Inventory Site Record

Bruce Castle Park (Haringey)

Brief Description

Bruce Castle Park is on the site of the one of the four manors of Tottenham, the only mansion in its grounds that remains in the area. It gets its name from its link with the Scottish royal family of de Brus, who held part of the manor until 1306. There were numerous illustrious owners over the centuries. A survey of 1619 shows the manor house with a tower and grove of trees on a site that is similar to the present extent of the public park. The present house was erected on or near this site, probably in the 1620s, when the garden may also have been remodelled. In 1827 it became a pioneering school until 1891, when both house and park were bought by Tottenham UDC. The park was given a new layout and opened in August 1892, Tottenham's first public park. The layout today has little changed from that time and many of the trees date from the C19th, with an ancient oak reputedly over 400 years old. Bruce Castle became a museum in 1906 and continues to house the local history collection.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Lordship House
Site location:
Church Lane/Lordship Lane, Tottenham
N17 8NU
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
dawn to dusk. Museum: Wed-Sun & Easter Mon, May BH, Aug BH: 1-5pm
Special conditions:
Football, tennis, bowls, basketball, playground, paddling pool. Café in Museum
Various, including Tottenham Community Festival, Bruce Castle Carnival. Plus events in Museum. Bruce Castle has opened for London Open House
Public transport:
Rail: Bruce Grove. Tube: Wood Green (Piccadilly) then bus. Bus: 123, 243, 318.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.haringey.gov.uk

Full Site Description

The former landscape park of Bruce Castle, in its present form, dates mainly from the C19th and C20th, but preserves some features of the C18th and with buildings of the C16th and C17th. Bruce Castle Park lies on the northern side of Lordship Lane at its junction with Bruce Grove, to the west is the White Hart Lane Estate (q.v.), to the north is Tottenham Cemetery (q.v.), and residential streets lie on the eastern side. The Church of All Hallows (q.v.) lies at the north-west corner of the park and Church Lane skirts the western and northern sides. Bruce Castle is the only mansion in its grounds that still remains in the area, others having disappeared largely due to C20th housing development.

Bruses or Bruces was one of the four manors of the ancient parish of Tottenham, so-called because of its link with the Scottish royal family of de Brus or Bruce who held a third of the manor until Robert Bruce forfeited his English lands when he claimed the Scottish throne in 1306. In the C13th an earlier house stood on or near the site of the present house with granges, fishponds and a garden. In 1514 the house was rebuilt by Sir William Compton who was granted the manor by Henry VIII, who is known to have visited Bruce Castle in 1516. The 21ft diameter circular red brick tower close to the present house probably dates from this period but its purpose is not known. By 1548 his grandson, Henry, Lord Compton, held the manor with woodland and 38 acres of land, including 5 acres comprising the house and its garden. On one occasion in the 1590s the house was the refuge for civil servants and their families fleeing from plague-ridden London. In the early part of the C17th Bruce Castle was leased to Sir Thomas Peniston and then in 1625 the manor was purchased by Hugh Hare of a well-to-do Norfolk family. Hare had become a royal favourite and shortly afterwards received an Irish peerage from Charles I, becoming Lord Coleraine, who was described as 'a man of accomplishment, good at languages, fond of travelling, and a classical scholar'. The family fortunes inevitably suffered during the Civil War although events at Bruce Castle at that time are not known. Lord Coleraine died suddenly in 1667 at another of his houses in Totteridge, choking on a turkey bone while laughing with friends at supper.

Thomas Clay's Survey of 1619 shows the manor house with a tower and a grove of trees standing on a site that is similar to the present extent of the park. The present house built of brick and in an Elizabethan 'E' plan was erected on or near this site, probably in the 1620s, when the garden may also have been remodelled. Between c.1680 and 1708 it was owned by Henry, 2nd Lord Coleraine, who probably first called it Bruce Castle and made some alterations to the house in 1684, adding his own coat of arms to the north face of the building. He appears to have tried to improve the family fortunes by marriage, and had three wives, the last outliving him. His first wife Constantia was from the wealthy Lucy family and she died young in 1680 somewhat mysteriously; her ghost is reputed to haunt Bruce Castle. His second wife Sarah was the wealthy Dowager Duchess of Somerset, with whom he may have already had a relationship before his marriage in 1682. She died in 1692 and is buried at Westminster Abbey. The 2nd Lord Coleraine not only took an active part in the life of the Parish, but he also wrote a history of Tottenham, some of which survives. A late C17th view shows a forecourt on the south side of the house with grass plats and urns, and gardens to the east and to the north, that to the east with a fountain and probably serving as the entrance court.

