Muswell Hill is a suburban district of north London. It is mainly in the London Borough of Haringey with a small part in the London Borough of Barnet. It is between Highgate, Hampstead Garden Suburb, East Finchley and Crouch End. It has many streets with Edwardian architecture.
The earliest records of Muswell Hill date from the 12th century. The Bishop of London, who was the Lord of the Manor of Haringey, owned the area and granted 65 acres (26 ha), located to the east of Colney Hatch Lane, to a newly formed order of nuns. The nuns built a chapel on the site and called it Our Lady of Muswell.
The name Muswell is believed to come from a natural spring or well (the "Mossy Well"), said to have miraculous properties. A traditional story tells that Scottish king Malcolm IV was cured of disease after drinking the water. The area became a place of pilgrimage for healing during medieval times. The River Moselle, which has its source in Muswell Hill and Highgate, derives its name from this district; it was originally known as the Mosa or Mosella. Until the 1950s, the town's name was often pronounced "Muzzle Hill".
In the 18th century Muswell Hill was a scattered village consisting mainly of detached villas with large gardens. In 1787 one commentator wrote that nowhere within 100 miles (160 km) of London was there a village so pleasant or with such varied views. Little had changed by the middle of the 19th century. One of the houses of the time was The Limes. This house occupied the angle of Muswell Hill Road with Colney Hatch Lane and was a three-storeyed house with portico and two-storeyed wing approached by a double carriage drive through impressive gateways. The large grounds of the house extended to Tetherdown and included a lake. Opposite The Limes was Muswell Hill pond and beyond that the Green Man inn, built of stone.
Further down the hill past the Green Man was The Elms, a squat three-storeyed house later improved by Thomas Cubitt standing in 11 acres (4.5 ha), part of the grounds of which were laid out by Joseph Paxton. A short distance down the north side of Muswell Hill was The Grove, which was three storeys high and had nine bays with pedimented projections at each end. It stood in 8 acres (3.2 ha) of grounds which contained a 200-yard avenue of oaks. In 1774 the house was occupied by Topham Beauclerk.
Parallel with Muswell Hill was a track known as St James's Lane which ran across a triangle of wasteland. By the middle of the 19th century houses were already dispersed along the lane at the foot of which was Lalla Rookh, a two-storeyed villa with a wide verandah. Other buildings there were apparently cottages or huts, both single and in terraces.
It was not until the end of the 19th century that Muswell Hill began to be developed more densely from a collection of country houses to the London village that it is today. The development was spurred by the opening in 1873 of Alexandra Palace, a massive pleasure pavilion built on the most easterly of north London's gravel hills and intended as the counterpart to the Crystal Palace on Sydenham Hill in south London. Alexandra Palace was served by a branchline railway from Highgate, with an intermediary station at Muswell Hill (see below). The foot of Alexandra Palace was served by another rail network with connecting services to Finsbury Park and Kings Cross stations.
Most development was initiated in the early 20th century when the current street pattern was set out and elegant Edwardian retail parades were constructed. The shopping centre is based on roads that form three sides of a square: Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill Broadway and the extension of the Broadway into Colney Hatch Lane. At each node point is a church: United Reformed, Church of England, Methodist, and Roman Catholic. One of the nodes, opposite St James's CoE, was also the site of the Athenaeum music hall (later demolished with the site redeveloped as a supermarket), opposite which a surviving art deco Odeon cinema was built in the 1930s. The site of the Ritz, a cinema formerly at the top of Muswell Hill on the next node to the east, has been redeveloped as offices.
Until the mid-20th century there was a rail branch line, the Muswell Hill Railway, from Highgate which passed through Muswell Hill, terminating at a station at Alexandra Palace. It was intended under the Northern Heights plan to integrate this into the London Underground Northern line; some contemporary tube maps (e.g. the 1948 map) showed the line as being under construction. However, this plan was cancelled after the Second World War, and the railway line was abandoned in 1954. The line was later converted to become the Parkland Walk.
Until the reorganisation of London's local government in 1965, Muswell Hill formed part of the Borough of Hornsey within the administrative county of Middlesex. The area subsequently became part of the London Borough of Haringey. The northern portion of Muswell Hill was part of the Friern Barnet Urban District, also in Middlesex, which subsequently became part of the London Borough of Barnet.
In 1964, three young Muswell Hill residents, the brothers Ray and Dave Davies and Pete Quaiffe, formed The Kinks. Categorised in the United States as a British Invasion band, the Kinks are recognised as one of the most important and influential rock groups of the era. The Davieses parents' home at 6 Denmark Terrace, Fortis Green, remains a magnet for rock music tourists.
In March 2013 and June 2020 Muswell Hill was named one of the five most desirable places to live in London in the Sunday Times "Best Places To Live" guide.
