lothair Road, the smell of which wafts me right back to 1972 and being at my nan's old house.
Thanks for digging these up and what a result to get Arthur on the site, surely our oldest member?



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