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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
70 - Crouch End Hill - changing shops and the immutable King's Head
Going north down Crouch End Hill, the two sides of the road are very different in character. The east side, from Christchurch Hill to the Broadway, is taken up with large buildings. A brand new building, called The Exchange (where once existed a telephone exchange), is billed by estate agents as 'a luxury development of apartments combining cutting edge architecture, sleek styling and inspired detailing' with Miele kitchens and Villeroy & Boch bathrooms (not to mention the Grohe chrome taps). These flats are expensive. Two-bedroomed apartments were on the market in early 2004 from £300,000 to £450,000. However, Circle 33 Housing and Metropolitan Home Ownership also have some one and two-bedroomed houses for shared ownership in the same block. At street level, the building houses a modern Marks & Spencer's Simply Food, and a health club for women called Fresh Start Fitness.
Further north on the same side of the road are two pub buildings, very different from each other, the squarish-looking Hog's Head, decorated with iron grill, which closed down in 2003, and the neo-Tudor Railway Tavern, dating from the 1930s. This latter pub has been earmarked, by Camra North London Branch, for a special award: it is one of only a handful of pubs that was serving real ale when the branch was founded in 1974, and is still doing so today.
One hundred years ago, though, there were many small traders' premises on this, the east side of the road. Moreover, at least a third of those in business during 1903 were still trading in the same area of business just before World War II in 1937. These included: a chimney cleaner at 25, an undertaker at 35, bootmakers at 41 and 49, an ostrich feather dresser at 55, an oilman at 61 and a newsagent at 65.
Moving across the road, to the west side of Crouch End Hill, I find it is still populated by small shops. The first ones (moving south to north) are a clothes store, a sauna, an Italian restaurant, a convenience store, an exercise gym, a vegetarian restaurant and a hairdresser. One hundred years ago, the traders in these same premises in order were: a coal merchant, a hairdresser, a milliner, an electrical engineer, a tobacconist, a dressmaker and a draper.
In the next block, between Edison Road and Coleridge Road (where Crouch End Hill turns into The Broadway), I find a continuous set of shops in two different terraces joined in the middle, one dating from between the wars and one from the Victorian era.
In the first half of the newer terrace, the shops (today numbered from 56 down to 48) are Graham's Fine Art, M & L Carpet, Hobby Horse Riders (a children's clothes store), and a dry cleaners. In the mid-1930s, these were: a shoe shop and milliners, a florist, an upholsterer, and a trunk maker. Mid-parade, there is a hiatus in the numbering (introduced when the 30s block was built, the intervening numbers belonging, presumably, to the dwellings in the flats above the parade). Crouch End Hill numbers 24 to 14 are occupied by Vintiners Framing, Hair on the Hill, La Bottega (a delicatessen), Boombar (a South African restaurant), and Carters Glass Centre. In the mid-1930s, number 24 was a boot repair business, and Vintiners occupied number 22. Next to it was Ace Lending Library. At the south end of the newly built 1930s parade was a linen specialist, a confectioner, and, where the glass shop is today, a cabinet maker.
Because the shops in the second half, the southern end, of the parade
are housed in the Victorian part of the terrace, it's valid to make a comparison
with the traders both before World War Two (1937) and at the turn of the
century (1903). Thus, at number 12 there is a Californian cafe/restaurant
which was a butcher in 1903 and a hairdresser in 1937. At number 10, where
the Satay Malaysia restaurant is today there was a florist and tobacconist
in 1903 and an estate agent in 1937. At number 8, there was a fruiterer
in 1903, a chemist in 1937 and, today, there is a bookmaker. View, an optometrist,
trades at Number 6. Surprisingly, there was also an optician here before
the war, but the premises also housed a Singer sewing machine trader. Number
4 is a launderette today but, in both 1903 and 1937, it served as an undertakers.
And, at number 2, taking up the south end of the Victorian block, there
is the King's Head pub. It is the only premises on Crouch End Hill not to
have changed its use for 100 years. The pub has, though, been refurbished
recently, with a damson-coloured exterior at street level, and comfy chairs
inside. Downstairs, there's a lively cabaret bar which has a good local
reputation for music and comedy.
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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