Inventory Site Record

Lordship Recreation Ground including Model Traffic Area (Haringey)

Brief Description

Lordship Recreation Ground opened to the public in 1932 laid out on former farmland that Tottenham UDC had purchased from the Townsend Estate, with a further gift of land. Initially half was opened as a park and the remaining land given over to allotments, to await development. A large roughly rectangular area of open grass laid out with sports pitches, a Paddle-Boat Pond, Shell Bandstand, and Tennis Courts were opened in 1936. In 1938, at the instigation of the Park Superintendent, the south eastern section was laid out as a Model Traffic Area, a recreation area for small children to learn to ride bicycles, tricycles and toy motor cars.

Practical Information
Site location:
Lordship Lane/Downhills Park Road
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Paddling pool; playgrounds; Basketball; football pitches; Shell Theatre (to be restored)
Public transport:
Tube: Wood Green (Piccadilly) then bus. Bus 123, 243, 243A.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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

Full Site Description

Lordship Recreation Ground is bounded by Lordship Lane and the White Hart Lane Estate (q.v.) to the north, and Downhills Way on the western side, with suburban streets to the south and east. The Model Traffic Area is approached from Downhills Park Road to the south, via a gate with brick and cement gate piers topped by cement urns and having wrought iron gates. The approach path slopes downhill to join the main rectangle of the park on the southern side of the Traffic Area, which lies on the south-west side within a rectangular area enclosed by low, hooped iron railings. The Traffic Area itself is laid out within an elongated quatrefoil shape. A stream, The Moselle, runs between trees on the northern side, feeding the former paddle-boat pond on the north-east side of the enclosure.

Lordship Recreation Ground is on a site of over 90 acres of former farmland used by Andrews's Dairies. In 1926 Tottenham Urban District Council purchased 54 acres from the Townsend Estate, with a further gift of 43.5 acres, and initially half was opened in 1932 as Lordship Recreation Ground and the remaining half given over to allotments, to await development. On 13 June 1936 a triple opening ceremony took place when the Paddle-Boat Pond, Shell Bandstand, and Tennis Courts were opened by the Mayor of Tottenham; all were carried out by direct labour as unemployment relief schemes. The Shell Bandstand was used for numerous activities from ballroom dancing to live shows. The creation of the paddle-boat pond with its central rock island, designed and executed by the Borough Engineer, created a precedent for the Traffic Area scheme. The Model Traffic Recreation Area was opened in 1938, forming a climax to these improvements made to the park.

The idea of a recreation area for small children to learn to ride bicycles, tricycles and toy motor cars was evolved by Mr G E Harris, who was the Park's Superintendent. The Council supported his scheme and the plans were presented to the Ministry of Public Health; the scheme was approved and a loan to cover the cost was sanctioned. The involvement of the Minister for Education was also sought when under the Physical Training and Recreation Act of 1937 the Department of Education's interests were extended more widely, beyond the development of school playing fields. The Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon E L Burgin, performed the official opening ceremony on 27 July 1938. The scheme was an instant success and received wide press coverage. Within a month of opening 21,706 'vehicles' had been hired at a charge of 1d for periods of fifteen minutes from the Area 'garage', in addition to many children who rode their own bicycles and tricycles around the site. As the original plan shows, various pieces of playground equipment were sited around the road system so that children would be forced to cross the roads to get from one to another. The roadway itself was about 0.75 miles in length, consisting of two major intersecting roads, each 9 ft wide, and minor roads 6 ft 6 ins wide, with 4 ft pavements on each side. Trees and shrubs were planted for decoration and to create 'blind corners', and model traffic lights and Belisha beacons were sited under the direction of the borough engineer. A miniature blue Police Call-Box equipped with telephone enabled children to summon attendants to the site of an accident. The children were trained to respect the crossings and watch traffic, and to observe the 'Model Traffic Area Highway Code', and frequent educational visits were made by local schools with advice and training from the police force. The Ministry of Transport made a grant of 50% of the cost of maintaining the area. The Lordship Model Traffic Area is a unique example of a pioneering educational and recreational scheme, and was cited as such in an article on the development of children's playgrounds published in the Municipal Journal of 28 May 1954.

In 1939 the outbreak of WWII led to the closure of the Model Traffic Area, and it was not put back into working order until 1947, when on 17 July it was re-opened by the then Minister of Transport, the Rt. Hon A Barnes. In the 1970s and '80s maintenance of the park declined and the site became neglected. In 1992 Haringey Council's Parks Service and ROSPA carried out some restoration work to the area, including the repainting of road markings and road widening in order to use the site as a base for road safety training in the borough. Although the paddle-boat lake is no longer in use, the layout of the Model Traffic Area has survived semi-intact. In its original plan a long canal-like water feature connecting three ponds lay on the axis with the boating pond on the eastern side of the Model Traffic Area, this has now been replaced with modern playground apparatus, and a paddling pool to the north. The asphalted roads have been widened, losing their pavements in many places, and the white traffic markings have been repainted and simplified. The original traffic lights and road signs have disappeared and cars can no longer be hired. Between the roads the landscaping remained in good condition, with many shrubs and dwarf and pollarded trees lining the straight sections of roadway and greatly enhancing the miniaturised effect of the whole. Around the perimeter some sections were roughly re-landscaped with hillocks and motor tyres to provide dirt-tracks for mountain bikes, although the bicycle dirt track was removed, as it was little used.

Haringey Parks Department has frequently been contacted by former residents of Haringey who wish to bring their grandchildren to enjoy the facility on which they had played as children. In summer 2009, a new playground was provided with funding from the Big Lottery and the Marathon Trust and in 2010, a new natural play scheme was built around the playground with funding from the Playbuilder scheme. In September 2010, a successful funding application was made by LB Haringey to the Heritage Lottery Fund for significant capital investment to finance a series of redevelopment and improvement plans to further improve the facilities at Lordship Recreation Ground and to help restore the park to its former glory. Works included restoration of the Model Traffic Area, Shell Theatre, River Moselle and conversion of the old toilet block into an information point. Also planned were a new City Farm, new Eco-centre, substantial re-landscaping works, and a new BMX track. The works were completed in 2012. A Queen's Jubilee Field

Sources consulted:

Ruth Guilding, ‘The Model Traffic Recreation Area at Lordship Lane’ in The London Gardener, Vol.II, 1996/7 pp18-22. Contemporary press cuttings; brochure celebrating 1947 re-opening (Bruce Castle Archives); Haringey Parks Department holds information on recent alterations to the site, together with a video of an original cine-film of the Model Traffic Area in use.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ325900 (532580,190120)
Size in hectares:
22.1 (1.83 model traffic area)
Site ownership:
LB Haringey
Site management:
Parks Service (West Green Neighbourhood) / Friends of Lordship Recreation Ground
1938 (Park 1932)
G E Harris
Listed structures:
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:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
On edge of area of archaeological importance

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.