Lorenco Road Tottenham


By John Barber

     Little Russia

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Life in Lorenco Road after The Great War (1919 – 1935)         


Philip J Smart              




My mother’s mother, Florence Martha Mole, was born on December 6th 1913. She was the third of six surviving children born to George and Annie who lived in Lorenco Road, a drab working class backwater on the Edmonton and Tottenham border on the outskirts of north London in Middlesex 


Florence’s father was absent from home during her earliest years on account of him serving King and country in The Great War. Her childhood years that followed his safe return, and those up to her marriage in 1935, fell within a national depression, but despite the hardship of these times, Florence would later reflect on them with amusement and fond memory. The area where she grew up had a reputation for being the roughest for miles, but even so it was a place where people looked out for each other and shouldered their troubles together and as a child she knew no happier or safer place. 


* * *



The Great War had brought the country to its knees and almost broken the spirit of her people. Every street had lost husbands, fathers and sons and although those that survived received a hero’s welcome, the promised “land fit for heroes” never materialized. Instead they met with a shortage of jobs and a country in financial ruin.


George Mole was invalided out of the army in 1921, having miraculously survived the war. He returned home from Cologne where his regiment was part of an occupational force, only to find hungry mouths to feed and a long wait for a meagre army pension.  He did find work as a night watchman but these were hard times indeed. Not that this was anything new. The people of Lorenco Road had always lived day by day, as best they could, often raising cash by pawning the few menial belongings they owned. By sharing the burden of hardship they somehow muddled through. It was often said of Annie Mole that she would give away her last farthing than see a troubled neighbour go short.


.The Lorenco Road neighbourhood was known locally as “Little Russia” on account of the number of Russian immigrants who had fled their native country during the 1917 revolution and lived on the estate. The area was regarded by the local police as a den of iniquity and a haven of thieves, drunkards and street gamblers. The police would only patrol in twos and whenever they were in hot pursuit of local crooks down the street, residents would bundle the offenders through a roof hatch into the loft. With no firewalls to be cornered by they were free to evade their pursuers by scurrying along the roof space unseen to make their escape further along the terrace into another house 


Children were always playing outside in Lorenco Road. With no traffic or parked cars to cause obstructions the streets were their playgrounds. Florence and her friends used to play skipping by draping a rope from one side of the road to the other. Adults would look on as they sat out in their doorways or gossiped over fences or on street corners


With no money for toys the Mole children were well used to improvising and making their own entertainment. Florence remembered using the old orange boxes to make dolls houses and during the summer months they played for hours in the sand pits over the fields between Lorenco Road and the North Middlesex Hospital (the former workhouse). Using broom handles and their mothers’ tablecloths, Florence and her friends would erect makeshift tents and sometimes Annie would bring over a jug of tea and some buns. Occasionally they would rent bicycles and explore the neighbouring countryside, cycling along the car free- lanes of Edmonton and Tottenham that surrounded their homes. They often played in the grounds of the old Weir hall estate, where Florence recalled seeing the shell-shocked victims of the war convalescing. It was here too where a ill judged endeavour to collect moorhen eggs ended in tragedy when cousin Frankie (son of Annie’s sister Florence and her drunkard of a husband, Frank Dewson) drowned in the lake. That was a day she would never forget (.See more details further down in this account)


image007Windmill in Silver Street, Edmonton 1920


Florence Mole and most other children in the neighbourhood were educated at The Lancastrian School in Bruce Grove. By then the building was already over a hundred years old. Financed by voluntary contributions the boys’ school had begun life in 1812, and the girls’ three years later. When Florence was at school here there were no exercise books, only slate boards and chalk to write on them with.


On Sundays Florence would walk from her home to Sunday school classes at the mission hall in nearby Queens Street. On the way she would pass The Three Compasses pub where her father would be enjoying a beer and a game of dominoes with friends in the tap room. She would knock on the window to gain his attention, and he would appear at the door with a penny for her to put on the collection plate. The mission hall was also where she went to watch magic lantern shows. This building still exists today.


