SOUTHGATE Piccadilly Line LONDON TUBE RAMBLES WALK
This circular route takes about 45 minutes.
Southgate gets its name from having been the south entrance to Enfield Chase, originally a royal hunting ground. Until the coming of the Piccadilly Line in 1933 it remained comparatively rural, with several large mansions, but the coming of the Tube changed all that, and Southgate rapidly became a dormitory suburb. At first sight the most exciting thing about the town is the circular Tube station, by Charles Holden. (Electrical engineers will recognise the object in the centre of the roof as a model of a Tesla Coil.) The clean lines of the Art Deo/Streamline Moderne building are echoed in the curving parade of shops on the bus station side – a perfect design.
Although the immediate area is somewhat disappointing in terms of architectural gems, a wander down the hill will produce some interesting things. To begin the walk, take the exit marked 'High Street' and go left, crossing carefully towards the shops. Continue left and go over Ashfield Parade. On the other side of the High Street is The Grange - hmm. Soon after that you will see the 1960’s buildings of the Southgate College, of which more later. Next comes an attractive run of small Georgian houses (Nos.111- 117) with shady front gardens and a little later on, at Nos. 107-109, an early 19c pair of villas mixed in with some more modern flats etc. Note the archway for carts at No.56 (east side) and No.37. Opposite is a curiously formal semi-circular parade of shops which marks the entrance to Meadway, an inter-war development of des. res. Tudorised houses on the old Southgate House estate. Further along the High Street are some more late-Georgian properties, including, at No.15, a plumber’s premises with small weather boarded building being used for storage.This business has been established in the same place for more than a hundred years. When you reach the Green, cross over to explore a delightful sequence of buildings, mainly Georgian. Nos. 23-31 were built in 1777 on charity land, probably as almshouses.
At the end comes the inviting Ye Olde Cherry Tree Inn. Records for this pub date back to 1721 and it is known that there had already been some kind of public house on the site for nearly a century before that. The present Cherry Tree is a cheerful mixture of building styles, as various additions have been made through the centuries.
Retrace your steps to the crossing opposite the first section of grass and go down a tree-lined path to see a trio of elegant eighteenth century houses: Old House with late Georgian door case, next Essex House and Arnoside. The ironwork on the roof of the latter originally supported a bell, a reminder that it was once a school. Now cross over the road towards some semi-detached houses. Glance into the garden of No.11 where there is an old gate in the adjoining churchyard wall - rather a creepy sight. It was made for the first Vicar, who lived at Arnos Grove, a large 18th house (now Southgate Beaumont House care home) in nearby Cannon Hill. Christchurch has a handsome tower and was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, a leading architect of the Victorian gothic revival style. Inside is a remarkable collection of Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows by the William Morris studios, with designs by Morris himself, Burne Jones and Rossetti. Check open times before making a special journey (contact details on church website).
After having a look at the church, walk past an old burial ground (locked) until you see an archway with a gate in the brick wall. This is the entrance to Minchenden Oak Memorial Garden created in 1934. Go through the gate to find one of those deserted, half-forgotten parks which have an slightly mysterious atmosphere. In 2008 I was able to write: In this tiny garden you will see an enormous oak, a survivor from the ancient Forest of Middlesex. I hesitate to use the word ‘awesome’ but there is no other word for this giant, thought to be about 800 years old.' Unfortunately, serious problems have arisen subsequently, and the tree has had to be severely lopped to prolong its life. The thought that it has produced new leaves every spring over so many centuries is inspiring, and one can only hope that it can be saved for at least a few more years. There is a mossy wooden seat round the huge trunk and those of a romantic turn of mind will, I think, find the place quite compelling. It is good to know that members of the Southgate Green Association sell Minchenden Oak seedlings at local school fairs, so if the worst comes to the worst, the old tree will always be remembered. I have left the photo I took on my previous visit so you can see what it looked like when it was still flourishing.
Time now to return to Southgate Tube Station. On the way back, stop at No. 71, just before Balaams Lane. There is an odd decoration on the wall made up of a kind of cricket balls and bails motif. Continue walking along the High Street until the crossing opposite Southgate College. Pop into the campus to see the imposing neo-classical Southgate House, home of Sir John Lawrence before he became Viceroy of India in 1864. It's now the admin block - although there have been later additions, the late eighteen-century core is still dominant. From here retrace your steps to the Tube station - you get a good view of its clean lines from this side of the road. Southgate is certainly an area of contrasts!
Photos (click to enlarge)
Southgate Tube station
Nos. 32-31 The Green (probable almshouses)
Ye Olde Cherry Tree Inn
Old House, The Green
Essex House and Arnoside, The Green
The Michenden Oak, 2008
Southgate is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings even in the most unpromising areas covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to go to to see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!