First of an occasional series by Peter Cox, looking at the story of the roads we live in.
The wealth of information that has become available on the Internet in the last few years has made tracking both your family and your locality so much easier. In this occasional series of articles I want to look at some of our roads, how they developed, and who lived in the houses we now occupy. Next time I shall look at Muswell Hill, but I’m going to start with a short road on the Fortis Green side of East Finchley Station, Ingram Road, and I shall start with the 1891 census. I’m a complete amateur, by the way, just like most of you.
In 1881 Ingram road didn’t exist. It was part of the estate of Park Hall, a substantial house at the junction of Fortis Green and East Finchley High Road, opposite the Bald Faced Stag. In fact most of East Finchley (then called East End, from which we have the old winding East End Road) was common land and woodland. But in 1867 the railway had come and East Finchley station built, and population growth fuelled a demand for cheap affordable houses, and made it attractive for the owners of estates in Fortis Green, like Park Hall, Midhurst, Fortismere and The Firs, to sell up to speculative builders. In the 1880s, Park Hall was sold and Ingram Road among others was laid out.
In the 1891 census we can see that the first nine (of the final 31) houses had been built, starting on the west side and working down from the north. All were occupied by men aged between 26 and 45 and their families. None of the women worked outside the home, and seven of the nine had a living-in servant; one house had a couple lodging in two rooms. We can see from the 1911 census, the first to give this information, that all the houses but one had six rooms – kitchen, living rooms, and bedrooms (bathroom and scullery were not included). The men’s occupations were typically clerks, salesmen and warehousemen, and we can surmise that for many it was the first house they’d been able to buy. Incidentally, none of the husbands came from the borough, and only three from London. We can track them in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, so we can see how much mobility there was. In fact, only one, the shipping clerk William Hustwitt, was there in 1901, and they were there in 1911 too.
After the nine houses on the 1891 census form for Ingram Road, the enumerator has added another, intriguing household. The ‘Cottage in watercress beds’ was occupied by a 52 year old under-gardener from Cambridge, William Murrell, his 48 year old wife, whose occupation was ‘minding watercress beds’, and their three children: twin boys of seven and a daughter of five. The enumerator has also added that one of the twins was an epileptic, prone to chronic fits, and in fact they were two of triplets, a girl having died at birth. Imagine – a mother over 40 (we don’t know if she had other children) giving birth, doubtless at the cottage with a local midwife, almost certainly not knowing she was carrying more than one child. One is born dead, another, perhaps oxygen-starved at birth, has fits. Down every morning with the children to the watercress beds, which we can see as 12 narrow rectangles in what is now Cherry Tree Wood, but was then called Dirthouse Wood. It was the point where carts arrived with hay from farms to the north and returned with soot and manure from the City. By 1901 the watercress beds have gone, William was dead, the family had moved to Prospect Place, and the twins, now 17, were milkmen.
This Autumn Peter will be starting a North London U3A group to help people research their roads, their houses, and their occupants. You can contact him on [email protected]