Tavistock Terrace in Upper Holloway is home to an awful lot of gnomes. There are dozens of them above front doors and ground floor windows. We'd venture a guess that the street's gnomes almost out-number the residents. It's a global assembly of gnomes.
But why? The short answer is no one knows.
'The gnomic figures are a source of constant discussion and we often see people looking up and pointing as they walk past', one long-standing resident of the street tells me. 'For a long time we assumed they were an image of the architect or builder but I’m afraid it’s probably more mundane than that.'
This fashionable street was built in around 1860 and builders were always trying to make their newly built des res's stand out. It may be that Tavistock Terrace's gnomes - or are they intended to be classical or mythical figures? - were a job lot from the local builders' yard.
Stylised heads are not uncommon on Victorian-era terraced houses. These with gnome-like features are unusual. And a whole street of Santa's helpers is distinctly, well, distinct.
But there are other examples in London. Manchester Street in Marylebone is a little older and grander, and its ornamental heads have a fuller beard, but there are in the gnomic style. Take a look:
On balance, I think I prefer the Tavistock Terrace heads - they are more cheerful and welcoming. And isn't it wonderful to have these perhaps frivolous but delightful architectural survivals from another era.
Of course, the uniform style suggests that Tavistock Terrace was built in one go by the same developer. And this at a time when speculative builders would often construct just a couple or a handful of houses, which is why so many North London streets consist of houses which, while similar, have minor architectural variations.
If anyone knows anything more about Upper Holloway's bucolic looking figures, or any stories about them, do please get in touch!
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