How Did the Victorians Do That? – Markfield Beam Engine

This weekend is the start of the Open House Festival. Usually this would be the annual Open House London Weekend where architecture and design – both new and old – and our built-heritage of special, unique and unusual buildings all around London are admired and celebrated. This year it cannot be the same as in previous years so the team at Open House have drawn together what is possible to do safely this year to find out about our glorious architecture in London. For Haringey, Open House have compiled a little self-guided itinerary around some parts of north Tottenham.

For this weekend, with what promises to be good weather, there are some other additions that you can see locally – firstly, a self-guided Tower Gardens Walk of the 20th Century Cottage Garden Suburb in north Tottenham; and secondly, Markfield Beam Engine and Museum in south Tottenham. The volunteers at MBEAM will be ready to welcome visitors and you can find out even more by following the link here.

And here’s a little bit of history to tempt you about the wonderful example of Victorian technology – the beam engine at Markfield Park:

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

Close to the River Lea, the Victorian water and sewage pumping station for Tottenham and Wood Green operated on this site from 1864 for the next 100 years. From 1888, Markfield’s beam engine worked to transfer sewage from Tottenham to the Beckton treatment works in east London.

Today, the building – with its filter beds and the original surviving beam engine housed in Engine House No.2 – has been a museum since 1970. It is recognised as a Site of Industrial Heritage Interest and importance for Haringey, and is classed as a Grade II listed building in the UK. It is a unique reminder of the remarkable success of Victorian engineering and technology.

The Markfield Beam Engine is a particular design of stationary steam engine. Beam engines were often used to power pumps on canals and to drain water from mines. This engine was built between 1886 and 1888 by Wood Brothers of Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire. It is believed to be the last engine produced by this firm and the only surviving eight-column engine in its original location. There are few engines and buildings of this type left in this country.

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

“ Hornsey’s Rain Brings Tottenham’s Pain”

Why was the Markfield sewage works and pumping station built there?

To find the answer we need to look at the availability of water and the ground beneath our feet. We are not often aware of the ‘rocks’ far underground, as London is a built-up area with lots of people living here. We do not always notice the hills and valleys. Nor do we realise there are rivers and streams that still flow through London.


In the west of the borough of Haringey there are the Northern Heights – the hills of Highgate, Muswell Hill and Alexandra Palace. These areas of high ground stand on hard rock about 100 metres above sea level. Tottenham, in the east of the borough, lies on lower and softer ground of sand and gravels. These shapes in the landscape were formed millions of years ago during the Ice Age, when glaciers carved their way through these high rocks, leaving the gravel behind them.


The streams of the Moselle and the Stonebridge Brook bubble up from these western hills, and flow eastwards down towards the valley of the River Lea in Tottenham. You might not know these streams exist today as over 100 years ago they were diverted underground. Any Tottenham history book tells stories complaining about its severe flooding following heavy rain on the Northern Heights. The streams would swell and overflow down towards Tottenham. This happened so frequently that a local proverb arose:


“When Tottenham Wood is all afire

Tottenham Street is all but mire.”

Historian Fred Fisk recalled the terrible thunderstorm and flooding in Tottenham of 1878. It is said one of Mr Gripper’s sons (the family ran the Bell Brewery on Tottenham High Road) amused himself by rowing up and down the flooded street in a boat, taking passengers at 6d each and giving the money to the Tottenham Hospital.

A different part of the borough from Tottenham High Road, but Green Lanes, Harringay was also an area that was prone to flooding with these scenes dating from 1907.

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

Going Down the Pan: Sanitation and the Spread of Disease

Flooding and overflowing water was not the only problem for Tottenham residents. Over the 19th century, Haringey’s population increased dramatically. In 1801, 3,622 people lived in Tottenham. By 1871 it was 22,869. The coming of the railways in 1872 brought better transport. Along with advances in Victorian technology and the open fields ripe for development, this attracted more industries and businesses to Tottenham. People came too, choosing to live and work here instead of the cramped City. In 1881 residents numbered 46,441. By 1911, Tottenham’s population rose to 137,457.


With more people moving to Haringey, there was a high demand for clean water – and an increase in dirty waste. Unlike today, few households – if any – had running water and washing facilities. Families were often poor, with several families living in the same house. No one had a flushing toilet inside their home. Instead, natural streams were used as open drains and sewers to dispose of household waste and sewage. All this foul water flowed from the hills down to the River Lea.


With polluted water supplies and no way to separate sewage from drinking water, there was an increased risk of the spread of disease. In the 1830s Tottenham was warned of the threat of a breakout of the water-spreading disease cholera. The survival rate was low. In 1831-32 the first of three cholera epidemics took 6,356 lives throughout London.

By 1858 central London was hit by the ‘Great Stink’ ( you can listen to this short film here about it) – the smell of sewage from the polluted Thames. Government responded and entrusted the engineer Joseph Bazalgette to reorganise London’s drainage and sewage system. He introduced a system of sewers, pumping stations and treatment works that still serve London today.


