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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Recently, Seymour Road couple Camille and Maca Perrin posted on Harringay Online about a strange circular structure they'd found buried in their garden. The find had them scratching their heads. Possible explanations initially included a well, or a pond.

1. The mysterious Seymour Road Circle (Image: Camille Perrin)

The structure looked intriguing enough to me for a second look. I asked Camille and Maca if I might pop over. On first seeing the circle, my untrained eye noticed that it was pretty much at the dead centre of the garden of this terraced house. Given how the land that became the Harringay Ladder was subdivided into plots by the British Land Company, the relationship of circle to garden boundaries would be an unlikely one if it had not been constructed after the house. Camille also pointed out a stout short iron nub in the dead centre of the structure and told me that he'd found a rusted iron pipe that had led into it. Banging the centre of the (now emptied) circle with a spade to the sound of sharp rings, he also demonstrated that it was fully lined with concrete. The inescapable conclusion for me was that the structure had been a pond, most likely with a small fountain at its centre, laid out probably early in the house's history. That being the case, I said I'd check if the 1947 RAF aerial photo series had an image of sufficient clarity to give us any clues.

When I found the right aerial photo, it was just clear enough to make out that the garden seems so pale that it almost looks like it had been concreted in 1947. If you enlarge the image (below) by clicking on it, I almost fancy that you can also just about make out what looks like something circular in the middle of the garden - perhaps a pond with a path around it?

2. Extract from RAF aerial image, 1947 (Image: English Heritage)

Standing in the garden and knowing how the Ladder was developed, I mused aloud about whether there was any relationship between the pair of houses with the 'pond' and the row of shops alongside them on Green Lanes. You can see from the 1947 photo how the first six shops exactly match the length of the garden and how the house circled and the one next to it are of a different construction to the ones to their right. It looked to me very much like a builder had bought a block of eight plots to develop.

That might have been that, but of course, with me being me, once I'd got hold of the end of this piece of string, I couldn't help wondering what I'd find if I followed it. So I started my now standard original-sources-archaeology to see what I could discover.

The Henry Adolphus Wickeses

A limited dip into the Land Registry records confirmed that my suspicion about the co-development of houses and shops by a single builder was very probably right. At least, I confirmed that the plot for the 'pond house' and its neighbour, along with the building on the corner of Seymour Road were all bought from the British Land Company by builder Henry Adolphus Wickes the Younger on 10th October 1894. At £3 a land record, I stopped there, satisfied that there were sufficient clues to reach a satisfactory conclusion. However, I did dig deeper into the Wickes. 

Henry Adolphus Wickes the younger and his father Henry Adolphus Wickes Senior, were significant builders in and around this area. The tale of the older Wickes and his engagement in the building trade is one with which I am becoming increasingly familiar. Born in Lambeth in 1834, his father George was a successful tailor. By 1865, Wickes was apparently a linen draper on the Holloway Road, I assume having made connections through his father's trade. However, before long, he appears to have got involved London building boom as it accelerated its pace.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, house-building was increasingly being taken on speculatively by small tradesmen, many of whom, were already involved in the trade as bricklayers, carpenters etc. Most of these men needed finance to set their projects in train. It is possible that Wickes Senior began his involvement in the trade by providing such finance, a common practice by men with money to spare during this period. 

By 1871, Wickes had evidently deepened his interest in the building trade and taken the plunge into direct involvement. Living at 99 Tollington Park,1 he recorded his primary occupation as a builder, employing 30 men. Two years later, Wickes entered local politics, as many a builder did before and after him. Initially he was elected to the Islington Vestry and subsequently to the Board of Guardians and the South Hornsey Local Board. The charitable view of the interest of builders serving in local government is that they wanted to give back to the community; the less magnanimous one is that they saw in it an opportunity to influence matters to their advantage.

In the  early 1870s, as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners released portions of their estate immediately to the south of Finsbury Park, Wickes obtained leases on a significant portion of the land.

