Tottenham is a strange part of Greater London. World famous thanks to its football team, yet probably obscure to most people who don't live there. Local historian Christine Protz's new book reveals the history of a town that has always been on the periphery of London life.
Tottenham's roots go back to Anglo-Saxon times, with evidence of habitation close to the old Roman Road that now rejoices in the name of the A1010. The town was slow to grow, mostly comprising small rural settlements up until Victorian times (as seen in this beautiful map from 1619, reproduced in the book). Three railway lines and water links along the River Lea soon turned the area into a densely populated suburb, with thriving industries.
The book takes us through these changes chronologically, with strong emphasis on social institutions such as schools and hospitals. We meet the local heroes like Rowland Hill of Post Office fame, and Luke Howard, the fellow who first named the clouds. And we learn about incidents such as the 'Tottenham Outrage' in which two armed robbers were chased across the area, firing shots back at the crowd and eventually killing four people - including themselves.
Perhaps due to space limitations, and an existing body of information elsewhere, the book is less comprehensive on 20th Century material. The Blitz is covered in just three pages, mostly illustrations. The huge waves of immigration, which have made South Tottenham one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Europe, are only briefly covered. And the Broadwater Farm riot, perhaps the most famous event in Tottenham's recent history, is not mentioned at all.
Still, for anyone seeking a well-researched, richly illustrated social history of the area, the book is highly recommended.
There are three opportunities coming up to meet the author:
• Book launch and a talk at Wood Green Central Library, 3 December, 7.30 pm.
• Book signing at Bruce Castle, Lordship Lane on 5 December, 2-4 pm.
• Book signing at Markfield Beam Engine Museum on 12 December, 2-4 pm.
Tottenham, a History by Christine Protz is published by Phillimore & Co. Ltd.