Front Door to the Past
An exploration of the history and ownership of a single Victorian house and its surroundings in the South Tottenham and Stamford Hill areas of North London tracks through the centuries, uncovering a surprising web of people, places and events linked by their connection to the land.
“In Front Door to the Past, Jennifer Brown has, through her research for and writing of the book, completed a substantial labour of great love. Over a period of several years she has focused much of her time and energy on a project that began with the passing wonder as to who had been the previous residents of her then home in Vartry Road. The result is a detailed work that straddles a period from Ughtred’s and her nuns’ receipt of the land in question around 1152 to the 21st century.
The modern part of the story begins in the late 19th century with the early lives and later arrival in London of two brothers, Samuel and George Candler, the former beginning a career in the law, the other as an estate agent and property developer. Their business as well as family lives are intertwined and George becomes the builder and first resident of the Vartry Road house. The account progresses through the lives of many people – family, locals, neighbours and the occasional person of great note, as well as back though ownership of the land under and around the house to discover a treasure of mystery, intrigue and surprise.
Then, returning to more ancient times, the author explores the lives, deaths and transactions of earlier owners of the land and others connected to it. Perhaps by coincidence, it is the noted Candelers (or Candlers) of London who dominate the period after the dissolution of the monasteries, progressively passing it down through a series of wealthy owners that include the Barkhams, Hayters, Lethieulliers and Dormans.
Along the way we are introduced to a host of major and minor personae such as Samuel Pepys, Oliver Cromwell, Robert Walpole, Ernest Shackleton and even Alfred Hitchcock, but many more as well.”
Front Door to the Past
Published in paperback, 483pp
£24.99 + p&p
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From the preface
“There is little more banal than a most ordinary, almost nondescript area of North London touching Stamford Hill at one extreme and Seven Sisters Road at another, within it Vartry Road, one of its calmer Victorian streets. Not part of the urban village life of Stoke Newington, nor the busy High Street flavours of Tottenham, Finsbury Park and Wood Green, nor the urban chic atmosphere that parts of Islington purport to have, nor the leafy suburbanism of Crouch End and Muswell Hill, yet the local area touches on and reflects all of them.
Vartry Road and the area in many ways embody all that makes London a great city. The Hasidic Jews of Stamford Hill, with their sombre clothes and purposeful look, the mix of Greek, Cypriot and Turkish migrants now firmly established, the smattering of Afro–Caribbean and South Asian Londoners in numerous forms, the more recently arrived Polish and other Eastern Europeans and the whole range of other working–class, arty, professional and media types all seem to combine relatively easily with each other.
But within every street and local area lie stories of people, buildings, places and events. In Vartry Road, there is a unique house that stands out a little from its neighbours and which opens a door to a body of social history and interconnected relationships linked by the land on which it sits. As every picture tells a story, every house tells a great number of them.
This is a history of a house, its occupants and those connected with its local area. The research began purely as a short investigation but developed and evolved much further, with the obsession growing and leading into countless unforeseen places. Therefore, the book deals with the land on which the house sits and the pockets of land surrounding it, in effect a triangular area in its immediate environs, and the people who owned or were even remotely or unknowingly associated with it. The people and story cover a period primarily from the late 1500s to 2014, a key event during that period being 1897, when the land ceased to be space but a home.”