To help improve the public’s health, Government had already passed an Act in 1848. Using this law, Tottenham Local Board of Health was amongst the first to set up a public water supply and sewage disposal system.

The Sewage Works

The Tottenham and Wood Green sewage treatment works and pumping station were established at the Markfield Road site, opening in 1864. It was built to treat and transfer sewage from Tottenham into the London system for treatment at the Beckton works in east London. It first used a 45 horse-powered steam engine.

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

The problem of contaminated water in Tottenham was so bad that in 1866 the Local Board of Health took legal action to ban their neighbouring authority – the Hornsey Parish – from allowing sewers and drains to empty into the Moselle stream. A report followed in 1867 from Bazalgette:

“The Parish of Hornsey is without any distinct system of drainage. It is drained as Tottenham used to be, partly into cess pools and partly into the ditches and natural watercourses, where the sewage matter stagnates and creates a great nuisance. The sanitary requirements of the place render resort to some effectual system imperative., but disposal of sewage by the natural fall of the country is rendered impossible, in consequence of the Injunction against the Tottenham Local Board of Health, restraining the further pollution of the River Lea into which the sewage of Hornsey would ultimately find its way by natural gravitation … “

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

The beam engine began operating at Markfield on 12 July 1888. Following public outcry over the pollution of the River Lea, a more powerful steam engine was needed to increase capacity for sewage disposal. The beam engine was used until 1905 when it was left on standby duty for pumping storm water.

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

All sewage treatment works were built with filter beds to purify processed water. These were invaluable for improving the water’s quality, by filtering it through sand and gravels. You can see these filter beds today at Markfield – the high concrete structures are just outside the building.


It is hard to imagine what it was like for workers carrying out daily tasks at this Victorian pumping station. The boiler house would have been poorly lit, noisy, extremely hot and steamy. The two mechanics (who lived in work cottages on site) kept the fires going for the pumping engines. It was hard work and very dirty, shovelling coal or wood to stoke the fire. There were always work hazards in keeping the machines running. Accidents could easily happen.

From old photographs of the sewage works, there were once two chimneys on site. The chimneys were essential for dealing with excess steam produced by the beam engine.

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

By the late 1950s the site was too small to cope with new changes for treating sewage. A modern treatment works was built at Edmonton. By 1964 – a hundred years since it first opened – all sewers were diverted from the Tottenham site to the new East Middlesex Works. The Markfield Works closed.

Inspecting a sewer

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

Tottenham Borough Council’s rat catchers baiting the drains, 1950s

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


The Age Of The Machine  Markfield’s Beam Engine

Victorian Design

The engine houses and the beam engine were built for a specific function and are prime examples of the best of Victorian advances in technology of the industrial revolution. The architects also took great care in their designs following the “only the best” attitude of Victorian local authorities. The exterior shows an eye for detail, with elegant, classical-style door and window casements, influenced from grand Georgian town houses.


Engineer designers Wood Brothers of Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, also incorporated ornate details of classical buildings in creating the ironwork for Markfield’s beam engine. The eight supporting columns are made of hollow cast-iron, following the simple Doric style seen on ancient Greek temples. The remaining structure is decorated with acanthus leaves.

Its original colours were dark green, with all exposed metalwork highly polished and oiled.

Victorian Industrial Technology

The ‘beam’ engine is a type of stationary steam engine with an upright piston rod attached to a rocker or ‘beam’. The beam stands 17 feet high and measures 21 feet long. It drove the piston rods into two cylinder pumps. The pressure was kept steady with the 27-foot wide rotating flywheel, weighing 17 tons. The beam engine is rated at 100 horsepower, capable of moving four million gallons a day.

How Did the Victorians Do That?

The steam engine is one of the most important inventions in modern technology. It is probably only second to the discovery of the wheel. So how does it work?

The engine is operated using hot steam generated from a boiler. A steam engine is a type of ‘combustion engine’ where fuel is burned outside the engine. Wood or coal was burnt in a boiler, heating water to boiling point to make steam. To power the engine it is necessary to control the pressure of the steam produced. This pressure powers the pistons located inside a cylinder. The piston connects to a ‘beam’ that converts this energy into motion.

The process used by the beam engine is called the ‘double-expansion compound system’. That means steam is first let into a high pressure cylinder where it uses half its pressure before moving into the next low pressure cylinder to do further work. This was an efficient system as it allowed the smooth running of the engine with minimal use of fuel.

To see and listen to a few sights and sounds of the Markfield beam engine in action, then do check out these two very short films here and also here. You can even follow a 23 minute presentation (set to music!) all about the technology of the beam engine at Markfield, here.