3. Extract from 189 Town plan showing the area south of Finsbury Park developed by Wickes

Documentary evidence suggests that Wickes appears to have laid out and built up all of the roads formed by the slightly truncated triangle of Seven Sisters Road, Portland Place and Gloucester Road. It is, I am certain, no coincidence that two of the smaller roads are named Henry Road and Adolphus Road. From the mid to late 1870s, Wickes set himself up in a grand house at Alexandra Villas on Seven Sisters Road that he named 'Ecclesfield House'. I am assuming that he built it, but I have not sought documentary evidence to confirm that.2

4. Adolphus Road, c. 1905. The road was one of those roads laid out and built up by Henry Adolphus Wickes Senior in Finsbury Park in the 1870s. (Image: Author's collection)

5. Wickes lived in 'Ecclesfield', the middle of these three grand houses on Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, just to the north of Portland Road.  Whilst the house has had its exterior modernised, it was clearly originally exactly similar to the two neighbouring properties, 'Fairmead', 'and 'Lindrick'. (Image: Google Street View, June 2008).

6. Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, looking south-west from near Manor House junction. 'Ecclesfield' and its neighbouring houses can been seen towards the right of the picture. (Image: Author's collection).

"Heavy Failure of a Builder"

Wickes's first 15 or so years in the building trade may have gone swimmingly, but the ebb and flow of the housing market soon conspired to bring him down. In 1887, he declared bankruptcy with overall liabilities of over a quarter of a million pounds, £22,000 of which was unsecured.  He explained in bankruptcy court that his debts had built up due to his inability to sell the properties he'd built. The total debt figure is astonishing. Depending on which metric you choose, the sum equates today to between £3m and £42m.3 On reflection, newspaper headlines at the time were remarkably constrained referring to the "Heavy Failure of a Builder".

No doubt this turn of events was profoundly humiliating for both father and son. Wickes Senior moved from 'Ecclesfield' to the much more modest 2 Henry Road around the corner. Financial troubles notwithstanding, the Wickeses still carried on their building business, albeit at a more modest rate. However, in no instance in official records after 1887 do we see Wickes Senior described as a builder. He is variously referred to in official documents as a 'buildings manager', a 'timber merchant' and in the 1911 census even a 'sweet manufacturer'! In his stead we see Wickes the Younger's name appearing in deeds and other official documents. It might be the case that Wickes Senior had been constrained by conditions imposed by his bankruptcy. 

In Harringay

The first development in Harringay was the Finsbury Park Estate, the roads between the park and the Tottenham and Hampstead Railway. Whilst I do not believe that the Wickeses were involved in building any of the houses in the residential part of this development, a record exists linking Wickes the Younger to Sybil Terrace, the row of shop houses between Endymion and Lothair Roads.4 So, it is possible that they were involved with building this: it would certainly match their subsequent involvement in Harringay. 

Within a few years, the British Land Company had acquired the Harringay Park Estate and split it into hundreds of plots. In addition to the block of land described at the beginning of this story, I have found another block which they may have developed. The second block takes in the shop houses on Green Lanes betweenand Burgoyne and Umfreville Roads and the first two houses on the north side of Umfreville and the south of Burgoyne.  The shop houses are of an exactly similar style to the ones the Wickeses built at the bottom of Seymour Road and, cementing their link to the properties, by the turn of the century, father and son were living next door to one another in 95 and 97 Burgoyne Road. 

During the following decade, both Wickses moved on, 'The Younger' to Boundary Road in Wood Green, the Senior, presumably having restored his financial health somewhat, to 3 Lordship Park, where he died in 1919.  

The first Residents of the Seymour Road House 

So much for the builders. It seems unlikely that in a house of the type built in Harringay, any builder would have gone to the trouble of constructing a pond. So to find the auteur of the pond, I need to look to the people who actually lived there. 

When it was first occupied, the Seymour Road house was let as three separate apartments. This probably didn't mean that it was structurally divided. It wasn't till much later in the twentieth century that multiple occupancy houses were physically split. At this point in time, typically, people just took a floor each and got on with it. (Although I have come across houses that were split both vertically and diagonally).

On, I think the ground floor, was 20-year-old journeyman compositor, Joseph Morrant, his 35-year-old wife Louisa and 19-year-old "companion" Katherine. Given the difference of age between Joseph and his wife and the closeness of that between him and Katherine, initially I wondered if there was more to this set-up than met the eye. However, things seem to have been pretty straightforward. By 1911, the couple were still living together in Beresford Road, by then 'uncompanioned'.  Joseph was described at this point as "compositor (on strike)".

