Celebrating 50 years of the Hornsey Historical Society

Janet Owen, Dr Sandra Clark, Haringey mayor Cllr Adam Jogee and ward councillor Elin Weston

Hornsey Historical Society's (l-r) Janet Owen (publications manager) and Dr Sandra Clark (bulletin editor) with Haringey mayor Cllr Adam Jogee and ward councillor Elin Weston - Credit: David Winskill

In 1971 Margaret Gellay decided to memorialise the local area her parents knew and loved, and called a meeting that would lead to the founding of Hornsey Historical Society (HHS).

50 years later and the society has more than 400 members and preserves the heritage of Hornsey's historical areas, including Crouch End, Highgate and Muswell Hill

HHS publications officer and archive volunteer Janet Owen told the Ham&High: "In the 60s and 70s the modernising of many buildings across the country was under way and many residents in Hornsey felt they were losing their identity."

Margaret Gellay turned to the Hornsey Journal and arranged for flyers to be sent out, calling for people interested in local history to come forward. On April 29, 1971 more than 50 people attended the Hornsey Library, which for many years would act as the committee’s base. 

The first chairman was Ian Murray, who had written a series on old Hornsey in the Hornsey Journal, and in 1972 he wrote another which he called Hornsey in the past. 

Margaret and Ian were joined by president Peter Barber, who was then head of maps at the British Library and remains president today; Bridget Cherry, an architectural historian and now vice president of the society; and Dr Joan Schwitzer. 

“These long-standing members would hold meetings in their houses and residents would give them historical keepsakes for the society’s collection,” said Janet. 

In 1980 a Haringey councillor suggested that the society use the Old School House, which was built in 1848 before later being sold to the council and made into a bus shelter. 

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The society's Bulletin 62, out now, has a 50th anniversary front cover and commemorates the history of the Old School House.

Hornsey Historical Society's Bulletin 62

Hornsey Historical Society's Bulletin 62 - Credit: Hornsey Historical Society

The deputy editor of the Hornsey Journal, Stan Cole, reopened the Old School House building in October 1981.

"Stan had an interest in the history of Hornsey and had previously been a pupil of the school when it was Holy Innocents' Infant School, and to this opening all ex-pupils were invited," said Janet. 

The society built an archive room, which today holds more than 27,000 items, including newspaper cuttings, scans, photographs, and old postcards. 

Edwin Monk, who was in his 90s, wrote the society's first released book, Memories of Hornsey, and today it has published more than 40 titles. 

The latest is The Hornsey Enclosure Act 1813, written by conservation officer David Frith. 

The book examines the provisions of the Hornsey Enclosure Act and their effect on the development of the parish of Hornsey and can be purchased via the society's website.

Hornsey Historical Society’s latest book, The Hornsey Enclosure Act 1813, by David Frith.

Hornsey Historical Society’s latest book, The Hornsey Enclosure Act 1813, by David Frith. - Credit: Hornsey Historical Society

The mayor of Haringey, Cllr Adam Jogee, and ward councillor Elin Weston collected members' copies of the latest bulletin.

Cllr Jogee said: "The HHS has been a wonderful community resource and has done such a fantastic job telling the Hornsey story. 

"I'm delighted to have been able to support them as a member and as a Hornsey Councillor over the years and to mark their 50th anniversary, albeit in a Covid-secure way. 

“The society is such an important part of our community and I wish it every success as it moves into its sixth decade." 

Publications officer David Winskill said: “We are looking forward to going into our next 50 years."

Hornsey Historical Society's base at the Old School House

Hornsey Historical Society's base at the Old School House - Credit: Hornsey Historical Society