But it hasn’t always been like this. After many years of engine inactivity, it was on Open House Weekend in 2009 that saw the inaugural steaming again of Markfield Beam Engine, following a Heritage Lottery Funded restoration project for Markfield Park led by Haringey Council (Parks Department and supported by Bruce Castle Museum, and Friends of Markfield Park). None of the restoration project on the beam engine would have been possible of course without the fabulous dedicated team of volunteers from MBEAM who still support and maintain the museum and the beam engine. That same year the MBEAM volunteers won their category at the first London Volunteers in Museums Award ceremony on HMS Belfast, nominated by us at Bruce Castle Museum. It was great seeing museums around London coming together to celebrate with them – and eleven years on the volunteers are still doing wonders with this masterpiece of Victorian engineering in Tottenham.

So, if you can this weekend, do show your support for Markfield Beam Engine and Museum – even if viewing from afar. And if you can’t visit, then do save it up for visiting at a later date – it is well worth a visit.


Deborah Hedgecock

A Lad called Bobby

Welcome to Weekend Wonder: A Lad called Bobby – sharing our heritage from Bruce Castle Museum & Archive.

With the return of the new Premier League football season for 2020/21 starting today on Saturday, September 12, we thought we would look back to the origins of the local premier football team, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, and a new book that has recently been published.

In mid-July the eagerly awaited publication of The authorised biographyBobby Buckle: Spurs Founder and First Captain by Christopher South finally arrived on people’s doormats through the post. And, as a declared non-football fan, I can certainly say that this is a most welcome, delightful, well-researched and very interesting read for both fans and non-fans alike. The story focusses on the local lad, Bobby Buckle (1868-1959) who, as the title indicates, was one of the groups of boys who founded what was to become Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

The book uses previously unseen archives from the Buckle family, Spurs and, of course, Bruce Castle Museum as it skilfully weaves together the local history, the school history with football history. It relies on family reminiscences handed down through the Buckle family alongside those of Ken Barker and Christopher South, the grandsons of Bobby’s lifelong friend Samuel South, and to marry these up with original primary sources. And no founding story about THFC would be without the almost legendary tale of the boys meeting under the lamp-post in Tottenham with their youthful idea to play football – becoming the staple of any Hotspur narrative. However, it must be remembered this is not a history of the Club but the first biography of one of the most important key players of its foundation. The life-story of Bobby Buckle and his contribution to Spurs’ history has been overlooked – until now.


Without revealing too much from the book about Bobby Buckle’s story, instead we thought we would draw on a few items from our collections that look at that early period of history for Tottenham Hotspur and Bobby. First off, here is a 1950s re-telling of the lamp-post story, as printed in the Gestetner Head Office News magazine, beautifully designed and produced by Gestetner’s factory in Broad Lane:

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

For any Gestetner employees who were Spurs fans, we are sure they would have been delighted to read this back in the ‘50s. But for any eagle-eyed readers today who know, there are some errors or omissions in this version of the story. In 1882 when this event described above actually happened, Bobby Buckle, for one, was 13 years old. And we know at that age he was attending Tottenham Grammar School. A good point about the new Bobby Buckle book is that it provides the forensics to this story and attempts to iron out the errors where they have crept in and are a little wrinkly (like the above).

Below is the entry for Bobby Buckle as a pupil in the Tottenham Grammar School Admissions Register. It was 1881 when he started there at the age of 12.

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

Clearly, visual evidence is lacking from this early period which might have shown, for example, what the matches might have looked like. The Gestetner Head Office News narrative (above) was great for filling in such gaps, providing us with imagined views of how things may have been. In this illustration below, an artist has interpreted the scene of spectators crammed into an old wagon to watch a match, presumably when the football team played on Tottenham Marshes. This basic ‘spectator stand’ would have helped get some height over the proceedings (and a far cry from the stands we have all come to know in the growth of football stadium).

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

Oh dear! Although the footballs used at the time might not have been reliable, there are plenty of contemporary football commentaries in the local newspapers that can be relied upon (usually) and help us in the recording of the scores or providing fuller write-ups of their games, such as the one below.

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

From the school admission register above, you will have noticed that the address given for the Buckle family in 1881 was White Cottage, White Hart Lane. It remained the family home for many years and Bobby himself was living there until 1901, as you can see in the Census of 1901 below when he was listed as aged 32 and a solicitor’s clerk:

The Grade II listed house White Cottage still stands today at 7 White Hart Lane near the corner of Tottenham High Road. With its façade recently restored under the North Tottenham Townscape Heritage Initiative, it has been the focus in the past few years to get more recognition for Bobby Buckle with a Blue Plaque. You can read more about the campaign here.


The year 1901, when the Census was taken, was also significant for Bobby Buckle. He got married to Ethel Brown, he moved away from Tottenham and his beloved Spurs won the FA Cup (you can watch this short film compilation here, which includes contemporary footage of this classic match).