On, I assume the first floor, was tailor's salesman, widower Grinstead Hawkins with his two sons and three daughters, aged between 2 and 16. On probably the top floor, was young draper's traveller Percy Hale and his young wife Millicent. 

At the start of the house's life then it seems likely that it was Joseph, Louisa and Katherine who had the garden. I can't imagine that they'd have gone to the expense of putting in what seems to have been a properly plumbed-in pond and fountain. So, to discover the pond's origins, we need to look to the next occupant, or beyond.

A Jolly Butcher's Widowed Wife

Morrant and his co-tenants appear to have had their apartments on five year leases, or at least they stayed for only five years. By 1905, the house was empty. The following year it was taken on by 40-year-old widow Elizabeth Jane Webster. Prior to arriving at Seymour Road, Elizabeth had been married to publican Joseph Webster.

The first record I could find of Derbyshire-born Joseph was in the 1871 census. At this point he was 25, working as a railway fireman and living on Carlton Road (now Grafton Road) in Kentish Town, near the large Midland Railway Depot and Works. By 1881, he'd married Caledonian Road born Elizabeth and changed career track. He had taken on the role of publican and was running the White Horse pub at South End Green in Hampstead, below where the Royal Free Hospital is now. Ten years later, the couple had moved on to the Red House Hotel at the junction of St John's Wood and Park Roads, by the northwest corner of Regent's Park. Situated slap bang next to the former St John's Wood Road station on the Metropolitan line, it probably did a brisk trade.

7. The former Red House Hotel in 2010 (Image by Tris for londonwiki.co.uk)

8. The Red House Hotel on the left, next to St John's Wood Road Station

The Battle with Perrier-Jouet

It was whilst the couple were at the Red House that Joseph attained a little notoriety from a legal battle with the Perrier-Jouët champagne house. In 1893, acting on information supplied by a somewhat disreputable source, the company issued a summons against Joseph Webster under the Merchandise Marks Act. They alleged that Webster had sold champagne which  purported to be Perrier-Jouët's but in fact was not of their manufacture. A warrant was obtained, under which the Red House was searched. Nothing bearing out the allegations was found. At a court hearing in Marylebone a few days before Christmas, evidence was given revealing that the bottles that had led to the court case, had been purchased for use at a brothel in nearby North Bank, by a man named Knowlman. The buyer of the wine, who was the most material witness for the prosecution, had himself been in the habit of putting labels on bottles of cheap champagne, which he then retailed at exorbitant charges at 'a house' kept by him. The Morning Leader which took a great interest in the case shared details about Knowlman's shady past.

"Mrs. Margarot O'Mara, wife of a laborer (sic.), of Liverpool-rd., Islington, said she knew Knowlman (the man who was sent to fetch the bottles from the hotel) - in the name of Marshall. Five years ago he was living at a house in Lodge-rd. Wine was kept in the house, and was sold to visitors. She had seen champagne labels kept loose in a soup tureen. The champagne came from a shop in the Edgware-rd., and when the bottles arrived at the house they were placed in a bath and covered with water until the labels would come off. Then Perrier-Jouët or Moët and Chandon labels were affixed. Marshall showed her how to do it, and when he was not in witness had to do it herself. She was told to always charge £1 for each bottle, although it had only cost 2s. 6d. or 2s. 9d. a bottle. (Sensation.)

"Mary Stanton, of St. John's-wood, who said she was an unfortunate, deposed having known Knowlman and Marshall for 13 years. Marshall had occupied houses at Wellington-place, New Cavendish-st., Marylebone-rd., and Lodge-rd., all of which were "gay" houses. At Wellington-place he was turned out by the vestry."5

With all the evidence heard, the case was dismissed with costs. 

