Some recollections of West Green Road, South Tottenham, N15


These recollections relate to the period between approximately 1950 and 1970.

I lived with my father, mother and elder brother (David) at 169 West Green Road which is directly opposite the southern end of Summerhill Road. I was born in this house in 1947. Some of the people I will mention may still be around and living in the locations I will mention. I apologise in advance for unintended libel or misrepresentation. All of what follows is personal experience.
I will follow the Google Street View and work my way west and south in a somewhat meandering path from Lawrence Road.

On the east side corner of Lawrence Road and West Green Road was the Doll’s Hospital and Cooper’s barber shop. I never had use for a Doll’s Hospital but I did have my haircut in the barber’s shop on many occasions. I could perhaps write a critique of barber’s shops in this area of London.

My preference would be for Tony’s in Seven Sisters Road. This is probably because it was frequented by some of the Spurs players.

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Dolls Hospital & Cooper's Barber's

In fact, I remember Dave Mackay coming into the shop on crutches. In terms of “decorative artwork” I think Cooper’s was a cut above the others. Ron’s in Newsam Avenue gave you a very basic haircut but perhaps the ambience was not all it might have been.

One of my first memories of the area was when we came home from visiting my aunts and uncles in Haggerston, east London. We would walk home from either Seven Sisters station or the bus stop in the High Road. This would entail passing the Fountain Pub. One evening in the early fifties we passed the Fountain as usual on our way home. The old houses in West Green Road between the pub and Elmar Road were still there at that time. I believe these houses had been bombed out during the war. They were later replaced by the Turner Road flats. As we walked passed the houses we saw ahead something lying across the pavement in our path. It turned out to be a drunk who had left the Fountain and had not made it home. When we got home my Dad went back to find out if the drunk was OK.

It turned out that the drunk had gone in the wrong direction. Dad helped him to his feet and set him off in the right direction. My Dad almost never went in pubs and it was the first of many times I heard my father cursing drunkenness. He had good reason as his own father had died of cirrhosis of the liver. Later on Dave and I had to be careful on this matter. Dad could get very upset with anyone having too much to drink.

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The Fountain-West Green Road

The shops by the corner of Elmar Road were a focus for many of us who lived in the area. The corner shop was originally a laundry but later became a café. Next to the café stood the confectioners, the favourite shop for all the local children. Ice creams, ice lollies, frozen Jubblys, liquorice allsorts etc. were all sold there. On a Saturday evening my Dad would often buy some Walnut Whips. I remember Mr Cane who ran the shop in the early fifties and then it was taken over the Shaylers. After that there were several owners in quick succession. There was a couple running it at one time who were not married – shock horror!! After them there may have been a retired couple and then at some point the Messer family took it over. I think the lady was a widow with a teenage family. I think the boy’s name was David Messer and my friends and I would sometimes go with him to see Spurs play.

Finally, around 1966 the Messers moved on and the new owner was the son of the local undertaker who lived somewhere in the Downhills Park Road area. The owner (whose name I can’t recall) had recently been married (his wife’s name was Valerie I think). I became quite friendly with them as they were acquainted with a girl I knew who lived near Downhills Park Road. In the summer of 1967 I went away on a course at Crawley College and would often travel down on my Honda 50 on a Sunday evening from Tottenham. When I got to Crawley I would ring the owner of the confectioners shop to say I had arrived safely and he would convey the message to my parents. We did not have a phone at home

Next door to the confectioners was Marians, the greengrocers. I remember the greengrocers opening, but what was it before? The lady, Marian, was a redhead. Her husband went out very early to Convent Garden market each day. I think he was well versed in the trade. They had two boys both of whom were amateur boxers..

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The West Green ( Formerly the Railway Tavern)

Lastly, but most importantly, was Browns the grocers shop. I well remember the bacon slicer and cheese cutter. Errands I ran for my Mum were mostly to Browns and Marians. On a Friday night the Browns could be found in the pub (now the West Green Tavern) on the corner of Beaconsfield Road and West Green Road. The Brown’s shop was the fount of local gossip. One day, Mrs Brown came out of her shop and found me chatting to a girl who lived in Elmar Road.
I was a bit concerned when Mrs Brown jokingly threatened to tell my mother. But my mother had access to vastly superior “intelligence” from someone in Elmar Road. Mrs Brown’s “information” would actually have been well past its sell by date!

