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A brief history of the ownership of the St Ann’s Hospital site 1066 – 1900

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At StART we think that the community should own the freehold of the St Ann’s hospital site. To understand and guide the future ownership of the site we need to know more about who owned it in the past and how the site was used. This is an account of the ownership of the land from medieval times up to the end of the 19th century. Many thanks to our friends at Harringay Online who provided all the information.

To the east of Green Lanes, the lands were originally part of Tottenham Manor. Seized from Waltheof II by William the Conqueror, the Manor was held for about for 150 years to the end of 13th century by the Kings of Scotland. Death and feuding within that great family led to subdivision of the manor into three smaller manors in 1254. Harringay lands were within a manor called Pembrokes. The lands of this manor stretched from the southern boundary of Tottenham Manor, near Hermitage Road today, north to West Green and east to Tottenham High Road. The three parts of Tottenham were reunited by John Gedney in the early 15th century but were still often referred to by the names they took on during the period of manorial division. As with western Harringay, the Church was a holder of large areas of land in Tottenham. This included a very large plot of land which ran from St Ann's Road in the north to Hermitage Road in the south and was roughly bounded by Green Lanes and Hermitage Road from east to west. This land was granted to the Hospitaliers of St John’s of Jerusalem shortly after the Norman Conquest. The income from the land would have initially supported their hospital in the Holy Land, tending for the casualties of the crusades and pilgrims to the Holy Land. With Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in the mid-sixteenth century, the land passed to the Crown.

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Dorset Map - 1619

On the 1619 Dorset map the St Ann's site is on land described as ‘lands belonging to St Johns of Jerusalem’, which is clearly anachronistic, since the Order, founded during the First Crusade and had all their English lands confiscated during the mid-16th century Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The Order, which was re-established in London in the 19th century as St John Ambulance, retains records at its original home in Clerkenwell. its Tottenham holdings were set out in the Patent Roll of Philip and Mary in 1557. They largely comprised farmland and marsh, and were used for hunting. This estate was administered from Ducketts Manor, which is first recorded in 1293 and lay off Green Lanes just south of where Mayes Road used to fork off.

By 1619, the former estate of the Knights of St John had fragmented. The parcel on which St Ann’s hospital would later be built had a house and a barn – known as Hangers Barne – upon it by this time. These buildings are quite likely to be much older remnants of the Knights’ farm here. Although the house is not named on the 1619 map, later sources record it as ‘St John’s Farm’ or ‘St John’s Lodge’. It is said to have borne an eagle with a halo – the symbol of the Order – carved on its fireplace, but this could be a piece of Victorian whimsy. Today the stained glass panel over the front door of Mayfield House shows an eagle and has the legend St Johns beneath it.

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Stained Glass window in Mayfield House

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During the 18th and 19th centuries, the area's combination of relative seclusion and proximity to London made it an attractive place for the villas of the gentry. The Tottenham tithe map for 1844 records the occupiers of the various large houses on the site. The western, Hanger Green House, was the successor of that depicted on the 1619 map. To the east lay St John’s lodge, and to the east again – near the junction with Hermitage Road – was Suffolk Lodge. These were all described as houses and pleasure ground, with the associated land used as meadows; Suffolk Lodge became a nunnery in 1871.

Sometime after 1844, St John’s Lodge become home to the famous and prolific Gothic novelist, Charlotte Riddell (Ellis 1934). She who wrote many of her books there and hosted famous literary figures of the day, until her departure in 1872 when the rural landscape which had attracted her had been lost to the encroaching metropolis. There’s more information about Charlotte on Wikipediai. The St John’s Lodge Estate was sold in 1888ii.

St Ann’s Hospital owes its origins to this late Victorian period of urbanisation. In 1892, the site – then occupied by St John’s Lodge – was purchased for the construction of a fever hospital, then known as the North-Eastern Hospital. Constructed in a matter of weeks, it initially comprised around fifty temporary, single storey structures of timber and weatherboarding, places on brick piers and concrete bases, topped by roofs of corrugated iron.

Information courtesy of Harringay Online: