Some buildings are nothing special from the outside but nothing less than magnificent within. Hornsey Town Hall, for instance ... which isn't in Hornsey but Crouch End, and has only been a town hall for thirty of its 80+ years.
From Crouch End Broadway, it looks a touch drab - more like a power station than a hive of municipal activity. And that's in spite of the ample open space which it overlooks - a really fantastic amenity which is only occasionally made the most of.
Hornsey became a municipal borough in 1903. It was another thirty years before the borough took on the task of building a town hall. But when Hornsey did commission a municipal HQ, it did so in style.
Reginald Uren designed what is sometimes described as the first modernist public building in the country - the opening ceremony was on 4th November 1935. Today, as part of Open House, I had a chance to see inside - not the council chamber, which is not currently accessible, but the main hall, and the long gallery which looks out onto the Broadway.
The building is a little decayed, but the detail is all there - magnificently so . Take a look -
Hornsey became part of the London Borough of Haringey in 1965. The town hall was downgraded to municipal offices. The building has been seeking a purpose to match its size and ambition ever since. And broadly, without success. It was for a while on the 'at risk' register.
So Hornsey is - along with similar marvellous buildings in Hampstead, Finsbury, Holborn and elsewhere - a town hall without a Borough.
The hall was once widely used - and indeed Ray Davies has declared that the Kinks played their first gig here, though the Clissold Arms also lays claim to that honour.
Labour-controlled Haringey council has now done a deal with a Hong Kong-based property consortium to develop the town hall into an arts and performance hub, along with the building of a hotel and a hundred or more apartments immediately behind. The plan hasn't gone down all that well with local civic groups.
The town hall should be back in action, reborn, in 2020 (at least that's what they say)!
On Saturday, I strolled along the southern section of the Parkland Walk, which starts just south of Highgate tube station and takes you along the route of a disused railway line. It leads all the way to Finsbury Park. There's a bewitching section where you walk through an abandoned commuter station. So the path, as you can see, sticks to the tracks, but if you prefer you can walk along the old station platforms on either side.
This was Crouch End Station - the map below will help you work out where it was. It opened in the 1860s, closed in 1954, and the track was last used in 1970.
There must be people still around who travelled to and from work through this now deserted station. For them, I wonder what memories walking along these platforms must evoke.
To Crouch End, to discover that Prospero's Books has closed. For the first time I can recall, this most literate of North London localities is without a proper bookshop. How sad!
There is a Bargain Books selling cut price remainders. And, more usefully, an Oxfam Books which has a good selection, and almost makes the journey worthwhile.
Well, this morning it did better than that.
I'm not a great cricket enthusiast, but the accompanying souvenir of an Australian cricket tour eighty years ago strikes me as a complete gem. Well worth the £4.99 I shelled out. The England team of that time featured Hobbs ('a delightful batsman and master of every stroke'), Sutcliffe, Larwood ('on form he is undoubtedly our strongest attack') and Hammond.
And in the Australian line-up, a young, promising batsman - Don Bradman, see below:
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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