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Highgate, Essex

Historical Description

Highgate, a northern metropolitan suburb and an ecclesiastical parish, partly in the parish of Hornsey and partly in the parliamentary borough and parish of St Pancras. Situated on a range of hills over 400 feet high about 5 miles from the General Post Office, Highgate is within the northern metropolitan postal district, and within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court and the metropolitan police. There is a station on the Edgeware branch of the G.N.R., and omnibuses and tramcars run frequently to the city and west-end. The name Highgate is said to have been derived from a gatehouse or highgate on the hill, erected by the bishops of London for the exaction of toll. The bishops had a seat here, and the old gatehouse was not removed till 1769. An ancient hermitage was on the hill, and one of the hermits at an early period constructed a causeway hence to Islington. This was afterwards extended from one end to Clerkenwell, from the other end northward, became the great N road from London, and prior to the railway period was traversed daily by upwards of eighty stage coaches. Part of the road on the hill was so steep as to rise 1 in 7; a project was formed in 1809 to avoid this by means of a tunnel under Hornsey Lane, and in 1812, when the work was considerably advanced, the earth fell in, and an open road with deep cutting on the line of the intended tunnel was formed instead, and was spanned by a lofty archway to connect Highgate with Hornsey. From this archway, which is 63½ feet in height, an extensive prospect of London may be obtained. The cutting discloses the geognostic formations of the hill, and is an interesting study to geologists. The hill, with a large tract around it, was a forest at the time of the Roman invasion, and was not disafforested till 1218. Portions of the natural timber of it still exist at Caen Wood and South Wood. The nobles who made resistance to Richard II. in 1387 occupied the hill. The Duke of Gloucester and the young king Edward V. in 1483 were met here by the citizens of London, and conducted hence with great pomp to the city. Henry VII., after the battle of Bosworth Field, on his way to the metropolis, was received here by the corporation and citizens of London. Queen Elizabeth visited Highgate in 1589; Mary,. Queen of Scots, was detained a short time at the neighbouring house of the Earl of Arundel; James I. spent a night here in 1624 prior to" a stag hunt in St John's Wood, and many other sovereigns and distinguished persons have halted here or passed through on their way to the north. Sir Richard Baker the chronicler, Andrew Marvell the poet, Sir Thomas Comwallis the comptroller of Queen Mary's household, General Ireton, Oliver Cromwell, Nell Gwynne, Chief-Justice Pemberton, the two Coleridges, and Lord-Chancellor Bethel were residents; Lord Bacon died here in the house of the Earl of Arundel, and Dr Sacheverell also died here.

The hill on which Highgate stands is one of the highest in I Middlesex, and commands brilliant views of London and the-surrounding country. The environs are studded with mansions' and villas, abound in walks and drives, and possess many attractions of both close view and distant prospect. Its chief open spaces are the Highgate Woods, Waterlow Park, and Parliament Hill Fields. The first of these is near the railway station, and is divided into two portions by the Muswell Hill Road, and extends over 100 acres, is well wooded, and from. its position it commands extensive views over the Lea valley to the Epping Forest. It is under the control of the Common Council of the City of London. Waterlow Park, which is at the top of Highgate Hill, between High Street and Swain's Lane, was presented to the metropolis in 1889 by Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow. It comprises an area of nearly 29 acres of undulating land, well timbered with beautiful cedars of Lebanon, old oaks, &c., and within its walls stands Lauderdale House, an ancient mansion of brick, which belonged to John, second Earl and first Duke of LanderdalCy and was for some time the residence of Nell Gwynne. The house has been restored by the London County Council, under whose control the park was placed by the donor. Parliament Hill Fields are an eastward extension of Hampstead Heath, and were acquired in 1888 by the London County Council. From Parliament Hill itself views may be obtained over a great portion of the metropolis, and, under favourable circumstances, the hills of Surrey, Kent, and Essex may he-seen. A spacious reservoir of the New River Water Company is on the summit of Highgate HilL An ancient tumulus is on Parliament Hill. A lepers' hospital was founded in the time of Edward I. by William Poole on the lower part of Highgate Hill, at a spot now called Lazarets or Lazarcot Field. A stone near this, called the Whittington Stone,. commemorates the tradition that Whittington heard here Bow Bells ringing the popular change known as " Turn again, Whittington, thrice lord mayor of London." A cemetery of 21 acres, called the North London Cemetery, was formed in 1839 on the south slope of the hill, adjacent to Upper Holloway, underwent subsequent enlargement by the addition of land on the opposite side of Swain's Lane, contains a handsome chapel, and is beautifully laid out, planted with wood, and studded with monumental columns, obelisks,. urns, and sarcophagi. St Michael's Church, immediately above the cemetery, was built in 1833 in lieu of a previous old chapel, is a handsome edifice in the Pointed style, with a tower and spire visible for miles around, and contains a monumental tablet to S. Coleridge, and other monuments" removed to it from the old chapel.. The living is a vicarag& in the diocese of London; net value, £500 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of London. St Anne's ecclesiastical parish was formed out of St Pancras in 1853. The living is a vicarage of the gross value of £442, in the gift of the Bishop of London. The church, erected and endowed in 1853 by the late Mrs Barnett, is a building of stone, in the Gothic style. There is a mission-room and parish house, which was erected in 1883. The ecclesiastical parish of All Saints' was formed out of Hornsey in 1874. The living is a vicarage of the net value of —£300, derived from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. There is a chapel of ease to All Saints' in the Archway Road. The St Joseph's Retreat of the Roman Catholic community of Passionist Fathers, which was established in 1858, have now in addition to the retreat a large church of white brick and stone, which was erected in 1889 at a cost of over £20, 000. The church occupies a commanding position on the crest of Highgate Hill. There-is a Presbyterian church, a building of rag stone, with tower and spire, which was erected in 1887, and there are two Baptist chapels, a Congregational chapel, a mission-room used by the Plymouth Brethren, and Unitarian and Wesleyan chapels. The grammar school was founded in 1565 by Sir Roger Cholmeley, chief-justice under Edward VI., is partially supported by an endowment, and prepares boys both for the universities and for professional life. There are also School Board, national, industrial, and Roman Catholic schools. The Holbom Infirmary, which is situated at the foot of Highgate Hill, is an immense building of brick in the Domestic Gothic style, which was erected in 1877-79 at a cost of about £80, 000. It occupies a site of about 3 acres in extent, is fitted with all modern improvements, and can afford accommodation to about 625 patients. Cromwell House, a large mansion of red brick, which is supposed to have been built for Henry Ireton, was transmuted into a convalescent home for children in connection with the Children's Hospital, Great Ormond Street, in 1869. There is a Magdalcne Institution for the reception of 60 women on North Hill, which was opened in 1855. The smallpox hospital, situated on Highgate Hill, has accommodation for 108 patients. The principal landowners are the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the Earl of Mansfield, and the Baroness Burdett-Coutts. Acreage, 3158. The population of the entire parish of St Michael's is 4069; of All Saints', 4741; of St Anne's, 5620, but the latter is included in the county of London.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyMiddlesex 
Civil parishHornsey 
Poor Law unionEdmonton 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Highgate from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Essex is available to browse.

The Essex pages from the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 is online.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers covering Essex online: