History of Woodside Square

Muswell Hill is an essentially Edwardian suburb that developed around a once-rural village settlement on high ground on one of the main routes into and out of London.

Maps of the area

Map 1873 This map shows Muswell Hill as a village with the original St James Church that was consecrated in 1842. The track that goes around the northern edge of Gravelpit Wood is the route that becomes Woodside Avenue. The site that would become Woodside Square was farmland just north of Gravelpit Wood (later renamed Highgate Wood).

Map 1895 During the 1880s the sale of parkland led to residential development. Muswell Avenue and the substantial villas of Leawood (Simmons House), Roseneath and Norton Lees were built in 1875. Woodside Avenue is a cul-de-sac, and the villas have their own large grounds edged with trees. 

To the south of the villas the Great Northern Railway line runs from Alexandra Palace to Muswell Hill station and on to Highgate, Finsbury Park and King’s Cross.

Map 1913 – this map shows there has been an intensive period of building with the present day street pattern that we know today as Muswell Hill. A station has been built to the south of Woodside Avenue, which was called Cranley Gardens Station. Click here to see more information on Cranley Gardens Station

Map1935 St Luke’s Hospital (named as Woodside Hospital) for mental health patients moved from the City of London to Muswell Hill in 1930. This map shows what the site looked like prior to the Woodside Square development. The Administration block (Avebury) has been built in-between Roseneath and Norton Lees. The main hospital buildings at the rear were built in the 1930s and comprised of two angled two storey wings with a pitched tiled roof surrounding a landscaped garden. See photos of the hospital then and now here

People who lived at Leawood, Roseneath and Norton Lees

Harry Wright Atkin (the father of Edward Atkin below) had Norton Lees built for himself and his family in 1875.

The 1881 census shows he is, 52 and living there with his wife Bridget and their six children, George, Harry, Beatrice, Sanniger, Oliver and Dorothy. Servants are a nursemaid, Jane Hayden, cook, Mary Bradley, housemaid Emma Marsh and parlour maid, Martha Cuming. Their eldest son Edward is not living with them at this time. It gives his occupation as a Manufacturer of Electro Plate White Metal. He died in June 1896 leaving an estate of £34335 11s 2d. His wife Bridget continued to live at Norton Lees until her death in June 1907 and she left an estate of £23588 2s 8d.

The 1911 census gives the following information for the families living in the villas.

Leawood (Simmons House)

The head of the household is Amelia Lloyd 70 living with her two sons Ralph Sylvester, Lewis Arron and her granddaughter Rewa Beatrix. They have two servants, a cook Mary Drew and a house parlour maid Alice Ashton. There are 12 rooms in the house. Amelia Lloyd was married to Perceval Lloyd, a Wine Merchant, who died in 1883 leaving an estate of £7,188 14s 8d.


The head of the household is Harris Francois 39 who is a wholesale millinery merchant. He lives with his wife Florence and their daughter Betty. They have a governess, Marjorie Douglas, a housekeeper, Lucy Simmonds and a cook, Catherine Scheibelberger. The house has 14 rooms. They also have a chauffeur, Harry Kirks Winman who lives in the motor house next, door with his wife Margaret and their family of four children, Victoria, Elsie, Edith and Harry. They live in three rooms.

Norton Lees

The head of this household is Edward Atkin 58 who is a manufacturing silversmith. He lives with his wife Margaret Maud and their son Stephen. There are 19 rooms in the house and they have four servants, a cook, Cecilia Bates, parlour maid, Ivy Housden and two housemaids, Patience Harvey and Jessie Sanfield.

You can see some of the silverware that the Atkin family produced here.

The Muswell Hill Burglary

In 1889 there was an armed burglary at Norton Lees. The Penny Illustrated Paper gives a sensational account of the story.

The murderous attack in Muswell Hill, and the prevalence of burglary with violence, have led the public to demand that all criminals who perpetrate such savage deeds should be flogged within an inch of their lives.

We trust the Home Secretary will give the necessary instructions to the governors of prisons.

The deplorable murders and attempted murders with which the New Year has gloomily begun, yield fresh proofs that there are still human wild beasts in our midst to shame our boasted Civilisation.

These wild beasts must be cowed and caged; and we believe Mr. Monro (Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) is the man to grapple with them.

Edward Atkin’s father was living in Norton Lees at this time with his wife and their 4 sons and 2 daughters. Norton Lees, a large private house, standing in its own grounds at Muswell Hill, was, as all London knows, on Tuesday night, January 8th, the scene of a daring burglary and attempted murder.

“At about eight o’clock Mr. Henry Wright Atkin, who occupies the house with his family, was leaving, in company with his son, Sanyer Atkin, for the purpose of attending a lecture, when his son, happening to look up at the front of the house, was surprised to see that the window of the room immediately above the hall door was open.

He called his father’s attention to the fact, and at that moment two men came to the window, and one of them fired a revolver.

George Atkin, another son, who had been engaged at the back of the house, hearing the report of the pistol, ran to the front.

By this time the two men had left the room, and were in the front garden.

George Atkin, who had a chisel in his hand, at once comprehending the situation, struck one of the burglars a heavy blow with it.

The burglars, Alfred Lyster, James Clark, Charles Burdett were caught and they were tried at the Old Bailey on the 4th March 1889 for Breaking the Peace: wounding. They were subsequently found guilty of the charge and sentenced to Penal Servitude for Life. (Penal servitude was a term of imprisonment at hard labour first introduced by the 1853 and 1857 Penal Servitude Acts as a replacement for transportation. It gave judges the discretion to sentence anyone who might otherwise have been transported for less than 14 years to penal servitude. This normally meant labour in a convict prison).

Click here for a description of the trial.

The Woodside Nerve Hospital

“On 13 June 1750 a meeting to consider the establishment of a hospital for the care and treatment of the poor suffering from mental illnesses took place at the King’s Arms, Exchange Alley, City of London between Thomas Crowe, physician, Richard Speed, druggist, James Sperling, merchant, William Prowing, apothecary, Thomas Light, merchant and Francis Magnus. At this time, provision for treatment of individuals from poor families in London was made at the Bethlem Hospital, but waiting lists were long and alternatives were private ‘mad houses’ which were beyond the means of most people.

From the beginning, the founders of Saint Luke’s Hospital intended to cure ‘lunacy’, as well as to make treatment accessible to poorer people. Two apothecaries were found to prepare and supply all drugs required free of charge, and after 4 months over £1000 had been pledged and a committee formed to establish the hospital. One of the first rules of the new hospital was ‘that patients in this hospital be not exposed to publick view’.

The first site of the hospital, called Saint Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics, was the old Moorfields Foundry leased by the City of London. George Dance, City Surveyor advised on the conversion of the building and gave his services free. The hospital was named Saint Luke’s due to its proximity to Saint Luke’s, Old Street.”

In 1930 Woodside Nerve Hospital was opened at Woodside Avenue, Muswell Hill, and the hospital purchased the 3 buildings in the road. In 1938 28 Grand Avenue was taken into use as a nurse’s home and arrangements for resident patients at the Middlesex was terminated.

In 1935 the hospital treated the following range of cases :-

Organic nervous and mental disorders‘: Alcoholism, cardiovascular (involving the heart and blood vessels), Meniere’s Syndrome (inner ear condition causing dizziness), drugs, cephalalgia (head aches) and ‘senile changes’

Functional syndromes‘: Anxiety states, confusional states, depression, elation, hysteria, neurasthenia (nervous breakdown), obsessional states, paranoid, schizophrenic (psychotic behaviour). Anxiety, depression and hysteria being the most prevalent cases.

From 1939 on the onset of the Second World War, the Ministry of Health took over the hospital for the sole treatment of Ministry of Service (E.M.S.) servicemen and women patients suffering shell shock from active service. By 1945, 1705 Service patients had been treated at Woodside.