In the 1920s, when finances allowed, George Mole often enjoyed a pint or two at The Three compasses. This was the social hub of the estate, where local men gathered to escape cold and cramped homes that were overrun with children, and to share a joke or to drown their sorrows. It was not always banter and chitchat however. Disagreements and arguments after a few beers would frequently lead to a scrap on the pavement outside to settle differences.


Florence would later recall that a boxer called Jack Holt from London frequented this establishment. He used to call to see his friend and fellow boxing fan, Billy Mathews who was in some way connected to the pub. Amongst the crowd that accompanied Jack was Billy’s sister, the Hollywood actress Jessie Mathews. In the early 1930s during one of these visits Ms Matthews gave Florence one of her dresses. It was, she recalled, “blue velvet with open sleeves revealing a beautiful satin lining beneath”.


                                                             Jessie Mathews


The Moles could not afford holidays, although occasionally the street would hold charabanc outings to Southend, which Annie Mole helped to organise. They would always ensure it took place on the day the rent man was due to call! Now and again visits from relations also gave cause for rare periods of relaxation and merriment, like the times when George Mole’s brother Tom and his wife Mary came to visit from their home in Finsbury Park. Florence remembered that Uncle Tom would take the family out to the Hertfordshire countryside on his horse and trap. Whipping the horse continuously (to quote my grandmother – “he was a wicked bugger” - they would travel northward along what is now the old A10 through Waltham Cross and beyond, and stop at a favourite pub. At Rye House there was a well established leisure park, featuring The Great Bed of Ware (now in the Victoria and Albert museum) with a maze where Florence and her brothers and sisters would entertain themselves whilst the adults were inside the pub swilling beer and gin. The locals called these working class revellers “rent dodgers”.

Suitably merry, on the way home they would all join together in a singsong.




 The Moles of this generation belonged to the age of music hall and one of the biggest entertainers of the day was Marie Lloyd, whose last appearance in 1922 was at the Mole’s local venue, The Edmonton Empire. Florence recalled that her mother, Annie, saw Lloyd perform there several times. Herself of humble origins this star of her time was able to capture the imagination of the working classes with a particular brand of humour and entertainment that they could identify with. One of her most famous songs, “My old man said follow the van,” was about the familiar subject of moving house to avoid rent arrears without the landlord knowing. The song is still recognised and sung in modern times. 


 image005image012Marie Lloyd and The Edmonton Empire in 1910



Among the songs Florence remembered her mother singing were “The Sunshine of your smile,” “I wouldn’t leave my little wooden hut for you” and “Little Annie Rooney.” These are songs she would have learnt from music hall performances. Other tunes almost certainly sung by the Moles as they journeyed back from their Hertfordshire jaunts in the darkness were those reminiscent of the First World War, including: “It’s a Long way to Tipperary” and “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” 



 Christmas time was another rare time for high spirits. Although there were never parcels to open Florence and her siblings would each receive a stocking laden with small gifts; an apple and an orange, some sweets or nuts perhaps, and the occasional small toy or hair ribbon for the girls. The house would be decorated with homemade paper chains that the children had glued together with flour and water paste, and at lunchtime the family would sit down to enjoy a roast dinner of rabbit followed by Mrs Cates’s home-made Christmas puddings, which were spherical in shape, about the size of a cricket balls and named “bombs” by the children.  Cousin Doll (aunt Maggie’s daughter) and her brood, the Parkes family, then came in from next door, along with other neighbours and friends and they would enjoy a few drinks and sing the old songs into the evening. Annie Mole’s party-piece on these occasions was to dance the Scottish sword dance above a marked out cross on the floor. Later they would meet up with Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary down the Three Compasses pub at the end of the road.



