Crouch End is situated at the junction of several ancient routes. One comes up from Islington over Crouch Hill and the other from Holloway over Crouch End Hill.
After meeting at Crouch End Broadway they divide, with one going north along Park Road (formerly Maynard Street) following the old pilgrim route to the holy well in Muswell Hill and the other going along Tottenham Lane to the parish church in Hornsey High Street and then onwards to Tottenham.
The wooden cross
A wooden cross (Latin ‘crux’) stood at the junction of these roads, where the Clock Tower now stands, and the tiny settlement is probably so named as a result. The name first appears in records in 1465 as Crouche End. Surviving documentation from medieval times is predominately about land ownership because this was an area of cultivation and farmsteads.
Crouch End was part of the land owned by the medieval bishops of London in their role as Lord of the Manor of Hornsey. To the east of the crossroad was the sub-manor of Topsfield, mentioned in records as early as 1066. It passed from the Bishop of London’s hand into those of Stephen Maynard in the 14th century.
Further east lay the sub-manor of Farnfields, recorded in 1175. The name survives in Ferme Park Road. To the west of the crossroad was Rowledge Farm, the home farm of the bishops of London, which was being cultivated by 1318. There was much common land around on which the peasants of Crouch End could graze their animals.
Residences of the rich
From the 17th century on there was a school opposite the corner of Tottenham Lane and Middle Lane called Crouch End Academy. Further up there were houses on the west side of Crouch End Hill which abutted on Rowledge Farm, including The White Hart Inn which became The King’s Head sometime between1798 and 1812. There were also the weekend residences of the rich who worked in the City.
In the centre of the hamlet lay Old Crouch Hall (now Bank Buildings), owned by the Booths of gin fame. John Gillyat Booth built himself a grand mansion on the other side of the road in the early 1820s. The Booths leased Topsfield Hall and Rowledge Farm for a period of time. From 1853, Henry Weston Elder a wealthy bristle merchant in the City owned Topsfield Hall.
In 1856 Rowledge Farm was divided between the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (managers of Church lands) and Charles Scrase Dickens who owned land in Crouch End and on Muswell Hill. He was to give the land in 1861 on which Christ Church was built.
The railway and change
Change came with the opening of railway stations on Crouch Hill and Crouch End Hill in 1867-8. Building accelerated in the 1880s when the Imperial Property Development Company purchased large amounts of land from the Crouch Hall Estate, by now owned by ‘Colonel’ William Bird, and from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Old Crouch Hall and Lindslade House were demolished and replaced with Bank Buildings and other shops.
In 1884 Crouch Hall was pulled down and houses constructed in Crouch Hall Road and other new roads around. The company sold building plots to speculative builders who could only afford to build a few houses at time. There were boom and bust times in the building trade with financial difficulties in the mid-1880s. As a result the company could not afford to buy all of Rowledge Farm from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and so it remained fields. These became Crouch End Playing Fields.
Henry Weston Elder of Topsfield Hall died in 1882 and his widow Sarah and son Henry Hugh accelerated their selling of land between Middle Lane and Park Road to builders. Sarah Elder died in 1892 and the rest of the Topsfield Hall Estate was sold two years later. It was bought by James Edmondson, who developed the west side of the estate including Topsfield Parade, and by John Cathles Hill who built the shopping parades and streets on the east side.
Crouch End was transformed with a resulting large increase in population. By 1890 the late Victorian shopping centre, dominated by J H Wilson’s department store, had become the main centre of Hornsey eclipsing the old village by the parish church.
Crouch End further reading
Eleri Rowlands, Crouch End Four Walks, Hornsey Historical Society, 2015
Janet Owen & John Hinshelwood, A Vision of Middlesex The North Middlesex Photographic Society’s Survey & Record of Middlesex, Hornsey Historical Society, 2011, 64 – 71
Janet Owen, John Farrer The Man who changed Hornsey, Hornsey Historical Society, 2009
Edwin Monk, Memories of Hornsey, 3rd edition 2005, 11- 12
Peter Barber, Gin and Hell Fire, Hornsey Historical Society, 2004
Joan Schwitzer, Crouch End Clock Tower, Hornsey Historical Society, revised edition 2002
Bridget Cherry, Civic Pride in Hornsey The Town Hall and its surrounding buildings, Hornsey Historical Society, revised 2006
Ken Gay, Hornsey and Crouch End The Archive Photograph Series, Chalford Publishing Co., 1998
Joan Schwitzer (editor), People and Places, Hornsey Historical Society, 1996, 14 – 37
Ben Travers, The Book of Crouch End, Barracuda Books Ltd., 1990