Tower Gardens – Tottenham’s Garden Suburb

The junction of Tower Gardens Road and Balliol Road today


Background: The ‘Garden City’

Tower Gardens in the White Hart Lane is our own ‘Garden City’ in Haringey.

The Garden City Association was founded in 1899. Letchworth became the first British Garden City with land purchased in 1903 by Association members. This was followed by Welwyn Garden City in 1919.

Before 1909 planning was covered by local bye-laws only and was chaotic.

Greenbelt and ‘zoning’ developed and wide avenues containing public and shopping spaces, including allotment gardens which helped to bridge the gap between town and country.

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Tower Gardens - White Hart Lane Estate

The Donor: Samuel Montagu

  • The £10,000 to purchase Tower Gardens donated by Samuel Montagu (Montagu Samuel) 1832-1911 – First Baron Swaythling. Liberal MP for Whitechapel.
  • He founded Montagu Samuel Bank in 1853 and the Federation of Synagogues. The donation tied to re-settlement of Jewish inhabitants of the East End. H. Samuel the jeweller was a cousin.

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The Organiser: London County Council

  • Established in 1889
  • 1890 Housing of the Working Classes Act – new powers to create homes to relieve overcrowding in the inner cities
  • Totterdown Fields Estate, Tooting 1901-1911
  • Old Oak Estate, Acton 1901-1914
  • Norbury Estate, Croydon, 1901-1921
  • White Hart Lane Estate, Tottenham 1901-1915
  • 1910 began construction of County Hall
  • 1919 continued with 8 new cottage style estates – ‘Homes fit for Heroes’.

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The Architect - W.E.Riley

  • Architect William Edward Riley (1852-1937), Chief Architect, LCC Architects Department. Member of the Art Workers Guild, founded in 1884 by leading lights in the Arts and Crafts movement, still based in Bloomsbury. Opposed the professionalism of architecture by RIBA.
  • Up to 30 assistants including the likes of Robert Lorimer, Percy Nobbs, Owen Fleming, succeeded by George Topham Forrest.

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The Arts and Crafts Movement

  • Inspired by the writings of John Ruskin, the work of William Morris etc.

Search for authentic styles in the 19th century, a reaction to machine production. Promoted idea that art and craft were the same thing and that decorative arts are not higher than applied arts.

  • Extremely various and mingled with other stylistic trends. Aesthetic movement (e.g. Muswell Hill) and the Queen Anne revival were contemporary. There are borrowed medieval motifs, and 18th century motifs.
  • In America became ‘Mission Style’ – Frank Lloyd Wright, etc.

Scotland’s Charles Rennie MacKintosh more evocative of Art Nouveau.

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Materials, detail and style

  • London stock brick in yellow and red, lime mortar.
  • Roughcast tile roofs and Westmorland slate roofs – contrast to Welsh slate.
  • Contrasting sash windows in varying styles, and some casement windows.
  • Dramatic chimney stacks, indicative of Arts and Crafts style, evoked Elizabethan period.
  • Steep pitched roofs, white rendering on walls, exposed wood work with wooden pegs, lack of symmetry, windows of greatly varying size, including some very small. ‘Letchworth butterfly’ angle roof junctions.

Phases of construction:

  • First phase between Tower Gardens Road and Risley Avenue completed before 1910.
  • 1914-15 extended up to The Roundway and continued beyond it through the 1920s. Topham Square added in 1920s.
  • Later sections owe less to the Arts and Crafts movement and become progressively more standardised.

Original tree planting:

  • Hawthorns, Limes, Planes, Sycamores, Privet hedges;

False acacia or black locust – Appalachian tree first introduced in 1630s, eulogised by William Cobbett ‘The English Gardener’ as the perfect tree. English specimens relatively stunted.

  • Other trees planted over the years, a mixture of native and exotic.

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Some street names

  • Siward, Gospatrick, and Waltheof - all Anglo-Saxon Earls of Northumbria, Waltheof receiving Huntingdon in 1065 as well and Tottenham with it. Maud, Waltheof’s daughter, married David of Scotland and thus began the Scots connection.
  • 1238 - Robert de Quincey was lord of the manor
  • 13th century - Hugh Kevelioc Earl of Chester lord of the manor
  • 1254 - Tottenham divided into three sub-manors – for the families of Bruce, Balliol, and Pembroke.
  • 1334 - Sir William Daubeney lord of one of these divisions
  • Richard Spigurnell another division
  • The London draper Cumberton inherited another division
  • 1427 - John Gedeney reunited manor as one unit
  • 1462 - Richard Turnaunt lord of the manor
  • 1507 - Sir John Risley lord of the manor. Awlfield, a farm by the parish church 16th Century
  • 1536 - George Henningham died and established almshouses in Tottenham.
  • 20th century – George Topham Forrest,  LCC architect

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Legal Protection of the Estate’s Character

  • Conservation Area created in 1978 – most of the area within The Roundway and Lordship Lane.
  • Conservation Area consent is necessary for building works and tree felling.
  • 1980 Right to Buy legislation was passed.
  • 1981 Direction under Article 4 Town and Country Planning Act covers the southern rectangle between Risley Avenue and Tower Gardens Road – the area built before 1910.
  • English Heritage assisted LBH in drawing up the Article 4 directions.
  • Article 4 controls alterations to specific features. These include:
    • Original doors and windows, masonry paint, roof outlines and roofing material in suitable tile or slate, chimney stacks and chimney pots, lime mortar, roughcast facades, gutters and down pipes, hard standings, footpaths, fences, gates, hedges, gardens, extensions and external clutter – e.g. meter boxes.
  • Peabody Estate given Article 4 protection in 2007, one hundred years after the estate was constructed. There are 154 cottages.
  • Other local authorities are struggling to maintain the quality and homogeneity of similar estates in the face of unsympathetic alterations.
  • Conservation Area legislation faces opposition from some parts of local and national government. It is not comparable to Listing as a means of protection.

Information supplied by Matthew Bradby, Tottenham Civic Society.

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Page last updated:

December 27, 2019