Tower Gardens

Tower Gardens, Haringey

A ‘cottage estate’ in north Tottenham, built by the London County Council between 1903 and the 1930s

Waltheof Avenue - Tower Gardens estate

In the ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry all the fields here were part of the demesne lands of Awl­field Farm. Most of the area with­in what is now the arc of the Round­way was iden­ti­fied on the Earl of Dorset’s map as the Awle Fields. Awl­field Avenue now runs along what was once the east­ern edge of Lit­tle Awle Field. Awl­field farm­house stood imme­di­ate­ly south of All Hal­lows church. The farm­house was replaced in 1620 by the house that became known as the Pri­o­ry, and is now All Hal­lows vic­arage.

The local­i­ty now known as Tow­er Gar­dens remained open farm­land until 1901, when the Lon­don Coun­ty Coun­cil, using pow­ers made avail­able to it under the Hous­ing of the Work­ing Class­es Act (1890), bought a 225-acre tract of land south of White Hart Lane at the edge of Tot­ten­ham’s bor­der with Wood Green.†

Start­ing from Lord­ship Lane and work­ing north­wards, the coun­cil began to lay out a cot­tage estate of two-storey hous­es in red or yel­low Lon­don stock brick. The LCC used the term ‘cot­tage estate’ quite loose­ly at that time, in ref­er­ence to any devel­op­ment con­sist­ing main­ly of small hous­es rather than blocks of flats – but here many of the dwellings were built in gen­uine­ly cot­tagey styles. The coun­cil’s chief archi­tect William Edward Riley led the design team in the pro­jec­t’s ear­ly phas­es.

The homes were con­struct­ed to high stan­dards, with var­ied details and mate­ri­als, heav­i­ly influ­enced by the Arts and Crafts move­ment. The ful­fil­ment of the archi­tec­tur­al ideals took dif­fer­ent forms through the pro­jec­t’s many phas­es – accord­ing to the fund­ing avail­able; whether the Pro­gres­sives or Mod­er­ates were in charge of the LCC; the changed cir­cum­stances after the First World War and the exam­ples new­ly set by oth­er projects (from Becon­tree to Bel­gium).

The first 141 homes were com­plet­ed in 1904 but ten­ants were ini­tial­ly thin on the ground. Those that did move here tend­ed to come from else­where in the Tot­ten­ham and Wood Green area, rather than from inner Lon­don as had been intend­ed.

The LCC chose to mod­el the next phase of devel­op­ment on the ‘gar­den sub­urb’ (orig­i­nal­ly ‘gar­den city’) prin­ci­ples espoused by Ebenez­er Howard, which were just begin­ning to take phys­i­cal shape in Letch­worth, Hert­ford­shire. Lat­er, the LCC’s think­ing was also influ­enced by the work of Ray­mond Unwin at Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb, under Hen­ri­et­ta Bar­net­t’s patron­age.

How­ev­er, some of the gar­den sub­urb ideals – espe­cial­ly those relat­ed to hous­ing den­si­ty – required greater expen­di­ture than the LCC could afford. At this point the banker Sir Samuel Mon­tagu rode to the res­cue, bear­ing a gift of £10,000 – more than a mil­lion in today’s mon­ey. His one con­di­tion was that the coun­cil should give pref­er­ence to rehous­ing Whitechapel res­i­dents here. Though the pro­vi­so was osten­si­bly sec­u­lar, Montagu’s prime motive was to help Jew­ish East Enders move out of their over­crowd­ed slums and make a new start in health­i­er sur­round­ings.

Hidden London: At the corner of Cumberton Road and Tower Gardens Road, by Julian Osley
Cor­ner of Cum­ber­ton Road and Tow­er Gar­dens Road

With the assis­tance of Mon­tagu’s mon­ey, hous­es were endowed with more ameni­ties and big­ger back­yards – and the estate gained its own park, Tow­er Gar­dens, which had a foun­tain, ten­nis courts and a bowl­ing green, sur­round­ed by raised ter­races and flower beds. The gar­dens were named after Whitechapel’s par­ent dis­trict, Tow­er Ham­lets.

