A Walk through Spurs’ Secret History

The following is an extract from the Spurs' Secret History Tour, a fascinating walk through Tottenham Hotspur Football Club's proud 135-year history. For enquiries, or to book this walk, please contact Martin Burrows of Antwerp Arms Association – email: mab.prospect@tiscali.co.uk

The Spurs' Secret History Walk was originally written by Julie Welsh and Rob White, and adapted by Martin Burrows, Rob Highsted and Pete Haines for Antwerp Arms Association, which looks after 'The Annie' (external link), the oldest working pub in North Tottenham and a stone's throw from White Hart Lane Stadium. The Antwerp Arms recently became the first community owned pub in North London, as it was bought from property developers and is now run by local Tottenham residents.

[…] We continue up Park Lane and pass St. Paul’s School. The original school building where some of the first Spurs players went to school was demolished, but the School is still here. We carry on towards Worcester Avenue on the right. We are now approaching the remains of the current Spurs Stadium.

For the old stadium, Spurs identified a suitable site for their new ground behind the White Hart Pub on the Tottenham High Road, where the nightclub: Rudolph’s / Valentino’s was until very recently. The ground was probably named White Hart Lane after the White Hart pub.

White Hart 1986
The White Hart, 1986. Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive and Museum Service)

On 2nd March 1898, in an attempt to buy the land for their new ground they went public with a Share Offer of 8,000 £1 shares.

In 1890 the new Chairman of the club, John Oliver, at a meeting in a pub minuted that they were in ‘flourishing condition’ with £11 in the kitty! A statement that was welcomed with applause!

On Tottenham High Road behind the Tottenham Police Station in Chestnut Road, is the site of The Eagle pub, where at Christmas 1895, the Club's first board of directors pushed through the resolution to turn Tottenham Hotspur into a professional club. The main reason for going professional was that they had given money to a new player from Fulham to buy himself a pair of boots and were fined!  In order to avoid this happening again they went professional and joined the League.

In 1898, at a meeting of the Club at the Red Lion pub, on the corner of the Tottenham High Road and Landsdowne Road, – where the Carpet Shop was that was burnt down in the most recent Tottenham riots – they became Tottenham Hotspur Football & Athletic Club and offered 5000 shares at £1 each.

Red Lion 1896
The Red Lion pub, 1896. Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive and Museum Service)

The ground they had found behind the White Hart pub, at 750 Tottenham High Road was the site of the first heated commercial glasshouses in Britain, which had been built by Thomas Rochford, one of a family of nurserymen and horticulturalists from Ireland, who had settled in the Lea Valley area.  Here, amazingly, they grew pineapples and cucumbers, amongst other crops for the West End of London before moving to bigger premises further up the Lea Valley.

This old Rochford's Market Garden site was bought by Charrington’s Brewery for housing development, but Bobby Buckle, who was now Chair of Spurs convinced Charrington’s that with Spurs having at least 5,000 supporters attending regularly they would sell a lot more beer in the White Hart pub if this ground were to become their new football ground. The landlord of the White Hart had previously been in a pub near the Millwall ground, so realised that the crowds attending would bring vast profits.  So Charrington’s agreed and they signed a deal with Spurs in 1899 to use this site. The Club had 4 months to get their new football ground ready for the next season. So they set about moving everything up the road from their old Asplin's Farm ground including the old wooden football stands that they had built.

ldbcm_2010_807 Spurs entrance
Main gate and entrance to White Hart Lane, 1922. Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive and Museum Service)

What a long way Spurs had come since the first wooden stand built in 1894 which had blown down, but then it had only cost £60 to erect! Spurs’ fan base was phenomenal even 100 years ago. In 1903 a cartoon appeared in a national newspaper showing thousands crowded on to a street with 2 dignified gentlemen asking: "Could you tell me the way to the Hotspur Ground please?" […]

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With thanks to the Antwerp Arms Association for permission to publish this extract.

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