.The close-knit nature of the Lorenco Road community meant that there was very little privacy. Consequently gossip and rumour was always rife. This actually brought a degree of excitement to an otherwise largely gloomy existence. Indeed people revelled in scandal provided they were not the subjects of it! Paradoxically too, despite the criminal activity of the area the people who lived here exercised a strict code of moral social conduct amongst themselves. This was enforced by ritual demonstrations of working class etiquette, particularly amongst the housewives. Doorstep scrubbing, for example, was once common practise, but was more about keeping up appearances than fulfilling a necessary requirement. These people were poor, but they were also proud. The people of Lorenco Road looked out for each other and they were very protective of their own. There was never a need to lock doors and windows in Lorenco Road. Theft and violent attacks were unheard of from within the community. Even when a front door was shut entry could always be obtained because every house kept a key hanging on a string on the inside of the letterbox.




 The electoral register of 1920 gives a snapshot in time of this colourful collection of working class families. There were for, example, the Skipps at number 72a whose second son ended up in prison. There were the Dells, flower sellers at number 78, and Albert and Annie Chadney of 76a who both died of TB. After their deaths their son Albert, Florence Mole’s one time childhood sweetheart, was subsequently taken away into a home and not seen again. The Thorntons lived at number 80a. This was the home of Florence’s best friend, Florrie (known as Polly) and her remedial sister, Dolly. They lived with their father, Arthur, who had only one leg. Their neighbours, The Moles, lived at 82a and in 1920 they were sharing the house with Annie’s brother, George (and later his wife Ada), and their mother, Laura Cooper. Upstairs at 82b were the Cates family who eventually moved to Hemel Hempstead, taking with them Dolly Thornton. George Mole’s sister Maggie, and her husband, Bill Parkes, also lived in the street. Their daughter, Dolly, married another resident, Bill King, from number 68. On the corner of Lorenco Road was a small shop selling fruit and bundles of chopped firewood, which was managed by the neurotic Fanny Hazelwood. Mrs Kilbey and her family lived opposite the Moles. She was a good friend of the family whose London nephew courted Florence Mole for a time. Her son Jim (AKA Jimbo) occasionally brought his work friend,Reg Watts, home and it was here where he met his future wife - my grandmother Florence.



Making ends meet was a way of life in Lorenco Road. Food was basic and generally purchased from the market or from street traders like the muffin man, with his large tray that he carried on his head. The “winkle man” was popular on Sundays and the milkman was a familiar sight each morning with his horse drawn cart and metal churns. Milk was delivered, not by the bottle, but ladled into customers’ jugs from churns at the back of a cart. The coalman was a regular visitor to the street too and likewise, traded from a horse drawn vehicle.



 Annie Mole always bought her linen and bedding from a Jewish door-to-door salesman, called Mr Simms, who called on Saturdays. She would pay him in instalments, but was frequently caught short when he was making his calls in the area. Keen to avoid debt she would send off Florence to the pawnshop just ahead of his visit to raise the money from whatever might cover the due balance. George’s wages (when he was in work) were never enough, so to help finance the running of the house, Annie worked as a cleaner at the Three Compasses. She later cooked, cleaned and scrubbed steps for the middle classes in Palmers Green.




image002The muffin man



The people of Lorenco Road lived one family to a floor in two storey terraces. Each alternate front door opened to stairs leading to a dwelling on the upper floor. The passageway of each home led to the main living area, which served as a kitchen and main living area. At one end of this room stood a black-leaded range, which doubled as a heater and cooker. Mice would scurry around this area and often jump in and out of the oven when it was left open.



 There was no bathroom or hot running water. Bathing took place weekly in a tin tub in front of the range and on these occasions the same water was used in turn by the entire household. The eldest would always go first and the youngest last. Hot water for bathing and washing laundry was obtained by heating cold water from a single household mains tap, on the range in large heavy pots.




 The adults would normally bath at the public facilities in Bruce Grove for a charge of 3d. Cold water only was used for daily ablutions. 



At the back of the house there was a small scullery with a few cupboards. Food was kept cool by placing it in a tin and burying in a hole in the garden. The primitive toilet was near to where the gas cooker stood in later years. Annie’s grandchildren would later recall this with a shudder! It was so dirty they hated using it. 


