37 Things You Never Knew About Tufnell Park

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Is the bit where NW5 rubs up against N7 and N19 having something of a moment? To celebrate, we unearthed as much trivia as we could


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Harrington & Squires original, Kentishtowner commissioned artwork
Harrington & Squires’ original Kentishtowner artwork commissioned for our June print edition
We love a bit of font. And we couldn’t resist asking local letterpress printers Harrington & Squires to help out with the artwork for our recent Tufnell Park special issue – now online for the first time.

Before we reveal our thirtysomething countdown, first a word about Chrissie Charlton and Vicky Fullick, who moved into The Corridor building in Fortess Road in 2005. “It’s an unusual space to run a print workshop from,” says Vicky, “and at a tiny 1.2 metres wide we have just enough space.”

As well as taking commissions for bespoke stationery, invitations and cards they also run weekly workshops for those who are interested in learning to hand-set metal type and letterpress print. Sounds like you? Swing by and say hello.

Anyway, without further ado, onto the three dozen Tufferish titbits of gossip, history, food, culture and celebs

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1. Failed bank bar squatted

Once squatted: Aces. Photo: PR
Once squatted: Aces. Photo: PR
The imposing former Barclays bank opposite the tube, now home to thronged rock ‘n’ roll dive Aces & Eights, took a while to find its feet in its post-pecuniary years. Known first as Bar Lorca, then the Grand Banks, both ventures had failed by 2004, leaving squatters to take over and set up an Occupied Social Centre offering cultural events. Aces open half a decade or so later.
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2. There isn’t actually a park here

Photo: Burghleys.com
Photo: Burghleys.com
You’ll have noticed that, of course. That part of the name comes from the grand estate-building aspirations of the mid 1800s, which turned dairy farms into the rows of solid housing still going strong today. The recreational field is about to reopen though for those seeking green space, and a nice view with their wine from Bunny’s (see #12).
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3. Lost Public Baths

Plaque still visible. Photo: Stephen Emms
Plaque still visible. Photo: Stephen Emms
Eclectic music venue The Dome was once, in fact, baths – of the kind folk would go to have a wash once a week. Later known as wrestling hotspot the Tufnell Park Palais, the Stanley Hall and Baths is commemorated by a plaque in 1884 – still visible on the wall on Junction Road.
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4. Clive James no likey

Falling Towards England by Clive James (1985, Picador)
Falling Towards England by Clive James (1985, Picador)
The Australian broadcaster writes about the area at length in his memoir Falling Towards England. He lived in “a first-floor horror of a room at the high end of Tufnell Park Road” when he first moved to in 1962, joking that he was “at the cutting edge of the bohemian experience”. By which he meant it was slightly rubbish.
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5. Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece painted on Fortess Road

Work by Ford Madox Brown. Pic: Wikipedia
Work by Ford Madox Brown. Pic: Wikipedia
Seminal artist Ford Madox Brown created his most notable painting, Work, while living at No 56 (see the plaque on Fortess Terrace) from 1855 – 1862. He also used the back garden in several paintings, including Stages of Cruelty. Hunt ‘em out.
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6. Naked lady by the window

Handsome: the Junction dates back to the mid 19th Century, when it was named after the thoroughfare it was built on (now Fortess Road). Photo: The Junction
Handsome: the Junction dates back to the mid 19th Century, when it was named after the thoroughfare it was built on (now Fortess Road). Photo: The Junction
A former landlady of The Junction, which dates back to the mid 19th century, had a penchant for parading starkers by the windows above the beer garden – but only when she had an audience. At least, that’s according to recent owner Jacky Kitching, who ran the pub for thirteen years.
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7. The tale behind Cardigan Club Café (RIP)

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Photo: Sarah Fox
Owner Minh Chi’s seamster parents came to Mile End as immigrants from when she was a child and worked in a factory making cardigans – and this is what lends the café its intriguing name. Shame it’s closing down.
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8. Legendary gay club

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Birthday bash next week: Club Kali
The world’s biggest LGBT Club “where Eastern beats blend with Western classics” is right here on our doorstep. Monthly Club Kali is at The Dome and has been going nearly two decades serving up “sizzling Bollywood, Bhangra, Arabic, and dancefloor” classics. Never made it down? Their 19th birthday bash is on June 20.
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9. Comic classic spawned

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Victorian big hitter: Nobody
The must-read blockbuster of summer 1892 was The Diary of a Nobody, set in the aspirational if down-at-heel suburb of Holloway/ Tuffers. These tales of Mr Pooter and his pompous social pretensions originated from a series in Punch Magazine, and as a book, have never been out of print since.
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10. Picturehouse or manor house?

