[Lower Edmonton]
Lower Edmonton > Leisure, recreation and parks > Leisure and recreation

Leisure and recreation

A failed attempt at a "What to do?" page covers some of the local leisure and recreation facilities.
This page has had very little attention since 2005. A brief note about the Pickett's Lock area was added in 2006 and in 2015 some facts about the Empire were corrected.

This started off as a 'What to do?' page but although I am sure there are lots of things to do in Lower Edmonton, he says doubtfully, it beats me what they are :-) So I've turned it into a mention of leisure and recreation facilities. As usual I can't resist disappearing back into the past.

Cinemas

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After many years without a cinema anywhere in Edmonton, we do have an excellent facility as part of the Lee Valley Leisure Complex (Pickett's Lock in other words). UCI Lee Valley (which they also call UCI Pickett's Lock) is a 12 screen multiplex. Subject to changes in their site this should be a link to what is on this week (their week runs from friday to thursday). As well as being next door to the Lee Valley Leisure Centre (closed April 2002) there is a pizza place outside and something else foodwise that escapes me for the moment.

There is another multiplex in Enfield on the junction of Southbury Road with the A10 Great Cambridge Road. That is a Cineworld cinema (formely called UGC) with something like 15 screens and again there is a pizza place nearby. They have information on the films showing and online ticket booking on their website. It is somewhat outside the boundaries of Lower Edmonton but I'll mention it here anyway :-)

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The first cinema in the area was Andrews Pictures Of Edmonton Green which operated from the former King's Hall, which was located to the rear of tke King's Head pub on the north-west of the old Green. This opened in 1908 and closed c. 1918. The Edmonton Cinematograph Theatre opened in Fore Street in 1911 near the Salvation Army and lasted until 1927 when the premises became a shop.

The Edmonton Empire was built as a music hall in 1908 and was the venue for Marie Lloyd's last performance in 1922. It was converted to be a cinema in 1927 and closed for an internal refit in 1933, which also included some external work. It was situated on the east side of New Road towards the south end and many people knew New Road as "Empire Hill". In 1951 it became the Granada but like many others entered a period of decline and ended up housing wrestling and bingo before being closed in 1968 and demolished in 1970. The Wurlitzer 3/10 organ is now in the St Albans Organ Theatre.

The original text of the above paragraph drew from sources that suggested the cinema was rebuilt internally as a cinema in 1933. The Cinema Treasures site is the source of an update made in April 2015.

In 1913 the Alcazar opened in Fore Street. It was on the west side situated north of Pymmes Brook. This places it just over the border in Upper Edmonton of course but it would have been a part of Lower Edmonton life so I include it on the site. It was an interesting looking building when first built as the exterior was in a Moorish style as can be seen in the well known photo above. It seated 1700 and was converted to sound in 1933 though audiences began to decline pretty quickly. There was also the Winter Gardens behind it and it became a popular boxing venue (Alex Daley has written an excellent article on this). A 1935 photo shows it with the first floor enclosed with glazed windows and the Moorish arch detailing gone from the ground floor. The Alcazar took a direct hit from a bomb in August 1940 and had to be demolished.

The probable reason for the decline in audiences at the Alcazar was The Regal cinema. This opened in March 1934 on the junction of Fore Street with Silver Street. It seated 3,000 and also had the largest stage in north London and a particularly fine Christie Opus 2902 theatre organ (a 4/14, a 4/15 or a 4/16, depending on the source) which was moved to the Barry Memorial Hall theatre in 1985 (as of March 2010 it has just been removed and is in storage). Cinema audiences apparently fell in the 1960s and it showed its last film in 1972. It drifted on in terminal decline as the Sundown theatre, which got some usage as a concert venue, and as a bingo hall before being demolished in 1986 to make way for a Safeway supermarket (now Lidl). It was a fine and popular building and it goes to show that Lower Edmonton hasn't had the monopoly on local architectural vandalism though by 1986 they should have known better.