The matter had no doubt been deeply embarrassing for Webster. It had been keenly followed in the media of the day and in particular by the licensed trade. The Red House publican was keen to protect his reputation and for him the matter was not yet over. He quickly launched a suit against Perrier-Jouët to recover damages for malicious prosecution and trespass. Perhaps he also sensed the opportunity for positive publicity and even for financial reward. In April 1895, the case came before the Queen's Bench Division with a special jury and Baron Pollock presiding. While Webster was giving his evidence, a settlement was arrived at, and it was announced that Perrier-Jouët consented to a verdict and judgement for £350, an amount equal today to between £50,000 and £600,000, depending on which conversion metric is chosen.6

On to a Jollier Life in Wood Green

With the fizz gone out of the publicity garnered by the court case, Joseph apparently needed a fresh challenge and had his settlement funds to back him up . Aged 55, he decided to take on the 'Three Jolly Butchers', an 18th century coaching inn on the eponymous Jolly Butcher's Hill in Wood Green.7 In 1899, the old inn was demolished and replaced by a late Victorian pub-hotel. Webster was referred to in various newspaper articles at the time and on all advertising for the pub as 'proprietor', suggesting that he owned the building. Perhaps he'd put the sums he won from the champagne company to good use. He might even have been responsible for commissioning the pub's rebuilding.

9. and 10. The rebuilt 'Three Jolly Butchers', c1905

Writing about the new pub after the opening event, a journalist for the Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald, wrote,

"Upwards of 80 feet of counter, with over a score each of beer pulls and spirit taps, figure on the ground floor, which is divided into various compartments, including a large saloon bar leading into the billiard room. All the fittings are of the most elaborate kind, and a fancy-tiled dado runs around this portion of the building, surmounting which are massive brass gas brackets. Above the billiard room is a large stained glass cupola, which has a tendency to rather soften the daylight, from which are being suspended two large chandeliers. At the entrance, a large coloured panel denotes the name of the house, and the main windows give also typical examples of the same. On the first floor there is a large concert room, capable perhaps, of holding some 200 persons. Several retiring rooms are also on this floor..."8

In 1901, Webster is cited in the local press as also being the landlord of the Fishmonger's Arms, about a quarter of a mile further north on the High Road. Records show the pub as having been managed by Alfred Wood from the turn of the century until 1906, at which point it was taken over by Frederick Robert Webster. From a fairly superficial bit of research, I can't find a link between the two Websters. It may be that the name match is just a coincidence, but it seems likely that Joseph Webster either owned it or perhaps leased the Fishmonger's as a second business.

Scant records indicate that Joseph died in 1909. However, Elizabeth appears in the records at the Seymour Road house by 1906 - the second time that year marked a step change in the affairs of the Webster family. So, it seems likely that Joseph fell ill or succumbed to an accident that year and was perhaps hospitalised for the ensuing three years. There is no official record of him ever having lived in Harringay.  

The census of 1911 shows Elizabeth living at the Seymour Road house with her younger son, 16-year-old John, along with a single servant. Her occupation is given as 'private means', suggesting that Joseph had left her provided for. 

Elizabeth lived in the house for almost 20 years, until 1923. I can find no record of any other residents in the house during Elizabeth's tenancy. So I am assuming that she had either bought or leased the whole premises. Given her presumed financial comfort, courtesy, in part, of Perrier-Jouët, it seems very possible that it was she who had the pond and fountain constructed. So, I've begun to think of it as 'Mrs Webster's Folly' or the 'Perrier-Jouët Fountain'. Nonetheless, it seems likely that we'll never know for sure who had it made. 

As to the fate of the garden feature today - it's a tough one. Whilst Camille and Maca are keen to respect the history of the house, the pond is slap bang in the middle of a garden for which they currently plan a lawned area for sitting out and socialising. They say that they may find a way to keep Mrs Webster's Folly in some way. 

Notes

1. At this time 99 Tollington Park was known as 6 Regina Villas.

2. Alexandra Villas were demolished in 2010 and replaced with a row of mixed-tenure flats built by Paragon Housing / Hackney Council.

3. I use the Economic History Association's Online worth-over-time-calculator Measuring Worth because it seems to tackle a complex calculation most thoughtfully. They offer various caculations based on prices, wages, output, etc., depending on the context. As the National Archives say, "Calculations based on the retail price index may not always be appropriate: comparisons based on average earnings or gross domestic product per head may be more suitable."

4. For more infomration on Sybil Terrace, see the section, "Before the Ice Cream Age" in A (bit of) a History in photos of Harringay Ice Cream Parlour.