The ancestral manor: the Odeon. Photo: Odeon.co.uk
The ancestral manor: the Odeon. Photo: Odeon.co.uk
The area received its name in 1753, when haughty William Tufnell became the first in a long line of eponymously-named landowners. And take a guess where their ancestral manor was? Right where we queue up at the Holloway Odeon.
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11. Fire at the boozer!

Like Downtown Manhattan. Photo: Stephen Emms
Like Downtown Manhattan. Photo: Stephen Emms
A barman and a scrappy dog had to be rescued in 1967 from Victorian landmark the Boston Arms, which dates back to 1899, when fire gutted the public and saloon bars. Newspaper clippings report the dog’s name as Champ. Hooray!
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12. Raymond Blanc? Mais non…

Posh new head chef. Photo: Katy Taylor
Posh new head chef. Photo: Katy Taylor
Aspirational local bakery Bunny Little has only just gone and poached one of the pastry chefs from Raymond Blanc’s Michelin-splattered Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. I know! And the Tufnell Park-based head chef Claire Assis now makes pastries, cakes and savoury snacks from scratch on the premises every day. With a new swanky alcohol license, you can even linger alfresco with a glass of Cotes de Provence.
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13. “Adult” ice cream

The best ice cream parlour in the capital? Photo: Stephen Emms
The best ice cream parlour in the capital? Photo: Stephen Emms
Did you know that north London’s hippest ice cream parlour, Ruby Violet, makes sorbet out of on-trend Campari? But only during the blood orange season, which has sadly just finished. So only another 11 months to go then – but in the meantime we heart another “adult” classic, the chilli chocolate, big time. Oh, and get a salted caramel for the kids while you’re at it.
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14. The manor still has gates

Photo: Stephen Emms
Photo: Stephen Emms
You mean you’ve missed them? The posts marking the threshold can still be spotted at the western end of Tufnell Park Road. This is also an old Roman thoroughfare that led onwards through the dairy pastures and over the hills towards Hampstead.
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15. Raves in the yummy mummy pub

Now: farmers' market. Then....Photo: Stephen Emms
Now: farmers’ market. Then….Photo: Stephen Emms
Well-heeled local the Tufnell Park Tavern hasn’t always been the genteel buggies-and-brunch destination it is today. Less than a decade ago it was known as Progress, more rowdy nightclub than pub, with raucous all-day parties in the garden, screeching cars and fights kicking off in the road after dark. Yikes. Before that? It was the Tufnell Park Tavern (again), a fairly famous jazz venue with some very fine architectural detail that the “eejits who thought they’d make money running raves ripped out”, says reader Dick Muskett.
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16. The N7 poisoner

Creepy: Dr Crippen. Photo: Wikipedia
Creepy: Dr Crippen. Photo: Wikipedia
Creepy murderer Dr Crippen clumsily disposed of his wife in a house on Hilldrop Crescent in 1910 (don’t bother to go and gawp, it was reduced to rubble in WWII). As he absconded with his mistress, disguised as father and son, the unfolding case caused a national sensation.
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17. Soho Hip is actually from Norfolk

Debra in her shop. Pic: Stephen Emms
Debra in her shop. Pic: Stephen Emms
The popular little gift shop on Fortess actually started out in the sleepy East Anglian city back in 2005. “I loved it but missed London too much,” says owner Debra Knowles, “so when the its six year lease came to an end, I literally picked it up and bought it down here to this wonderful area.” Time for a rename then, perhaps?
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18. Fans still flock to sitcom flat

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia
Yes, it was aeons ago now, but cult TV sitcom Spaced is an all-time classic. Set in a flatshare at the imposing 23 Carleton Road (better known as Meteor Street to fans), pilgrimages to shoot grinning selfies and carve adoring graffiti still continue today – 15 years on.
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19. African destination dining

Spongy: injera. Photo: http://www.lalibelarestaurant.co.uk
Spongy: injera. Photo: lalibelarestaurant.co.uk
Fortess Rd, with Lalibela at the top and Queen of Sheba at the Kentish Town end, is a veritable Ethiopian restaurant hotspot. Drawing in the vegans – religious observance in the country means there are over 200 meat-free days in the calendar – it’s a must-do for adventurous gourmands too. Unroll some spongy injera bread and get dipping.
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20. Forgotten Overground stop

Betjeman immortalised the lost N19 station. Photo: Stephen Emms
Betjeman immortalised the lost N19 station. Photo: Stephen Emms
Station Rd is the only remaining hint that a busy railway stop once deposited over 140,000 passengers a year where it meets the corner of Junction Road, just next door to today’s Shaolin Temple. Folk alighted mostly for the local cattle market, but when Tufnell Park tube opened nearby in 1907, numbers dwindled so fast that John Betjeman immortalised it in a poem as the “lonely station”.
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21. Hollywood star washed his keks here

