Boundary change? It's nothing new by Joe Studman

28th December 2016

Boundary change? It's nothing new  by Joe Studman

Read the full article and see more pictures
in our January 2017 Palmers Green and 
Southgate LIFE Estate Agent magzine 

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment

about proposed boundary changes. I would

remind everyone that this is nothing new.

A hundred years ago the people of

Southgate were represented at

Westminster by just two members of

Parliament who spoke for the whole of


The reform act of 1918 revised the

boundaries and created a Wood Green

constituency which included Southgate &

Friern Barnet. After another reorganisation,

in 1950, Southgate became a

separate constituency. In 1974 the

constituency was enlarged and became


Perhaps the most tumultuous event in

Southgates political history was when

Board of Health split from Edmonton in


Local politics from Elizabethan times

revolved around the Vestry which was

made up of the local ratepayers. Their main

job was to collect and administer the poor

rate. In mid 19th century there were

serious outbreaks of Cholera and Smallpox

which motivated Parliament to create

Local Boards of Health displacing Vestries

and giving them powers to ensure proper

water supply to and from properties.

Southgate at this time came under the

Edmonton Board of Health and had been

part of Edmonton Parish since at least the

Domesday book. However the largest

portion of the rates were paid by a

minority of wealthy parishioners and they

lived in the western part of the parish i.e


At this time the

tenant of Broomfield

House was a lawyer

called Ralph Littler.

Originally from

Derbyshire he had

lived at Bowes Park

and was prominent

in saving Alexandra

Park for the public in

1866. But his real

skill was in steering Railway bills through

Parliament. This had led him into conflict

with John Donnithorne Taylor who lived in

Grovelands. Donnithorne Taylor was

furious when parliament allowed The

Great Northern to compulsory purchase his

land west of Hoppers Road to build a new

line from Wood Green to Enfield in 1871.

Littler woke up one day to find that one of

the lakes in front of Broomfield House was

full of dead fish polluted from a ill fitting

sewer in Aldermans Hill. He sued Edmonton

Health Authority and won. Now Littler

pushed for full separation from Edmonton

claiming that despite Southgate contributing

the majority of rates, the bulk of the

spending went on the east of the borough.

There then developed a series of meetings

to discuss the issue. Predictably whenever

a meeting was held in Edmonton the

majority of ratepayers voted to stay united

but when a debate took place in

Southgate or Palmers Green the ratepayers

voted to split.

Popular history tells us that in January

1881 there was a snow blizzard and the

Edmonton contingent couldn't get through

to the meeting in the old Walker school in

Powys Lane. The vote taken that night

went for separation and was the deciding


The truth however was that, despite

opposition from the Local Government

Board, Littler had proposed a bill in

parliament and had already taken it to

committee stage. Local gentry were called

to give evidence and class prejudices were

apparent. Colonel Church, who lived in The

Lawns where Ashfield Parade is now,

proclaimed that he “was one of the better

class and those like me support the bill”.

John Donnithorne Taylor at Grovelands

actually gave evidence for the remain

party presumably for his antipathy towards

Littler who dismissed his view as coming

from a senile old gentleman.

So Edmonton was cut off from its wealthy

ratepayers, struggled for a time but by the

end of the century had opened a Public

Library, Baths and Park. Ironically it was

Ralph Littler who officially opened

Pymmes Park 1906 in his role as Chairman

of Middlesex County Council. One

wonders why he wasn’t lynched!

Southgate became the Queen of Boroughs

and produced some excellent councillors

in its early decades whose altruism gave

us Broomfield Park and some of its

amenities but that's another story.

The Borough only lasted 84 years to be

swallowed up into the new London

Borough of Enfield in 1965. When deciding

a name for the new Borough two of the

suggestions were “Edengate” and “South

Eden” both containing syllables from all

old boroughs.

You can hear more tales from Enfield’s history on one of my local walks and talks.