Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Model Village, built in Finsbury Park in the 1940s.

The village was built by a retiree called Edgar Wilson, a man of "humble circumstances". Wilson was a hobbyist who built this sculpture, along with at least two others, in his "little garden" at 70 Hamilton Road, West Norwood, south London. He donated the largest of the four villages to Melbourne, and gave the others to Vauxhall Park, Finsbury Park and Brockwell Park in London. (The model houses in Vauxhall Park were largely rebuilt in 2000-01, and Brockwell Park has just two badly damaged cottages that lie forgotten near a bush inside the park.)



Andrew Patience, whose company did the restoration work to Melbourne's village, says Wilson used found objects such as bits of brick, coloured glass, ceramics, lead and other materials to make his houses. He thinks Wilson most likely collected his materials from London bomb sites during the blitz; during the restoration process, he found Wilson's signature in the roof of one of the cottages, along with the date November 5, 1945. Wilson would have been 75 at the time the inscription was made.

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Tags (All lower case. Use " " for multiple word tags): model village
Albums: Historical Images of Harringay's Finsbury Park

Comment by StephenBln on April 8, 2008 at 13:46
In my day, there was a low fence around the village, but it looks as though it wasn't always there?
There was also a little stream running through the village, as well as bridges. The paths, grass and hedges were always neatly trimmed... BTW, I think the village was called Otford??
Comment by StephenBln on April 30, 2008 at 15:59
I saw this photo this photo on flickr and thought it might be of interest.
Comment by Hugh on April 30, 2008 at 16:04
Thanks for pointing that out Steve - from the redoubtable Paul Wood stable. Glad to see that he's already added it to the Harringay online Flick group.
Comment by Liz on April 30, 2008 at 16:40
Whereabouts was this in the Park?
Comment by Hugh on May 21, 2008 at 13:33
How's this Steve, from Australia's The Age:

According to the archives, the village was built by a retiree called Edgar Wilson, a man of "humble circumstances". Wilson was a hobbyist who built this sculpture, along with at least two others, in his "little garden" at 70 Hamilton Road, West Norwood, south London. He donated the largest of the four villages to Melbourne, and gave the others to Vauxhall Park, Finsbury Park and Brockwell Park in London. (The model houses in Vauxhall Park were largely rebuilt in 2000-01, and Brockwell Park has just two badly damaged cottages that lie forgotten near a bush inside the park. There is a suggestion that there was also a village in Finsbury Park, north London, but if so it is long gone.)

Andrew Patience, whose company did the restoration work to Melbourne's village, says Wilson used found objects such as bits of brick, coloured glass, ceramics, lead and other materials to make his houses. He thinks Wilson most likely collected his materials from London bomb sites during the blitz; during the restoration process, he found Wilson's signature in the roof of one of the cottages, along with the date November 5, 1945. Wilson would have been 75 at the time the inscription was made.

"It looks to me like Wilson must have had some sort of trade background," Patience says. "Although the work is naive and clumsy, some of it is fairly complicated. But what I really got was a deep sense of the man himself. It's obvious that he'd put his heart and soul into it."
Comment by Roy aka Smiffy on April 4, 2009 at 17:12
StephenBln's memory is correct.
I remember a low fence around the village and a stream and bridges too.
Comment by Hugh on April 4, 2009 at 18:59
Grief, Anne, they come from so many sources, to be honest I don't remember the provenance of this particular one.
Comment by StephenBln on September 13, 2009 at 20:28
Typical I'd say - How comes Brockwell & Vauxhall Parks managed to keep theirs 'unvandalised'..?

I suspect some of the vandalism came from those in charge of the park, unwilling to pay for and work on keeping the village in good condition..
Another Harringay 'gem' lost.. Here again, for those too lazy to scroll is Paul's 1968 fabulous colour shot .
The Model Village had a mystical feel to it and was a magnet for young kids. I'm sure that would still be the case if it was still there.
Comment by Geoff Dent on February 24, 2012 at 18:15

Thank you Hugh, clearly my site searching skills need some honing!  And thank you everybody for all the info re the model village - I was wondering if I'd imagined it as it was such a long while ago!  Sadly it did not look like the picture when I saw the site - I'm surprised they didn't replace it with a model tower block......

Comment by Hugh Hayes on February 1, 2013 at 12:13

The details of the inscription about the model village being made and donated by someone from the LCC architecture's office I took from Patricia Levy's oral memories. Subsequently I have found out from a copy of a letter written on Wilson Edgar's behalf (he couldn't write himself due to a bomblast injury) in the possession of Carmella Ferraro (a journalist in Melbourne) that Wilson only built three villages. According to this article:  www.vauxhallpark.org.uk/modelvillage.pdf, the Vauxhall Park village was part of the Brockwell Park village which had 1943 marked on the houses. So the likelihood is that the original three villages were in Brockwell Park, Finsbury Park and Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne. The houses weren't just made of concrete - they had lead strengthening and were very carefully constructed. Wilson was a retired engineer apparently so I have no idea why he was working for the LCC's architecture office. This may be incorrect or maybe during the war a man in his seventies would still be working as part of the war effort, as younger men would be called up. It is also odd that he couldn't write due to his injury, but could build these villages. Maybe he had built them all before he was wounded.

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