Next to the grocer’s shop was house number 159. A Mr Stapleton lived there. I think his wife may have been disabled. He often asked me how I was getting on with my studies. There had been a Mr Wright living at 161 who ran a car hire business and garaged his cars close by. I have no clear memory of him. However, the Harris family moved into 161 around 1957-58. The couple had three boys – John, Brian and Ian. I believe they had come from Scotland. John Harris was the same age as me and went to Seven Sisters Junior School. We became friends. John went to Downhills Central with me and we were in the same year group.

John and I often went to see Spurs play. Sometimes John’s Dad came along as well. My Dad was an Arsenal supporter. One day we were waiting for the bus at the High Road when a car drew up and offered us all a lift if we were able direct the driver (from Preston) to the ground and a parking area. It was the home game with Preston and Tom Finney was playing that day. We got to White Hart Lane pretty quickly on this occasion. Spurs beat Preston 5-3 and Tom Finney went off injured. We felt sorry for the chap from Preston. We were, of course, elated, but it was a pity not to see more of Tom Finney. On the way back, John’s Dad called into the Fountain and we found our way home down West Green Road.

After I went to Downhills I saw less of John as our paths diverged a bit. Sadly, John’s father died in the late 60s. I met John again a few years ago at one of the Downhills School reunions. Of course, he still supports Spurs.

The Peak family lived at number 163. There were two girls. Christine Peak was about 1 year older than me and went, like me, to Seven Sisters and then Downhills Central. Carol Peak was in the same class as me at Seven Sisters.

It was Christine who walked me to Downhills Central School on my first day in September 1959. After crossing Philip Lane she directed me up the side alleyway to the boys’ playground as she had to go through the Junior School playground to the girl’s playground for the Central school.

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Footpath to Downhills Central School

As I left her a friend from Seven Sisters arrived and asked me if Christine was my girl friend. I denied all knowledge of her!! Fortunately, he was more frightened of what might happen on his first day at senior school than I was. He forgot about my arrival with a girl, so I didn’t get teased. Christine got married while at West Green Road and became Christine Edwards. She has performed a great service in organising the Downhills Central School reunions over the last few years. I am still in touch with her.

The people who lived at 165 were not that well known to me. A couple and two older ladies lived there. I remember the man coming into our house once in the late 1960s to discuss something with my Dad. This “something” was the occupant of 167, Bill Chandler.

My mother had three main “bones of contention” about West Green Road and Bill was number one. He worked as a lorry driver for the Spong factory in Braemar Road. He was unmarried and in the 1950s the house was occupied by him, his mother and his aunt. The two ladies were well into their eighties by the mid 1950s and when they died in quick succession, Bill was left on his own. The garden was covered in bindweed and there was an Anderson shelter at the bottom. My Dad grew tomatoes in our garden and the flower beds were well tended. Although there was no antipathy between Bill and our family, in fact quite the opposite, my Mum didn’t like the way the garden had become a wilderness and the weeds were invading our garden. She was convinced that the Anderson shelter harboured vermin.

The house itself deteriorated on the inside and you could see that Bill was not in control. At some point Bill went into hospital and he asked my Dad to look after the house for a short time. My Dad was horrified when he went in and our suspicions were confirmed. This resulted in the meeting with the man at number 165. My Dad tackled Bill about the state of the house and he agreed to sort it out. Later on Bill divided the house and let the top floor and lived in the rooms downstairs. The garden remained a wilderness and the Anderson Shelter stayed but things improved inside.

I liked Bill, although he was a bit quirky. He once bought a motor cycle and sidecar. I saw him arrive at 167 on it and park it on his front drive. He placed a tarpaulin over it to protect it from the elements. The motor cycle and sidecar stayed there unused for a very long time afterwards. My Dad and Bill used to meet up at the newsstand just outside Cooper’s on a Saturday evening to buy a paper for the football results. My friend sold papers there as a Saturday job. He was in the 133rd London Boys’ Brigade based at Black Boy Lane with me. He also went to Downhills Central and was in the year above me. He regarded Bill as something of a “character”. My old friend is now a vicar and I guess meeting Bill was good early training. Our family occupied the lower floor at 169 West Green Road. The upper floor was occupied by my uncle Sid, aunt Ada and my cousin John who was a few months younger than me. Sid was my father’s younger brother and Ada my mother’s younger sister. It was a case of two brothers marrying two sisters. They all moved to the house probably in early 1941. Sid was in the RAF at the time. He was a keen photographer. My brother was born in November 1940 at East Haddon in Northamptonshire. My mother had been evacuated there to a Maternity unit established for London women. She saw the bombing of Coventry from afar.

