Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

For a few decades now, I've known that the Harringay Park Estate, on which the Ladder was built, was sold off piecemeal to anyone who wanted in on the late Victorian building boom. Whereas today people buy-to-let, in those days people would buy-to-build, and then perhaps let or sell.

To the East of Green Lanes most of the land was built up by just a few developers. On the Ladder, plots were sold in twos, sixes, tens and twelves and occasionally as many as 20.1 Thanks to my own research and to that undertaken by Alan Aris in the 1990s, I've got a pretty good idea of how the Ladder was built up. But I've never really had the story of one of the developers. Who were they? Where did they come from? What happened to them?

Thanks to the present-day developer of a house near to my own on Hewitt Road, I noticed something which led serendipitously to my uncovering the outline of the tale of one Victorian Ladder developer.

Like many Ladder houses, this nearby double-fronted house had a name plaque added to each of the bays above the ground floor window. Since I've lived here, like the majority of similar plaques on the Ladder, they've always been just plain white. But, as you can see from the picture above, once the paint was stripped off, the builder could make out some text that had been filled with plaster. A little work revealed the words Stoke House. It meant nothing at first, but I felt fairly certain that its meaning only awaited discovery.

I thought I'd spend a few minutes on the internet to see if I could track it down. First I found the original occupant of the house, then I managed to link him to the house name. Then digging around in various archives, I was able to uncover the surprising tale of one of the builders of the Harringay Ladder.

As was the case with other Harringay builders whose stories I've uncovered, this is a tale of a young man who arrived in London with ne'er a penny and ended up doing very nicely thank you!

Our Ladder builder, Charles Peek was born in 1862 near Dartmouth in Devon. His father, William, was a builder. By 1881, aged 19, Charles had moved up to London with his older brother, Thomas. They boarded in a house in Warlock Road, Paddington. Both described themselves as plasterers, a trade they no doubt learned at their father's knee.

By 1884, Charles had married Mary/May (the records offer both alternatives) and she had given birth to their daughter Ethel. Five years later in 1891 they had moved to Harringay and were living at 10 Highfield Villas in Falkland Road. (The house was also known as Ethel Villa.  It subsequently became plain old 10 Falkland Road before being flattened by a doodlebug in WWII and being replaced by Fairland Park).

At this time Charles was still describing himself as a plasterer. His eyes were clearly on a more influential future however. In that same year, aged 29, he became a freemason.

By 1894 Charles was listed in the City Directory as a builder living  at 10 Falkland Road. Though strangely in the following year he was listed as a plasterer, then living at 95 Sydney Road. However, that was the same year that he started on the Hewitt Road house. So it looks like his building career was taking off at this point.  

He named the Hewitt house Stoke House, after his home village of Stoke Fleming, just outside Dartmouth. This seems like quite a personal name. So, it seems like he might have built it for himself. Records show him as resident there for the first few years after it was finished.

I assume that business was doing well at this time, well enough at least for Peek to start a civic career that was to last for the rest of his life. It started in 1895 when he successfully ran for election to the Hornsey School Board.

His association with the Ladder ended soon after this point. By 1898 he had moved out to Palmers Green and was listed in the City Directory at Palmerston House in Palmerston Road.

It is his trajectory after this point that surprises. Apparently, so rapid was his success as a builder, that three years later, in 1901, Peek aged 39 felt able to describe himself in the census as a Retired Builder.

At the start of the Twentieth Century, the Peeks moved to Park Villa on Green Lanes close to the Triangle in the centre of Palmers Green. They stayed there until 1910. Towards the end of that period, May grew increasingly ill and sadly died in 1909, aged just 50. She survived long enough, however, to see their daughter married in 1908 (and one assumes to benefit from the lifestyle that enabled Charles to describe his occupation in the marriage register as Gentleman).

Through this period Charles' civic career began to blossom. He swapped the Hornsey School Board for the New Southgate one, serving both on it and the Education Authority that replaced it. From 1901 to 1909 he was elected as the member for Southgate on the Edmonton Board of Guardians.2  From 1904 to 1909 he was Southgate's councillor on the Middlesex County Council.

