Musicians can be sarcastic little buggers at the best of times, and many times when we mention the area of Bruce Castle the retort is, “Bruce Castle? So, is there actually a Castle there then?” Well, yes, of course there is, it was built in the 16th century and it is one of England's oldest brick houses. Ha, you never expected that, did you!! Tottenham has it's own Castle!! Highbury and Islington doesn't, nor does Soho, and neither does Shoreditch, but we do!!! In your face, Stoke Newington, suck it Dalston!!!
Bruce Castle is Tottenham's historic epicentre, so here's the chance to give a bit of history about important events that made Tottenham what it is today. Bruce Castle itself was first lived in by Sir William Compton, who was one of the most prominent courtiers during the reign of Henry VIII of England. He was one of the Kings closest friends, and was given token jobs by the King specifically so that the two of them could hang out with each other: he was the Owen Wilson to the King's Ben Stiller. He was in charge of the Kings linen, clothes, jewels and tableware, and one of his other duties was to procure women for his monarch and arrange trysts with them at his London home, in Thames Street. Basically, he had a sideline as Henry's VIII's pimp, and how sad is it that the King needed a pimp - as if being the most powerful man in the world was not enough of an aphrodisiac.
And he lived in Bruce Castle. Bruce Castle was -literally - a pimps palace. If it was not for him then Tottenham, as we know it, would be radically different since he was it's first prominent resident. This was at a time in about 1515 when the whole of North London was countryside. London was so small at the time that Tottenham would have been a break from the city, even a place for a short holiday. It is possible he would not have been able to see more than 10 properties from his own property at the time, and seeing as the train line was built around Bruce Castle, his first choice of where to site it was the blueprint for the area. Sir William Compton, the best friend of the most powerful man in the country, no less.
The home was later occupied by Rowland Hill, a man who reformed the postal system. There was a time when the postal system was a virtue of the upper classes. Thanks to ol' Rowland, that was no more. He campaigned for a comprehensive reform of the postal system, based on the concept of penny postage and his solution of prepayment, facilitating the safe, speedy and cheap transfer of letters. As far as he was concerned, a cheap postage system was not the privilege of the few, but a right of the many, and his foresight meant that over 200 years after he was born, we still have a cheap postal system today. Not only that, but he also created The Hazelwood school in Birmingham, to provide a model for public education for the emerging middle classes aiming for useful, pupil-centred education which would give sufficient knowledge, skills and understanding to allow a student to continue self-education through a life "most useful to society and most happy to himself." Today, the words “middle class” may suggest a section of society at an advantage, but at the time, such a section of socity was not able to have the opportunities of the upper-class. But this school, which Hill designed, included such marvels for its time as a science lab, a swimming pool, and forced air heating. He was a visionary, and he lived in Bruce Castle too. There are still roads named after him today in Tottenham.
Later the house, which at the time was called Lordship House, was bought by Hugh Hare in 1625, who inherited a substantial sum of money and then had the good fortune of his mother remarring Henry Montagu, 1st Earl of Manchester, to raise his societal standing, and his bank balance, even further. Huge then married his new step-fathers daughter from his first marriage, and so Henry Montague was both his Father-in-Law and his Stepfather, simultaneously. He had a close relationship with the King at the time Charles I, and sadly when the Monarchy were defeated in the British Civil War of 1642-1651, he was stripped of his home. In 1660 when the Royal Family were restored in The Restoration the home was returned to him, but in a terrible condition. Sadly a lack of records means we don't know why it became so damaged, or even who restored it to health, but the home was then passed onto his son, Henry Hare, at a later unknown date. He actually died by choking on a turkey bone at a feast while drinking beer and laughing away to himself, and the pub The Hare, right next to Tottenham's football stadium was named after him. We're guessing that turkey is probably off the menu there.
Hugh's son Henry was Tottenham's first historian, writing a book on the areas history, and it was he that changed the name from Lordship House to it's current name. The name Bruce Castle comes from Robert The Bruce. The House Of Bruce, the lineage of Robert the Bruce, once owned a third of Tottenham, but when he became the King of Scotland he renounced all of his English land, including Bruce Castle, yet the name stuck. Margaret, Queen of Scots, the daughter of Henry VII also lived in the Castle. She married James IV, King Of Scotland, and her son became King James V of Scotland. That one house has had quite a history, in term of notable residents.
The same can be said of present day Tottenham as a whole. Adele comes from Tottenham, the biggest selling British musical act in the 21st century no less with nearlt 100 million albums sold. That's not a bad claim to fame. Dave Clark from the Dave Clark 5 lived here too, Wretch 32, Lemar, Mike Reid and also Mark Howard, the man who is famous for naming clouds, were all born here. Writer Ian Rankin lived here for 4 years, and Tottenham was also home to bands such as Razorlight, Pete Doherty and Shane McGowan and the Pogues. Actor Leslie Phillips is from the area, and Bruce Forsythe is from barely 500 yards north, in Edmonton. Weirdly enough Regina Spektor, who has toured with such acts like The Strokes and the Kings Of Leon and who provides the theme song to "Orange Is The New Black" moved from New York to Tottenham while studying at University in London. Seeing as her other homes are in Moscow and Manhatten, I'm not sure why she chose Tottenham to live in, but she did
See, there the more to Tottenham than meets the eye, yet many people know Tottenham for places like Broadwater Farm, which was home to The Broadwater Riots in 1985. Even before the riots happened, the estate was named as one of the worse places to live in the UK. However, this is not a case where I point out how Tottenham is brought down by the people within the area. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Here is time for another quick history lesson. Tottenham used to be mainly farmland, and in 1872, Bruce Grove railway station opened. At the time, the area was just Bruce Castle and a few buildings around it, and as a result of the train station opening Tottenham and Wood Green started to grow massively in popularity. In fact their growth was unprecedented. At the time, Braodwater farm was bog-land – most of it was under half a foot of water at all times. Needless to say, it was not exactly prime property speculation land. By 1920, Broadwater Farm was the last remaining agricultural land on Lordship Lane, surrounded by housing on all sides and remaining undeveloped due to it's poor drainage. In 1932 Tottenham Urban District Council purchased Broadwater Farm and the western half was drained and turned into Lordship Recreation Ground, which is still there to this day, while the eastern half was kept empty for prospective development, and was used, for the time being, as allotments. The cause of this consistent flooding was the River Moselle, which used to run off from the nearby Hill, upon which you can now find Muswell Hill (Muswell Hill/Moselle - Hill – clever, eh?)
Then, In 1967, construction of the Broadwater Farm Estate began on the site of the allotments, and an area of the south eastern part of the park was used to replace the allotments destroyed by the building of the estate. Now, basically they built on land that had a strong history of getting flooding. Hmmm.......
By 1973, problems with the estate were becoming apparent as the walkways of the deck level created dangerously isolated areas which became hotspots for crime and robbery, and provided easy escape routes for criminals. The housing was poorly maintained, and suffered badly from water leakages, pest infestations and electrical faults. Haringey now had a problem - more than half of the people who were offered accommodation in the estate refused it, despite housing being at a premium in the city as a whole.
And understandably so. The estate was in an area that was never designed to have flats built on it, and the residents were the victims in some kind of sociological experiment to see if you could reclaim bog land, which failed. Many people would say “Why didn't the residents just move off the land?” but if i had a home there and a few kids, and someone said, “You can have a roof over your head now, or the potential of a roof over your head somewhere else, at an unspecified date...” then what would you do? Have you ever been in a job that you didn't love, but you thought, “Oh well, at least it is something that pays the bills, it is better than nothing.....” A roof over my head in the worse area is better than no roof over my head in a poor area, and it's better to live in a flat in a flooded area than risking being thrown out on the streets, so this meant that many people couldn't move out, while new people wouldn't move it. Pretty soon, it was becoming distanced from the local areas surrounding it. This also created the excuse to not address the problem, since the flats were still filled with people. The council said that they would try to help the residents, but then this is the council that built on land that, 7 years later, flooded. That kind of council probably is not someone you should be entrusting your future onto.
The majority of existing residents had applied to be re-housed elsewhere. In 1976, less than ten years after the estate opened, the Department of the Environment concluded that the estate was of such poor quality that the only solution was demolition. Imagine that: “Hello Mr and Mrs Smith, how are you? Now I know that you have spent the last 10 years here improving your home which was brand new at the time, making friends of the neighbours, laying down roots, enrolling your children into a local school getting to know the area. Well, I'm afraid we've made an almighty cock-up, and we need to demolish your whole estate. Oh, and we don't have anywhere lined up for you to move into. Sorry!”
Needless to say, this decision was unwelcome to residents, and relations between the community and the local authority became increasingly confrontational. A process of regeneration began in 1981, but it was hampered by a lack of funds and an increasingly negative public perception of the area. The council didn't want to invest money into a poor area, but the only reason that the area was poor was because the council didn't want to invest into it. People did not want to move into the area without investment, investment would not come until there was a strong commercial demand in the area. Catch 22's aplenty.