As an aside, it is often quoted locally that the Alcazar was the first building in London to be bombed and I have certainly once saw it reported elsewhere that "Fore Street" was the first place. My brief checks suggest that this could be a story that has grown in the telling. For a start how does one define London in this context? Edmonton was in Middlesex at the time. Wimbledon, for example, is considered as much part of London as Edmonton these days and it was bombed in the early evening in the middle of August 1940. In some official records Harrow was the first place in London bombed (at around three-thirty in the morning on the 22nd). However Harrow was no more in London at the time than Edmonton was, though it may have come under the air defence area (or something like that). The bombs on Edmonton fell at around three-ten (or three-thirty) on the morning of the 23rd. The first bombs on central London (the ones often considered to have been dropped by mistake, though there are some doubts over that story) fell at a quarter past midnight on the 24th and the main bombing raids started on the 7th September. Whether the Alcazar was the first building in Edmonton or just the most notable casualty is another question.

Lee Valley Leisure Centre (Pickett's Lock Centre) and Lee Valley Athletics Centre

This was originally called Pickett's Lock Centre when it opened in the 1970s. It was quite a novelty then as this was before the days of gyms and health clubs and things so a sports centre appearing on the doorstep was something else and apparently it was the largest facility of its kind in Europe and so quite a big deal at the time. The Lee Valley Regional Park obliged us with...

The Lee Valley Leisure Centre has 3 major halls. The Sports Hall can host a wide variety of sports, the Bowls Hall caters for indoor bowls from October to April and the Great Hall, one of the largest in London, hosts a wide variety of major events. The Meridian Gym, Spa and Studios are all fully refurbished and offer high class facilities. For children we have the Tropical Adventure Trail, a swimming pool, courses, and lots of holiday activities.

The Great Hall was a roller skating rink when the centre first opened (remember Michael Crawford in Some Mothers Do 'Ave'Em?) though may always have been intended to be multi-function. In more recent years it was used a lot as an exhibition hall. The swimming pool was always really odd as it was a silly shaped leisure pool. You would have thought a sports centre would have had a proper 25m pool instead of this soppy little thing.

Anyway to cut a long story short the centre closed in May 2002 (though the bowling club have kept the indoor bowling going) having originally been scheduled to close in April 2001 to make way for the aborted National Stadium project. It was basically knackered anyway and it has to be seen as a *regional* facility and not just something for Edmonton and Enfield so any lack of other local facilities was never really an issue. The new Southbury Leisure Centre compensates for much of the loss as far as the local area is concerned and Edmonton Green should also be getting upgraded leisure facilities.

It was once stated that only the building itself was being closed down and that the outdoor facilities would remain as these include floodlit synthetic turf football/hockey pitches which would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. However those plans must surely have been incompatible with the stadium plan and the new "Lee Valley Regional Athletics Centre". 

Last time I heard anything definite the demolition of the leisure centre building was expected to begin in July/August 2004 and take up to six months. The bowls hall had a chance of survival if funds could be raised. Construction of the new centre was expected to begin early in 2005, with completion expected by Spring/Summer 2006. The campsite would close during the construction period but the golf course would remain open throughout.

The Lee Valley Athletics Centre (LVAC) opened at the end of 2006 so it sounds like the demolition and construction schedule was pretty much adhered too. If you follow the link you'll know as much about it as I do really so I'm in no hurry to write about it. I've no idea if the bowls hall survived after all.

Lee Valley Golf Course (Pickett's Lock)

Another part of the Lee Valley Leisure Complex at Pickett's Lock is the golf course.

The 18 hole Parkland Course offers a challenge to players of all handicaps, with several holes running around the lake. The course is open to all standards of players, members and non-members alike.     

The Golf Driving Range provides an ideal opportunity to practice your swing. The 20 bay range is floodlit and the bays are fully covered.

The course started off as 9 holes but has always been a "proper" golf course with a pro shop etc and memberships, rather than being like a glorified pitch and putt. It used to be very well used but I have no idea if it is now. These days, and no doubt it has been like it for very many years, it has 18 holes with several holes round the rather attractive lake. A bit of digging on the net reveals the course is 4902 yards (which is short but still longer than I imagined it might be) with a par of 66 and an SSS of 64 or 66 depending on where you look. It is described as short but "tricky" or "challenging".

A picture of the proposed National Athletics Stadium helps give the scale of the golf course. The part nearest the camera along by the side of the river is pretty much where the original 9 hole course was for many years but somewhere along the line the lake appeared (well I guess it may have been there all along) and the golf course was extended around it to turn it into an 18 hole course. From what I can remember from about 25 years ago (!) the original first hole and a spare patch of ground used for driving practice occupied the area where there is now a camp site.