Close to Alexandra Park and Highgate Woods, Muswell Hill is a mainly Edwardian north London suburb. Muswell Hill Broadway and Fortis Green Road, the main shopping streets, still maintain their historic character with most of the original facades preserved above street level. The area has a synagogue and six churches, one of which has been converted into a steak house.
- Coppetts Wood Primary School and Children's Centre
- Coldfall Primary School
- Eden Primary
- Hollickwood JMI School
- Muswell Hill Primary School
- Norfolk House Preparatory
- Our Lady of Muswell RC Primary School
- Rhodes Avenue Primary School
- St James C of E Primary School
- Tetherdown Primary School
- Blanche Nevile School. A school for deaf and hearing impaired children, based on the sites of Highgate Primary School and Fortismere School.
- TreeHouse School, based at the Pears National Centre For Autism Education.
National Rail () services pass to the east of Muswell Hill, calling at Alexandra Palace, Hornsey and Finsbury Park. Trains are operated by Great Northern and Thameslink to destinations such as Moorgate, Enfield and Welwyn Garden City. To the south of Muswell Hill, London Overground () trains serve Crouch Hill station between Gospel Oak and Barking, via South Tottenham.
|Route Number||Start||End||Key Destinations|
|43||Friern Barnet||London Bridge||Highgate (), Archway, Islington, Angel, City of London, Bank|
|102||Brent Cross||Edmonton Green||Bounds Green (), East Finchley (), Golders Green|
|134||North Finchley||Warren Street||Highgate (), Archway, Kentish Town, Camden Town|
|144||Muswell Hill||Edmonton Green||Wood Green|
|234||Barnet||Highgate Wood||East Finchley ()|
|299||Muswell Hill||Cockfosters||Bounds Green (), Southgate|
|W3||Finsbury Park ( )||Northumberland Park||Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace (), Wood Green, Tottenham|
|W7||Muswell Hill||Finsbury Park ( )||Crouch End, Crouch Hill ()|
Highgate is to the south of the district and can be reached via Muswell Hill Road. To the north, Colney Hatch, Friern Barnet and Whetstone can be reached via Colney Hatch Lane. Both routes are numbered B550.
The A1 passes to the south of Muswell Hill, carrying traffic southbound towards Archway, Islington and the City of London. To the north, the route crosses the North Circular Road (A406), and traffic can reach destinations such as Mill Hill, Watford, Stevenage and Peterborough.
Cycling infrastructure in Muswell Hill is limited. The now-defunct London Cycle Network developed two signposted routes through Muswell Hill:
- Route 6 - an incomplete but signposted route from Barnet to Central London, passing through the Broadway on main roads.
- Route 54 - an unbroken but signposted route to Walthamstow via Tottenham following main roads. Between Highgate Wood and Alexandra Palace, the route skirts around the southeastern edge of Muswell Hill on a traffic-free shared-use path.
The Muswell Hill Metro Group campaigns to reinstate a historic railway line which ran between Alexandra Palace and Finsbury Park, via Muswell Hill. The group says that the line would relieve congestion on local roads and that an electric railway would improve local air quality.
The 2011 census showed that 84% of the population was white (65% British, 16% Other, 3% Irish). 40% were irreligious and Christian each, while the Jewish population stood at 5.3%.
Places of interest
- Alexandra Palace
- Alexandra Park
- Golf Course Allotments (the largest allotment site in the area)
- The Guy Chester Centre of the Methodist church
- Oliver Tambo Memorial Statue at the Albert Road Recreation Ground
- Muswell Hill United Synagogue
References in popular culture
- In the war romance film The Americanization of Emily (1964), Emily's mother lives in a house in Dukes Avenue. Exterior shots show Alexandra Palace in the background.
- In the 1970s BBC TV comedy series Porridge, the principal character, Norman Stanley Fletcher, played by Ronnie Barker, hailed from Muswell Hill. Fletcher claimed that in his younger days he was "King of the Teds in Muswell Hill".
- The Kinks recorded the 1971 LP Muswell Hillbillies, which included the song "Muswell Hillbilly".
- The Yorkshire Television sitcom That's My Boy (1981–1986), starring Mollie Sugden and Christopher Blake, made frequent references to Muswell Hill, as the family lived in the area throughout the first four seasons.
- Series one of the 1993 sitcom Sean's Show is set in Muswell Hill.
- The Doctor Who episode "The Idiot's Lantern" (2006) is set in Muswell Hill, during Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953.
- The Madness song "Driving in My Car" includes the line "I've been far, I drive up to Muswell Hill".
- M Huncho refers to Muswell hill in the song "Pee Pee" with the line "Going to London, Shits a thrill, Meet some hoes in Muswell Hill".
- Hilaire Belloc referenced Muswell Hill in one of his burlesques of improving juvenile literature. Residence there is presented as the capstone and reward of a virtuous life.
The nicest child I ever knew
Was Charles Augustus Fortescue...
(virtuous biography follows)
...He thus became extremely Rich,
And built the Splendid Mansion which
Is called ‘The Cedars’, Muswell Hill,
Where he resides in affluence still,
To show what everybody might
Become by SIMPLY DOING RIGHT.