My father had worked for Aladdin industries in Greenford Middlesex. He then moved to the British Electrical Resistance Company (BERCO) in Ponders End that made electrical transformers and other related products.

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Practical Wireless magazine 1957

My father had an interest in everything electrical and regularly bought Practical Wireless and Practical Television magazines. He made a radio and also attempted to make a television but he got slightly frightened by the EHT voltages and gave up. I think he may have witnessed an industrial accident at BERCO where someone was electrocuted. Anyway, this resulted in a cupboard full of valves, capacitors, coils and resistors. With the magazines this sparked (no pun intended) my interest in all things technical and scientific that has lasted a lifetime and provided me with a career
In the early 1950s Dad kept chickens in the back garden as many people did to supplement their diet during rationing. I remember that the house had an old kitchen range but this was replaced with a small fireplace. Dad swore by oil heaters and we had two, one of which was an Aladdin to the old cylindrical design.
Mum was an outworker for Mr Simmons who ran a small clothing workshop on the corner of Summerhill Road, directly opposite our house. The workshop was in a section of the upper floor of the McBirnie’s house that they let out. Mum also worked for a time at the laundry in St Ann’s Road. My Mum’s second “bone of contention”, shared by many, many others was the removal, in the war, of the iron railings which were never replaced.

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Mr McBirnie's House - Mr Simmons workshop was on the upper floor

The lack of iron railings at the front was significant because the north wind blows down Summerhill Road and there are no buildings to deflect or impede it. It could get very cold in our front room. The consequence was that the front of the house weathered very quickly. Numbers 169 and 171 always looked more weathered than the other houses on that side of West Green Road. They still do today. I suspect the iron railings might have helped to consolidate the hedge and help protect the appearance of the house.

Our next door neighbours at 171 were the Walsh family who were downstairs and the Sears couple who were upstairs. The Walsh’s had a daughter Pat who was bit younger than Dave and a son Michael who was a year older than me. At some point my mother “fell out” with Mrs Walsh but this lasted only 15 years! What brought it to an end was the fact I started to go to Spurs with John Harris along with Michael Walsh and his friend Kenny Holmes from Turner Avenue. Michael went to St Ann’s School. The Sears had no children as far as I am aware. Mr Sears worked as a locksmith for the Council. He installed a deadlock mortice in our front door after the house was broken into.

The Green’s lived at 173 and as far as I remember they had no children living with them. The Chapman’s lived at 175 and I came into contact with the younger Chapman, Raymond, when he joined the 133rd Boys’ Brigade. Somewhere in this section of the road lived a spinster lady called “Annie”. She was a bit eccentric. She often called at our house to talk to my mum about “things” she had noticed, usually utterly trivial. My Mum got a bit wary when she seemed to be developing an interest in Bill Chandler. My cousin John and I fell about laughing when we heard this one.

Further down the road were the Bromleys. Dennis Bromley, the son, worked at the Enfield small arms factory and I believe that he has received an MBE for long service. His sister, Sylvia helped with running the Life Boy section of the 133rd Boys’ Brigade. They may still live at the same address.

Further still down this section of West Green Road, before you get to Avenue Road, lived the Sandersons (Ken and Joyce?). They had a son who joined the 133rd Boys’ Brigade. Ken became an officer in the BB. My Dad and Ken got on well because Ken was salesman for a paintbrush manufacturer and my father had worked in this industry when he left school.

There were two bachelor brothers living in this section who were the window cleaners. Somewhere along this section were the Burgess family (Richard went to Downhills Central), the Ely (Healy?) family – Brian had been a friend of Dave’s, and Johnny Beesley, who, although younger than us, latched onto Micky Walsh and Kenny Holmes.
At this point we cross over West Green Road on the Zebra crossing, but this did not exist in the 50s and 60s. This was Mum’s third “bone of contention” as the lack of crossing made it impossible for Dave and I to go to Downhills Junior School which she preferred to Seven Sisters Junior School. When the crossing finally appeared just before we left the area my Mum was not amused.