'Greying? How very dare you.' Photo: Wkipedia
‘Greying? How very dare you.’ Photo: Wkipedia
In the mid 1980s – apparently – Jude Law lived above the launderette opposite what is now Sainsbury’s on Fortess Road. Rumour has it that his greying grundies received a spin or two in the machines downstairs.
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22. Walk-in tapas bar

Photo: Nika Zbasnik
Photo: Nika Zbasnik
Late last year, the Del Parc boys reworked the small front area of their popular restaurant as a Soho-style counter with stools for just four at the window. It’s a nice new casual touch – and perfect to linger, Gordal olives and a crisp white Manzanilla sherry in hand.
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23. Dahhling! Thesps woz ‘ere

Marie Lloyd, the famous music hall artiste c.1900 Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis
Marie Lloyd, the famous music hall artiste c.1900 Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis
Charles Booth’s famous survey into London Life and Labour – conducted from 1886-1903 – states that the original development of Anson and Carleton roads housed “a mixture of retired merchants and music hall artistes who were rich enough to holiday abroad over winter.” Ooh la la!
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24. Spag House is not a chain

Photo: ipernity.com
Photo: ipernity.com
Just opposite the tube, honest Italian food is served as it has been since the 70s. Legendary chef and host Enzo moved back to Italy a few years ago, but his traditions for affordable, traditional dishes remain. Many people still confuse it with the identically named chain of restaurants, but in fact it is a proud independent. Yay.
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25. School closed by multiple drownings

Contemporary engraving of Bywell Castle bearing down on Princess Alice
Contemporary engraving of Bywell Castle bearing down on Princess Alice
Back in 1878, so many girls from a private school once found at the junction of Carleton and Brecknock perished in the Princes ice shipping disaster that the school was shut down completely. Over 650 people died overall – the worst ever loss of life on the Thames – when the pleasure paddle steamer was struck by a coal ship.
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26. Famous artist exhibits at local cafe

Jehane Markham by Natalie D'Arbeloff
Jehane Markham by Natalie D’Arbeloff
Internationally-renowned painter Natalie D’Arbeloff has lived in the area since the mid 1990s. She has shows worldwide still occasionally at Rustique on Fortess Road too. “The soft lighting, terra cotta walls and bookshelves of the Literary Cafe provide an ambience which suits my intimate works,” she says.
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27. Hidden creative space

Samual Millar in the Red Hand. Photo: PR
Samual Millar in the Red Hand. Photo: PR
Tufnell Park Road’s Red Hand Gallery is the home of artist-in-residence Samual Miller, who graduated from Bristol, where he has exhibited at the Arnolfini and Spike Island. The gallery is also home to Miller’s art studio and hanging garden, inspired by none other than Louis Majorelle and his garden in Marrakesh.
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28. The spot where 4 postcodes meet

North London scruffiness: Bumblee. Photo: Karrie Kehoe
North London scruffiness: Bumblee. Photo: Karrie Kehoe
Brecknock Road is the Camden-Islington borough boundary – and also a longstanding bohemian shopping parade where Tufnell Park, Kentish Town and Camden meet (that’s NW1, NW5, N7 and N19). And behold ye the collision of north London scruffiness at the southern end: organic store Bumblebee, world food restaurants, Salvino deli, a boutique or two and vegan footwear store Third Estate.
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29. Secret cinema

Pub or secret picturehouse? Photo: Stephen Emms
Pub or secret picturehouse? Photo: Stephen Emms
Every other Tuesday from 8pm at the Lord Palmerston is the Tufnell Park Film Club: bag yourself membership for a tenner, and the flicks are nearly always worth catching. Regulars can vote on which films to watch (Chinatown or Vertigo, for example), and classics might include A Hard Day’s Night. And it’s all curated by Wayne Gooderham and Nigel Smith, who wrote our December cover story on lost cinemas in Kentish Town.
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30. Welkom to Korfball

Renowned for its social nature: korfball
Renowned for its social nature: korfball
The mixed sex Dutch team sport – a bit like the bouncy love child of basketball and netball – has landed at Acland Burghley and is on the lookout for new players, if you fancy it on a hopefully balmy evening. Every Thursday 7.30pm-9pm. New players can attend for free for their first two weeks.
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31. Piano factory opposite the tube

Photo: Future & Found
Photo: Future & Found
The new Future and Found store right opposite Tufnell Park tube was “probably once a piano factory”, says owner Andrea Bates. “It has had many reincarnations throughout its life, including a film school.” And now it’s Tufnell Park’s leading interiors shop, with – we hope – a cafe in the lovely courtyard in the near future.
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32. Cheapest pizza in the postcode