  There were two bedrooms in the Lorenco Road dwellings. In the Moles’ home these were to the right of the hallway. The children all slept in one room, several to a bed with coats for added warmth, as the only source of heat in the house was the range in the main room. The rooms were cramped and unhygienic and on one occasion, whilst lying in her bed Florence saw a rat run along the inside window ledge. 



On the opposite side of the hallway from the bedrooms there were two cupboards. One of these was used for storing coal, the other general domestic items such as brooms and coats.



.On February 9th 1929, two days before Annie’s 39th birthday, George Mole died at North Middlesex Hospital at the age of 43 (the death certificate wrongly states 45). Florence remembered that her father had died of “chest problems,” which were caused by the appalling conditions he endured in the trenches during The Great War. The death certificate confirms this, stating the cause of death as pleurisy and acute bronchitis. It records that he was a general labourer and an Army pensioner.


 Florence remembered that during the years leading up to his death, often he would travel up to London to the military hospitals and return in an army issue blue suit (known as “the military blues”) with a tin of faggots for tea.  On the day of his funeral his body was laid out at their home ready for burial. Florence would later recall that the children were sent into the garden on the day of the funeral but called in to kiss their father goodbye at her mother’s request, before he was carried off to Tottenham Cemetery. She was fifteen years old when he died.



 George’s death plunged the family into further financial hardship. Although Annie brought in a meagre income from her cleaning jobs she now relied heavily on money from her eldest son, George. Around 1930 Annie was at her wits end when George, announced that he and his friend Harry Nichols had resigned from their factory jobs and joined the Kings Royal Rifles. There was talk of buying him out of the army, presumably by borrowing money, but George could not be persuaded to stay and went off to India with his regiment. In 1938 times grew even more fraught at 82a when one of the Bullock boys of number 70 landed Lily Mole pregnant. Lily had broken one of the biggest rules of social conduct and it was the scandal of the street. Nevertheless her mother, Annie, stood tall in the face of shame and supported her daughter through her ordeal. When baby David was born Annie raised him as her own. Even in old age, Florence persisted in referring to David as her “half brother.”



. When Florence left school at the age of fourteen she worked first in a battery factory in White Hart Lane. Afterwards she worked with her sister Rose who was a French Polisher for “Liebermans” Florence was only allowed to apply the chemicals to the underside of cabinets or in the inside of the drawers, a process (she recalled) known as “fadding.” In her spare time she liked to visit the cinema and well remembers silent movies when the films were accompanied by a piano or organ player to add dramatic effect. One of her favourite stars of the time was Clara Bow, but she loved them all and collected pictures of them from magazines. She also enjoyed dancing and frequented a dance hall in Lea Bridge Road, Walthamstow. Her mother once saved up for weeks to buy her a new pair of dancing shoes and one evening, in her haste to return home on time she lost one of the shoes. She was never able to tell her mother.



As a teenager, Florence Mole shared the same group of friends as her brother George. For a time his good friend Harry Nichols courted her, but she refused an offer of marriage from him and he ended up marrying her sister Edie instead. Florence fell instead for a dark featured young man from Enfield called Reginald Watts. Four years her senior, Reg worked at “Sangamos”, an electrical appliances factory in Southbury Road, Enfield and he owned a motorcycle. During their courting days they travelled around the countryside on this bike and visited towns and places of interest, including Waltham Abbey, Crystal Palace and St. Albans. Chingford, then a rural and open place, was one of Reg’s favourite places. 


Florence and Reg were married on August 4th 1935 at St. James church in Upper Edmonton. Dressed in his regimental uniform George Mole gave his sister away. Reg’s brother, Ben, was his best man and the bridesmaids were Brenda Watts (Reg’s niece), Doreen Pickett (Florence’s niece), Edie Mole (Florence’s sister) and Florence’s best friend and next-door neighbour, Polly Thornton. Ray Watts (The best man’s son) was a pageboy.

 The wedding reception was held at a neighbour’s house - Mrs Kilbey’s house, which had a suitably large enough front room and garden.