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J. E Green's Builders Merchants

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West Green Baptist Church - Today

On the north side of West Green Road, opposite Avenue Road was Green’s the hardware store. This was where we purchased the paraffin for the oil heaters. It sold Esso Blue or was it Aladdin Pink? This store would have been the ideal location for the famous two Ronnies’ “fork handles” sketch. Walking back east we reach Dorset Road and the Baptist Church.

I knew a few people who lived in Dorset Road. Firstly was my school friend from Downhills Central, Derek “Jim” Finn. Derek had a younger sister, Janet, and she married Peter Hill who had been in my class at Seven Sisters. I met Peter a few years ago at a Seven Sisters reunion and he told me that Derek was still living in Dorset Road and Derek’s parents were still alive. The Summerhill Road web site photo album has pictures that include Derek.

Another friend who lived in Dorset Road was a boy called Raymond. Again I think there are pictures of him on the web-site. My mother got a little concerned because she knew he was a bit of a tearaway, but I was never that aware of it when I knew him. Some years later after all the stories of his misdemeanours had died down my Mum said that his Mum had told her that Raymond had met a girl and everything was now sweetness and light. I saw Raymond sometime after this and he confirmed that this was the case. It all seems a bit like that Harry Enfield character!

A youth club operated from the Baptist Church and I knew some of the girls who attended it, but I can’t remember their names. The 2nd Tottenham Boys’ Brigade operated from the church and I knew Clive Hall who attended it. He was at Downhills Central in the year above me.

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Boys Brigade - West Green Baptist

Between 1960 and 1964, I did a paper round and also collected the money from their houses on a Saturday morning. There was a lady customer in Dorset Road who came to the door in her night clothes! Phew!! My fellow paper boys warned me about this. I thought they had been pulling my leg.
The local policeman also lived in Dorset Road. His name was Weymouth I think.

Next to the Baptist Church in West Green Road was Pattersons the Builders. My brother came into contact in the 1980s with a chap who married one of the Patterson daughters. I have also met a number of people who have a connection to West Green Road.

The most significant of these was our neighbour when my wife and I first moved to Suffolk. Olive Hopwood (nee Denny) was the daughter of the man who ran the Dairy in the 1930s in West Green Road opposite Ducketts Common near Green lanes. She was born in the flat above the shop in the 1920s or 30s.

Moving back towards Summerhill Road we would find the Car “Showroom”. Was this Mc Birnie’s business? He employed a salesman whose son was a friend of mine at Downhills Central. His name was Peter Grimes and he remembers when he and his father collected wood from cutting back the Elm trees which bordered Mc Birnie’s property. They sold the wood for fire kindling.

If we now cross back over West Green Road and make our way to Elmar Road we come to the houses that backed on to the houses in West Green Road. Elmar Road was a quiet street the south side of which backed on to the railway from Seven Sisters to Palace Gates. Backing on to our house was Mr and Mrs Penny in Elmar Road. I remember them as a very nice couple who were always very friendly to me.

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Seven Sisters Junction - The line to Palace Gates( Left) would back on to houses in Elmar Road

I remember visiting them in 1963-64 after I had been on a cruise with the School to Vigo, Casablanca and Lisbon. I showed them all my photographs. They were very kind people. Next door to them lived a widow, Mrs Sitton. My mother frequently chatted to her and she was the superior “intelligence” I referred to earlier. She knew a lot of people in Elmar Road. Mrs Sitton was a nice, kind old lady.

Further along Elmar Road lived my friends Jeff and Doug Stephenson. I think they lived at number 50. Jeff was slightly older than me and his brother Doug a few years younger. I still see them both from time to time. Jeff’s second wife, Sara, is an aunt of Johnny Wilkinson the rugby player. Jeff and Sara live in Norfolk. Jeff ran the 133rd Boys’ Brigade football team which I played in. He was very patient with us – he had to be! Jeff once mentioned to me something about the Elmar Road ladies knitting circle which his mother belonged to. He may have been joking but perhaps it was run by Mrs Sitton. His brother Doug worked at Stansted airport. Patrick Dodd, who was in my class at Downhills, lived a bit further along the same side of Elmar Road and it was he who got me a job as a paper boy at Fishers in Avenue Road.