The National Health Service

In 1948, upon the foundation of The National Health Service (NHS), Saint Luke’s – Woodside Hospital became the psychological department of the Middlesex Hospital with a teaching as well as treatment role. The hospital came under the following administrative authorities:

Middlesex Hospital Management Committee (from 1948-1974) then North East Thames Regional Health Authority (1974-1982), then Bloomsbury District Health Authority (from 1982). In 1993 the hospital joined the newly formed Camden and Islington Community Health Services NHS Trust and in turn was managed from April 2002 by Camden and Islington Mental Health NHS Trust”.

Hospital closure and redevelopment

The hospital closed in 2010 with the remaining in-patients having been transferred to a new ward at St Pancras Hospital.

In March 2013 the 6 acre site was sold for £26m to the Hanover Housing Trust who planned to build 200 homes of which 70% would be for people over 55.

A picture on The Garden Trust website shows the gardens as they were when the hospital was in operation.

Further reading

Wikipedia – St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics

The Wellcome Library – St Luke’s Hospital

A history of St. Luke’s Hospital’: a brief history prepared for 250th anniversary of the hospital

Considerations upon the usefulness and necessity of establishing an Hospital (1795)’

Science & Society picture library – St Luke’s Hospital, London, 1809.

Lost hospitals of London – St Luke’s Woodside Hospital

Then and Now – derelict London hospitals

The Muswell Hill burglary – Old Bailey


All maps – “Reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY) licence with the permission of the National Library of Scotland”.   https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

The Wellcome Library with the digitised St Luke’s Hospital papers are available under a Creative Commons NonCommercial Attribution license.

Picture of the site from The Garden Trust website https://wellcomelibrary.org/collections/digital-collections/mental-healthcare/st-lukes-hospital/

Jan Potter

Amateur historian

The role of Co-housing

In July 2011 a group of local residents who wanted to set up a more neighbourly and sustainable way of living learned that the site of St. Lukes hospital was to be sold. They formed North London Sustainable Housing Partnership (NLSHP) to provide a community voice on the future of the site. In the Autumn of 2011 it began discussions with Hanover Housing Association, who eventually made a successful bid for the site. In April 2012 some members of NLSHP who wanted to go ahead with this scheme formed Cohousing Woodside as a separate company. Hanover formed a joint venture with Hill in 2015 in order to develop this large and complex site.

From the beginning, therefore, Cohousing played a key part of Hanover’s plans. Although Cohousing is not a familiar concept in Britain, it is common in Europe. You can find out more about the concept here.

Cohousing Woodside played a key part in the early discussions with the architects, Pollard, Thomas, Ellis (PTEa), and eventually the three blocks in the north-west corner of the site were designed to meet Cohousing’s needs. That is why Jarman, Levens, and Chatto, together with the first four houses along Olmstead Close, face each other and are designed around a ‘village square’, much closer to each other than the blocks around the central square. This was intended to encourage a sense of community and neighbourliness; the Common House on the ground floor of Chatto is an essential feature of Cohousing, intended as a communal space where activities could take place, meals could be shared, and residents could relax in company.

The Cohousing group met regularly over five years and planned the sort of community they hoped to develop here and the contribution all could make towards this. However, eventually market forces put paid to the hopes of many members as the completion of the estate drew nearer. The prices of the units they had hoped to occupy soared out of reach and the value of their own homes was threatened by the uncertainty of the housing market in 2016. Only three households from Cohousing Woodside moved in to Woodside Square, with another two joining later. It is probably no coincidence that the original Cohousers brought with them expectations of a friendly community which they have endeavoured to foster. This part of the story can be found here.

The first residents moved into Woodside Square in 2017, when Chatto and Hollyhock were completed, although the rest of the site was still unfinished. The blocks around the central square were finished in 2018 and the heritage blocks (Roseneath, Avebury and Norton Lees) were also finished in 2018 while the last houses in Marwood Square were completed by 2019.

Angela Hobsbaum