Usually the government would intervene to rectify the matter, but sadly this was the era of Thatcher. She may have come from only a few miles away up the road in North Finchley, but she came from a world away. Tottenham was so far from the Conservatives political spectrum - it had Britain’s first black MP in 1987 at a time when the Conservatives had a majority of their members being Oxbridge educated - it was pretty clear that the Conservatives were never going to win any votes in Tottenham. Therefore the Tories largely abandoned the area, and investment dwindled.
In 1985 there was a major exhibition by Le Corbusier, the company created by the man who originally designed the estate, and when it proved unable to attract sponsorship the reason was attributed to the refusal of sponsors to be associated with his name was attributed to the "Broadwater Farm factor" Despite this the residents did not take such a slur lying down, and were instead proactive. Through lack of funds and an unwillingness on the part of the council to commit to regeneration, by 1985 it appeared that progress was actually being made in solving the area's problems. Pressure from the Tenants' Association and the Youth Association forced the council to open a Neighbourhood Office. In 1983, a tenants' empowerment agency, Priority Estates Project, was appointed to coordinate residents' complaints and concerns, and residents were included on interview panels for council staff dealing with the area. Slow progress was being made.
A number of initiatives aimed at providing activities for disaffected local youths and at integrating the mixture of ethnic communities in the area appeared to be succeeding; Sir George Young, who at the time was the Minister for Inner Cities, secured significant funding for improvements. Broadwater Farm began to be seen as a case study in regenerating a failed housing development In February 1985, Princess Diana paid a visit to the estate, and commended the improvements being made - to be fair, I am not sure she would have had much scope for comparison, unless she was secretly living on the 7th floor for the last 6 months. And this was the problem; much of the apparent progress was superficial. The problems caused by the deck-level walkways had not been solved; children from Broadwater Farm were still under-achieving academically in comparison to the surrounding areas; the drainage was still not sorted, the unemployment rate stood at 42%; and perhaps most significantly of all, given later events, the mutual distrust between the local residents—particularly those from the Afro-Caribbean community—and the predominantly White British and non-local police force had not been effectively addressed.
On 5 October 1985, Broadwater Farm resident Floyd Jarrett was arrested by police, having given false details when stopped with an allegedly false tax disc. While he was in custody four officers attended his home to conduct a search. During the search, his mother Cynthia Jarrett collapsed and died. The next day, 6 October 1985, saw a small demonstration outside Tottenham police station, which initially passed off relatively peacefully other than a bottle being thrown through one of the station's windows. At 3.15 pm two officers were attacked and seriously injured by the crowd, suffering gunshot wounds. Three journalists were also treated for gunshot wounds At 6.45 pm a police van answering a 999 call to Broadwater Farm was surrounded and attacked. At 9.30 pm fire broke out in a newsagent on the deck level of the Tangmere block. Fire-fighters attempting to put out the fire came under attack, and police attended to assist them. As the situation escalated, police and fire-fighters withdrew. In the withdrawal, PCs Keith Blakelock and Richard Coombes became separated from other officers. A group of around 40 people attacked them with sticks, knives and machetes, leading to PC Blakelock's death and serious injuries to PC Coombes.
And here is where we come to the retrospective politics lesson. In 2011, when the family of Mark Duggan protested outside Tottenham Police station, after the death of their son a few days earlier, Tottenham Police left them outside the station for hours with no response, just like had happened in 1985. The cause of the crowd's anger in both 1985 and 2011 was the death of a Tottenham citizen, and in both cases the blame for the death had been directed at the police. There was high unemployment in 2011, just like in 1985. In both 1985 and 2011, there were huge government cuts in the area, and both were under a Tory government. Both were in the middle of a recession, both were in a period where the public had little trust of politicians, and a growing anger towards the police. When you look at the riots that happened in 1985, it doesn't take a genius to work out what was going to happen if you allowed the demonstration in 2011 to build throughout the whole day while ignoring them.
After the events of 1985, Broadwater Farm became the focus of an intensive £33 million regeneration programme in response to the problems highlighted by the riots. Recently, we have been trated to a £500 Million investment promise into the area by the Conservatives and that is great, but I can't help but feel it would have been better to have had some kind of investment **before** everything went a bit mental. You know, before the whole high road was set ablaze. Stopping people getting frustrated in the first place, instead of cleaning up from the mess of this frustration is cheaper and far easier. I'm not saying that people were right to riot or that the police were to blame, I'm just saying that the 2011 riots were easily avoidable and preventable.