5. The quote is taken from an article entitled "Those Champagne Labels" in The Morning Leader, 16 December 1893. Other information about the case comes from other reports in the Leader as well as in the Hampstead News and one on the Worcester Chronicle.

6. See Note 3.

7. Jolly Butcher's Hill was the common name for the stretch of Green Lanes / High Road between Lordship Lane and St. Michael's Church.

8. From an article entitled "Another Old London Inn Gone" in the Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald, 10 March 1899.

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Replies to This Discussion

This is almost certainly the house I grew up in.  I always thought it was some kind or flower bed. We used it as a convenient place to sit and have our photos taken. Photo below taken around 1952/1953.

That's amazing, Geraldine.  Thanks for your photo. It's interesting to see the decorative finish to the top of the pond. It looks like the garden had the standard lawn in the early 50s. I wonder why it looked so pale in the 1940s photo. Were you there when the aerial photo was taken in 1947? (I've messaged you privately with the street address).

Thanks for your message. Yes, that's the house I grew up in!  

In the 1940s, my mother, my elder sister and I lived on the ground floor, while my grandmother was on the 1st floor. At the very top was a fellow named J. J. Terry - I remember letters addressed to him. We hardly saw him. I think he worked in some kind of US organisation because during the War he would bring us American comics to read.

There was no bathroom on the ground floor. We had to go upstairs to grandma's. She died in 1947. I've no idea who owned the house then but a family from Essex bought it in the 1950s They installed a bath for us in the outdoor lavatory in a kind of lean-to extension with a door from the kitchen so that we didn't have to go outside. It was all a bit Heath Robinson!

I would indeed have been there when the aerial photo was taken in 1947. I think we moved in around 1942 or 1943. I remember, looking into the garden, the rear of the shops in Green Lanes  were at right angles to ours and the rest of the road if that makes sense. The nearest shop was Jolly's the grocers. It was quite small but had a warehouse behind it which adjoined our house. 

I am fascinated to find that our neglected flower bed was once a fountain. I can't imagine how long it takes to delve into all these stories but they are gratefully received and read with much interest.

Thank you so much for that additional first-hand information. Was the house by then physically divided or were the floors just used as separate dwellings without formal subdivision?

It looks like there was only a twenty year gap between your moving in and Elizbeth Webster's time there! 

From a quick scurry-around, here's what I can find from Kelly's Directories and official population records about the residents in those intervening years.

1924 - 28: Probably on the ground floor, Phillip Ernest Harris - a 27-year-old postman for the GPO, who'd married Lilian Carter in 1923. By 1939 they'd moved to Wood Green.

From 1924 - 1926 (and a to-be-determined period either side of those dates), on the first floor were Leonard and May Pool and on the top floor William Warwick.


1929: No recorded occupant


1930 - 1931: Ameila Ann Reding. Born in 1860, Ameila was about 70 when she moved in. She'd been married to Berlin-born Restaurant manager Ernest Verkin who died in 1920. In 1911, at the age of 51. Amelia had been a secretary at the Berlitz School of Languages. She died on 16 July 1931.


1932 - 1937: No recorded occupant. Ditto for the two properties to the west. 

Hi Hugh.  That 20-year gap is short when we think back in time from today.  The house seemed old to us kids but perhaps had been built only 40-50 years before, is that right?  By today's reckoning it would be a 1970s or 1980s house.

I remember there were one or two steps down at the end of the hall to our main living room where, to the left, was a door to a cupboard under the stairs.  We used to hide there when the V2 bombs came over during the war, said my mum.

The walls of the room were painted cream I think, though I once scraped some paint off and there was a dark forest green paint underneath.  From the floor, up to my shoulder height was a wooden cladding in chocolate brown.  Lovely!  This had a narrow ledge on top where we used to balance small items there such as letters to be posted.  There was a scullery off, with door leading to the garden.  Walking from there back to the front door, first came a room in the middle that we used as a bedroom and then the front room which I only remember being used when a photographer came.

Definitely no subdivision of flats or locks to doors. We just went upstairs for a bath and to see grandma.  We regarded ground and first floors as one, family dwelling.  The second floor was more mysterious.  I may have crept up there once to look but I don't remember it and I wouldn't have gone inside those doors anyway.  Much too scared!

