Knights Templar and shopping in north London

THE FIRST TWO HOUSES to be built in the ‘utopian’ Hampstead Garden Suburb (‘HGS’) still stand on a short stretch of Hampstead Way about 500 feet from Finchley Road, where it passes through the oddly named district of Temple Fortune. These houses are relatively close to shops, whereas most of HGS is not. For, the Suburb was designed with several churches, a couple of schools, but no shopping facilities. In 1905 and a few years following it when HGS was designed and largely built, few people owned motor vehicles. So, for most of the inhabitants of the HGS, shopping had to be done on foot or by bicycle in one of the few shopping areas outside the boundaries of the recently laid out district.

View of Temple Fortune House from Arcade House

When I was a child living in HGS, the nearest shops to my home were in Temple Fortune, about half a mile’s walk away. In my early teens, the main shopping attraction for me in Temple Fortune was the branch of WH Smiths, which I noted recently is still functioning where I remember it to have been long ago. Smiths, in those far-off days, had a good stock of books, although not nearly as good as the now non-existent High Hill Books in Hampstead, and gramophone records. It was at Smiths that I bought my first classical music LP, a Music For Pleasure disc with a recording the Second Symphony by Sibelius. Buying that LP was the start of my great love of classical music.

There was a newsagent in Temple Fortune’s Bridge Lane, close to where it meets Finchley Road and neighbouring a hardware shop, which sold cultural material not then stocked by WH Smiths. This included American cartoon comics (‘Superman’ etc.) and ‘Mad’ magazine, which I loved and on which I was prepared to spend my precious pocket money. Unlike Smiths, this shop and the hardware store have disappeared.

In my youth I never wondered why the somewhat dismal shopping centre was called Temple Fortune. The area was formerly part of a Saxon Hamlet called Bleccanham (www.barnet.gov.uk/libraries-old/local-studies-and-archives/pocket-histories/hendon/temple-fortune-hendon-nw11). The ‘Temple’ part of the name ‘Temple Fortune’, which appears on a map prepared in 1754 refers to the Knights of St John (or more likely, the Knights Templar), who owned land around Hendon in 1240. ‘Fortune’ probably derives from ‘foran tun’ meaning a small settlement on the way to somewhere, in this case the larger settlement of Hendon.

Finchley Road, on which Temple Fortune lies, was only completed in 1835. Before that road was built, the hamlet of Temple Fortune lay on the route from Hampstead to Finchley. In the far-off days before the existence of Finchley Road, to reach Finchley from Hampstead it was necessary to proceed as follows. First, the traveller would have to traverse the range of hills to the north of Hampstead, using a road that roughly follows the present North End Road and its continuation, Golders Green Road. After passing the open fields and common land of Golders Green, which was all that existed of that place before about 1908 when the Northern Line arrived,  the traveller would have taken a right turn into Hoop Lane, and gone along it in a north-easterly direction to its end where it met the currently named Temple Fortune Lane. Next, the traveller would have had to go northwest along this lane until he or she reached a triangular open space, which is now the position of modern Temple Fortune. This spot was the southern end of Ducksetters Lane, which wound its way north-eastwards to Finchley. Temple Fortune was also important as a node in northwest London’s road system. The current Bridge Lane was the road along which travellers could travel from Temple Fortune to Brent Street close to Hendon.

I have written about the significance of Hoop Lane in my life elsewhere (https://londonadam.travellerspoint.com/48/). Temple Fortune Lane, which leads to Temple Fortune, was also a place I visited often until my early teens because it was where my then best friend, who passed away a few years ago, used to live. Also, in the late 1960s, our family practitioner moved his surgery to this street from its former location in his home next to Golders Green Underground Station.

Sad to say, but most of the shopping centre of Temple Fortune is not pleasing to the eye. The exceptions are two large buildings with covered walkways (arcades) with elegant archways at pavement level. Placed either side of the start of Hampstead Way, they form an elegant ‘gateway’ to HGS. Temple Fortune House is on the north side of Hampstead Way and a similar looking building, Arcade House, is on the south side. Nikolaus Pevsner and his colleague Bridget Cherry describe these buildings in “Buildings of England. London 4: North” as follows:

“ … detailed by Unwin’s assistant AJ Penty (1909-1911). Their Germanic silhouettes are inspired by the mediaeval towns, like Rothenburg … Identical hipped gable ends with faintly Regency vertical iron balconies, but otherwise the buildings are subtly different: Arcade House (originally a tea room) partly timber framed, Temple Fortune House (flats) with lattice timber balconies.”

Number 166 Hampstead Way, next to Temple Fortune House, is in the neo-Georgian style and is the area manager’s office called Vivian House.

In my childhood, much of the ground floor of Arcade House was occupied by a large store called Pullens. This shop supplied uniform to the pupils of numerous north London private schools as well as other children’s clothing. Pullens moved to new locations some years ago. A shop on the ground floor of Temple Fortune House was until recently the premises of Kusum Vadgama, the optometrist. Although I never made use of her services, friends gave good reports of her. I mention her because in addition to caring for people’s vision, she has also authored several books about the history of Indian connections with the UK.

Many of places that used to be part of the Temple Fortune scene during my childhood have disappeared. At the southern end of the area, near the Police Station, there was a shop that sold rubber hoses and cut pieces of rubber to order. This was on the corner of Finchley Road and a narrow lane. Further south on Finchley Road, there was Kanu Stores, which sold everything you might need for preparing recipes from the Indian subcontinent.

