How The Rosalie Skating Rink became Palmers Green Bus Garage

Recent news about the redevelopment of Palmers Green Bus garage has prompted questions about its fascinating history.

Constructed just over a century ago in 1910 the building we now know as Palmers Green bus garage was constructed by John Cathles Hill, a Scottish born builder, developer and architect whose previous work had included the development of housing on the former Bowes Manor Estate, new shops and housing at Grand Parade in Harringay and a few fancy pubs: the ornate Queens Hotel in Hornsey and the magnificent Salisbury Hotel on Green Lanes in Harringay.  

The pace of building development in early 20th century London led to a shortage of bricks – a problem Hill solved by purchasing an Oxfordshire brick works and establishing the London Brick Company.

The Bus Garage was initially “Rosalies” a purpose-built roller skating rink. Hill built his speculative development with plans to benefit from the popular pastime of roller skating and attract the well-heeled residents who had recently moved into the new housing he had developed around north London.

Palmers Green Historian Alan Dumayne records the opening day:

It opened  to great acclaim on Saturday, 1st October 1910, when 700 skaters tested out the superb maple floor, watched by an even greater number of spectators. The entrance fee was sixpence and the hire of skates an additional one shilling… A full military band played music at the afternoon and evening sessions.

It appears Hill had joined the roller skating craze just as popular interest was waning; despite the promising start, visitor numbers at Rosalies quickly declined. This and other business problems led Hill into financial difficulties in 1912 he was declared bankrupt with a deficit of over one million pounds. Hill’s health declined and just three years later he died and was buried in Highgate cemetery.

After just 15 months in operation Rosalies Skating Rink was sold to the London Omnibus Company as they prepared to extend the 29 service to Southgate and develop new services for the emerging suburbs.

These new services, along Aldermans Hill, were fiercely resisted by the existing horse-drawn bus operators that waited for the London trains at Palmers Green station and ferried passengers up Canons Hill to Southgate. The section of road to Southgate was of notoriously poor quality - resulting in a rough ride for the new bus travellers; it even featured as headline news in the Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill and Southgate Recorder, accompanied by a disparaging cartoon by Bowes Park resident Fred  Bennett from Natal Road.

The former skating rink building has been in use since as a bus garage – and has been significantly extended and modified for the purpose.

In 2004 three Transport and General Workers Union officers at the Palmers Green bus garage Maurice Cullum, Mike Wormall and Ted Simpson researched and recorded the history of their workplace and published a book telling the story of the building, the London buses based there and their colleagues who worked there.


Dumayne, A (1988) Once Upon A Time in Palmers Green. ISBN 0951228617

Wormwall, M., Simpson, E., Cullum, M. (2004) Palmers Green Bus Garage: A Comprehensive History ISBN 9781434301451

Palmers Green Life Magazine Issue 10 December 2013 published by Anthony Webb Estate Agents

Views: 1414

Comment by Lindsey Berthoud on August 19, 2015 at 15:34

Fascinating! Thanks Richard. 

Comment by Renato B on August 20, 2015 at 13:41

Very interesting. Who would ever have thought it was once a roller skating rink.

Comment by Jennifer Taylor on August 20, 2015 at 19:21
Comment by Hugh from Harringay Online on August 21, 2015 at 7:55

Now there's a nugget about JCH I was unaware of. 

His is a fascinating Victorian/Edwardian rags-to-riches-to-rags story. I gave the headlines in a Wikipedia piece I wrote about him a few years ago. He built about 20% of Harringay so was a key figure in the development of our neighbourhood.

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