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Meandering down White Hart Lane 100 years ago

By Tony Attwood

As a youngster I lived just off White Hart Lane, on Devonshire Hill Lane.  If you are not familiar with the area, let me explain.

The two Lanes meander, going through sudden 90 degree turns for no apparent reason while roads of different names suddenly take over straight ahead.  At one point the two Lane’s cross the Great Cambridge Road – also known as the A10 – a dual carriageway carrying cars north/south in and out of London.

When I was a child in the area in the 1950s (thus I show my age, having no shame) I watched football in White Hart Lane – but not at Tottenham, because Tottenham was not and is not in White Hart Lane.  The only football ground in White Hart Lane was about 200 yards from my home – it was Wood Green Town, an amateur club.

Wood Green Town FC had been around from the earliest days of football, and their programmes (some of which I still have from the 1950s) welcomed supporters to the “poor end of White Hart Lane”.

But poor only meant in relation to football, because the western end of the Lane was gentrified with Edwardian houses.  Indeed Norfolk Avenue, where I set the home of Jacko Jones in the novel “Making the Arsenal” runs within a few hundred yards of White Hart Lane.  Jacko’s family are traditionally Tottenham supporters.

Wood Green Town FC is no more – so no more that an article in Wikipedia, to which I made a few minor contributions while writing Making the Arsenal, has now been removed in an act of footballing vandalism.

The excuse is that in 1976 clubs merged to form Haringey Borough F.C. and in a moment of savagery, equal to that of Wikipedia editors, Wood Green Town FC was removed.

To move from the old Wood Green Town ground to the Tottenham Ground along White Hart Lane is a crazy journey, involving a zig zag procession that would make you think you must be off track.  Indeed if you try to do it in a car, you can’t actually cross at the A10, but have to do a fairly long detour.

But supposing you are on foot, you cross the A10, pass the Tottenham Cemetary on the right (appropriately enough) do a 90 degree left at Creighton Road, a 90 degree right 50 yards later, then another, then a 90 degrees left, pass White Hart Lane railway station and on for another 100 yards and you hit, Tottenham High Road, wondering where the hell the football ground is.

Could you have missed it?

In fact, no, because White Hart Lane has no football ground other than the old ground of Wood Green Town.  To find the Tottenham ground you have to turn right, walk along the High Road and there’s the ground, in the High Road, in Park Lane, in Paxton Road, and in Worcester Road.

And you suddenly realise, that while the Wood Green Town end of the Lane has some Edwardian houses in, you are now in the darkest depths of London.  This is not a place to be out at night.

Not at all.

Why the club insist that they are in White Hart Lane is anyone’s business.  Maybe the had a row with dear old Wood Green Town, whose memory was probably deleted from Wikipedia by Tottenham fans.

Whatever the reason Tottenham’s ground (I use the word lightly) is not in White Hart Lane, is not even opposite White Hart Lane and has never been so.  It is a myth, a con, a trick, a travesty.

The ground  known as White Hart Lane was built in 1899 and has a capacity of 36,310.

The record attendance was achieved on 5th March 1938 against Sunderland and was 75,038.

The ground was originally a disused nursery owned by a brewer – and at that time it was known as the High Road ground.  The disreputable Archi Leitch (whose career gets a once over in Making the Arsenal) did the redevelopments there, and at Chelsea (where the whole terracing broke up) and Fulham (at the same time as Chelsea!) and at Rangers (where the terracing collapsed and many were killed).  Much of the work was done in and around 1910 – which is how I came across all the detail.

If visiting the High Road ground it is best to take a parachute just in case.

This is the ground where Tottenham Hotspur played their first league match against Woolwich Arsenal 100 years ago, with both sides knowing that relegation was a real possibility.

A very big crowd wandered from the White Hart (which was in Devonshire Hill Lane, just to add to the confusion) and all the other pubs and walked to the ground.

more anon

You can read about London and the Arsenal in 1910 in Making the Arsenal by Tony Attwood (that’s me).