So here is the delicate point - People say that the riots were "pointless", and did not achieve anything, but that is nonsense. I don't agree in any way with anyone who rioted that day, and I wish the riots had never happened, but in the 5 days after the riots, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband all came to Tottenham. I can guarantee that none of them came before it. Shortly afterwards a pledge of £500Million of investment was made into the area, and this was because of the riots. The riots ripped the heart out of the area, were destructive and senseless. They were stupid, barbaric and cruel. But pointless? They had a point to them, they were a manifestation of anger that had built over decades, and they made politicians act in a way not seen in decade. They had a point, and they had end results.
“A stich in time, saves nine,” they say, and maybe if any of these leaders had come to Tottenham in the months, or even years, leading up the the riots, to see what could have been done for the community, the root causes could have been nipped in the bud. The youth clubs that were closed down that I wrote about in the Northumberland Park Blog, the shops that were shut down that I discussed about in the White Hart Lane Blog, the lack of transport in the area that I investigated in the Northumberland Park Train Station Blog, the impossible challenges that independent traders have to overcome to set up a business in that I talked about in the Tottenham Hale Blog, the fact that plans that get multimillion pound fanfares don't ever get completed, as I mentioned in the lack of action Blog, the fact that multinational companies are given the opportunity to evict hard-working small businesses and rents are trebled to make way for homes that no-one can afford, as mentioned in the Save Seven Sisters Blog, the lack of investment into the area in general, rising house prices, the poor local planning decisions such as the decision to turn Broad Lane into a one way system, which was a shambolic decision that is thankfully currently now being overturned, all of these are factors that brought down the area and turned it into a tinderbox.
If the Queen is ever going to visit any area of the UK the locals will be scrubbing the doorstep, making the place as nice for her as possible. Compare that to the construction of Broadwater Farm, where developers knew that the land was second rate, yet moved people in there anyway. Is it any wonder that there was so much crime there? If I asked the bands that come to Bally Studios to rehearse in 1 inch of water, needless to say, they would probably be a bit angry at me. Of course they would. If you show such little respect to someone that you expect them to live in such surroundings, don't be surprised if they take less care and pride in their area and if tensions rise. If they are not given safe, secure and long term homes they don't lay down roots for fear that if they do it will make it all the harder to move on in future. Helping people to take pride in their area means giving them something to take pride in. Go on holiday to a 5 star luxury resort and after 2 weeks you feel refreshed, your mind is clear and you feel full of energy. Likewise, living on an estate that smells of damp and keeps getting flooded is bound to affect the people of the estate, which it did, and once an area gets a bad name it's hard to shift it. The decline begins.
However, lessons seemed to have been learned. Extra money invested at the building stage can save 10 times the amount in preventing a clean up stage, and the new Tottenham Hale Village seems to have been built to a much higher specification than previous estates, which bodes very well for the area. In that example the mistakes of the past have been learned from. Hopefully more investment into such developments will be forthcoming to ensure that the mistakes of yesteryear are not repeated. (Here's looking at you Northumberland Park Regeneration scheme)
All of this blog post has looked at the history of the area, and this is because Bruce Castle and Broadwater Farm are a 450 metre walk away from each other, yet they bookend the history of 500 years of Tottenham. They represent the journey from it being an opulent and luxury estate for the King's friend, to it becoming a victim of shoddy workmanship to house London's vulnerable. Broadwater Farm is still one of the cheaper araes of Tottenham, but it seems that the hard work that the residents have put into it in recent years is paying off. In an independent 2003 survey of all the estate's residents, only 2% said they considered the area unsafe, the lowest figure for any area in London. In 2005-2009 I used to travel through the area by bus, getting the getting the W4 from Tottenham Hale Station to Turnpike Lane Station to meet for business meetings, and my impression of the area was that it did not deserve it's unwanted status as the mose notorious estate.
Speaking honestly it's not as if I thought it was the best part of Tottenham, but it was okay, I was never left feeling that I had to dial two number 9's on my phone, ready to dial the third at a moments notice. It seemed clean, people seemed to be walking around in a relaxed manner, and kids played football in the street. In the first quarter of 2005 there was not a single reported robbery or outdoor assault on Broadwater Farm, and only a single burglary, from which all property was recovered and the suspect arrested; this compares with 875 burglaries, 50 robberies and 50 assaults in the third quarter of 1985 immediately preceding the riot. It seems to have turned a corner, and that is to the eternal credit of the residents, the community groups and the investment that the area has had. Long may it continue.
The Best Parts:
The History – The Birthplace of Tottenham's history!!
Room For Improvement:
The History – Scene of the low point of Tottenham's history. :-(