Former House of Lords Lib Dem leader Bill Rodgers on cycling to Highgate from Liverpool aged 16
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Lord William “Bill” Rodgers of Quarry Bank is a former MP and cabinet minister, who rose to be leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords between 1997 and 2001. The 87-year-old Highgate stalwart was one of the “gang of four” of senior politicians who defected from the Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981.
What brought you to Highgate? A bicycle. When I was 16, I cycled from my Liverpool home as I wanted to see London. I chose to stay at a YHA hostel at 84 Highgate West Hill. I liked Highgate and enjoyed staying there.
What’s the best memory you have of the area? It was leafy and historic with 18th century houses and not like a suburb. It was a real village. Seven years later, when I came to settle in London, I found a room in Burlington Mansions overlooking Pond Square and I would run across the square to catch the 271 trolley bus.
How has Highgate changed since you moved into the area? When I married, I could not find anywhere to live in Highgate so I moved elsewhere. In returning to Highgate, nearly 40 years later, I found it was much the same. But there was a lot more traffic, many more estate agents – but no trolley buses.
What is the area’s best kept secret? Waterlow Park, stretching down towards the Highgate Cemetery. I hardly knew it for years.
What would you change about Highgate? Not much but some social housing that people can afford rather than new or rebuilt mansions costing a fortune.
If you were editor of the Ham&High for a day, what local issue would you champion? To stop all double-parking in North Road – and elsewhere for that matter – which is dangerous and unfair to other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
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What makes you smile on your way home? Rosie, my cat, as old as me (in cat years).
What tips would you give to somebody moving to the area? You must find good neighbours – as fortunately I have – use the local shops in the Village and join both the Literary and Scientific Institution and the Highgate Society. Then catch the 143 bus to East Finchley to visit the Phoenix cinema.
Where in the world would you twin with Highgate? Castelmuzio, a village in Tuscany.
If you had to write your own epitaph what would it say? He was resilient, a survivor, sustained by his family and friends.