The remaining portion of the Park Hall Estate was offered for sale at the Bald Faced Stag in 1892. It consisted of land with frontages to Bedford, Hertford, and Durham Roads. A duplicate system of drainage (to take surface water and sewage respectively) had been installed by the ground landlords and the sewers connected to the main drain. As an inducement the vendors offered payment by instalments and free conveyances. Clearly the ground landlord had had to lay out the roads and drainage at his own expense quid was not finding it easy to get his money back.

By 1894-6, Durham Road and Lincoln Road were complete, with odd, unrelated houses dotted along the the other roads as if scattered without sense. Presumably small-­scale builders took options on small plots and the map makers were there to notice which builders were the first to rush their houses to sale. This sort of development relies entirely on the mood of the market. Buy land a few hundred yards too far from the main road and your plot will stand empty. Find a customer with ready money and his house can be finished in six months. He moves in with the plaster still wet and is surrounded for five years by empty building lots full of purple willow herb and exploring children. The slow and spasmodic development of the County Roads probably reveals a great deal of worry: small developers with a house half built but no takers, biting their nails as the danger of bankruptcy increased each week.

The Diary of a London Schoolboy, 1826-18309, tells the remarkable story of a builder's son, about thirteen years old at the time, picking up his education in one of the small Marylebone private schools as and when his parents could afford a terms fees, caught up in the anguish of his father's speculative building on the edge of St John's Wood; walking in search of his father, with a message, from Edgware Road to the City, falling to find him and walking back again without complaint. His father's houses were just too far along Edgware Road for them to sell at the time. Today they are worth untold sums, but in the 1860s there were no buyers. First the family had to let one half of their own house; then his father was imprisoned for debt, like the father in Our Mutual Friend and the family had to hide this disgraceful secret from the world; then his father became ill and a barge full of bricks in Paddington Canal Basin had to be sold. The job devolved on the boy, but while he was negotiating, running backwards and forwards from the customer to his father ill in bed, the barge sank. Finally his father died and the boy went off to South Africa, later to become a homeopathic doctor. It is one of the most telling accounts ever written of the difficulties faced by small speculative builders. How many mute inglorious East Finchley schoolboys were worried by the iregular development shown by the 1894 map?

The Cedar of Lebanon which stood at the entrance to Fortis House, on the corner of Princes Avenue and Fortis Green Road.


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