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

You can of course read more about all this by actually getting the book (details here)! Or you can also hear Bobby Buckle’s grandson Michael Mackman talking on a Spurs podcast (45 minutes) about White Cottage, the Blue Plaque campaign and the importance of writing the book all about his grandfather – you can click to listen here:  ‘The First Spurs Legend’.


We will generate a little more temptation to see the book’s content (or indeed the podcast above) by showing the photograph below of Trafalgar House (seen in 1900), which was once the home of Joshua Pedley, a prominent lawyer and important local philanthropist who was very heavily involved in public life in Tottenham (some of you may already know about him buying Bruce Castle and its grounds in 1890 – his photographic portrait was given to the Museum and is on show in the galleries). Pedley played a significant role in the Buckle family’s life, and without this one might question if the emergence of the football team and the Club might ever have happened.

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

A few last notes. The author Christopher South, as you can tell by his name, is from the family who ran South & Sons potteries along White Hart Lane. We have already heard in previous posts during lockdown from Ken Barker, another South family member, and his wonderful contributions about the potteries and also his family connections with the football club – he was also part of the research team in writing the book. And finally, this book would not have happened if it was not for Philip Nyman, Arthur Evans and Barry Middleton who all went to Tottenham Grammar School, like Bobby before them, and who generated the campaign for the plaque for Bobby as well as tirelessly finding essential references in documents at Bruce Castle to bring the biography together and published. Joining up with Michael Mackman, Bobby’s grandson, the book is testimony to great teamwork to make something happen – we imagine not dissimilar to the vision of those young lads like Bobby who wanted to play football as a team in 1882.

Enjoy the new football season and the weekend.

Take care, keep to those socially-distanced rules and stay safe and well

Best wishes from us all at Bruce Castle

Deborah Hedgecock


Pedal Power in Haringey

During what would have been the second week of the Olympic Games 2020, we continue to look at aspects of our local sporting heritage and find out about those who have cycled to success in the past.

From its invention in 1817 through to the modern day, the bicycle and cycling has been a huge attraction for many residents, as competitors and spectators.

A few weeks back – in our previous post on Pedal Power in Haringey (part 2) – we learnt about the Victorian amateur cycling champion, James Linzell (1831-1922) who lived in Tottenham and had won many cups for his cycling achievements – all on a Penny Farthing! In 1878, he rode his Penny Farthing in a long-distance race from Tottenham to Exeter.

This high-wheeler cycling contraption was extremely popular during the 1870s and 80. The Penny Farthing not only looked eccentric but also Victorian spectators could have fun watching eccentricities with Penny Farthings racing. One such event was the one seen below – the ‘Bicycle v. Horse Match’ between cyclist H. D. Stanton and Mr MacDonald’s horse ‘Lady Flora’, held on London’s only racecourse at Alexandra Palace in July 1875. Looks like hard work for Stanton – he was beaten by the horse in the race by 40 seconds …

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

Not far away from Alexandra Palace, Wood Green once had its own cycling track and athletics ground. From 1895 to 1900 – when cycling continued to be very much all the rage – the North London Cycling and Athletic Grounds were on the south side of Bounds Green Road. Opening on 7 June 1895, the grounds was on the site of the former grand house and estate of Nightingale Hall and covered 10 acres, in the area now occupied by Braemar Avenue, Northcott Avenue and Bounds Green Road. It was 500 yards in circumference. There was a roofed grandstand for 1,500 visitors and another uncovered stand for 300. In all, around 10,000 spectators could be accommodated.


With the nearby racecourse and other sporting facilities at Alexandra Palace, Wood Green was a great centre of excellence for sporting events in Victorian North London. In 1895 the cycling track saw a 24-hour marathon race for professional cyclists. These three photographs of the event (below) takes in two views of cyclists ready for the start. The third shows spectators on the edge of their seats, watching an unusual shot of three cyclists on the same cycling machine. (A three-person bike is apparently called a Tandem Bicycle. A bike that has two or more people on it is referred to as ‘Tandem’ because of the formation of it, not because of the number of riders. Although, a bike with three people riding it is also referred to as a ‘triples’ or ‘triplets.’)

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

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

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

The next year, in 1896, there was the first Ladies’ Cycling Race in England (against France) on an outdoor track. The grounds closed down in 1900 as the land was sold off for the new housing developments off Bounds Green Road.

And just a little further away, the renowned Finsbury Park Cycling Club (originally known as the Ferme Park Bicycle Club) was established in Finsbury Park, in 1883. It has been in continuous existence ever since. A full and illustrated history can be found on the Club’s website. The Club came about – just like others around the country – as more and more Victorians had become interested in cycling and racing. Below is a group portrait of some of the first Club members in 1887, posing with their Penny Farthings in the gardens of the Manor House Tavern that overlooked Finsbury Park. The photographs shown here are part of a significant collection of the Finsbury Park Cycling Club archive at Bruce Castle Museum.

