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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Birkbeck Road (site of Grove House), Hornsey c1905

Birkbeck Road is the last of the roads running south off Hornsey High Street before Middle Lane.

It was built on the site of Grove House. A loop of the New River used to cross the Grove House land where the road is now, before flowing on to run through the tea gardens of the Three Compasses.

The sale advertisement below from 1816 gives us some idea of what the estate was like when the house was still occupied.

Morning Post 15 July 1816

For the last twenty-five years or so that it was occupied as house, up to 1865, the occupant was retired wine merchant Henry Woods. He lived there with his wife and five children. He also employed three house maids, a cook and a gardener.

The house and its land was acquired by the Birkbeck Freehold Land Company and Birkbeck Road in 1865. Three years later, the house itself became Alexandra Park College, a boarding and day-school specialising in science and modern languages. The school survived until the early 1890s.

Middlesex Gazette Saturday 14 May 1892

In the meantime, behind it, Lightdoot Road and Birkbeck Road were laid out. Lightfoot Road was built up from the late 1860s and was completed by 1880. Birkbeck road was built up more slowly with the east side completed five years later. The mansion blocks on Birkbeck Road and Middle Lane were built in the 1890s.

Grove House Estate Plan, attributed with a date between circa 1840-1860 by National Archives. Contrary to the Victoria County History of Hornsey (1980) (and thus also the Horney Historical Society), the map suggests that Rectory Road and most of Holland Road were part of the Grove House estate and not the St Mary's estate.

Occupations of those residing in the houses above in 1891 included,

  • clerks
  • a coach-builder
  • an engineer's fitter
  • a pianoforte finisher
  • and an upholsterer

A short history of the Birkbeck land company, produced by Birkbeck College, is attached below.

Birkbeck Land Company.pdf

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Tags (All lower case. Use " " for multiple word tags): grove house estate
Albums: Historical Images of Hornsey | 2 of 2

Comment by Ken Stevens on February 26, 2021 at 8:09

I was intrigued by that advert for Alexandra Park College in Middle Lane, because on ebay is an old postcard of such an establishment but it's on too much of a gradient, methinks, to be in Middle Lane. Presuming a link, maybe the postcard image is of a previous or subsequent site? I did go GoogleEarthing around Alexandra Park Road and adjacent Muswell Hill roads. Various sloping possibilities but no property match spotted.

Comment by Hugh on February 26, 2021 at 8:31

Someone sent me that, Ken. I did much the same as you and found nothing. I’d originally wondered if it was the southern end of Hillfield Avenue, but in terms of architectural style, it's a good match for some of the roads directly to the north of Alexandra Park. (From the roof ridge, it looks like the far side of the house was flat at the time of the photo: I assume awaiting its neighbouring semi to be built).

It could have been the college’s new home after they left Grove House, but the building looks Edwardian to me. So the dates don’t quite tally. Also, I wonder if it’s a bit small. It would have been quite a reduction compared to the Middle Lane premises.

The college seems to have been quite a serious concern. It produced at least one science Nobel prize winner Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins - awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1929, with Christiaan Eijkman for the discovery of vitamins. He was President of the Royal Society from 1930 until 1935. His Certificate from the college is below.

Comment by Ken Stevens on February 26, 2021 at 9:09

Presume you meant Hillfield Ave, Hugh. Having virtually explored Hillside Avenue, the other side of Muswell Hill, I'm virtually exhausted ;-)    Looking at the present day view, it doesn't seem to stretch the imagineering too much to think that the arrowed property might have originally been the school. However, as you say, the architectural timeline doesn't seem to tally.

Comment by Ken Stevens on February 26, 2021 at 9:13

P.S. Maybe the image was of a "prep" dept rather than main school. Just musing.

Comment by Hugh on February 26, 2021 at 9:16

Yes, Hillfield (now corrected, thanks) - and I also meant some of the roads directly to the north of Alexandra Park, rather than some of the toads directly to the north of Alexandra Park!

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