In 1708 the 2nd Lord Coleraine's grandson Henry inherited the property. A noted antiquary, he spent much time travelling abroad. His only offspring was Henrietta, the illegitimate daughter of a French mother. Her inheritance of the estate was rejected upon his death in 1749, and finally restored by Act of Parliament in 1764 to her husband James Townsend, a magistrate, MP and Lord Mayor of London in 1773. An inventory of 1749 lists garden furnishings, including statues, orange tree tubs and garden seats. In 1763 the entrance forecourt was re-sited in its present southern position. In 1789 the pleasure grounds included such features as fishponds, shrubberies, a kitchen garden, a mount walk and plantations; the park was surrounded by a belt of plantation and an elm avenue along the line of Bruce Grove led to an entrance on Lordship Lane. These improvements were probably made for Henrietta and James Townsend. Their son was the last lord of the manor to live at Bruce Castle.

From 1804-1815 it was the home of John Eardley Wilmot, a lawyer and MP for Tiverton, who is known for helping first refugees from the American War of Independence and then, along with William Wilberforce, Edmond Burke and other reformers he set up Wilmot's Committee to assist destitute refugees from the French Revolution. In the late C18th the park timber was sold, and only one tree now survives from the period before 1800, an ancient oak sited close to the centre of the park reputedly 400 years old.

From 1815 to 1827 Bruce Castle was owned by a merchant, John Ede, who removed the west wing of the house. It then became a school run by the Hill brothers from Birmingham which, like other schools set up by the Hills, was innovatory in a number of ways, including the breadth of the curriculum and the abandonment of corporal punishment. The school at Bruce Castle was visited by people such as Charles Dickens and Charles Babbage, inventor of the early computer, who also sent his sons there. The Hills' pioneering educational system was based on the tenet that teaching should create the desire and ability to learn. One of the brothers, Rowland Hill, who was involved with the school between 1827 and 1835 was later knighted for his work developing the UK postal system and introducing the uniform letter rate. He died in 1879 and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

During the C19th the Bruce Castle estate was reduced to its present size. The OS map of 1864 shows a new entrance to the house on the western side, and the gardens extended up to the house on the south, with shrubberies and serpentine paths around the house and a circular flower garden to the south-east. The shrubberies continued to the north of the house and bordered the kitchen garden on the south-eastern perimeter of the grounds. Bruce Castle remained a school until 1891 when both house and park were bought by Tottenham UDC.

The park was given a new layout and was opened by the Chairman of Tottenham Local Board in August 1892, Tottenham's first public park. The OS map of 1894 shows a layout that is little changed from that of the present day, and most of the physical features remaining date from the C19th. The house became a museum in 1906 and houses archives and historical artefacts of Haringey's past, plus an exhibition of postal history commemorating Sir Rowland Hill. The present park is a roughly rectangular enclosure abutted by the Church of All Hallows at its north-western corner, the house is sited on the south-western corner of the park with its entrance from Lordship Lane on the southern side, through a C19th cast-iron gateway with an overthrow with the word 'MUSEUM' in the centre. Two sections of C17th boundary wall survive, sited close to the northern side of the house and on the southern side of the former kitchen garden. In the early C20th the western fishpond was filled in, and the northern one, of C18th or earlier date, survives as a cement paddling pool adjacent to a fenced playground; the form of the eastern pond of the same date can be discerned as a depression. The park's surrounding belt of trees and shrubs was gradually reduced in the C19th and C20th.

The C19th layout of the circular flower garden to the south of the house and of the kitchen garden are generally preserved, the latter were re-landscaped with municipal-style flower beds. The northern wall of the kitchen garden was removed in the early C20th and a bowling green and putting green were laid out on part of the site, with tennis courts and an asphalted pitch area to the north. In 1971 a new Bowling Green Pavilion was erected on the site of the kitchen garden whose C17th brick wall remains on the south side. The whole park is criss-crossed with asphalted paths, although those to the south preserve their C19th layout. In the C20th a new path was laid across the north of the park, flanked with London plane trees. About a fifth of the trees in the park date from the C19th, including limes, horse chestnut, cedar, yew and oaks.

Sources consulted:

Beresford 1994; Bruce Castle Archives Haringey; Jean Pegram, From Manor House . . . to Museum, Haringey History Bulletin no.28 (no date).

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ333906 (533484,190787)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Haringey
Site management:
Parks Service (White Hart Lane Neighbourhood)
1892; C20th
Not known
Listed structures:
LBI: Bruce Castle House, early C16th circular red brick tower; LBII: sections C17th boundary wall
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Bruce Castle
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Boro Importance II
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Within area of archaeological importance
Other LA designation:

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