The Finsbury Park Cycling Club in 1887, with names identified on the reverse of the photograph as:

From left to right, standing – P.L. Breysig; H. Trounce; X; X; Sam Parkinson; H. Beckett; – Dicker; W.L. Poole; Don Crose; and Percy Driver leaning on the Penny Farthing. From left to right seated: A. Quatermain; F.W.Harrow; H. Johnson; L.J. Bayley; Alf Jacob; and Percy Spencer.

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

Tom Moore, a top rider of the Finsbury Park Cycling Club

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

With the ‘new’ motor cars on the roads during the Victorian period, the early position for cyclists being on the road wasn’t certain. In July 1878 Parliament had come very close to passing an amendment of the Highways Act which would have banned cyclists from riding on the road. The position of cycle racing on the roads was still less certain. Cycling clubs in the 1880s – although cycling on quiet country roads – were constantly interrupted by the police. By 1890 the National Cyclists’ Union took the decision to ban racing on public roads, fearing the government might ban not just racing cyclists but all cycling. Races were therefore held often in secret, with ‘codes’ used between clubs to arrange ‘meets’. Great sport was had by racers and the police who tried to catch them in the act of ‘riding furiously’. Races up against the watch became common as cyclists started racing at one minute intervals to disguise their true activity. Thus, the British Time Trial was born with Finsbury Park CC in the vanguard of the movement.


One cyclist Jack Lauterwasser (1904-2003), joined his local club at Finsbury Park and became a bike pioneer and an Olympic legend. Jack (pictured below) believed the hours whilst working on deliveries on his grocer’s bike had put iron in his legs: “I really was a novice, a greenhorn who knew nothing,” he would later remember, “but in my first season I progressed to being Club champ and winning some good time-trials.” A member of FPCC for over 79 years, Jack was a double medal winner at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. His Olympic success was the team silver medal won by Britain in the 168km road race.

The Finsbury Park CC may well have moved on from its origins with cycling on Penny Farthings, but in 1953 the Club travelled back in time with this delightful little film by British Pathé when members took to riding vintage cycles in full costume!

Today, Finsbury Park CC is a very progressive club with the interests of all cyclists very much at its core. Members take part in most branches of cycling and are active in the promotion of races and the management of the sport at local and district levels.

From the steampunk look of the Victorian Penny Farthings and the handle-bar moustaches of their riders, let us jump in time to the build up to the London 2012 Games in London. Although Haringey did not have any venues or Olympians for cycling in 2012, there were connections with the Cultural Olympiad when Haringey’s cycling heritage inspired community art engagement, working with Haringey-based artist Philip Diggle. Known for being part of the politically-charged Punk movement of the late 1970s and painting on stage with his musician brother in the Punk band the Buzzcocks, we knew we might have a lot on our hands with Phil …. literally his hands-on style of working either with his secondary school students or with us at the Tottenham Community Festival in 2010, the artwork created was a release of energy, a performance using a ‘found’ old bicycle to cycle through the riot of colour and paint on the long canvas on the floor. It was a lot of fun as you can imagine …

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

The paint-stained bicycle lived to tell the tale and was itself recycled into another community art project, inspired by bicycles – this time in 2011 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain. Back in 1951, cyclists from Wood Green decorated their bicycles with flowers for a floral bike parade. That was re-enacted in 2011 at the South Bank Centre with the community art floral bike we had made earlier as inspiration as the centre of attention with more and more hand-made flowers added to it…..

From the collections of Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive and Museum Service). © Photographer: Rehan Jamil

And a couple of other films just to end this post for today, with very different cycling events held at Alexandra Palace – the first is The International Cyclo-Cross event held on a damp Sunday in December 1973 (won by the British Champion, John Atkins of Coventry) – runs for 1 minute 52 seconds; and in British Pathé’s News in a Nutshell, item three (at 1 minute 18 seconds in) shows a Cyclists Rally of 15,000 cyclists in 1937 – with great views of the Palace – complete with Olympians.

Deborah Hedgecock


Keep on Running

Bruce Castle has well over 50 photographs of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay through Haringey, with our thanks to photographer Henry Jacobs. Although we already had some photographs taken along the route, we now have more or less the whole route covered. Henry was the council’s official photographer for the 2012 Torch Relay and had the privileged position of being sat atop one of the lorries that drove in front of the torchbearers. Along with broadcaster Vanessa Feltz who was commentating on the event, Henry was in this great position on the lorry for the whole of the route that day –  from Hendon Town Hall to Alexandra Palace. We therefore kick off today’s post with some of Henry’s photographs.

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

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

These images above are from near the New River Village and Hornsey High Street areas and show torch bearer Pam Moffat in the first photograph taking it on the next stretch of the route. Another photographs shows staff holding a banner from Greig City Academy. The relay running continued along Priory Road to the foot of hill leading up to Alexandra Palace, with a few more changes up that hill along the way.