More on Arsenal in 2010 here

58 comments to Meandering down White Hart Lane 100 years ago

  • Cliff how wonderful to hear from you – so many memories. I shall drop you a personal email.

    Thanks
    Tony

  • Peter Mackin

    Peter Mackin
    20 February 2017

    Hi, you Spurs Fans! I’m going on 86, live in Florida and still a rabid Spurs Fan. My first school, St. Francis, is still right across the road from the Spurs main entrance. My first glimps of the team was near the end of a game when they opened the big gate in Park Lane to let the fans out. We kids darted in to see the last ten minutes. I was 8 years old and it was in 1939. Sept 1st., 1939 – Evacuated with my gas mask from White Heart Lane station. The train track was highly elevated and we had to climb the circular stairs up to the platform. Each time we passed the road side window (open in the warm weather), we could see our parents getting smaller and smaller. Mystery here, as we did not know where we were going – The secret train took eight hours to arrive at Ingatestone, Essex, just thirty miles from Tottennham and thirty miles closer to to France.

    However, our family braved the war at Tottenham Hale. As a teenager, I could hop a train at the Hale and three minutes later get off at Northumberland Park for a ten minute stroll down Park Lane to the back entrance of the ground. Missed one home game in five years until the Army carried me off the foreign parts. Spurs in the Second Division always seemed to finish third to break my heart. My hero was Ted Ditchburn – The greatest goallie ever – Passed over for England by the F.A. Backroom boys. We know Frank Swift was great, but Ted should have had more recognition than he got.

    All said, Football is a SPORT (Someone wins – someone loses or you get a draw). What gets my goat is all of the crying and hate and filthy language that attends the game today. I recall Tom Finney (P.N.E.) dribbling past eight Spurs players down the whole left side of the pitch with 50.000 Spurs fans applauding his skill. Probably 1947-8 – it was a sport then. 2017 Spurs for the Cup – Spurs for the Double – Let’s see if the power of prayer really works.

  • Hi the Tizer factory was in Pretoria road which is off WHL the orange drinks factory in WHL was the jubilee factory and the drinks factory further down was Idris. I live in DHL now since 1962 and a lifelong Spurs fan. Regards Ronnie Harvey.

  • Thanks Ronnie. I made a trip back there a few months ago; in my childhood there were just no cars around – now it is all cars everywhere. A totally different feel. But I hope you find it a good place to live. The park by Devonshire Hill Court, where I lived, is still there I see.

  • Stuart Matthews

    Hi.
    I am John Matthews brother who sadly died two months ago. I was born in Barkham Road in 1945 before moving to the prefabs in WHL. Only supposed to be short term solution after the war, but we were still there 20 years later! Number 321 we were near Wood Green football club, near the Jubbly factory before you got to Wonderloaf factory. Like John I went to Devonshire Hill School and then on to Tottenham Grammar School. Will always remember the great neighbours and area spirit.

  • John, so sorry to hear of your brother’s passing, but yes I do remember those houses and as you say the area spirit. I went back for the first time in a while a year or two back – my goodness how it has changed. I got a place at the Grammar School too, but my parents moved when I was 11 so I never got to go there.

  • Sheila Sawyer

    I was born in Tottenham in Arthur Road to the side of the railway station I moved to the top of White Hart Lane number 490
    remember the Wood Green foot ball ground they had a fair there.The White Hart Inn was at the top of Devonshire Road which I passed every day on my way to school.A policeman saw us across the Great Cambridge Road every day I was in Pembroke and remember the figure and song and the words to the blacksmith.Oh boy do those memories flood in I should write a book.Those really were the days.Sad that the kids of today have everything but nothing compared to us old uns

  • Amazing Sheila – thanks for sharing those memories. Yep, I remember crossing the Great Cambridge Road with a copper on duty each day too.

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