Place    From 9/8/1869 

Finsbury Park

Categories: Gardens / Agriculture

The land that makes up Finsbury Park was originally part of the Manor of Brownswood. The New River was built 1609-13. Copt Hall was first recorded in 1649 and was probably built to house the people coppicing Hornsey Wood. By In 1750 this was a manor house and it became Hornsey Wood House, a popular tea house. It was enlarged/rebuilt in 1796 to become the Hornsey Wood Tavern and the lake was created with water pumped up from the New River. The wood was reduced to provide space for pleasure gardens.

This early but undated map, Engraved by W.R. Gardner, shows Hornsey Wood House. The map is not well geo-located but comparing the position of the House with the River we'd put it at what is now the centre of the Park, at the top of the knoll, near the lake. Finsbury Park Management Plan has: "The original park design included a refreshment house as a central feature, replacing the Victorian Tavern that existed previously. The Tavern was replaced with an ‘off the shelf’ café design in the 1950s, which remained popular owing to its proximity to the Park’s major amenities, despite its worsening state. The building was subsequently demolished and replaced with a modern café .." So we think the old manor house was on the site of what is now the cafe, to the south-west of, and overlooking, the lake. This is confirmed by a (deteriorating) information board at that site, from which we have gleaned much of the information above.

Hornsey Wood Tavern was demolished in the 1860s when the Park was laid out. However, after the Park had opened in 1869, a pub was opened opposite one of its entrances, at number 376, the east corner of the Seven Sisters Road / Alexandra Grove junction. Confusingly, this was also called the Hornsey Wood Tavern. It was later renamed the Alexandra Dining Room, or Bar, closed April 2007 and was demolished and redeveloped. Closed Pubs have a photo.

Finsbury Park was the result of 30 years of local campaigns, largely led by Frederick Manable, for a Royal Park for the north of London comparable to Regents Park, Battersea Park and Victoria Park. Compulsory purchase of land by the Metropolitan Board of Works began in 1864. The Park was designed by It was designed by Frederick Manable, Superintending Architect to the MBW and the landscape designer Alexander McKenzie. The plans were approved in 1868. In 1889 management of the Park passed to London County Council which replaced MBW.

Most of this information comes from the Friends of Finsbury Park and Wikipedia which clarified a few points for us. Also, the Finsbury Park Blog has an excellent page on the history with some terrific images including early images of Hornsey Wood House/Tavern.

Puzzled why the Park is not named Hornsey Park we found the answer at Islington Guided Walks: originally, when the Park was an idea without a location, it was intended to provide open space for the inhabitants of Finsbury (roughly the area to the south of Old Street Station). At one stage it was to be equivalent in size to Victoria Park and named Albert Park. But London was expanding and land close to Finsbury was getting more expensive, so that plan did not work out and we got the smaller Finsbury Park instead.

Another puzzle concerns the nearby Manor House tube station. It was built in 1932 and named after the pub at the site which was rebuilt at the same time. The original Hornsey Wood House seems to have been the nearest manor house, but it was half a mile away. 

This section lists the memorials where the subject on this page is commemorated:
Finsbury Park

Commemorated ati

Alexander Mckenzie at Finsbury Park

Erected in 2019 and vandalised by the time we visited in 2023 - probably impo...

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Other Subjects

William Morris Company

William Morris Company

Originally founded as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. in 1861 by William Morris and Pre-Raphaelite friends. It produced textiles, wallpapers, stained glass and tapestries, mainly with medieval-i...

Group, Gardens / Agriculture

1 memorial
London Tree Forum

London Tree Forum

We cannot find anything about this group. There is a site called the Ancient Tree Forum, but it doesn't refer to this tree. The web address www.forestry.gov.uk on the plaque is that of the Forestry...

Group, Gardens / Agriculture

2 memorials
Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford

Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford

Interested in rural science and one of the chief patrons of the Bath and West Agricultural Society of which he was President at the time of his death. His youngest politician brother, William (176...

Person, Gardens / Agriculture

1 memorial
Sir Joseph Paxton

Sir Joseph Paxton

Architect responsible for the Great Exhibition, 1851. Born Milton Bryan, Bedfordshire. The Crystal Palace Company gave him, free of rent, Rockhills, a Regency house to the north of the Crystal Pala...

Person, Architecture, Gardens / Agriculture

4 memorials