Civic Centre history - timeline

If you have been by the Civic Centre recently, you will have noticed the hoarding around the site. The timeline and imagery take you through history and learn about some of the events the building has seen.

To get us started, in summary, the building was designed in 1938, built between 1955-58, was Grade II listed in 2018, and early in 2020 it was vacated to allow for refurbishment.

Take a look through some of Haringey’s richest and most poignant history, all taking place in one very special building.

If you would like the text displayed on the Civic Centre hoardings in an accessible format, download this Word document (there are no images): Civic Centre hoardings text (Word, 16KB).

Civic Centre site pre-1955

The Civic Centre currently sits on the site of almhouses built in 1847, on a site to the north of St Michael’s Church, on the west side of Green Lanes/High Road, Wood Green. The institution was intended to benefit retired members of the Fishmongers’ and Poulterers’ Companies. Publicity material at the time, designed to raise funds, stated that the aim was to relieve “The accumulated misery of sickness and poverty… brought frequently to premature decay by constant exposure to wet and weather in catering for the pleasures of their wealthier fellow-citizens…”

From the collections and © Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive and Museum Service)

The building (seen above in c.1905) was designed in Tudor style by architects Alfred Mee and William Webb. There was a central turreted gateway and accommodation for twelve married couples. The almshouses opened in 1849, although lack of funds meant that some remained unoccupied in 1851. This impressive set of almshouses remained a Wood Green landmark until 1955, when it was demolished and replaced by the Wood Green Civic Centre in 1958 (now Haringey Civic Centre).

One couple who lived at these almshouses were John and Sarah Matthews. This photograph of them was taken on the occasion of their Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversary on 11 October 1928.

From the collections and © Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive and Museum Service).

John was a retired poulterer. It is assumed they are standing outside their own almshouse at number 8, where they had lived from the early 1920s. Sarah died in 1930, aged 87, and John died in 1936 at 91 years. Both are buried in Tottenham Cemetery.

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The Design and build

The architects - Sir John Brown, A.E. Henson and Partners - were the winners of a design competition held in 1938, but owing to the Second World War, the submitted design was never carried out.

The Civic Centre had work started in 1955 on the former site of the Fishmongers’ and Poulterers’ Almshouse and was intended to benefit retired members of the Fishmongers’ and Poulterers’ Companies.

It was completed in 1958 and the borough of Wood Green relocated their town hall to the former almshouses site, making it one of the most stylish town halls to appear in post-war Britain. The original plan was to build the Civic Centre in Woodside Park, on the site of George Meehan House.

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A working building - 1958 to 2020


1958 Wood Green Town Hall Council Chamber

1958 Wood Green Town Hall Council Chamber staircase


During 1964-65, the borough of Wood Green merged with Hornsey and Tottenham to become Haringey. Wood Green town hall then became the new Civic Centre - the last meeting of Wood Green Borough Council was held on 19 March 1965.

Allowing a voice for local issues and nationally important issues that have changed the nation’s history.

The last meeting of the Wood Green Borough Council on the 19 March 1965 in the Civic Centre Council Chamber in Wood Green before the creation of the London Borough of Haringey which came into being on 1 April 1965.

Back row: Councillors J.S Dowie, F.A.Rhodes, Mrs P.M Dines, E.V.Page, F.C Carnell, J McKenna, C.W.Ware, J.G Elkington, A.C. Findley, B.L. Greenaway, Mrs D.C. Findley, and Mr C.A. Patterson (Macebearer).

Middle row: Councillor R.A.Penton, Aldermen E.E.Nice, J.W.Barnett, Mrs Joyce Butler, MP, Mr G.W.Plater, (Town Clerk), His Worship the Mayor (Councillor M.Skuder, B.Sc, J.P.) the Deputy Mayor (Councillor Mrs L.A .Angell), Alderman R.G.Kendall, C.D. Moss, Councillors Victor Jary and L.F.Large.

Front row: Messrs D.F. Barker (Deputy Borough Engineer), A. B Stewart (Deputy Borough Treasurer), W.H.Woodham (Borough Librarian), D.J.Wickens (Deputy Town Clerk), R.W.H.Bliss MBE (Borough Treasurer), Dr J.R. Campbell (Medical Officer Of Health), Mr A.J.Rebbeck (Borough Engineer and Surveyor) and Dr M.C.Douglas (Deputy Medical Officer of Health).

Did you know?

There is a nuclear bunker under the Civic Centre? The original design included an escape tunnel under the High Road, but that was never built.

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In 1965 Alderman Mrs Joyce Butler, MP was elected chairman of Haringey Council. She was an eminent MP and was instrumental in introducing the Sex Discrimination Act in this country.

Alderman Mrs Joyce Butler, MP

Her correct title isn’t councillor but Alderman Mrs Joyce Butler, MP and she was elected chairman of Haringey Council (or the role known in the present day as The Leader).

