Collins's Upton Farm Estate

Upton Farn Estate runs down Muswell Hill Road from St James's Church towards Cranket Gardens and includes Church Crescent, with its views over the Parkland Walk. When W. J. Collins bought land from the Railway Company, shown as part of Lot 3 at the Upton Farm sale, he had the chance to develop one of the best views in London. Perched on the top of the hill, with the valley of the Thames spread out before him, he decided to build rather larger houses than on the Fortismere Estate. Only one side of Church Crescent would look over the valley and the view was so attractive and so marketable, that he decided to put as many houses as possible on this side. Thus the houses with the view are single-fronted, while the rest of the houses, to make up for the loss of the view, are double-fronted.

When the original steam railway was made, the company had built round the contour of the hill, producing quite a steep escarpment, so when the railway company let the land for housing, it kept control of a wide swathe of land between the line and the houses, to ensure that there should be no claims against it later for subsidence. The company let this land to the tenants at five shillings a year, providing each of them with an allotment down below, at the end of the garden. When the railway was closed, the land was offered for sale to the householders, many of whom bought their share, to enjoy large gardens and protect the view.

Had the War come a year later, in 1940 instead of 1939, electrification of the line, which was already well in hand, would have been completed and we should now have a flourishing extension to the Northern Line Underground system right to the Alexandra Palace. In fact, electrification was abandoned at the start of the War and never resumed. When, in 1957, the steam line had become uneconomical, the railway was closed. The line became the Parkland Walk, a much loved amenity, but perhaps some day this will become a light railway again. However, we must return to Collins.


Collins' original drawing.

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