A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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Brighton Cross

Kip Fenn
A novel about
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79 - A senior living home, the NSPCC, and how to use the stocks on Southgate Green

Beyond the northwest corner of the park, where Alderman's Hill meets Cannon's Hill, there's a tiny little green. A notice announces that the Southgate Village gates once stood here. The name Southgate itself, however, originates because it was once the south gate into Enfield Chase (a plaque to that effect can be found a mile further north on Chase Road).

At the bottom of Cannon Hill, on the east side, there are three interesting properties in a row. First is the Hermitage, a fine thatched cottage (the only one I've encountered along the whole 300 easting route) over 200 years old. Next to it is another low building, the Coach House, which has brilliant white painted timber-panelling and a white wooden fence along the road. It looks more like an American suburban home than a British one. And then, at number 6 Cannon Hill, is the early 19th century Cannon House, now home to the St Monica's Parish Social Club.

There are several large houses on the other side of the road, chief among these is one originally called Arnos Grove, first built in the 1720s, but extended with two wings in the 20th century. The southern wing has been turned into flats and is known as Lulworth Court, while the old central part and northern wing is a 'senior living home' called The Westminster Beaumont, run by Westminster Health Care. The company has over 80 homes around the country, every one of them with a name beginning 'The Westminster', and says it is one of the major providers of high quality healthcare services to both the private and public sectors in the UK. It was a public company until 1999, but, since then, has been owned by 'leading financial institutions' and a 'management team'.

Until the 1920s, Arnos Grove, then owned by Lord Inverforth, owned a large area of land to the west and north of the mansion. According to the excellent local information provided by Southgate Green Association, it was only through determined efforts of Southgate Urban District Council that the area wasn't overdeveloped. During its extended negotiations with Lord Inverforth, the Council secured an open space further to the west, known as Arnos Park, which runs along Pymmes Brook, as well as part of Southgate green, to the north - known as The Green.

At the top of Cannon Hill, I reach The Green. Although a number of roads intersect here (including one called Arnos Grove, as planned by Inverforth), it still feels like a village green. There's no pond because Inverforth owned half of the one that was here, Duchess Pond, and filled it during the 1920s to make way for Arnos Grove. But there is an old iron signpost, painted white but rusting, which points in three directions: A1004 - Palmers Green 1, London 8 (the way I've come); A1004 - Barnet 3 1/4 miles, Potter's Bar (the way I'm going) 5 1/2 miles; and A1003 New Southgate 1 1/4 miles, Finchley 3 miles. A small circular ring on top says 'Southgate'. Also on the green are some stocks (not the original ones), and a Metropolitan Association fountain and cattle trough (planted with pansies). To the west there's the spire of Christ Church, designed Sir George Gilbert Scott, and built in 1862. It contains windows of stained glass fashioned by Pre-Raphaelite artists.

To complete the picture, on the east side of the green, is a pub, historically called The Cherry Tree. Records for a Cherry Tree Inn go back to the 17th century. As if to try and stress its heritage credentials, the pub's owners have placed a large sign on the front of the old building which says 'In keeping with tradition'. They have also renamed it 'Ye Olde Cherry Tree'. The wrists and ankles of whoever decided on this change of name should be locked into the stocks for ever. On the north side of the old building, there's a coach house, with an assembly room above; and, behind the pub itself, is a modern wooden-planked extension. Beyond is a car park, and then Selbourne Bowling Club. Founded just before World War One by The Cherry Tree landlord, Bert Plumb, and friends, it was named after a road that leads into Cannon Hill.

There are old houses, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, on the north and east side of The Green. A bell on the roof of an early Georgian property called Amoside signals its function once as a school. A 19th century house called Ash Lodge carries a plaque celebrating its use as 'the first seat of local government in Southgate'. Number 33 is more modern, but it too boasts a plaque: 'In a house on this site lived Benjamin Waugh when in 1884 he founded the NSPCC. The only voice which reached him was the cry of children.' In fact, Waugh, who had worked as a Congregational minister in the slums of the East End, launched the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1884. This evolved into the national organisation, the NSPCC, in 1889, with Queen Victoria as Royal Patron. The organisation grew in size and influence through the 20th century. It claims to have helped more than 10 million children. Today, it is the only voluntary organisation with statutory powers to intervene in child cruelty cases. But, despite its good works, it has recently been the target of some criticism, concerning the powerful images it uses for advertising campaigns, and for not acting swiftly enough in the sad case of Victoria Climbie.

A brass nameplate on number 33 tells me that, since 1992, the building has been occupied by the Salcombe pre-school for boys and girls, aged 3-5. This is a feeder nursery for Salcombe Preparatory School, situated on Chase Side a mile or so to the northwest. The school, which dates from 1918, says it has 'a long tradition of success in preparing children for selective, maintained and independent schools'.

But all here is not as much of an urban idyll as it might appear. In early 2004, Southgate Green Association reported that, the previous November, residents and businesses around The Green had experienced an increase in vandalism. Groups of youths were regularly being seen on Cannon Hill forming an 'intimidating presence'. Under age drinking, fights and destruction to cars was also being reported.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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