Pre­sum­ably in a nod to the only pre-exist­ing thor­ough­fare, Lord­ship Lane, most of the estate’s streets were named after his­tor­i­cal lords of the manor and sub-manors of Tot­ten­ham. Sir John Ris­ley, for exam­ple, became lord of Tot­ten­ham manor in 1507.

These were the main phas­es and events in the evo­lu­tion of Tow­er Gar­dens and the neigh­bour­ing local­i­ty:

  • grid­ded streets of two-storey ter­raced cot­tages between Tow­er Gar­dens Road and Ris­ley Avenue (1903–14)
  • the sep­a­rate Peabody estate of 154 two-storey ter­raced cot­tages, east of Ben­ning­ton Road (com­plet­ed 1907)
  • exten­sion north­wards, includ­ing De Quincey Road and Morteyne Road (1914–15)
  • con­struc­tion work halt­ed in spring 1915 and resumed in 1919
  • Walthe­of Gar­dens, a for­mal neo-Geor­gian lay­out (1921–3)
  • sev­en blocks of three-storey flats around Topham Square built to rehouse those dis­placed by slum clear­ance in Shored­itch (1924)
  • ter­races of cot­tage flats on Lord­ship Lane (1925–6)
  • infor­mal­ly laid out cot­tages on Flexmere Road, to the north-east of the Round­way (1926–7)
  • Gospatrick and Hen­ning­ham Roads com­plet­ed in the 1930s, includ­ing a Methodist church on Gospatrick Road (now the Trin­i­ty AME Zion church)
  • Lord­ship recre­ation ground opened oppo­site the estate (1936)
  • streets north of the Moselle brook (at the top of the map below, and not con­sid­ered part of Tow­er Gar­dens by any def­i­n­i­tion) devel­oped in the mid to late 1930s
  • pur­pose-built health clin­ic opened (1959, now the Mor­ris House group prac­tice)
  • south­ern part of the estate (plus Topham Square) des­ig­nat­ed a con­ser­va­tion area in 1978
  • Peabody cot­tage estate des­ig­nat­ed a con­ser­va­tion area in 1991
  • both con­ser­va­tion areas have since had Arti­cle 4 direc­tions imposed, giv­ing the coun­cil more pow­ers to pre­serve their her­itage fea­tures

Nowa­days, many Tow­er Gar­dens homes are own­er-occu­pied, although rent­ing from the coun­cil is still the most com­mon form of tenure.

The local­i­ty’s pop­u­la­tion is socio-eco­nom­i­cal­ly and eth­ni­cal­ly diverse. Rough­ly as many res­i­dents pos­sess a high­er edu­ca­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tion as have no qual­i­fi­ca­tions at all – by con­trast, for exam­ple, with Crouch End, where that ratio is ten to one. Around 60 per cent of Tow­er Gar­dens’ res­i­dents were born in the Unit­ed King­dom, with the remain­der hav­ing come from a wide vari­ety of coun­tries, includ­ing Turkey, Ghana, Jamaica, Poland and India.

Postal district: N17
Website: Tower Gardens Residents Group (also on Facebook)
Web pages: Municipal Dreams: The White Hart Lane Estate, Haringey council: Tower Gardens – Tottenham’s Garden Suburb, Lordship Rec: History of the Tower Gardens Estate
Further reading: Robert Thorne, The White Hart Lane Estate: An LCC Venture in Suburban Development, article in the London Journal, 1986 (12:1)
* The pictures of the housing terrace, Waltheof Avenue, Tower Gardens Road, and the corner house, Tower Gardens estate on this page are adapted from original photographs, copyright Julian Osley, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.

† The acquired land was known as the White Hart Lane estate and this name was also applied to the housing built on that land. Tower Gardens was (and still is) the identity of the estate’s little park, and its name was soon applied to the neighbouring section of the White Hart Lane estate, built from 1904 to 1914. No one seems to have used the term ‘Tower Gardens estate’ until the 1970s. The locality name ‘Tower Gardens’ appeared on Ordnance Survey maps even more recently (placed just above Risley Avenue). It is not an ideal term because the reader cannot be sure how much of what was previously called the White Hart Lane estate it is supposed to represent. For the sake of the above article, Hidden London has broadly taken Tower Gardens to be the area bounded by Lordship Lane and the Roundway.