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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

I was recently contacted by a local resident who was trying to find out more about a building which used to stand on her road. She wrote,

On older maps and aerial photos from just after the war there is a large building or range of buildings where the 1980s development Wavel Mews now sits. On the 1951 Ordnance Survey map, it is labelled No.71 Priory Road. Any insight as to what this building was?

I’m not an expert, but just my sort of challenge.

I’ll start by pinpointing exactly where this site is: it’s on the south side of Priory Road, adjoining Priory Park to its east and south. To its north are five houses on Priory Road (now numbered 73 to 81). To its west are six houses on Park Avenue South (numbered 96 to 104).

Fig. 1: Ordnance Survey map surveyed 1910-11 (western section) 1893-94 (Eastern section) (National Library of Scotland)

Directly to the north east, St George’s Church was built at the corner of Priory Road and Park Avenue South. Destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, it was replaced by Hornsey Fire Station some years later.

The first building on my interlocutor's site were erected in the first part of the early 1900s as the Warner estate was built up.

Fig. 2: St George’s Church, c1905

The house in front of “number 71” was 73 Priory Road. Built as one of an unmatched pair  of semi-detached houses, it was originally called Avenue House.


Fig. 3: 73 and 75 Priory Road (Google Maps). Note the slight castellation of the top of the window bay.

In 1904, Jessie bought the plot of land between the corner of Park Avenue South and Priory Park, part of the estate being sold off by the Warner family of The Priory. He built, or had built for himself number 73, and adjacent to it, four other houses. The corner plot was resold to the Church. As you can see from the contemporary photo above, number 73 was significantly larger than its neighbour. Since studying the development of our local area, time and time again, I've come across builders who have built one house larger and fancier than the others for themselves. It also seems to have been common that one feature builders would add to their own property was an adjacent yard for their own business use. For Jessie, this lay behind his house with a convenient driveway running alongside his house for access. He left the space behind his house, "number 71" for use as his contractor's yard.

Jessie was born in Crouch End in 1858. His father, Thomas, a labourer, lived with his family on Park Road. The property was on the edge of the small working class area developed in the 1860s on the triangle between Middle Lane and Park Road. 

A decade after Jessie was born, the family moved round the corner to New Road and Thomas described his occupation as 'Contractor'. By the time of the 1881 census, Thomas was a 'Contractor and Corn Dealer', employing 22 men and living at 1 Park Road, on the corner of Middle Lane. 22-year-old Jessie was still living with his parents and his occupation was given as ‘shopman’. I assume he was helping out in the corn dealer's shop.

Fig. 4:Middle Lane from Park Road, c1900, probably after Thomas Dunmore’s time, but the building he occupied was still running as a corn dealer (Photo from the collection of Ken Stevens)

Another ten years on and the 1891 census shows that Jessie's parents had moved to 32A Broadway, above what is now the hardware shop almost opposite Waitrose. Thomas was described as 'contractor and bricklayer'.  Jessie and his young family had taken up residence at 9 Topsfield Road. By this point Jessie’s occupation was given, like his father’s as contractor.

Fig, 5: 9-17 Topsfield Road (Google Maps). Jessie and his family lived first and number 9 (far left) then moved to number 13.

Behind 32 Broadway , Dunmore kept a large yard for his contractor's business. Below, 32A Broadway, the shop was leased by Hornsey architect, John Farrer, who was the architect responsible for the Warner Estate, built over the grounds of the Priory, to the west of Hornsey Village. Whether the colocation of Thomas Dunmore's premises and Farrer's was the result of a pre-existing relationship, or the making of one, we do not know, but it seems very unlikely that Jessie Dunmore's activity in and subsequent residence on Priory Road was did not come from that connection.

Fig. 6: 1893 Ordnance Survey map showing 32 Broadway and the large yard behind. (The entrance to the yard ran alongside number 32, by the letter 'D' of Broadway). (Image: National Library of Scotland)

By 1901, things appear to have gone well for Thomas. The census of that year showed him at 70 Crouch Hall Road, working as a Road and Sewer contractor and ranked as an employer rather than a worker. A general servant was given as part of their household.

Fig. 7: Jessie's step-up in the world, his home in 1901, 70 Crouch Hall Road (Google Maps)

Before the decade was out Jessie had moved to Avenue House, 73 Priory Road. 

Fig. 8: Priory Road, c1905, looking west across the entrance to the park and towards Jessie Dunmore’s house. His boundary wall is just visible.


Some years later, as the First World War ended, Jessie turned 60 and retired. With more time on his hands, like so many builders before him, Jessie made the transition to local politics. Between 1919 and 1921, he served two terms as the Mayor of Hornsey.

