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A life in the day of a Tower Gardens resident

Charles Roberts

Tower Gardens Estate c1974 courtesy of Haringey Archives Department

About Charlie

Charles (Charlie) Roberts is the eldest of two boys. He moved to Tower Gardens in 1946 at the age of 12.

Awlfiend Avenue today

Charlie lived in Hoxton with his mother, brother and father. During the Second World War Charlie was evacuated. The family house was bombed during the war and Charlie’s father was injured during service. His mother had tuberculosis (TB) - quite a common illness during the war years which has virtually been eradicated over the last fifty years.

Many other families from Hoxton moved to the Tower Gardens and Tottenham areas due to the fact that bombs damaged a lot of the East End and City during the war.

Bombs did of course land in North London, apparently one dropped at the Roundway end of Awlfield Avenue on Tower Gardens and people were killed. Thankfully that appears to be the only one that fell on this area.

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Green fields and clean air

Tower Gardens was originally an area surrounded by green fields and farms – Broadwater Farm being one of the last farms in the area. It was for this reason that Charlie’s family were moved to Tower Gardens, as it was near green fields and the air was clean, which was supposed to help TB. Charlie’s brother was sent to boarding school as he was five years younger than him and had no mother at home as she was ill.

In later years Charlie used to say he had a home in the country as fields surrounded the area. Their home was in Gospatrick Road and was the original show house for the estate.

Tower Gardens Park today

Not long after moving to Tower Gardens Charlie’s mother was admitted to St. Anne’s hospital, which at the time was an isolation hospital that specialised in TB. During the time that his mother was ill Charlie used to cook dinner for his father, who then went off on his bicycle to see his wife in St. Anne’s. Sadly she remained in isolation for the rest of her life and died in the same year that Charlie married in 1957.

June, Charlie’s wife moved to the Tottenham area when her father bought a home for his wife and five children, their previous house was too small. Her father was a professional gambler who when he passed away had a funeral that had most of the gambling community turn out to pay their respects.

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A close community

Waltheof Gardens c1928 courtesy of Haringey Archives Department

Memories that come back to Charlie and June are of a very close community. Front garden competitions were a regular feature. Tower Gardens Park (the Little Rec) was the setting for school sports days – people were not normally permitted to walk on the grass. A barkeeper was a regular feature and 100 Tower Gardens Road used to be the rent office. You always knew who hadn’t paid their rent as their belongings would be stacked outside the house.

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Places to play

Lordship Rec housed a great cycle track for children to learn how to ride bicycles and learn road awareness; it used to have traffic lights and was almost a miniature road setting. Canoes, rowing boats and deck chairs were a common feature, a water feature running over stairs and a kiosk selling tea and coffee made the Big Rec an essential visit on a Saturday.

Lordship Recreation Ground today

Football has always been a feature in Tottenham, Rowland Hill School had their football pitches which backed onto the Big Rec - they had one of the best football teams in London, they won everything and had eight members of their football team play for Tottenham Boys and three members of their team playing for London Boys – needless to say Rowland Hill won everything. Dick Moss was the sports teacher at Rowland Hill and football coach for the school and used to do the scouting for Tottenham – rumour has it he’s still out there.

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Risley Avenue School, near Tower Gardens, was opened in 1913. St. Francis de Sales was another local school, which was a Catholic school.

Tower Gardens Estate c1974 courtesy of Haringey Archives Department

Charlie passed his 11+ which meant he could attend a Grammar school. There were two Grammar schools for boys in Tottenham; the Tottenham Grammar School near High Cross, and St. Ignatius at Stamford Hill. As he lived with his grandmother she said he should go to Rowland Hill School. This school opened in 1938 because of the development around Lordship Lane. The Grammar Schools had uniforms.

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Prefab housing

The junction of Tower Gardens Road and Balliol Road today

Most of the houses in the area had separate pantries which consisted of a cupboard with an air brick and thick stone shelf and tiled floor to keep things cool, fridges weren’t yet common place. All the houses had a butler sink which of course is now de rigeur for a ‘trendy’ property.

To get water for a bath you had to put wood into a burner, light the burner and pump it to get the water from the burner to the bathroom. June remembers doing this whilst heavily pregnant with one of her sons. After the burner people progressed to gas and then fully modern bathrooms which are a complete luxury in comparison.

The junction of Tower Gardens Road and Balliol Road  c1974 courtesy of Haringey Archives Department

Prefabricated houses were single story houses built specifically to house people short term when their homes were destroyed during the war. The local prefabs in this area were in Church Land and White Hart Lane (Mike Reid the comedian lived in one of the prefabs and went to Rowland Hill School). The prefabs were designed to be up for around two years, people liked them and the local ones were standing for 50 before being pulled down.

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Vibrant social life

In the Tower Gardens area was the Waltheof Club, this was situated were the William C Harvey Special Needs School is currently located in Waltheof Gardens, and was a popular local club that also had a football team.

Most of the people living in Tower Gardens were East End characters that had moved because of bomb damage in the East End, and professional people such as teachers, bank clerks and Police Chief Constables and Councillors.

The pub in Lordship Lane used to be a Sainsbury’s which had individual counters for each type of goods and used to pat their own butter at the dairy counter.

The lido just off Lordship Lane was an essential visit in good weather. This venue was also a main focus of the community with a restaurant and was a popular venue for weddings – the lido is no longer there but Lido Close has been named in its honour.

Tottenham High Road today

Tottenham High Road was a top spot for shopping and had really good quality shops. Such was the variety that you did not need to venture to other shopping areas like Wood Green. Tottenham High School for Girls was opposite the police station, next to the ‘Royal’ Dance Hall and the Palace Theatre.

Saturday nights cumulated in everyone in the area going to the Tottenham Royal in Tottenham High Road, which is sadly no longer there. With a feature revolving stage with two sides all the top bands played there and everyone seemed to meet their wife there – that venue has a lot to answer for but is also the place where Charlie and June met.

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