Friends of Lordship Rec
Press Statement - 16.11.2008       

Historic Commemoration Ceremony in Lordship Rec for the 42+ Tottenham civilians killed in 2nd World War air-raid shelter tragedy
- Powerful speeches given by familes of victims and survivors, and reps from the emergency services
- Fund launched for a permanent memorial near the site***

At the end of Remembrance Week, on Sunday 16th November, over 70 people attended a unique special event in Lordship Rec from 1pm to 4pm. They gathered to commemorate for the first time the 42+ Tottenham Civilians killed by a direct hit on the 2nd World War 'Downhills' air-raid shelter in the Rec on 19th September 1940. It was the largest single death toll in Tottenham during the war, but had been largely forgotten and never commemorated, most of the victims having scandalously gone unrecorded. It is believed that 300 people had been in the shelter - most of them from streets around the Rec, and there were many more than 42 killed
. The 'Downhills' shelter was sited where Lordship Wood now stands, at the southern end of Lordship Recreation Ground (by the Downhills Park Road entrance), London N17 - the ceremony took place at this exact spot, 68 years on.

Those present at the ceremony included about 35 relatives of the victims, two of the survivors of the tragedy, and representatives of those organisations involved in the rescue and support for those in the shelter in 1940 - including the fire brigade, police, Council, Tottenham Hotspur (whose ground acted as the mortuary after the incident) and local churches. Many made powerful and emotional speeches during the ceremony
[see below].

The event was organised by the Friends of Lordship Rec, supported by the families who'd been traced. In particular, Friends member and local historian Ray Swain, had painstakingly researched the incident for many years in order to identify the names of many of those killed and the survivors, and to track down their families.

Proceedings began with commemorative bulb planting of over 400 bulbs in the recently enhanced woodland area close to where the tragedy took place. Ray had also organised a special history display about the shelter tragedy, about Lordship Rec and everyday life generally in Tottenham in that era.

The Commemoration Ceremony began at 2pm.  Ray Swain, for the Friends of Lordship Rec, explained the facts of the tragedy and the long effort to uncover the truth and make contact with those who lost loved ones. He also said that the Friends had recently completed work to enhance and improve the woodland area (a new path, creating glades, information boards etc) as part of the wider effort to regenerate the whole of Lordship Rec. Now was the time to remember and create a proper memorial to those who died in the tragedy.   Ron Nancarrow, a survivor of the bombing, was 15 years old at the time. Now as an 83 yr old he spoke about the horror of being trapped for hours in the rubble. Many of those around him were killed. He paid tribute to the emergency services. In the 1980s he had tried to investigate the incident but found that no records seem to exist. He tracked down some of the names of the victims. He later passed on this information to Ray Swain who'd launched a concerted effort to uncover the full details and to plan a memorial. A number of members of the families of victims also spoke very movingly about how this was the first chance they had had to talk publicly about the tragedy and to grieve together. They hoped that a permanent memorial could be created in Lordship Rec.   Cllr Alan Dobbie, Mayor of Haringey, thanked the victims families and the Friends of Lordship Rec for inviting him. He noted with sadness that fellow Councillor Fred Knight had passed away 2 days previously and would have wanted to be at the event too having supported its aims. He lamented that so many civilians have died and still die in wars around the world. He would do all he could to try to get access to the full records of the tragedy, and to ensure there would be a fitting memorial for them.   Inspector John Forde of the Metropolitan Police (Tottenham) was present with a number of colleagues to show their respects to all those who had died. He also noted with sadness that one of the victims was a police officer. He paid tribute to Inspector Ernest Newark who had played a major role in the rescue operation. Inspector Newark had also, only 2 years previously, been instrumental in setting up the historic and nationally unique children's Model Traffic Area in the Rec. His 90 yr old son, Patrick Newark, had hoped to attend the commemoration but was unable to due to ill health - but he had sent the first donation to the new Memorial Fund launched at this event [see details below].   John Thornton, Station Officer for the Tottenham Fire Brigade, was also there with colleagues. He explained that such a large scale disaster would have been a huge challenge for the emergency services, especially as in those days there would have been so few fire appliances and crews available. In fact local residents would have made up most of those involved in the rescue operation. It is a humbling thought, he said, that Tottenham people would have saved Tottenham people.   John Fennelly, Head of Publications for Tottenham Hotspur FC, explained that the football ground was used as a mortuary following the incident. It showed that the line between life and death was a thin one. He had published details of the event in a recent Spurs programme and felt that the club was an integral part of Tottenham's community history. He laid a wreath of flowers at the site.  Stephen Whittle, former Chair of the West Green Residents Association, explained that almost all the victims had lived in streets now covered by his association. He stated that when the association was set up 25 years ago there had been discussion about the incident, and he was very pleased that it was now being commemorated properly.   Dave Morris, for the Friends of Lordship Rec, announced that the Friends were launching a Fund to raise money towards building a new Memorial Bridge over the River Moselle - to be included in the extensive lottery-funded regeneration works planned for the Rec over the next 4 years. [Donations details below].  

Father Ken Evans, of St Philip's Church, Philip Lane then conducted a ceremony, including a prayer, a reading out of all the names of those who died, and two minute's silence.

Following this, many of those present, especially the families, planted further bulbs around the woodland, and wrote their thoughts in a special Book of Remembrance. 

"  This was the first time that relatives and local people had been able to come together to mark this tragic event that took so many lives in what was Tottenham's highest wartime death toll. We will continue to seek the identities of all those who died there, and to raise the funds for a permanent memorial in the park."
Ray Swain, local historian [Friendss of Lordship Rec]


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Collection of Photographs from the event

Top Left: Queenie Rawle     Top Right: Ron Nancarrow

Middle Left: Mayor (Cllr Alan Dobbie) and Speaker   Middle Right: Assembled visitors

Bottom Left: Father Ken Evans   Bottom Right: Condolence Book

We have set up a Memorial Fund to contribute towards a memorial to be created during the regeneration works in Lordship Recreation Ground in 2011/12. The plan is to help fund and dedicate a new memorial bridge over the Moselle River. All contributions welcome.

Cheques to Friends of Lordship (Memorial Fund)  c/o 14 Sandringham Rd, N22 6RB. Or bank transfer to: 60 24 23  7123 9375

More information from Friends of Lordship Rec: c/o / 0208 211 0916

POEM : We have also received a very moving poem written by one of the local residents of Tottenham with her view of the shelter tragedy

Click HERE to view the Poem


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