Yes, the house was 45 years old when you moved in. Thanks for all the additional details.

An excellent bit of research by Hugh, and such a great memory (&pic!) from Geraldine! Thank you both.

Hi everyone, I am the Camille in question and I am simply amazed with all of this! I obviously thanked Hugh privately for all of his work already but can't stress enough how incredible this is.

Thanks so much for sharing your picture Geraldine, I took one from the same angle:

What's funny is that what the garden looks like in your picture is exactly what we would like to do! I do think we are going to keep Mrs Webster's Folly, and just fill it with soil and grass but keep the bricks top.

It's also incredible to think that you were hiding under the stairs during the war! We actually recently changed this area to get a more convenient storage space:

This is where the door used to be, but we luckily also kept a decent hideout in the giant drawer ;)

 

I'll definitely keep everyone posted once we have made a decision with the fountain and the garden is starting to look like a garden, but I'm glad this whole thing allowed us to learn more about the house's history and to meet some of our neighbours!

Geraldine, please feel free to get in touch if you would like to see the house you grew in again, it would be a pleasure to show you what it has become!

Thanks again everyone and have a great weekend,

Camille

Camille, I am amazed at what you have achieved in our old house.  Your renovation has made it brand new.  I should never have recognised it.  Especially, I am blown away by the cupboard and the long drawer.  To think we once sheltered from the bombs in there!  I don't remember it - I was only a baby - but that is what I was told and it has the ring of truth.  I smiled when you wrote that the garden as it was is how you would like it to be now.  Perhaps we practised re-wilding before it became fashionable.

I would love to see the house one day.  I live in Yorkshire but visited Harringay about 10 years ago with an old school friend who had lived in Warham Road.  We thought how compact and neat it all seems now - our school, the roads. Everything is bigger when we are small.  Anyway, I may find myself in London again one day, who knows, and if so I'll certainly get in touch.  It would be an unmissable experience.  I mean, who gets the opportunity to see the house they lived in 80 years ago!  Actually, this whole story seems like a dream now.  If someone had told me then that I would see the stone garden circle again far in the future, I wouldn't have believed them.

Thank you so much for writing and sending the photos.  I love them.  Somewhere among my collection of stuff there should be more photos of the garden.  I promise to look and send you any of interest.  Good luck with it all and thanks again.  It has made my day.

Hi Geraldine,

I'm glad you're liking what we've done with the place! We bought the flat about a year ago and are still renovating it (we had very bad luck with the first builders we hired). We're pretty much done with the living room and kitchen now and this is how it turned out:

So was the kitchen already there when you lived here, or was the extension added later on?

I'm really happy about this whole thing, to know the history of the house, to have your stories about the place, and I'm glad that seeing what the house you grew up in looks like now also makes you happy! Please do let us know if you ever come to London and we'll be happy to have you! In the meantime, I'll keep sharing our next renovation steps :D

Have a great evening!

I recognise the room even though you have made it so much more beautiful!  The windows we had were old wooden sash-type painted brown.  They were usually left open at the bottom so the cats could come and go!

The kitchen was already there but it was just a small space - we called it the 'scullery' - with a tiny window perhaps and a door to the garden. There was only space for a sink and a gas cooker.  You have opened up that area to make it bigger which is great.  The old lean-to lavatory and bathroom to the right of the back door has disappeared (thank goodness) and been replaced by a cupboard.

So where is your bathroom now?  And oh, yes, what is the green building in the garden that looks like a lock-up of some kind?  In our old photos there is a brick wall.

In the main room, I don't remember the brickwork on the left but we had a built-in floor-to-ceiling cupboard where we kept all kinds of things.  One of the shelves was mine for books, toys and other kids stuff.  We didn't have a sofa by the window but there was a table (that I used to hide under) and some chairs where we used to eat.  The floor may have been tiled with rugs on top.  I can't quite remember.  There was also a long kind of bed-chair that belonged to our grandmother.

Well, Camille, it has been such a pleasure to see your house.  I hope you will share the renovation as it progresses.  I have found a few more photos of the garden but they are mostly of people with the garden as a background.  I will try sending a link request to your own page to send them, rather than post them here on Hugh's history.  Hope you receive that request.

Thanks again so much for the pictures.  They are wonderful!

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