Florence’s mother, Annie Mole, lived on at 82a Lorenco Road until the street was demolished in the late early 1970s as part of a local authority redevelopment programme. It was a rough place to the end. When Terry Morris was courting Annie’s grand-daughter, Pearl Watts, he used to leave his car in Lorenco Road whilst he went off to watch Tottenham Hotspur play home matches at White Hart Lane football ground nearby. The car remained safe however, because the local children insisted on looking after it while he was away. This was by no means a gesture of kindness, but rather a threat that if a payment was not made it would receive a thorough going over with a wire brush and parts stripped from it.  


At the time of the demolition of her home Annie had lived in Lorenco Road for around seventy years. By then, in old age, she had developed Diabetes and as a consequence was going rapidly blind. 


. Annie’s grandson, David (Lily’s son), who she had raised as her own, later enjoyed a short career as a professional football player. He became the pride of the family when, as a newspaper cutting shows (see below) he was welcomed to Fulham FC by the captain, Johnny Haynes. Sadly all this ended abruptly when he broke his leg at a holiday camp. Many members of the Fulham football team attended his wedding in the 1960s.



Annie Mole died of a heart attack at St Ann’s Hospital in Tottenham on February 17th 1980. She was about 93! At the time of her death she was living at 4 The Weymarks, Weir Hall Road in Tottenham. The death certificate states that Annie was born in 1886, but this is incorrect. She was actually born in 1890 in Lambeth, which school records verify. Her birth was not registered because at this time parents did not want their new born children known to the authorities to avoid then being vaccinated for TB. It was widely and wrongly believed by the masses that this caused premature death. 

Annie - a tiny lady, no more than five feet in height - had lived a long and hard life: She was born to a hard-knock Victorian world, with few basic comforts to help make the hardships endurable. She was born to an age of horse drawn vehicles, candle and gas light, where primitive telephones were a luxury of the wealthy.  Like so many of her generation, her life was a struggle against poverty, which faced many challenges: She lived through two world wars and although her husband, George, survived the trenches of the Great War, he never really recovered and she was widowed at the age of forty-one. During the national depression between the wars her eldest son joined the army, so taking away her main source of income. Almost destitute she was forced to wash and scrub steps for the well to do in Palmers Green.



.Annie had borne ten children, and buried four of them before their fourth birthday. The last went to her grave just a year before the death of her father, George. She also lived to see the terrible drowning of her sister’s child, and endured the shame of her daughter’s pregnancy at fifteen, which burdened her with yet another child to raise when all that should have been behind her.  


By the time Annie was re-homed into a council flat around 1970 her memories of Marie Lloyd at the Empire must have seemed a distant echo from a long forgotten age. The Empire had gone and instead new pop idols, like The Rolling Stones and Slade, were on the scene, their music booming out from radios and televisions - inventions that her generation would never even have dreamed of as children


 I can just recall my great-grandmother, Annie. I remember my Nan, Florence, taking my two cousins, and I to visit her at her flat in Tottenham when I was about 9 years old. I remember it seemed strange to hear my grandmother call someone “mum.”  Great grandmother was a tiny lady and I remember enjoying talking to her but wasn’t sure what to call her!  She said that I looked like David’s boy.                                                                                                                                                                            


Enjoyed reading your website on Lorenco Road and the story of the Mole family. I was born in Durban Road and regularly visited there until my mum passed away in 2004. It was a great place to grow up - never really feeling the edge of the place as it was all I knew - the only fights we saw were brothers against brothers, as described in the story of life in Lorenco Road there was an open door policy and all my dads brothers and sisters lived in Durban Road and it was a fun and adventurous place to grow up. My memories of Lorenco Road were mainly hand me down stories of horses living in the house with the families as there were not big gardens for them - and as they were the source of their livelihood then they lived in one of the rooms of the house. It all seemed to make sense to a child! I also remember that next to Daves sweet shop on Lorenco Road there was a lady that used to make the most delicious toffee apples and word used to get round that they were about to be sold and we used to queue up to buy them - very sticky chewy toffee - gorgeous. On the other corner opposite Daves there was a betting shop - which barred my dad because he could pick a winner once too often for their liking. I could go on and on as I say I have nothing but lovely memories of life in Durban Road, and Lorenco Road used to be where my friends lived.

