The origins of Summerhill Road in Tottenham, North London can be traced back to the 1850’s when it is believed it was developed as a sample street. This is evident by the architectural diversity of the houses that were constructed in the road, for you will find that no more than four houses of the same design are on this road. This helps make the road quite unique and it therefore attracts both students of architecture and architects who along with the general public have been known to take photographs of the various designs of houses in the road, many of which have existed for over 150 years.  

 Summerhill Road is situated in the West Green district of Tottenham between West Green Road and Philip Lane. West Green was first recorded as a place name in the 1619 map of Tottenham parish and was located in the south-western part between Tottenham High Road and Ducketts Green. A lane running from Tottenham High Road to Green Lanes was first called Black-Hope Lane but later changed to Black Up Lane, as it seems the original name was thought to bring bad luck. In recent years it has been renamed West Green Road although Black Boy Lane can still be found as a turning off the main road. By 1840 the Green had a hand-pump supplied from a fresh water spring and 18 houses with 90 inhabitants.

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 Mrs J.H Riddle, a novelist famous in her time, lived for many years in a large villa in the West Green area.  In one of her novels   “Above Suspicion”, written in about 1876 appears this description of West Green in around 1860:

 Sixteen years ago no more rural village could be found within 5 miles of the General Post Office in West Green’ It was utterly in the country as though situated a hundred miles from London, and by a natural consequence it was country in its ways, habits and manners….

The various lanes leading to it from Stamford Hill, Tottenham, Hornsey and Southgate, were rural, which they certainly are not now. In those days Philip Lane was not a street, with houses all along one side, as is the case at present. Neither had any buildings societies invaded the sacred quiet of the road, bordered by wheat fields and meadows, which led off to the Queens Head, then as pretty a roadside public house as the heart of a traveller need have desired to see – now re-fronted, re-decorated, provided with tea gardens and other modern innovations of a like description”.

 Prior to the construction of the Great Eastern Railway, Tottenham was known as a village and parish in the hundred of Edmonton, and was said to consist chiefly of one long street along the line of the road leading from London to Cambridge. Tottenham High Road, as we now know it, was built on the old Roman Road called Ermine Street. There was very little housing developed beyond the immediate vicinity of the High Road. In the Domesday-book is was written Toteham, said to be derived from the Saxon words Toten and Ham   and its adjunct from a high cross of wood, which formerly surmounted  the church tower which was visible from many miles around. The present cross which superseded the one of wood, is an octangular brick column first erected in 1600 and subsequently renovated in 1809.

 The population of Tottenham doubled between 1811 and 1851 and with further Railway development by the Northern and Eastern railway along the Lea Valley and the Great Northern Railway through Wood Green, it was set to increase even further. In the 1850s the population is said to have increased by four thousand and in the 1860s by ten thousand. The population of Tottenham doubled during the 1870s and reached nearly 100,00 by 1891 so that much of the area was built up with the patterns of roads and terraces surviving today.

 So from those sleepy beginnings and the explosion of the railways then Summerhill Road was born. It is evident that it was a very desirable place to live in those days. Early census records shows that the road was occupied by a large number of professional people and merchant’s, many with live-in servants, which indicates the prosperity and wealth in the area. No doubt this also helped support the many small businesses and shops that were established along West Green Road and indeed at the top end of Summerhill Road itself.

 Over the years the Road has witnessed many historical events and the majority of houses survived the bombing in World War II.  Needless to say there have also been many characters who have lived in the Road and many incidents that have occurred and been remembered over this time. Hopefully, with the help of photographs and the memories of its many residents, this internet site will serve as a lasting history of this very special road.

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