[image]I used the driving range once or twice about 15 years ago but I don't suppose it will have changed much in the mean time as there isn't a lot to it. When you walk past it the safety nets around the range are looking rather tatty and worse for wear.

I wonder why they haven't made provision for people to sit by the lake as it seems a waste. I guess the golf balls could be a hazard but it looks so nice and there is plenty of birdlife.

Camping and Caravan Site (Pickett's Lock)

[image]The camping and caravan site is at the back of the centre in the area I remember as being the first hole of the golf course and the next door practice area which also doubled as the site for fireworks displays and things. I remember Eddie Kidd did a motor cycle leap there once that was televised. Indeed I've even found someone's scan of a newspaper picture of it. It was 1976 I believe and a world record attempt at 13 buses. I seem to remember him having a minor crash on landing and that he touched down in the ramp slightly short of clearing all the buses.

That is pretty useless information really but I don't know anything about camping and caravan sites. It is featured in various directories anyway! The campsite will be closed while the new high performance sports centre is constructed.

Edmonton Leisure Centre (Edmonton Green Swimming Pool)

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I still think of it as the swimming pool but I think there always was a little more to it than that. There may have even been squash courts or something or is my memory playing tricks? I haven't been in there for many years but I remember it as an 8 lane pool that was a bit longer than 25m, a substantial spectator area and a somewhat grotty cafeteria upstairs. They have now exploited some of the ground floor frontage for Shopmobility and a bicycle park and there seems to be some children's "Fun House" thing inside too.

The web pages on the centre (taken from the Wayback machine) confirmed I was right about the squash courts. The pool, as I suspected, was 33.3m long and had a moveable boom which could be locked in position to make a 25m pool with electronic timing and a small warm-up/swim down pool.

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There is supposed to be some improvement to leisure facilities as part of the revamp of The Green. This includes demolishing the Leisure Centre and building a new one on a different part of the complex (where the multi-storey on Broadway is now). This part of the site will be an Asda supermarket (the last date I heard for it was sometime in 2008). The new centre will include a 25 m pool and a combined learning/diving pool. Demolition of the building was taking place by the end of March 2007 with the new facility due to open in Spring 2007.

I believe this swimming pool is on, or very close to, the site of a previous pool dating from about 1903. Once upon a time there was a lido at Houndsfield Road too with a wedding cake type fountain next to it and a cafeteria or shop or something. It wasn't unlike the Southbury Road lido in layout.

Libraries

Edmonton Green Library is located in the South Mall at Edmonton Green (as you might have guessed). Those of us who remember back that far still think of it as the ground floor of the Co-Op. It replaced the 1894 built Passmore Edwards library on Fore Street by Shrubbery Road. There used to be a library on Houndsfield Road but that disappeared at some stage without my noticing.

I must also include Ridge Avenue Library, which is on the junction of Ridge Avenue and Church Street on the N9 boundary, and was designed in the Borough Of Edmonton's architect's department in the early 1960s.

Greyhound Stadium

Greyhound stadium? There isn't a greyhound stadium in Lower Edmonton you cry. However Peter Cartwright assures me that there was once and its entrance was in Eastbournia Avenue. It was certainly in use in the 1930s but I should imagine wasn't much older than that because greyhound racing only started becoming really popular then. How long it lasted I don't know but Peter reports it was totally derelict by the late 1950s. Debbie chips in that it was a flapping track.

[image]Peter says the nearest current point to the location is Barrowfield Close and I believe he means the site has been developed on. There is an area between the allotments and Montagu Road and just north of Salmon's Brook that looks like it was probably developed in the early 1960s. The unused communal yards with posts for washing lines somewhat date it to a more innocent time.

There are also allotments there that could have been the site. Sometimes I think a c. 1960 streetmap could be handy...

[image]Richard Burton sent in a clip from a 1930s Geographia London Atlas that shows a 'Greyhound Race Course' in green space between Tramway Avenue and Tudor Road. Gary Boudier has a map that suggests this was a training track rather that a racecourse. When it appeared and when it disappeared is an unknown to me.

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