By Lynn Price

I was born in lorenco road in 1947 and lived there until it was pulled down my name is vivienne herbert nee hutchings I lived at 17a my mum and dad were joan and arthur and I have 1 brother peter my mums single name was ayres. I saw the write up from samantha I remember her mums family well they lived at number 8 I still see some of her mums family from time to time. I. married Roy Herbert also from Lorenco Road after we married we moved to number 40 next to daves shop .

BY Vivienne Herbert


 I am now 78 and was brought up in the first house in Durban Road, number 1a - my name then was Olive Shephard. Our family had occupied the house since about 1910 when my grandmother Amelia Robbins lived there with her large family. We moved out to Cheshunt in 1957 and my Mother (a widow) came with us . The stories of Lorenco Road and the area are very familiar to me and I believe I can remember the Mole family but the other names ring no bells - though the sticky toffee apples do. However, in my day they were made by a family called Little who lived in one of the shops between Lorenco and Durban Roads, facing the railway, in Pretoria Road My other half is still a keen Spurs supporter - Durban Road was always lined with cars parked by supporters on Saturday afternoons in the days when all we had was a bike! The year they won the Double was one to remember

By Olive Bree                                                                                      

 My name is Linda and I lived at 27a Lorenco Road where I was brought up with my sister Kathleen by my grandparents Jack and Olive Mills in fact one of your photos is me sitting on the wall outside our house with those I mentioned plus that's me again in the next photo standing by the kerb, Our family the Mills was one of the biggest in the road being four brothers John (blackie), James, Mosses (Moe), and Henry the sisters where Linda, Sibbie, Olive, Sylvia, and Rose plus me and Kathy making thirteen. Times were hard as the houses only had four rooms and outside toilet all on one floor but we all enjoyed our yearly trip the the Hop fields in Peasmarsh Sussex which took us three days by horse and cart to get there and then staying in huts and tents for the next six weeks with weekends at the local pubs either the Horse and Cart or The Cock.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 


Having seen your web page, and enjoyed reading the accounts of life in Tottenham in days gone by, I thought you might be interested in hearing about my own fleeting latter-day encounter with the area so colourfully described by Philip J Smart.  "A rough place to the end" he calls it - and that's certainly how it struck me!It was a late Saturday afternoon in the mid-1960s – some time in early April, if I remember right. I emerged from Copes Pools Ltd in Commercial Road, following a fruitless enquiry about possible week-end work there. Rather than retrace my steps back through Bridport Road and Bull Lane, I decided to continue to the south and turn left at the T-junction.It wasn’t more than a few seconds before I realised this was very much alien territory where I’d no business to be. As a 16 year-old stranger to the area I’d never heard of Lorenco Road, let alone any dubious reputation it might possess. But the air of menace was immediately palpable.It wasn’t just the dilapidated buildings. There were a good few of those in my home patch at Enfield Highway, and near my grandmother’s place in Dartmouth Park, at the foot of Highgate Hill. But that was mostly age and neglect at work. What I was seeing now was very different, something like the results of systematic vandalism. I don’t recollect specific details, just an overwhelming impression of ruinousness. But even that wasn’t all.A little knot of sullen-looking youths stood further down the street, having a go at a street lamp or some other fixture. Nearby, someone was leaning out of a window, shouting coarse remarks at them – whether of encouragement or disapproval I couldn’t tell.I didn’t wait to find out, either. Somehow I knew instinctively that the only sensible thing to do was to keep moving, avoiding all eye contact or other forms of attention, and get out of there fast, before those young roughnecks could become aware of me, with results I didn’t care to dwell on. To my great relief, I gained the corner with Pretoria Street without incident and turned swiftly northward, thereafter making my way back to the relative civilisation of Silver Street.I’ve never felt more nervous, before or since, on a British street in broad daylight. Or more glad to have exited it safely.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