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Bernie Grant elected leader first-ever black leader of a local authority in Europe.

Image of Bernie Grant photographed when he was elected leader - first-ever black leader of a local authority in Europe.

Grant had served for a decade of service as a local councillor in the London Borough of Haringey, of which he was elected Leader in 1985.

The exact date he was elected is cited as 30 April 1985. He was Leader until 1987 when he was elected MP for Tottenham.

Town twinning of London Borough of Haringey with the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica

Town twinning of London Borough of Haringey with the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica.

Marking the town twinning of London Borough of Haringey with the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica. Councillor Andreas Mikkides shakes hands with the mayor of Clarendon, holding the official town twinning certificates.

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Gay rights activists - Positive Images campaign in support of Haringey's gay and lesbian community.

The Lesbian and Gay Rights Demonstration outside the Civic Centre on 30 October 1986.

LGBT campaigning stepped up this year after the Positive Images group was formed. There was a Lesbian and Gay Rights campaign outside the Haringey Civic Centre in October 1986.

The Positive Images faction was at the Gay Rights Demo outside the Haringey Civic Centre in 1986. They were protesting against the implementation of Section 28, which banned local authorities from 'intentionally publishing homosexual publications with the intention of promoting homosexuality'.

Labour then won control of Haringey Council, with lesbian and gay equality part of the manifesto. The council’s Lesbian and Gay Unit was launched - the first of its kind in the country - to highlight the rights of LGBT people to council staff. Pioneering campaigner Femi Otitoju was part of the unit, which is now part of our equalities team.

A book called Jenny lives with Eric and Martin, which told the story of a girl living with her dad and his partner, was available to school children in Haringey. A group of local parents complained - sparking protests on the streets of Wood Green, for and against gay rights.

Then in 1987 Positive Images and Haringey Black Action organised the first UK demonstration ‘Smash the Backlash’ to highlight the stories of black lesbians and gay men. The demo went from Duckett’s Common to Bruce Castle Park via the Roundway in Tottenham. 3,500 people took part.

An Extraordinary Council Meeting on Education October 1986, led by Bernie Grant.

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Bruce Kent - peace campaigner, leader of CND and a Haringey resident - at the borough’s declaration of being a nuclear free zone, and the start of Bruce's 'One World Walk' of 1,000 miles. Bruce walked from Warsaw to Brussels in the summer of 1988. His sweatshirt was made for the walk (he still has it!).

Promo photo for Bruce’s 'One World Walk' of 1000 miles with Bernie Grant left, Sharon Grant second right and Bruce Kent right with other councillors.

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Raising the flag to Nelson Mandela with Mayor Cllr Andreas Mikkides 1986.

Did you know?

Haringey Civic Centre has been used for film and TV sets including season 3 of the Crown doubling up as The Middlesex Hospital and the Guardian offices in a 13-hour film shoot.

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Haringey Council challenges racism with a month of focus in March.

Haringey Anti-Apartheid Movement and support for Nelson Mandela.

The launch of the Haringey Challenges Racism Month in March 1990. The event took place at the Civic Centre, Wood Green. The photograph shows the platform with the mayor, Councillor Fred Knight, speaking. Tottenham MP Bernie Grant is second from the left.

Did you know?

The Listing Statement of the Building says: “It reflects the important influence of Scandinavian architecture in early post-war England and adopts its subtle qualities to achieve the sense of openness and modernity which define the aspirations of the post-war civic centre as a type."

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The Civic Centre was home to Electoral Services for around 40 years, supporting Haringey residents to vote in local, national and European elections.

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New council members.

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UK Citizenship Ceremonies begin to take place at the Civic Centre.

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In July the building becomes Grade II listed by Historic England.

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The Civic Centre is closed for safety reasons. The decision is taken to undertake a major refurbishment to take place at the Civic Centre.

With thanks to Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive and Museum Service), Bernie Grant Archive, and Henry Jacobs.

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Looking to the future

On 8 December 2020, the Council’s Cabinet made the decision to invest in a major restoration and refurbishment project to bring the Civic Centre back into active use as its main democratic hub. The refurbishment will provide modern, open civic and community areas,as well as new flexible office space.

Given its status as a Grade II Listed Building, the council is committed to ensuring the building doesn’t deteriorate further, and that it is well maintained into the future. The Cabinet agreed funding of £24m towards this project from 2020/21 to 2024/5, subject to the council’s budget setting process.

The design work will ensure that all the historically important features of the building and preserved and restored, and that the whole building is thoroughly modernised. One of the major objectives is to ensure that the building reflects the council’s commitment to tackling climate change, by making the building as close as possible to a Zero Carbon Building.

The refurbished building will be a modern, landmark Civic Centre that the whole borough can be proud of.

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Page last updated:

May 19, 2023