Damn good value. Photo: Stingray
Damn good value. Photo: Stingray
We reckon it’s to be found at longstanding joint Stingray on Fortess Road. The lunch deal for £6.95 (pizza plus wine or beer) is, after all, pretty unbeatable. And the marguerita is a classic: cooked to crispy perfection, the huge 14-inch slabs have a full-flavoured tomato sauce and a good layer of stringy mozzarella.
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33. Shakespeare went to Acland Burghley

A Kentish Town-born bard.
A Kentish Town-born bard?
The 1960s-built school has had its fair share of famous alumni: reggae singer Eddie Grant, MOBO-nominated rapper Ms Dynamite and her brother Akala – aka “the hip hop Shakespeare”.
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34. Posh fishmonger about to land

Posh fish. On Fortess soon. Photo: Jonathan Norris
Posh fish. On Fortess soon. Photo: Jonathan Norris
Delayed until July 1, Jonathan Norris is set to take over no 140 Fortess Road, currently in the throes of a substantial refit. He already has two other successful outlets across the capital, including Pimlico and Victoria Park, Hackney. It will source the very best British fish and shellfish from “small boats in the West Country”.
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35. Underground river

1900 Culverting Hackney Brook. Photo: Public Domain/Hackney Archives Department
1900 Culverting Hackney Brook. Photo: Public Domain/Hackney Archives Department
Tufnell Park is the source of subterranean stream the Hackney Brook. It rises near Mercers Road and runs south to cross the main Holloway thoroughfare near Tufnell Park Road. Psychogeographers: why not follow it above ground?
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36. What’s “malodorous” at Nuraghe?

A steaming pot of Malloreddus. Photo: Wikipedia
A steaming pot of Malloreddus. Photo: Wikipedia
Nothing, of course. But the best dish to order at this Dartmouth Park Hill trattoria is the splendidly named Malloreddus: traditional tiny dumplings made from semolina dough with an elongated ridge conch shape to catch the sauce. And what a sauce! Slow-cooked pork with fennel, saffron and tomato. This is why the joint is rammed at weekends.
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37. The house with celeb cred

Photo: thehollywoodnews.com
The Loz. Photo: thehollywoodnews.com
You’ll be aware that Homeland star Damian Lewis is the area’s biggest residing star right now (when’s he’s not in LA, of course). But did you know his N19 home was previously owned by another Brit-done-good-on-US-telly, Hugh Laurie?

Phew. We’re off to have a cuppa somewhere far, far away. With thanks to Dick Muskett, Jacky Kitching, Jennir, Secretartistnw5, Kentishtowncats and everyone else who contributed. Know a fact about Tufnell Park? Share it below…


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  • Mad Dog

    There’s a Ford Madox Brown painting of the view from his window, looking towards Hampstead from Fortess Road called, “View from my Window”. If you are in the right spot (up high), the view today is remarkably similar.
    Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal were often guests at Ford Madox Brown’s house.

  • Mica Nava

    The film Sapphire, about ‘race’ and ‘passing’ in the nineteen fifties (dir Basil Dearden 1959) was shot partly in Tufnell Park. The central white family lived somewhere in the area and there’s an up-hill shot of Brecknock Road from Tufnell Park tube.

  • Kentishtowner

    These are both brilliant facts, thanks! Keep ’em coming….

  • James Elm

    Minor point, but you have the timeline of Aces & Eights wrong. The building was a bank, then it was an American diner, then it was Grand Banks bar, then it was vacant for a while, then a squat, then refurbed as Bar Lorca and finally Aces & Eights.

    • tara

      I miss Enzo

      • James Elm

        Everyone misses Enzo. (Whisper it, but Spag House’s food has probably improved though. Especially the Pizza. Enzo never could get his head around Pizza.)

        • poxdoctorsclerk

          Yup, everyone misses Enzo, (or ‘Vincent’ = Vicenzo), but he was seriously ill and went back to Italy. He left it to the (latin american) waitresses, but it has since moved on to Albanians, don’t ask me how, the waiter is Albanian.You can get decent pizza there now, like a million other places, but the atmosphere has nose-dived.

    • Alex

      I seem to recall it was called “Fat Sams” and was utterly bereft of paying customers!

  • ricktravel

    Few weeks after I regretfully left this area I was told about a secret room inside the aces n eights. A door near the toilets leading to some sort of basement. Or so my very drunk friend reported.
    Is it true? And, if so, is it really so hidden?

  • Michael

    Need to mention the famous Tufnell Park Football team who made the final of the FA Amateur cup final 1919–20 season, losing 1–0 to Dulwich Hamlet.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tufnell_Park_F.C.