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

Here in the photograph above, Frank Adams carries the torch, having his moment to shine – and being directed on what to do next as he stands outside Alexandra Palace. The Palace had been transformed to become the host for Holland Heineken House. This was where Dutch supporters and athletes were invited to gather during the two weeks of the 2012 Olympics. Frank was the penultimate torch bearer in Haringey, before handing over to the last torch bearer on the route ….

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

… one the greatest Olympian athletes in this country, decathlete Daley Thompson CBE. You can see via Harringay Online, the moment when Daley is about to light the cauldron with his torch. And you can read more about that moment and the build-up, as watched by an adoring fan of Daley along with her own photographs of the event at Alexandra Palace, here. A great end to a great Torch Relay day through Haringey, with the flame resting at Alexandra Palace ready for the next leg of its journey.

Daley Thompson’s connection with Haringey was not just with the torch. He used to train at what is now the Enfield and Haringey Athletic Club, one of the most famous organisations in British athletics. Formed in 1999, it merged Haringey Athletic Club with Enfield Harriers. Amongst the club’s members (and its predecessor clubs), along with Daley, Haringey can boast a prestigious parade of international and Olympic athletes who have trained there.

The earliest international in the club’s history was Bernard Eeles who competed for England in 1934 against France over 1500m. Paul Vallé was another competing in the 200m in 1946. Olympians followed with shot-putter John Giles and 10,000 metre and marathon runner Stan Cox, both competing in the 1948 London Games. We featured Stan’s marathon running in one of our earlier posts that you can read again here.

The impressive hall of Olympic fame continued in the years that followed with some of those athletes listed below:

  • Stan Cox (Marathon, 1952)
  • John Wrighton (400m and 400m Relay, 1960)
  • Gerry McIntyre (Marathon, 1960, representing Ireland)
  • Gary Oakes (400m Hurdles, bronze medal,1980)
  • Heather (Hunte) Oakes (100m Relay, 2 x bronze medals, 1980 and 1984)
  • Seb Coe (1500m, gold medal, 1984)
  • John Herbert (Triple Jump, 1984 and 1988)
  • Mike MacFarlane (100m Relay, silver medal,1988)
  • Dalton Grant (High Jump, 1988)
  • Anthony Jarrett (110m Hurdles, 1988 and 1992)

You can see the most up-to-date list here. And you can also see more on Paralympian Vanessa Wallace from Tottenham here, who started off her Paralympian athletic career with wheelchair racing at the club in Haringey.

Gary Oakes and Heather Hunte

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

The Club’s most recent athletes continue to reach the top in all their efforts, winning many titles – often in successive years – in British athletics. The Club is now based at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, Picketts Lock in Enfield and at the New River Sports Centre in Wood Green, where the Haringey Sports Development Trust is based.

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

One notable former athlete of the club was Seb Coe. You can read about the golden years of Haringey Athletic Club here, under the leadership of well-known sports commentator and athletics coach Ron Pickering. Seb Coe went on of course to lead the organisation of the Games when it came to London in 2012, as the Chairman of LOCOG.

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

That year a commemorative portrait of Seb Coe was produced by Haringey-based artist Nicola Green, who worked with local schools as part of Haringey’s unique Oooooh Art programme of art created to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad and the Olympics in London 2012. The 26 sporting images made by children from Stamford Hill Primary School form the border of a larger version of the portrait of Seb Coe, which was displayed throughout the Games at the Stadium Suite in the shop John Lewis, Stratford, overlooking the Olympic Stadium. The smaller portrait and more of the children’s work is now part of the collections at Bruce Castle.

Another work of art in our collections created for the Oooooh Art Collection and inspired by running and athletics was the Leather Running Track, featured below with the artist Melonie Stennett.

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

This work is constructed from overlapping black leather squares sewn onto cotton, replicating the shape of an athletics track. The gold leather in the centre represents the medals for which the athletes must push themselves to compete. The smaller artworks were made by children in Year 3 at Welbourne Primary School working with Melonie to create leather silhouettes: Leather Athletes. For some of the children this was their first attempt at sewing.

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

At Bruce Castle, we are also proud to have known and remember a world class veteran runner also from Haringey. Bill Guy (1930 – 2014) was born in Guyana and joined the US Navy in 1948. He moved to Britain in 1968 and was a community activist and former Tottenham bus driver. Until his death in 2014, Bill lived in Summerhill Village, in Summerhill Road, Tottenham. He held 4 Gold Medals gained at the European Athletics Championships and the World Athletics Championships in the 100 and 200 metres. At the Vth European Veteran Games in Malmo, Sweden in 1986, Bill took the Gold for the 100 metres in 12.3 seconds, becoming the fastest man in the world over the age of 55. The same year he set a new veterans’ 100m track record at Haringey with a staggering 11.89 seconds. Holder of countless, European & World record titles and achievement awards, Bill was suitably profiled on BBC2’s Ebony programme in 1988. When he gave the medal he won in Rome in 1985 (pictured above) to the museum as part of the Local Figureheads, Local Heroes exhibition in 2003, he said:

I was honoured to represent this great country of ours and very proud to become the world champion. …I smokes, I drinks, but at that time of reckoning I was the first to cross the line…I believe in God and I hate to lose. This is just one of my many medals but I beat 89 other countries to win this one – that makes you think.”

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

What amazing athletes we have had in our midst in Haringey. For most of us though, running competitively at such a world class level is unlikely to happen. Our experiences might be running and competing at local clubs, as you can see in this very old group photograph of White Hart Lane Running Club in 1883.

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

But more likely it will be at school, taking part competitively between schools or at the annual school sports day. Below are a few images from our collections, mainly from the 1950s at school sporting events. The one below is a sports day at Bruce Castle in the park during the 1950s. Notice they are running in every day clothes, not sport outfits (hope it wasn’t too hot!).

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

We also have in our collections from the 1950s a number of photographs, as well as a couple of shields, from the Tottenham Schools Sports Association events held each year. The ones below show youngsters competing at the Harringay Stadium.

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

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

At the former Stationers’ School in 1970 on the Crouch End/ Stroud Green borders (now the site of Stationers’ Park), cross-country running was the sport they excelled in, as the newspaper article records below.

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

That ends our short run through the history of running as a sport in our borough. Hope you have enjoyed it. And lastly, let’s take the lead of Councillor Vic Butler, the Mayor of Haringey Council in 1976-1977, from this fun photograph of him below, firing a starting pistol at a sporting event – reminiscent of many school sports days, we are sure. So, as we get ready for the weekend … line up … on your marks, get set – GO!

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

Deborah Hedgecock


Changing the World

Haringey has a long, proud history of being home to community leaders, reformers, campaigners and activists. Some were born here or moved into the borough to set up their home, and others have come to Haringey needing a place of safety, fleeing or exiled from their homeland. Whatever their reasons for being in Haringey, they have successfully led our communities as advocates and activists for change, sharing with us their skills, experience and knowledge in reform, culture and the arts, helping us to make the borough and our society what it is today.

Although sadly 2020 has been dominated by the Covid-19 crisis, this year is an important one to reflect on a few anniversaries in relation to some very significant people linked with Haringey. It was 60 years ago when Oliver Tambo (1917-1993), the former President of the African National Congress (ANC), and his wife Adelaide (1929-2007), fled South Africa’s apartheid government and were exiled, coming to London in 1960. They settled at 51 Alexandra Park Road, Muswell Hill with their family, and lived there for over 20 years.

The Tambo family’s home – 51 Alexandra Park Road, on the corner of Windermere Road, N10

As the ANC’s figurehead in Europe, Oliver was vital in canvassing international support for the fight against the apartheid government. The Tambo’s Muswell Hill home was the centre of ANC’s international political activity from the 1960s onwards and they were hosts to some extremely important people during their time there. One such guest was their friend Nelson Mandela, shortly after he was released from prison in February 1990 (and 2020 is another significant anniversary of 30 years since his freedom!). His visit to their home in April 1990 was captured on the camera of a young and local photographer Vassa Nicolaou – we have some of those rare photographs now in our collections at Bruce Castle (with thanks to the Friends of Bruce Castle in supporting the museum and archive to acquire them).

© Haringey Council

On 27 October 2019, on what would have been Oliver Tambo’s 102nd birthday, a statue of him was unveiled in Albert Road Recreation Ground – just along the road from their house. The sculptors are Cape Town-based and worked collaboratively on the piece: Tania Lee, Lungisa Kala, Christina Salvoldi. It was cast by foundry Sculpture Casting Services, in Somerset West, Cape Town. The statue was unveiled by the South African High Commissioner to the UK, Her Excellency Thembi Tambo – the Tambo family’s eldest daughter and who had grown up at Alexandra Park Road.

In the 1980s, Anti-Apartheid supporters in Haringey were fundraising, leafleting and demonstrating in public. Shops in Wood Green, Hornsey and Tottenham selling South African goods were occupied by the movement’s members and supporters. Reformer and politician Bernie Grant (1944 – 2000) was, of course, amongst those committed to the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Our previous special commemorative post marking and reflecting on the 20 years since his passing, paid tribute to his important social and political contribution to Haringey, as Europe’s first black Council Leader and MP for Tottenham. Bernie’s exceptional legacy, the Bernie Grant Arts Centre and the Bernie Grant Trust Archive continue to inspire and help us to challenge for change in the areas of social justice, community cohesion, activism and equality.

Today’s post, will look at another important Haringey reformer, campaigner and activist – the poet and writer John La Rose (1927-2006). Born in Trinidad, as a young man in the 1940s he helped found the Workers’ Freedom Movement, editing their journal ‘Freedom’. As an executive member of the Federated Workers’ Trade Union, he became General Secretary of the West Indian Independence Party and contested a seat in Trinidad’s 1956 General Election for the party.

