A History of the Warner Estate
by Joyce Rosser
The area covered by WERA is part of an estate which in the nineteenth century was owned by the Warner family. The “father of Hornsey”, Henry Reader Williams, lived here at the end of century. The Edwardian estate was planned by John Farrer. Subsequent developments include houses built in the 1920s, the Wolverton council flats in Warner Road and The Priory sheltered housing complex.
(It is worth pointing out that the area has two names – the “Priory estate” and the “Warner estate.” We have called it the Warner estate throughout. To make it more confusing our residents association only covers part of the estate – the roads on the north side of Priory Road.)
The Warner family
Jacob Warner, a wholesale grocer in the City of London, acquired the 18-acre estate in 1796. It spread across Priory Road (then known as Muswell Hill Road or Broad Lane) from Nightingale Lane to Park Road, and from Farrer Road and Park Avenue South to the southern boundary of Alexandra Park. The Moselle Brook ran along Priory Road. Jacob Warner also owned other land in the area, including at one time Hornsey High Street, Middle Lane and the Campsbourne estate (which his daughter and her husband, the Rev. Edward Linzee, inherited).
In the nineteenth century this part of Middlesex was popular with City merchants who wanted to live in pleasant rural surroundings. Initially Jacob Warner lived in a three-storey Georgian house referred to simply as “the villa of Jacob Warner”. In the 1820s he built a larger house which he called “The Priory”. This Gothic-style house was situated on the north side of Priory Road between present-day Warner Road and Danvers Road. Its name suggests that there was previously a monastic foundation on the site but there is no evidence of this and it is more likely that it was just a fashionable name.
Jacob Warner and his descendants played an important part in local affairs. He had four sons (Redston, Charles, George and Henry) and one daughter (Caroline). Jacob Warner was an Overseer of the Poor in Hornsey and one of the Surveyors of the Highways. He was involved in purchasing land near Hornsey Church for a school for girls and on Muswell Hill for cottages for the poor. Two of his sons, George and Henry, lived at The Priory all their lives. Henry Warner was a JP, churchwarden at St Mary’s Church and a treasurer of local charities. He donated the land on which St James’s Church in Muswell Hill was built. As “Colonel Warner”, he was very involved with the Middlesex Rifle Volunteers and often lent the grounds of The Priory for their inspections. Joseph Warner, one of George’s sons, was a barrister and Master of the Grocers’ Company. He was knighted in 1892.
The Warner family left The Priory in 1883 on the death of Henry Warner although they retained ownership of the house and estate. After the building of the Edwardian estate they retained the freehold of the houses and even today the freehold of some houses and the shops on Priory Road and Park Road (originally called “Palace Parade”) remain in the hands of the Warner family.
Henry Reader Williams
After the departure of the Warner family, Henry Reader Williams and his family lived at The Priory. From humble beginnings, he had become a successful wine merchant. He devoted much of his time to philanthropic activities for poor children in the East End (who came on annual visits to The Priory). For over 20 years he was a member of Hornsey Local Board (and chairman for part of this time) and he was also on Hornsey School Board. He was a Liberal member of Middlesex County Council. He played a major role in preserving local open spaces including Priory Park, Queen’s Wood, Highgate Wood and Alexandra Park. Crouch End clock tower is dedicated to him.
The Edwardian estate and John Farrer
In 1898 the contents of The Priory and its stables were put up for auction and the land sold in lots. Four years later The Priory itself was demolished. Plans for the development of roads on the estate had already been drawn up by John Farrer, an architect and surveyor.
A 2009 book about John Farrer by Janet Owen (a WERA member who lives in Park Avenue North) gives a detailed picture of his life and work. He came from a rural Cumbrian background and moved to London as a young man to work for architectural and surveying firms before setting up his own business in 1877. He was well placed to play a prominent role – as a speculative developer, surveyor and architect – in the creation of the middle-class housing estates being built in Hornsey at that time. He also designed the current Three Compasses public house and the National Hall, both in Hornsey High Street, and the parade of shops called Bank Buildings in Crouch End Broadway.
Most of the names chosen for the Warner estate roads had local connotations – Priory Avenue, Warner Road, Redston Road (after Redston Warner), Linzee Road (after the Linzee family), Farrer Road and Farrer Mews (after John Farrer), and Danvers Road (after a family friend of the Warners). In contrast, Baden Road and Clovelly Road were probably named after popular upper-middle-class resorts of the time.
The first roads to be developed were on the east of the Warner estate – Linzee Road, Priory Avenue, Clovelly Road, Baden Road, and Park Avenues North and South. By 1902 Redston Road was laid out, and finally Danvers Road. By 1905 there were 615 houses built or in the process of being built on the estate. By 1909, 890 houses had been built.
A number of builders and architects were involved in the development of the Warner estate but Janet Owen’s research shows that Farrer designed the majority of the houses. Farrer Road, Warner Road and Redston Road largely consist of Farrer-designed houses. As well as his distinctive Edwardian-style houses he also built some of the 1920s houses.
In 1905 a new church, St George’s, was built on the corner of Priory Road and Park Avenue South (this was bombed in the war, then demolished and subsequently the fire station was built on the site). The Moravian Church was built in 1907. The Palace Parade shops (designed by Farrer) on Priory Road and Park Road were built in 1906.
Some of the largest houses were on Priory Road. Farrer planned “private carriage ways” (originally called West Drive, Priory Gardens and East Drive) in front of some of the Priory Road houses. In 1904 he submitted plans for a wall to be built along what is now the northern edge of Priory Common.
The Moravian Church, numbers 30-40 Priory Road (the tiled houses with extensive wooden features opposite Priory Park), numbers 84-98 Priory Road (the “Dutch style” houses to the east of Warner Road, and the Edwardian house called The Priory) and Palace Parade are all locally listed as “buildings of merit”. Bridget Cherry and Nikolas Pevsner, in The Buildings of England (1998), comment: “Priory Road and the roads off it, with their relaxed terraces of gabled houses with decorative pargeting and timber work, are quintessential Hornsey housing of those years.” Unlike most of Muswell Hill and Crouch End, the Warner estate is not a conservation area.
At the same time as the Warner estate was being developed, Hornsey Borough Council was building pioneering council houses on the roads to the east (North View Road, South View Road, Hawthorn Road and Beechwood Road). John Farrer designed many of the private houses, maisonettes and shops in these roads.
In the 1920s houses were built in the gaps left in the Edwardian estate (in Redston Road, Danvers Road, Park Avenue North and Priory Road). During the 1930s a public toilet (now a baby nursery) was built on Priory Common near where the cattle pound had been. During the Second World War some houses in Warner Road (numbers 1-7) were damaged and after the war the Wolverton council flats were built on the site. The Priory was purchased by the Council after the war and opened as a “social centre” in 1949. In the 1980s it became the centre of a sheltered housing complex.
Alan Aris, “Personalities and property: the development of the Priory estate”, in People and Places: Lost Estates in Highgate, Hornsey and Wood Green, Hornsey Historical Society (1996)
Janet Owen, John Farrer: The Man who changed Hornsey, Hornsey Historical Society (2009)