On the other side of Elmar Road lived a girl I was friendly with – Christine. Christine was in the year above me at Downhills Central and we became friends as a result of my playing the trumpet in the School Orchestra and her playing the violin. We played together in the School’s production of HMS Pinafore in 1964 when I was in the fifth form. Her mother helped out at the Boys Brigade on Friday evenings and she came along with her. Christine and I used to go out cycling together.

Crossing over the bridge in Avenue Road brings you to Seaford Road. On the right hand side there were shops one of which was the newsagents Fishers. This was the shop from which I did the paper round.

At first the round was Seaford Road and the Ida Road flats, Rosslyn Road and Avenue Road. I then got a round which included Higham Road, Downhills Park Road and the flats in Philip Lane. I did this round in the very bad winter of 1962-63. I needed a bike. So I took my brother’s old bike and cleaned it up and made it serviceable. I got the parts from Matthews in West Green Road. The owner was Margaret Pott’s father. She was in my class at Seven Sisters and Downhills Central and met up with at a couple of the reunions a few years ago.

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Philip Lane - Greyhound Road

The bad winter of 1963 - Not the time to be a Paper Boy

This round was much better as the bag was lighter and at Christmas they were better tippers! On Saturday morning I collected the money from all over the area that the paper shop served. It was these part-time jobs that funded the cruise trip with the school in 1963. I remember that it cost £39. My parents would not have been able to afford to send me, but Dad did give me some pocket money for the trip.
Mr and Mrs Fisher who owned the paper shop were from the Rhondda Valley and he had been a miner. I assume that they bought the business as a result of a payout resulting from him contracting pneumoconiosis. He was often ill and had a bad cough. They had a married son who lived in Seaford Road and he was a policeman. The Fishers were a very nice couple and were always kind to me, but I got teased about Christine from Elmar Road!
Further down Avenue Road towards St Ann’s Church there was a Chinese family- the Woo Sams. Patrick was in my class at Downhills and his older brother Hubert was at Downhills also. Patrick Woo Sam has a claim to fame as he was one of the children in the film “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”. Patrick had time off school to attend the filming of some of the scenes.

Briefly returning to West Green Road and heading west from the corner with Avenue Road we reach some of the bigger houses. One of these was Dunhill the dentist. His son was my chemistry teacher at Downhills and I personally found him inspirational as I had a strong liking for science subjects.

There are other people I can remember from the area. Harry was a man who came around the houses selling grocery and other items from a basket he carried with him. I believe Harry was a veteran of WW1 and suffered from shell-shock. There was another man I used to see on a bike in West Green Road who wobbled from side to side a lot. I always thought him to be another shell-shock victim. There was also the Peanut Vendor at the Spurs ground who seemed to suffer from the same affliction. One of the boys who played in the band at the 133rd Boys’ Brigade went on to be a professional musician. He was probably the only one from the band to do so.

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'Harry' the Seafood man in later years

His name was Derek “Ginger” Roll and he was a drummer (and very good too). He went to Downhills Central and was in the year above me. He played with a group called The Riot Squad which featured at the Swan Public House in Tottenham. I think they had a top ten hit. He was in Davis Bowie’s band for a time. I saw Derek briefly a few years ago and he is a “roady” and runs a trucking company.

There was a clergyman (Congregationalist?) from whom I used to collected the paper money on a Saturday morning. Actually it was his wife who paid! They lived in Downhills Park Road. He had been an outspoken opponent of race prejudice and got a lot of pavement graffiti outside his house for his pains. I can’t remember or find his name. I think he wrote a book about it all.
I am in contact with a second cousin who lived in Clonmell Road just by St Phillip’s church. She lives in North Norfolk now. She’s the daughter of my mother’s cousin. We have both been doing family history research.

Although I haven’t been back to Tottenham for many years now I still keep in contact with old friends from the time I lived there. My three sons are Spurs supporters so I’ve done something right in their upbringing!

Ray Hooper                                       May 2010

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