Postcard of a bust presented to John La Rose on his 75th birthday in 2002.

© Artist: Errol Lloyd; Photographer: Ahmet Francis

In 1961 John came to Britain where he spent the rest of his life campaigning for equal rights for the UK’s black communities. A true gifted polymath, John brought together his artistic ideals through his poetry and writing along with his political activism. For him, giving people the opportunity to have their voice heard was an essential aspect of self-determination – be it through being part of a union or as artistic expression.

In 1966 John joined up with the Jamaican writer and broadcaster Andrew Salkey and the Barbadian poet and historian Kamau Brathwaite to co-found the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM). The organisation celebrated a sense of shared Caribbean artistic identity, providing a platform for Caribbean artists, poets, writers, dramatists, actors and musicians to perform and share ideas.

From the collections at Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive & Museum Service). Publishers: New Beacon Books

The same ideals to celebrate Caribbean culture, history and politics were carried through by John when he opened the UK’s first black publishing house and bookshop New Beacon Books in Stroud Green. With his partner Sarah White, in 1966 they worked initially from their home in Albert Road, N4 before moving round the corner and opening the bookshop at its current premises, 76 Stroud Green Road. Again, through publishing, John enabled people to share their words, views and thoughts with the wider community and to national and international audiences.

New Beacon Review from 1985/6, edited by John La Rose and Sarah White

From the collections at Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive & Museum Service). Publishers New Beacon Books

It was from Stroud Green Road that John based his local activism and campaigns for educational reform. The Black Education Movement in the 1960s was a strong move and reaction against the banding system and the placing of West Indian children in schools for the “educationally sub-normal”. He founded the George Padmore Supplementary School for West Indian Children in 1969 and helped establish the Caribbean Education in Community Workers’ Association. In the 1980s he helped set up and was Chair of the National Association of Supplementary Schools. John also helped launch the influential Black Parents’ Movement in 1975 to combat the brutalisation and criminalisation of black youths, and to campaign for youth and parent power and decent education.

A still from Horace Ové’s film Dream to Change the World: A Tribute to John La Rose –  © Redbox Productions 2005.

To hear from John La Rose himself talking about his life, influences and the campaigns and activism he was involved in, we recommend you watch the film Dream to Change the World – A Tribute to John La Rose by Horace Ové and Redbox Productions in 2005. John takes the viewer on a journey through carnival, steelpan and calypso to show the links between the arts and social transformation.

You can watch the film on YouTube in two parts here: Film Part 1. (34 mins) and Film Part 2. (33 mins). The film was directed by Horace Ové – a fellow Trinidad-born British filmmaker, photographer, painter and writer. Ové is one of the leading black independent film-makers – and was noted by the Guinness World Records for being the first black British film-maker to direct a feature-length film, Pressure (1975).

In 1991, John established The George Padmore Institute (GPI) at the Stroud Green Road site, as an archive, educational research and information centre, preserving collections relating mainly to the black community of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe. It is at GPI that you will find the highly significant archive of John La Rose, housing his papers, essays, photographs, leaflets, artwork and letters. It is a heritage ‘treasure trove’ of John’s extensive and wide-reaching work, as well as the nationally-important campaign resources, documents, material and reports on educational, cultural and political initiatives in the black community and wider society in Britain and abroad.

At Bruce Castle, we have had the good fortune of being able to support and work with the GPI for heritage projects funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as holding events at the museum showcasing, using and learning about the GPI collections. We have also borrowed archive material and objects from the GPI for various of our own exhibitions, such as the recent We Made It! exhibition featuring a personal card (below), drawn by textile designer Althea McNish (1924-2020) for her friends John La Rose and Sarah White, and also Local Reflections about Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo in 2014, remembering and honouring Mandela a year on after he died in December 2013. The council also honoured John not long after his death in 2006, by naming a new build of housing in Champa Close (off Bruce Grove in Tottenham), John La Rose Court.

A card sent to John La Rose and Sarah White from Althea McNish and her husband John Weiss.

From the collections of George Padmore Institute, on loan to Bruce Castle Museum for the We Made It! Exhibition

© Estate of Althea McNish

Unfortunately, during these incredibly difficult times, funding sources for heritage and cultural organisations such as GPI are limited. They have just launched a crowd funding page for people to contribute to help them in caring for the collections for future generations to continue to learn from and inspire. John’s legacy is evident through the George Padmore Institute, New Beacon Books, his poetry, essays and the numerous campaigns for social justice and equality led by him. By helping GPI you are not only preserving the collections about one of Haringey’s most noted activists, artists and reformers, you are also preserving the stories of all those influenced and helped by John’s life-work. Do take a look and explore their wonderful online catalogue.

Julie Melrose,Archivist

Deborah Hedgecock, Curator