-Hilaire Belloc, Cautionary Tales for Children, 1920
People from Muswell Hill
Musicians Ray and Dave Davies, founding members of The Kinks, grew up in Muswell Hill, the album title ‘‘Muswell Hillbillies’’ being an obvious reference to their youth. They allegedly played their first ever gig in the Clissold Arms in Fortis Green.
Scottish serial killer and necrophile Dennis Nilsen committed his later murders in his Cranley Gardens flat in Muswell Hill and became known as the "Muswell Hill Murderer".
John Logie Baird was the first person to transmit moving pictures, now called television. The first public broadcasts were from nearby Alexandra Palace before WW2. His scanning, rotating disc system was later replaced by a more modern electronic system. The former John Baird pub, now the Village Green, in Fortis Green Road was named after him.
The group Fairport Convention started in the Muswell Hill family home of Simon Nicol. The house, Fairport, is on the south side of Fortis Green near the junction with Tetherdown and Fortis Green Road.
Musician, author, poet, wit and great English eccentric Vivian Stanshall lived his final years in Muswell Hill, dying in a fire in his Hillfield Park flat in 1995.
Former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko lived in Muswell Hill from his exile in 2000 until his assassination in 2006.
A resident for a short time in Muswell Hill was the Russian-born England Rugby union star Prince Alexander Obolensky, who died in Suffolk in an aircraft accident in 1940 while training as an RAF pilot.
The nearest tube stations are:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Muswell Hill.|
- Hornsey (parish) for the local government unit of which Muswell Hill was part from medieval times to 1867
- Municipal Borough of Hornsey for the local government unit of which Muswell Hill was part from 1903–1965
References and notes
- "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] UK Government Web Archive – The National Archives". Ons.gov.uk. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
- Harringay, Haringey and Hornsey were used interchangeably in this period. For further information see History of Harringay
- Muswell Hill Manor in Oxfordshire was said to be owned by the King of Scotland in the 12th century.
- Albert Pinching & David Bell, Haringey's Hidden Streams Revealed, 2005
- The earliest known description of the river is given by the Tottenham historian Rev William Bedwell (1561 - 1632) who used these two variants in 1631 in William Bedwell, A Briefe Description of the Town of Tottenham Highcrosse in Middlesex, 1631.
- Robbins, Michael. Middlesex (2003 ed.). The History Press. p. 313.
- Brewer, Beauties of Eng. & Wales, x (5), 213; Ambulator (1820)
- Ambulator (1787)
- J. Keane, Beauties of Mdx. (1850), 148-9; Hornsey libr., N. Mdx. Photo. Soc. no. 632.
- Postcard in Hornsey libr.
- B.L. Maps Dept., sales parts. (1880).
- A History of the County of Middlesex; by T. F. T. Baker, C. R. Elrington (editors), A. P. Baggs, Diane K. Bolton, M. A. Hicks, R. B. Pugh. p. 33
- Keane, Beauties of Mdx. 239-41; Hornsey Hist. Soc. Bull. Sept. 1975; M.L.R. 1779/5/494; M.R.O., MR/DE Hornsey; Ambulator (1787 and later edns.)
- C. Nicholson, Scraps of Hist. of a Northern Suburb of Lond. (1879), 16; sales parts. (1939) in Hornsey libr.
- Hassell, Rides and Walks, i. 194.
- Thorne, Environs, 443-4.
- Photos. (1935) in Hornsey libr.; Hornsey Boro. Ann. Rep. of M.O.H. (1930); see also Sherington, Story of Hornsey, 42
- "South Friern (Finchley N10)". barnet.gov.uk. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
- "Refurb for Tim Martin's first outlet". Property News. Morning Advertiser. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
- "London's Rail & Tube Services" (PDF). Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2019.
- "43". Transport for London (TfL).
- "102". Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original on 5 August 2019.
- "134". Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original on 18 July 2019.
- "144". Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original on 5 August 2019.
- "234". Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original on 5 August 2019.
- "299". Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original on 5 August 2019.
- "634". Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original on 5 August 2019.
- "W3". Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original on 5 August 2019.
- "W7". Transport for London (TfL). Archived from the original on 5 August 2019.
- "OpenStreetMap". OpenStreetMap. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
- "the proposal". Muswell Hill Metro Group. Archived from the original on 5 August 2019.
- "Haringey Cycling Campaign". Archived from the original on 3 January 2019.
- Good Stuff IT Services. "Muswell Hill - UK Census Data 2011". Ukcensusdata.com. Archived from the original on 2 January 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
- "Sean's Show". Channel 4. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- "Driving In My Car". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
- "M Huncho – Pee Pee" – via genius.com.
- Muswell Hill & Fortis Green Association - has some good historical pictures etc.
- History of Muswell Hill - Hornsey Historical Society - articles, books, postcards etc