John Clarke




Added by Philip J Smart on 24/10/2014

My account describes visits from my grandmother's uncle from the Finsbury Park area, which she recalled as "Camble Bunk." I always thought her memory was playing tricks, but I have since discovered that a book has been written about this road and it has been said that that there were only 2 other roads that are remembered as being as rough in their day, one of which was Lorenco Road!    One account states that Camble Bunk [was] "a slum so wretched that its inhabitants sold the glass from their windows, so unlawful that the police steered clear, so insular that the the children from the next street down would be chased out, so notorious that it was knocked down and renamed."  Sound familiar?            

I also mention about her cousin who drowned in an accident at Weir Hall.  I researched this and found that it took place in 1931. He and his friend were both from Durban road and it was reported in the local paper and it paints a harrowing story.  I will forward this on for your interest, as it adds to the story and must have caused shock waves in the neighborhood at the time.

For info                                                                                

I attach my transcript of a newspaper article from the 1931 that records the fatal misadventures of my grandmother's cousin, Frank Dewson from Durban Road.  I researched this at Bruce Castle museum a few years back by going through the local papers page by page.  I had no idea when this happened so it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  When I found it I was quite shocked at how big a deal it was. My great grandmother, Annie Mole of 82a Lorenco Road was the sister of the deceased's mother so it must have been a terrible family ordeal and a shared community bereavement, given how insular they were in the area.



The Tottenham and Edmonton Herald, June 5th 1931:






“Dead Man’s Hollow” the huge pond at the lower end of Weir Hall Road, which is Tottenham’s most offensive smelling and treacherous spot, situated, ironically enough, close to the Devonshire Hill Open-air School – the last word in modern school buildings – claimed two young victims.

It has been given this peculiarly grim appellation, not because of any outstanding tragic circumstances associated with its history, but on account of the depressing effect it has on all who look down on the evil smelling accumulation of stagnant water and hundreds of tons of refuse, weeds, under-brush etc., which have sunk under its surface.


Undoubtedly a public outcry in the Devonshire Hill district will be heard in due course, calling on the Tottenham council to take some action whereby a reoccurrence of sacrifice to life is prevented.

The two lads are Frederick George Newson [This is incorrect and should read “Frank or Francis Dewson”], aged 16, of 119 Durban Road, Tottenham, and his friend, William Shaw (14) of 115 Durban Road. They decided on Monday evening to try to reach a moorhen’s nest which could be seen amongst the branches of a dead tree poking out of the pond. The only way to achieve their object was to fashion out some kind of craft which would not sink in the slime. They made a raft of boards and corrugated sheeting, and boarding it, they poled themselves out into the middle of the pond, heedless of the perilous consequences should their flimsy craft collapse.

They were nearing the nest when, amid their startled cries, the raft came apart and overturned, throwing the luckless lads into the treacherous liquid. They disappeared under the surface, and boys who, attracted by their screams, had squeezed their way through the fence which surrounds the pond, were just in time to see the last of the lads. They ran off to give the alarm, and one man is stated to have divested himself of his outer clothing and waded in and “swam” through the mire in the hope that he would be able to rescue or both of them should they have become entangled in the weeds and rubbish immediately under the surface.

The plucky man could find no tace of them, however, and all that remained to be done was for the police to recover the bodies with their dragging apparatus.


From 7p.m. – the time the lads were drowned – policeman, in charge of Sub Divisional Inspector Beagley, were searching for the bodies with torches, lamps, flares, and such like.

All night long the gruesome task went on, and a more errie picture it would be hard to imagine than that of constables (most of them in shirt sleeves) working away with the dragging tackle trying to pull away the choking mass of waste stuff out of the pool. Early in the morning the Tottenham and Edmonton fire pumps (under Superintendents Easton and Croasdell respectively) lent valuable assistance pumping out a tremendous amount of water, and Messrs, E. Knifton, Ltd., the Edmonton contractors, loaned a lorry, men, and tackle, with which much of the refuse was dragged from the pool. The water was pumped out into an open sewer.