With his yard no longer needed for business, Jessie lost no time in finding a tenant. By 1920, Argyll Motor Company had moved in. The company had two claims to fame. The first related to its heritage, the second to its association with another well-known Hornsey car company. 

Argyll is said to have been born out of the collapse of Argyll Motors, Scotland’s largest early twentieth century car manufacturer, (I have to admit to having had no idea that Scotland ever had any car manufacturers, let alone a ‘largest’ one). The company had started in 1899 and within a decade had set up in a grand looking factory in Alexandria, West Dumbartonshire and was making fine motor cars like the Argyll Flying Fifteen.

Fig. 9: Argyll’s Dumbartonshire Motor Works (Photo: Lesley Mitchell, Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons licence)

 Fig. 10: Argyll Flying Fifteen made from 1910,  designed by John Meredith Rubury who was later to be associated with the Priory Road premises. (Photo: Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons licence)


Sadly for Argyll, business didn’t progress well and by 1914 the company had been all but been wound up. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of a direct line between Argyll in Scotland and Argyll in Hornsey, but there’s that there was certainly more than a coincidence of names.

Automobiles of the World An Encyclopaedia of the Car listed Argyll (London) Motor and Engineering Company Ltd (Rubery Lindsay” at Priory Road. John Meredith Rubury was the designef of Argyll’s Flying Fifteen.

In November, 1920, a journalist writing in The Motor-Owner magazine confirmed  the link between Rubery Lindsay and Argyll when he wrote, “Here what’s this Rubery-Lindsay at £300? – It’s new to me. It is a new car not entirely unconnected, with the Great house of Argyll, late of golden dome fame. It has to be looked into.” So, there was some sort of link, but I suspect not one of direct commercial descent (but I’m happy to be proved wrong).

Argyll Hornsey wasn’t just concerned with cars, however. According to former Argyll Hornsey employee Robert Rust, writing in a Hornsey Historical Society Bulletin, “The main part of the enterprise was a large machine shop which occupied about three quarters of the building. This was involved in the manufacture of railway maintenance equipment.... It also made those trolleys that you see in old films where two men pumped handles up and down to propel them”.

Fig, 11: St George’s Church after the war. To the right of  and behind the church, the 71 Priory Road premises are just visible.

Fig: 12: the premises in the immediate post-war period form the 1947 Ordnance Survey map. (National Library of Scotland).

Argyll’s second claim to fame was its association with Lotus Cars. The nascent enterprise was set up by Colin Chapman and Colin Dare in a ramshackle premises behind the Railway Hotel pub on Tottenham Lane, run by Chapman’s father. In the early days of the business, Argyll bored out Austin 7 engines for the two young entrepreneurs to put into their Lotus vehicles.

  Fig, 13: Advertisement from Kelly's Hornsey Directory, 1936. 

Argyll stayed in Hornsey until 1964. The following year an  was made for the premises to be demolished and replaced with lock-up garages. However it appears from a map and a plan which are part of the records of the 1987 planning application in the archives of Haringey Planning that nothing much as changed on the site as far as structures are concerned since Argyll days. The records suggest that the main part of the site  may have been in use as a car body repair shop by a company called Questcross Motors.

Fig. 14: Map from the 1987 planning application records.

Fig. 15: Site plan from 1987 planning records, showing what was probably Argyll's building still in place on the eastern section of the site.

In 1987, as housing prices rocketed, sixteen houses were built as Waverley Mews.

You can read Robert Rust's memories of working at Argyll in the 1950s in the Hornsey Historical Society's Bulletin, No. 42, available as a back-copy for just £1.50 from the Old Schoolhouse on Tottenham Lane, or online at hornseyhistorical.org.uk/hhs-bulletin-42.

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Replies to This Discussion

My postWW2 childhood memories were of Argyll Motors behind the houses at 71 Priory Road. Over the access lane, I seem to recall a signboard between the house and the tennis court side. That there was a workshop there was also evident by it abutting the playground in the park, with occasional industrial noises emanating. 

I'm not aware that the first house had anything to do with the works by my time. On a Hornsey FB group, a gent recalled living at 73, confirming that it was Argyll behind it but he made no mention of a personal connection. Perhaps the fact that the house is larger than the others simply reflects the builder/owner treating himself to more space.(That is the case with my friend in our village, who lives in what had been the builder's house!)


Fantastic. Thanks. 

Robin Hardy

" by 1914 the company had been all but been wound up. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of a direct line between Argyll in Scotland and Argyll in Hornsey, but there’s that there was certainly more than a coincidence of names."

