Winchmore Hill: Memories of a Lost Village by Henrietta Cresswell

This year marks the centenary of the publication of an exceptional little book.

Henrietta Cresswell's book Winchmore Hill: Memories of a Lost Village is a personal account of the changing face of a rural village from the late 1860's as it transforms into the London suburb that exists today.


The book reports on the coming of the railway, and the development of farming land into housing, and the way the changes affect the rural community.


Written in 1912 the book is not a dry social history - but a charming individual reflection on the changing times through which Henrietta Cresswell lived. The book details the impact of transformation on the author,  her family, (particularly her father, the village doctor), and the wider community of the village of Winchmore Hill. 

There are several sections that touch on our own patch here in the Bowes and Bounds area. In one sequence Creswell's father - the local doctor is returning from a business meeting at the Bank of England  (on foot!) when he becomes disorientated by a deep fog at Bounds Green Road:

The old High road was narrow, with wide grass edges, crossed by little grips every few yards, and with deeper ditches at the sides. Steady horses were needed for the long night journeys in Winter, and in foggy weather it was difficult to keep to the road. The Doctor usually walked the ten miles each way whenever he visited the “old Lady in Threadneedle Street,” and on one October night found himself overtaken by a thick fog.

Opposite to the “Cock” at Bowes Farm there stood a pump by the roadside, on one of the wide grass margins that gave the London Road its name of Green Lanes. The handle of the pump was to the North and the spout to the South. The children had this fact impressed upon them, because on this particular night the Doctor did not know it. He had reached the end of Alderman Sidney’s wall and crossed the Bounds Green Road, and was adrift, so to speak, in the open. Pym’s Brook was filling the whole valley with a dense white mist, and the yellow smoke of the city was rolling down to meet it. Cold, weary, and cheerless, he stopped to light his pipe, and unthinkingly turned to shelter the flickering lucifer match, and, too late, realised that he had lost his direction and had no conception which was his way home.

He wandered off the roadway on to the turf, feeling more confused at every moment, when suddenly, to his great relief, he stumbled against the pump and knew where he was, but for the life of him he could not remember whether the spout or the handle was towards Winchmore Hill. He had to chance it, and by good luck found himself on the rising ground of King’s Arms Bridge, and the fog rapidly thinning showed him the lights in the cottages at the foot of Alderman’s Hill and the low one-storey hovels of Malice Row, which were built, it is said, to spite an opposite neighbour.

The delightful book is full of observation and incident like this and makes a great read. A reproduction of the original has been published in a limited special edition this year and is available to purchase via the website - the community forum for Winchmore Hill. It is also serialised on the website.

The centenary of the book's publication is also being celebrated with a major festival over a week in June culminating in a "Fancy Fair" on The Green, Winchmore Hill on June 23rd - reflecting the festival of the same name that Henrietta Cresswell wrote about in 1912.

More on the N21 Festival
More on Winchmore Hill: Memories of a Lost Village by Henrietta Cre...
More on Community website


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Comment by Ruth Cherrington on March 17, 2012 at 14:12

This is indeed a fascinating read, thanks for posting Richard. I love local history particularly from this period in 19th century when things were just on the verge of massive change that would make areas unrecognisable in a few years. The doctor, if he were alive today, would not be disoriented by the fog as the massive sprawl that the suburbs have become. Green Lanes is just not very green anymore but good to read about a time when it was. 

Comment by Richard McKeever on April 11, 2012 at 23:55

Here's an additional bit of interest: "Henrietta Cresswell" is now active on Twitter - sharing quotes from her book.

Follow Henrietta @HenriettaCress

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