Another in our series on Church buildings which have changed their function.
This small but distinctive building in Tottenham Lane, Crouch End N8, is easily missed, squeezed between the blocks of apartments towering on either side of it. But this unusual building has stood here, its exterior appearance virtually unchanged, for nearly 110 years. So, what is its history?
The building’s castellated appearance says much about its original purpose. This was constructed as a citadel, a mighty fortress for the Lord, occupied by the soldiers of Christ – Salvation Army soldiers. William Booth (1829-1912), founder of The Salvation Army, previously a Methodist preacher, built his organisation on the Christian principle of service to one’s neighbours, particularly the outcasts of society, the poor and the homeless. This was a War against Want and Ignorance of the Word of God and Booth’s soldiers wore uniforms and carried military ranks, as they still do today. Booth was, of course, the General.
Land was purchased in the name of William Booth by the Salvation Army and the Citadel built on the site of Lightcliffe House, home of Ernest Hindley, son-in-law of Henry Reader Williams, often called ‘The Father of Hornsey’, a member of the Hornsey Local Board from 1873 and its Chairman 1884-94. Crouch End’s Clock Tower was erected in recognition of Williams’s services to the Hornsey area with him attending its opening ceremony in 1895.
Four foundation stones were embedded in the front wall of the emerging Citadel on 21st September 1912 inscribed with the names of the Deputy Mayor and an Alderman of the Borough of Hornsey, the Salvation Army British Commissioner and of Silas Kitto Hocking, a Cornish Methodist preacher who lived in Avenue Road, Crouch End, at the time. Hocking (1850-1935) wrote ‘pulp Methodism’ novels and was a national celebrity – the only author to sell over a million books in his lifetime. Most probably, he preached in the new Citadel when it was completed.
‘Blood and Fire’
The Citadel’s exterior architectural style and sturdiness has managed to survive its changing fortunes. Built of red brick (the blood of Christ) with a castellated frontage fortified with two towers and menacing ‘lances’ on top, ready to put all Evils to flight, it has a wide central door encased in a stone pointed arch. It is the interior which was to be radically altered.
For many years this space would have been the scene, on several days of the week not only Sundays, of Bible readings, prayers and energetic hymn singing with everyone of all backgrounds and social status, or none, welcomed to share in the lively worship which took place within the walls. Only four years after the building was dedicated Adjutant England set off for the Western Front to serve as a British Army chaplain.
The HHS Archive holds several programmes of Salvation Army concerts in Alexandra Palace and, as the postcard shows, the Citadel had a brass band with which to ‘wake up to the Call’ the people of Crouch End.
Standing secure whilst all around changes
Alfred Braddock’s photograph of the Citadel and the surrounding buildings in Tottenham Lane was taken c.1913. As in all Braddock’s photographs he has assembled the locals to authenticate the scene. The same view of Tottenham Lane was photographed in 1989 and again this year (2022) with the change in surrounding buildings over the years very evident. The Citadel building is now dwarfed by the apartment buildings on either side (that on the right of the photograph having been the home for many years of the Hornsey Journal).
The Citadel losses its original purpose
The Salvation Army moved on to spread the Word in other areas and the Citadel was put up for sale. The Hustler Snooker Club occupied the building in the 1970s and 80s followed by a succession of occupiers. It was, by definition, a community building though General Booth must have ‘turned in his grave’ when the interior space became the home of bars such as Cheekee Monkeez and Bar Rocca.
The inscriptions on the four foundation stones were obliterated by black paint and more recent attempts at restoring them have been only partially successful. In 2007 the Music Palace bar took up residence which played host to a range of live entertainment, including music and a monthly Boom Tish! comedy night. No doubt the exterior quirkiness of the building has helped preserve it; though small, it stands out amongst the blandness of modern brick and double-glazed windows.
The final incarnation, to date, came in 2013 with an application to Haringey Council from a creative team who wished to have a boutique independent cinema in the building. They stated that it would be funded by, ‘local individuals who are enthusiastic members of the local community and patrons of the arts, and added, ‘the change of use from a nightclub to a cinema/theatre will bring a welcome regeneration to a part of Tottenham Lane that has been neglected in recent years. It would provide a much-needed local amenity that will cater for young and old alike, providing a diverse programme for Crouch End’s local community and schools.’
And so it has proved to be. The two-screen cinema shows a wide variety of films including National Theatre Live productions. There is also a café/bar on the premises which can be patronised by those not using the cinema facilities. Local residents can become members with special film showings and other benefits. I think that General Booth’s spirit can rest easy.
From a place of Christian worship and social action through to being a Music Palace for dancing and revelry, then the Hustler Snooker Club and now a two screen cinema, the ArtHouse.
Hornsey Historical Society