From a study of adverts (ebay has a few ), Argyll Scotland was still around in 1920. Various adverts refer to the London company as agents. I'll make a wild guess that the London company was permitted to use the Argyll name to promote their agency but that at some point the business arrangement ceased and the London company continued in business as general engineers/agents under their same name.

Some of the detail I intentionally omitted included the following:

"The final blow for Argyll came in 1914 following a lawsuit brought by Daimler, which Argyll won, but the costs led to bankruptcy and production ceased and the factory sold.

Car production was resumed on a small scale after the war under new ownership. The first product from the new company was a revival of the pre-war 15·9 hp model, but few were sold.The company made a final appearance at the London Motor Show in 1927 and the last cars were probably made in 1928 though still advertised until Argyll closed in 1932."

There could have been  commercial link between a very much weakened Scots company and a London one: I don't know, but I'm pretty sure its not as direct as as been suggested. There was also an Argylls (London) which I think did have a link with the Scots company. I stopped digging at that point! The info was hard to get at and the gains of finding it too small.  

Great read, I lived at 73 Priory road from the age of 3, my father purchased it in 1957 for £3,500 and it was  family home for about 40 years. For many years 2 signs almost on Priory Road advertised the garage and the 2 or 3 pumps which served the public. Spent a few years playing in the bombed out church grounds until the fire station was built. 75 was occupied many many years by 3 sisters by the name of Case think they were all ex teachers, lovely people. Next door to Priory park, the yearly fair, seeing the night racing at Alley Pally from by bedroom window, Queens and Highgate Woods up the road, Newt collecting at old derelict open air pool in Alley Pally grounds near the metal gates across Campsbourne. The closest I ever got to watching the tele was walking past the BBC on my way to the boating lake or fair and looking back to the only skyscrapper on the horizon the GPO tower and not forgetting Alley Pally airport well that's what we called it when got on our bikes, no fancy makes than, it was either a knackered Raleigh or a knackered old Raleigh. We would start at the road by the 233 bus and then cycle as fast as you could down the grassing slope toards the horse race track, rarely got past the 2nd paveway without being thrown off. Great memories. Wasn't the Argyl garage part of the war effort in its own way ?

Your house really had pole position, Eric, for its location and views. Didn't even have to go far for a bombed site to play in ;-) 

A neighbour's daughter, Pamela, occupied one of the other houses. Don't know her married name but I would have been about 8 years old when they had the wedding party in back garden, (I won't guarantee the accuracy of a memory dredged up from 60 years ago!)

Hi Eric, How wonderful to have your contribution. That must have been a great old house to grow up in and so many exciting things nearby for children. 

I imagine that Argyll would have been in a position to contribute its engineering expertise to the the war, but I didn't come across anything specific in my quite quick research.

£3,500 wasn't cheap. Did you father's purchase include the garage plot, or had it been separated by that point?

Do you know if any photos survive, particularly of the garage plot? 

Hi Hugh , we had a garage at the bottom of our garden , ours was the only one of those 5 houses to have a rear garage. The garage faced the 1st “workshop ” set of doors remember Argyl had a small outside loo to the left then a couple of petrol pumps then a 2nd large “workshop”then further on towards park Ave south were the line of garages I assume to rent. Dad gave a few photos on the park garden , I’ll see if I can find some

Thanks, Eric.

Hugh, many thanks for another fascinating piece of research. My uncle Ronald Bond (1913-2011) worked at Argyll Motors for the whole of the WW2 period. He wrote an account of his experiences there which was published in the Hornsey Historical Society’s Bulletin, No. 23 (1982). This is probably unobtainable as a back number but to help answer your question I have transcribed the following extract:

'What were we making? Aircraft parts at first, then a long-running job machining the rear end-cap of the Mk 1 Sten Gun – the gun that armed the Resistance all over Europe. The regular peace-time products had also to continue. These included drilling machines for the bolt holes in the ends of railway lines, gauges for measuring how far railway track sunk when a train passed over it, plate-layers’ trolleys, three-wheeled low-loading trucks for factories, and a flight simulator for the Air Training Corps at Alexandra Palace. An enjoyable job of my very own was the turning of a set of spindles for centrifugal pumps used in a paper mill in the Chilterns. Several different diameters, some with right-hand or left-hand threads, and fashioned out of round steel bar five feet long and five inches diameter.'

Thank you, John. How excellent to have another contributor with a personal connection to this.

Thank you also for bringing my attention to your uncle’s article in the HHS Bulletin and anwering the question about how Argyll contributed tge the war effort.

As you suspect, Bulletin number 23 is now out of print. However, I’m sure I can get a copy of the article from the Old School House. (I was invited to sit on the publications committee late last year. So I tend to visit the building more often than I used to.)



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