Following his wife's death, Charles moved back home. He took up residence in a house called Deer Park in his home village of Stoke Fleming. 

At this point he became a full-time worthy and the notches on his civic belt moved up a pace. On 20th October 1910, his new life was launched when he was given the Freedom of the City of London. The following year, he became Mayor of Dartmouth until 1914. He was Mayor again from 1919 - 1921, in which year he retired. He then sat on Devon County Council from 1921 - 1925 and also became a Justice of the Peace.

Painting and photo of Peek as Mayor

Peek remarried in October 1913. He and his new wife, Lily Maude moved in to York House on the Dartmouth river front.  By the early Twenties, Charles' health had begun to fail. On December 11 1926, aged 66, he died whilst on a visit to Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. His estate was worth an amount equivalent today to millions of pounds.3  Lilly lived on until January 1967.

Such is the tale of one of the builders of the Harringay Ladder. Not bad for a country boy who arrived on London with not two pennies to rub together. I wonder how many of the Ladder builders did so well?

All the above is sourced from original research, mainly using primary documentation. 


  NOTES

  1. The biggest single development on the Ladder seems to have been 32 dwellings on Mattison Road for which planning permission was granted in 1895. However, this seems to have been exceptional since most applications were for a dozen houses or less; in some cases for only one or two houses.
  2. The function of Boards was to administer workhouses within a defined poor law union consisting of a group of parishes.
  3. His total estate was £22.000. The  Measuring Worth website  offers a range for today's value of perhaps between £1,225,000.00 and £10,950,000.00.

Tags for Forum Posts: victorian & edwardian builders made good

Views: 4511

Replies to This Discussion

What a splendid find.  As you know, my house was built by John Davis and the 1891 and 1901 census forms show him in residence. However, in 1911, Charles Tuckwood was in residence and among my deeds is an Indenture of Mortgage dated 16th May 1903 between Charles John Henry Tuckwood of 201 Wightman Road, Stroud Green, commercial traveller and Emily Louise Garraway of 82 Oakfield Road, Stroud Green, widow in respect of a loan of £400 to Tuckwood secured on the property of 201 Wightman Road (known as Abbotsford). It would seem from this that John Davis had sold the place at least three months before the article above.  Presumably the article would have mentioned it if Davis had died (he would have been only 49) so he must have moved somewhere else. If this is true, it is odd that the journalist didn't mention it.

If John Davis were alive and building houses today, we would call him a property developer. Perhaps he was just standing to split someone else's vote and got a nice puff piece written about himself in the paper by a friendly journalist to boot.

In the 1891 census under "profession or occupation" Davis is described as "Builder".  In 1901 this has changed to "Living on own means, formerly a builder".  In the 1881 census Davis and his wife were living at "10 Templeton Road, Islington" which is now I believe, Plimsoll Road N4. At that point, he was described as a carpenter aged 27.  They already had three children and a 15 year old live-in servant. In 1871, aged 17 and already a carpenter he was living with his widowed mother in Kennington.  In 1861, aged 8 he was living with his parents and four siblings in Tavistock where his father was a copper miner.  So he seems to have gone from simple origins in Devon via youthful skilled tradesman to man of independent means by the age of 47.  No doubt without the benefit of a university education.  Not quite the image conveyed by the term property developer today but quite a success story nonetheless.

I can beat that: Tony Pidgley.

Your a star Dick

I've just added another discussion reproducing a newspaper article from 1900. It's not about John Davis. But he figures in in as part of a deputation to Hornsey Council.

Great find! And yes, the context is fascinating too.

If he was a Mason that might explain an interest in civic an education administration 

Brilliant Hugh and all other contributors.  Have just read through again, my 3rd visit !!!

Absolutely fascinating Hugh,really enjoyed that article,more please.

in my soon to be published (by the Hornsey Historical Society), book on Hornsey’s Abyssinia (Hornsey Vale), l have a chapter on builders, which includes a detailed description of a fascinating newspaper, letters column catfight between a retired banker of Mountview Road, and builders who are also board members.

RSS

Advertising

© 2024   Created by Hugh.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service