Hundreds of people watched the grim work, and a tragic spectacle was the two grief-stricken mothers standing apart with a group of sympathisers. They waited there most of the night and were there again in the morning when the bodies were found.

Other mothers had waited the previous night in suspense till it was established beyond doubt whose sons were in the pond.

Some time ago a rate payers’ movement in the locality urged upon the District Council the necessity of doing something to dispose of so unsightly and nauseating sight on the ground of the danger to health.

The pond was once upon a time a gravel pit, from which thousands of tons of gravel had been extracted.


It has been in existence for generations past. For some considerable time the Local Authority has made use of it as a refuse shoot, with a view to its area being reduced. 

Within a stone’s throw of its banks has been built one of Tottenham’s most modern institutions, the Devonshire Hill Open –air School, and when the wind in blowing in a north easterly direction the offensive smell from the stagnant mixture is carried towards the school and the houses in Weir Hall Road.

A correspondent writes that it was found necessary to close the school during dragging operations owing to the foul smell [see article below].




A VERDICT OF “Death by mis-adventure” was returned by the Coroner, Dr G Cohen, at the inquest at The Price of Wales Hospital yesterday. The proceedings were brief, and ended with an expression of sympathy to the families from the coroner and from Capt. Wilkinson (engineer) on behalf of the Tottenham District Council.

Mrs Ellen Shaw (a widow) and Mrs Dewson] [correctly spelt this time], the mothers, said they did not know their sons had gone to the pond. Mrs Shaw said her boy could swim. Francis William Stanton, aged 16, of 73 Lorenco Road, Tottenham, said he was on the bank of the pond on Monday evening watching companions (the dead boys) making a raft out of railway sleepers which they nailed to strips of corrugated iron. “They pushed it out and jumped on it, and when they got out a short distance the raft came apart and turned up.” added the boy. Dewson and Shaw went through the middle. I ran for help and when I got back all I could see in the pond was the pole they had used. Everything else had sunk.

“They wanted me to go with them, but I could see the raft was breaking before they went on it,” he added. “They told me it was safe, but I would not go with them.”

P.S. Illingworth said the raft, which was recovered, was unsafe for such use. The bodies were recovered by P.C Sims, assisted by other officers.

Capt. Wilkinson said the pond was a disused gravel pit now used by the council as a road refuse shoot. It was now being filled in.

The Coroner: Are these boys allowed to go on the pond or banks? No, they were trespassing. The site is closely fenced in.

Recalled, the boy Stanton said the lads and he got in by climbing under the barbed wire fence. He knew they were not allowed in, but thought it was all right because the older boys asked him to go with them.

Capt. Wilkinson added that the pond was fenced with four strands of barbed wire fixed to sleepers; and was under constant repair owing to such trespassing.

Questioned by the coroner, Capt. Wilkinson said it was almost impossible for a boy swimmer to get out if he fell into the pond, which is 300 feet wide. He agreed that this double fatality should have the effect of warning forcibly other boys prone to trespassing.

Dr. John Scott, police surgeon, attributed death in both cases to asphyxia through drowning.

The funeral takes place in Tottenham cemetery on Monday afternoon.


In the same edition, the following article appeared on the same page:



To the Editor

Sir. – Is it not time that the Tottenham Council took steps to fill in Dead Man’s Hollow, adjoining Devonshire Hill School? On Monday last two boys were drowned there. In previous years there have been a number of accidents, which have earned it its unenviable name.

On Tuesday last the school was closed owing to the germs and smells stirred up in during the dredging operations. How long must children remain at work and play beside such n unhealthy spot? In the interests of public health this land should have been filled in long ago. While no action is taken, it will remain as a blot on the record of Tottenham’s public life.

Yours, etc. 


43 Devonshire Hill Lane, North Tottenham.




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