How did the ‘Harringay Ladder’ Roads Get Their Names?

This time, we follow a lively discussion from past HHS Newsletters led by John Hinshelwood about the origins of the names of the streets on the Harringay Ladder.  It’s never too late to join an historical discussion so if you have any further information please add a Comment at the end of this article.

John Hinshelwood wrote in July 2001:

There is a widespread belief that roads on the Haringey ‘ladder’ between Green Lanes and Wightman Road are named after famous military and or naval personalities. I decided to test this by reference to the Concise Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) to see if there was some pattern to the names of the 19 roads forming the rungs of the ‘ladder’. Only five roads could be connected with military/naval personalities mentioned in the DNB!

In HHS Bulletin 16 (1976) Olive Colebrook advanced another explanation; Hewitt Road was named after a doctor who was one of the men who initiated the development of the Haringey House estate in the 1890s. She had been told that Dr Hewitt was a member of a Masonic Lodge meeting in Hornsey which had decided to fund the development of the Haringey House estate to provide dwelling houses. As the roads were completed so they were named after one of the men who initiated the development. The estate was acquired and laid out by the British Land Company, the records of which were destroyed in the Second World War, so it is difficult to check the validity of the claim.

From my superficial survey of names there is a possibility that there could be another explanation. The Beaconsfield public house, standing at the bottom of the Green Lanes leg of the ‘Ladder’, is clearly a reference to Benjamin Disraeli and the names of Lothair and Endymion Roads taken from titles of two of his novels. John Burgoyne, dramatist, could have lent his name to the road of the same name. Henry James’ pseudonym, ‘Cavendish’, could be linked to Cavendish Road. Other literary connections can be made; Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh was a critic and essayist, Edward Fairfax, an author and translator and James Beresford, a writer. A Henry Pemberton was a physician and writer and a James Duckett a bookseller. None of this is conclusive, but it is at least as probable as the military/naval theory.

Follow-up

John followed up the responses to his request for information about the Harringay Ladder names in the September 2001 edition of the Newsletter:

Thanks to those who responded to my appeal for information on the naming of the ‘Ladder’ roads in the last Newsletter. I have also researched a bit more and consulted a little known 1930 manuscript in Hornsey Library, Thoroughfares in Hornsey and their Derivation by C.J.M. Sidey in which he attributes origins of road names in Hornsey.

Joy Tomkins tells me that her mother, now 103, who lived in Duckett Road until 1926, told her as a child that the name derived from Duckett’s Green, the piece of land now known as Duckett’s Common at Turnpike Lane. Sidey’s claim is that the name derives from Duckett’s Manor, demolished to make way for the Noel Park Estate in Wood Green.

Mrs Clark, whose mother lived in Umfreville Road, is of the belief that the road names were just the whim of someone on the council. This may be borne out by a report in the local paper that when Endymion Road was named in 1881 a Mr George Baker, who had a house on an unnamed road north of Finsbury Park, asked for it to be called Jesmond Road but the Local Board agreed with the owner of the road, a Mr Hambridge, and called it Endymion Road.

Brian Williamson, descendant of the owners of Williamson’s Potteries that used to be on the site where Sainsbury’s store now stands, told me that his teacher at South Harringay School taught that all the roads on the Ladder were named after admirals. According to Sidey’s notes only seven of the nineteen roads take the names of admirals, these being Raleigh, Frobisher, Effingham, Beresford, Hewitt, Seymour and Warham. Sidey’s listing offers no justification for the attributions but clearly it does not form the basis of any coherent system of naming, indeed there are three roads on the ‘ladder’ for which he offers no reason for their names.

In an attempt to examine Olive Colebrook’s assertion of a Masonic link with Hewitt Road, I had a discussion with the librarian at Freemason’s Hall. This revealed that there was a Masonic Lodge in Hornsey in the 1880s and 90s but no record to show if a Hewitt was a member. The list of Masters of Lodges showed that there were two masters named Hewett, but not in Hornsey. This does not rule out a mason called Hewitt being involved in the development of the road but it lends no support to the tale.

Aerial View of the Harringay Ladder, 1995
Aerial View of the Harringay Ladder, 1995

Further news

In the June 2004 Newsletter the speculation continued:

Readers may remember that some time ago I raised the question of why the roads in the Harringay Ladder had the names they did. Some recent discoveries may shed some light on the naming of Umfreville Road.

The name of William Umfreville appears in the 1750s amongst the list of men attending the Hornsey Vestry meetings in the church. A search on the Internet quickly revealed that William Umfreville (1708- 1770) was an Exigenter of the Court of Common Pleas and a member of the Inner Temple. He was last male heir of the branch of the Umfreville family of Stoke and Farnham Royal; his daughter Mary (b 1743) was to marry Edward Lake Pickering of the Exchequer Office.

Further research using the International Genealogical Index revealed that William Umfreville son of Edward Umfreville and Mary Osborne, married Mary Weld, in London, in 1739, and his daughter Mary was born at Farnham Royal. He married again in 1746, this time in Hornsey, to Elizabeth Camden (b 1721), daughter of William Camden, another name that appears frequently in the minutes of the Hornsey Vestry during the 1740s and 50s.  Obviously William Umfreville was an important person with close links to Hornsey but why his name should have been chosen in the 1890s to name the road remains unclear.

Further reading

John Hinshelwood’s book, How Harringay Happened : The Development of a North London Suburb, published in 2011 by the Harringay Food Festival Committee, can be purchased at the Old Schoolhouse or ordered online through this website once HHS Sales are up and running once more.

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