24 November 2020

Hornsey Road – more ghostsigns, observations and recollections

When I first moved to the Holloway area back in 1988 I lived at the eastern end of Marborough Road, near its junction with Hornsey and Hanley Roads. My bus stop back from work in the West End was the one just south of Bavaria Road at a time when the bus was a 14A and went all the way to Chelsea (what a fab, long route!). I used to like looking at the hints of history in the area but didn't look into it until many years later.  I subsequently moved to another address near to Holloway's Nags Head shopping area but I still have cause to walk the same roads, often when I am headed up to or back from Crouch End, which used to be part of Hornsey, hence the road name. 

Last month I was coming back down the hill and I noticed that the Hanley Arms, which is now an Islamic place of worship, has been given a much-needed lick of paint. It had for years been looking rather sad and I had always worried that the lovely black metalwork over the doors showing the pub name and the saloon bar would get further damaged over time or, worse, be removed comletely. As these pics show, the owners have seen fit to enhance in gold paint that the building was once a pub, which seems at odds with its purpose these days.

Pics all 2020 exc bottom right showing when it was still a pub

I think the Hanley Arms entrance on the corner was for the more basic area of the pub to the Private or Public bar. The Saloon Bar at centre-front would have led to the swankiest part of the pub and there might have been a third entrance down the side that led to a smaller room at the rear. These defined bar areas for different kinds of people would have been sectioned off with wood and glass panels from a main bar area at the centre. I am vaguely aware of going in there once for a nose about when I moved to the area, or am I imagining this or getting my wires crossed with another similar pub?  Most of the interior fittings have since been removed to convert it into a prayer room but the Anaglypta ceiling and other hints of the bulding's previous life are still visible as shown here in The Hornsey Road blog.

The road has changed a lot since I arrived here. Today the eastern side is mainly fast food outlets, but I recall many more and varied shops in the late 80s. But it certainly wasn't as vibrant a street as it was 100 years before that, with shops all the way up to Hornsey Rise and down to Holloway and beyond, with pubs at almost every junction. For instance, on the opposite side of the road to the Hanley Arms was The Alexandra on the corner of Bavaria Road, then called Blenheim Road, as shown by the old painted road sign.

Bottom left 2020, bottom centre and right 2008

A panel on the side of the old pub building shows The Alexandra advertised itself as a 'COFFEE TAVERN'. I assume from this that this was a more genteel kind of place with tablecolths and attracted ladies. The pub was converted to commercial use. By the late 1980s, it was a locksmith's shop which continued to trade into the early 2000s, complete with a large advertisement for key cutting and 5-lever locks and whatnot on the north-facing side of the premises at ground level. By the time I photographed the sign in 2008 it was extremely faded. It's now completely gone having been over-painted, probably at the same time as another storey was added to the top of the building.

The coffee tavern sign reminded me that on a rainy day in 2011 I'd spotted a faded sign on at high level on No.418 that showed the feint letters LADIES SALOON. I could make out a name above ending "...ETTS" – I stupidly never returned to take better pics and it's now been over-painted. Damn.

Hornsey Road ghostsigns – NatWest Bank, Ladies Saloon, The Plough. All 2020 exc middle top.

This looks to be a late-Victorian-Edwardian establishment – a quick bit of delving shows me that Walter Betts had a coffee shop at No. 422 until 1905. By 1906 the same establishement is owned by Charles Watson. Note that the sign is not above the coffee shop but instead above what was then Emil Kober's hairdresser shop at No.418. It looks like a clever bit of inter-business was happeninging here – ladies could get their hair done and then retire to rooms on the upper floors for drinks, provided and served by the esatablishment two doors up the road. How lovely.

As you walk along the road today, you can clearly make out how this was once a busy high street with shops of every kind. As shown above, there's even the hint of a branch of NatWest and further along at the junction of Tollington Park there's what's left of The Plough public house. The entrance to the stables at the rear has been filled in for decades now and it's again one of those places I wish I'd photographed back in 1988 when the cobbled access was still viable leading to the rear of the pub.

I'll leave it there. Any extra info and memories most welcome.



  1. The Coffee Tavern may have been a temperance establishment rather than a more genteel pub

  2. That's a good idea Zoe, thanks


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