North London is full of vibrant and popular areas. And Hornsey, with all its fascinating history, is just one of them.
Once a municipal borough that encompassed parts of Muswell Hill, Crouch End and Highgate, Hornsey is now centred on its High Street and is classed as a village in its own right. While the area offers residents here a good choice of independent retailers, restaurants and schools, its history goes back a lot further than you may have thought.
St Mary’s Church
Dating back to around 1291, St Mary’s was the original parish church, and the principal feature of Hornsey village. It is thought by many historians to have been built even earlier than this, possibly as far back as the 7th century. The church also had a Tower, which was built in around 1500. Some 300 years later, the church itself was rebuilt to accommodate more parishioners, but the Tower was retained.
Today, the Grade II listed St Mary’s Tower is all that remains of the church, and is the oldest building in Hornsey. Set back just a little from Hornsey High Street with beautiful surrounding gardens, it makes for a pleasant place to be if you want to escape the bustle of the city for a while.
As St Mary’s was a medieval parish church, it was necessary to have a churchyard. Serving the area for many hundreds of years, the churchyard was extended in the mid-1800s. Today, the main pathways through the churchyard are classed as ancient rights of way, as they connected to other routes that were there long before the area’s residential properties were built.
Hornsey’s role in London’s history
There are significant organisations and people that not only have their own place in history, but in London’s history too.
A major development in the 17th century was the Hornsey Water Treatment Works, which supplied London with water from Hertfordshire. The brick buildings that stand today were the last built by the New River Company. They were taken over in around 1904 by the Metropolitan Water Board. Today they are run by Thames Water.
In 1951 the legendary British motor company Lotus built its very first factory here, producing kit cars for driving enthusiasts from inside and outside the city. The company also had a showroom close by for a number of years. This building was listed as a ‘historic building of interest’ and was recently under threat of being demolished. Thankfully, a public campaign meant the building was saved, and so the Lotus name can still live on in the area.
Perhaps the biggest change to Hornsey was in 1850, with the arrival of Hornsey railway station. A station on the Great Northern Railway line, it was the first stop from leaving King’s Cross, which meant people could live in the rural surroundings that Hornsey offered, while still being able to reach work in the city with relative ease.
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