For many years, Brentford Nylons occupied a huge shop in an unattractive building on the corner of Bridge Lane and Finchley Road. WH Smiths and Boots the Chemist are further north along Finchley Road, exactly where they were in my childhood. Somewhere near them, there used to be a Wimpy Bar, into which I never ventured. There was also a delicatessen called ‘Panzers’, which my parents used occasionally, but somewhat reluctantly because one of its employees was often rude to customers.

A narrow-fronted shop somewhere along the west side of Finchley Road housed the barber shop of (Mr?) Lee. For many years, my friends and I used to have our haircuts there. It was quick and cheap, rather than ‘haut coiffure’.  Somewhere on the same side of the main road, there was Kendricks, Temple Fortune’s well-stocked toy shop. To my young eyes it was a veritable treasure trove. However, once we had a poor experience there. We were just looking, minding our own business, when the owner came up to us and told us to “bugger off”. As a fairly sheltered nine or ten year old I was shocked and when I returned home, I related the tale to my parents, who were horrified that an adult could speak to children with such language. I am not sure whether I ever entered Kendricks again. The shop no longer exists.

Waitrose grocery store was another feature of the Temple Fortune of my childhood. It still stands in its original position but looks as if it has been enlarged. Around the corner from it in Hayes Crescent, there used to be a small car mechanic’s workshop. I remember this because it was where my friend’s father used to take his well-groomed, leather-seated, wonderful old Austin (A40 or similar) to be serviced.

One of my main reasons for visiting Temple Fortune apart from shopping was to see films in the now non-existent Odeon cinema, which was on the east side of Finchley Road, a few hundred yards north of Temple Fortune House. It stood between Birnbeck Close and Childs Way. Originally named the ‘Orpheum’, the cinema was opened in October 1930 (http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/26429). Serving both as a cinema and a theatre, it was renamed the ‘Odeon’ in 1945, and then later the ‘Odeon Golders Green’. For a few shillings, one could spend an entire afternoon, from two until after six pm, at the Odeon. After having to stand for the National Anthem, the audience was treated to a full-length feature film, then a documentary from the “Look at Life” series, then advertisements and film trailers, and then another full-length feature film, a new release. Today, cinema-goers are lucky if they get anything more than the trailers and a feature film. After several lean years in the 1970s, the Odeon was demolished in May 1982 and a non-descript block of flats built in its place.

Between the former Odeon and Temple Fortune House, and set back from the main road, stands a Marks and Spencer food store, which opened a few years after my mother died in 1980. If I remember correctly, the site occupied by M&S used to be the premises of a car showroom or, if not that, some kind of large garage. The original showroom, which might still be part of the structure of the current food store was in the art deco style and was built in 1934 (www.hgstrust.org/documents/area-16-finchley-road.pdf).

I began by writing that there were no shops built in the HGS. This is not strictly true because a row of shops, the Market Place, runs along Falloden Way (part of the A1), which separates the Suburb into two distinct sections, the older (original) and newer parts. However, the original plan was not to include shops. Next to Arcade House at the beginning of Hampstead Way, there is number 16 Arcade House,  a small detached single storied building almost surrounded by hedges. It is edifice typical of some of the styles of architecture found in the Suburb and ever since I can remember, it has always been a small shop. In my childhood, I believe it supplied electrical fittings or picture framing, but now it houses another kind of business, related to design. Given its postal address, it must have been something like an outhouse for its larger neighbour, Arcade House.

One place that I associate with later in my life, during the 1980s, is a Chinese restaurant that served excellent food. I used to eat there occasionally with my father and friends. One of the dishes I remember that we enjoyed was a starter consisting of scallops served in their shells. The restaurant closed long ago, which is a pity. Now, scallops, in common with all other shellfish, are not kosher and therefore observant Jewish people do eat them. Temple Fortune was and still is in a neighbourhood where many observant Jewish people, who adhere to kosher dietary rules, reside. During my childhood and still today, there were and still are several shops selling food that satisfies the kosher requirements. One of these shops, which existed in my childhood, Sam Stoller, the fishmonger, remains in business, but the other stores have sprung up since I became an adult. A report in “My London” dated 22nd of June 2020 (https://www.mylondon.news/news/north-london-news/police-stumble-across-huge-cannabis-18457845) revealed:

“Metropolitan Police officers were called on Friday night (June 19) after water was seen running out of Sam Stoller & Son fishmongers, a ground floor shop on Temple Fortune Parade … there was a “significant” water leak from the flat above … Firefighters helped the officers force their way in only to find a sophisticated cannabis farm of more than 300 plants … It was the hydroponic system used to water the many illegal plants that was leaking…”

Well, I had no idea that glum Temple Fortune could be such an exciting place. Talking of horticulture, there is a garden centre near to the end of Temple Fortune Lane where it meets Finchley Road. This establishment has been there for many decades but the off-licence shop opposite it is no longer there.

Temple Fortune remains an important shopping and meeting centre for those who live in the shop free HGS. Many of the places that I remember from my childhood have disappeared from it, but a few remain. Walking along Finchley Road through Temple Fortune still evokes memories of my childhood and during our sporadic visits there, we ‘bump’ into old acquaintances occasionally.

See some more photographs of Temple Fortune here: https://londonadam.travellerspoint.com/57/

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