Fishermen of Crouch EndThe industrial revolution came to Crouch End around 1600, when the first great furnaces were built to smelt the ore extracted from the immense web of tunnels and chambers under the Muswell Hills. The resulting ingots were of such high quality and purity that tinsmiths and copper-beaters from all parts of the world set up their factories and workshops on the banks of the Crouch. Many of the family businesses who had their humble beginnings in the valley at this time became giant industrial conglomerates and household names to this day, such as the Ici family from Italy and Barney O'Coulihan from Ireland -better known by the mark he inscribed on all his goods - BOC.
One fly in the ointment of affluence and prosperity quickly became apparent - the difficulty in transporting the finished products to the markets of the World, markets who craved with ever increasing intensity for the finely engraved artifacts and patent chamber pots wrought by the master smiths of Crouch End. The road to the North was both difficult and dangerous, with frequent landslips and avalanches, and merchants were frequently beset by evil tribes of robbers and brigands, such as the deadly Mad Marauders of Milton Keynes, while to the South the travellers encountered many toll-gates exacting exorbitant tariffs, and highwaymen always ready to relieve them of their goods and chattels. It is said that the greatest highwayman of them all, Dick Turpin, found the road so profitable that he took up lodgings in a local inn, and the hostelry that occupies the site today still bears his name.
It was in the light of these seemingly insurmountable obstacles to the establishment of Crouch End as the industrial heart of Southern England that Thadeus Llangthorn conceived the great plan that was to become his life's work, the Stoke Newington Ship Canal that would, when complete, allow the great ships of the day to travel from Crouch End to the Thames, and from there carry the metallic harvest of the foundries to the new colonies of the Isle of Wight and Glasgow, and to the exotic lands of Africa and the Orient.
Thadeus realised that the design and construction of the canal was beyond the scope of the journeyman artisans of the day, as simply digging a ditch - however deep and wide - would only let the waters of the Crouch rush even more rapidly to the sea, and that some method of retaining the waters at the correct depth was required. To this end he inaugurated a great contest - a world wide search for a scientific genius who could solve the problem and engrave his name on the greatest architectural feat yet attempted. News of the competition spread to all the corners of the known world, and soon the participants began arriving to survey the land with strange instruments and weird devices. From China the philosopher Cho Min came, with an entourage of slaves and eunuches and a plan to build giant water - wheels to transport the water from the Thames faster than it could flow away, each wheel turned by a hundred slaves. The Italian, Leonardo da Vinci, proposed a scheme where great clouds of steam would be pulled by flying machines and forced to disgorge their load at the source of the canal, but at the end of the allotted time Thadeus was forced to admit that no practical solutions had been found, and declared the contest null and void. In desperation, he grasped at the only straw that remained and placed an advertisement in the local journal, to which he received one reply - from Alexander Yale.
Yale was a young Scot who, from humble beginnings, had taught himself natural philosophy and had many inventions and patents to his credit, including the hair-spring haggis trap and the very popular sporran squeezer. Llangthorn immediately took a liking to the young man because of his dry wit and his beautifully squeezed sporran, and appointed him chief architect and overseer. Yale's answer to the problem was both original and simple. He proposed constructing pairs of gates at regular intervals, so cleverly interlocked that as one gate held the water back the other could be opened to admit the ship, then by reversing the process the ship could proceed upstream without the water draining from the canal. With the invention of these mechanisms, which he called "locks" and for which he is still remembered today, construction of the canal could begin, and the first sod was cut by Prince William in 1620.
Work began at once, with thousands of migrant workers flooding into the area to take part in excavating the immense channel. It was to run from the main docks in what is now Hornsey High Street, down Turnpike Lane, through Tottenham and the Hackney Marshes and then straight to the Thames at Millwall. At three points along its length the channel would be split into two with connecting interlocking gates to allow inbound and outbound vessels to pass one another, and an ancillary channel would run along what is now Tottenham Lane to a vast dry dock complex where the Hornsey Town Hall now stands. As the Drain, as it became affectionately known, became a reality, and a host of shanty towns to accommodate the influx of workers spread through the valley, Squire Thadeus conceived a scheme to replenish his coffers, which were diminishing at a rate proportional to the advance of the channel, or as his workers said "going down the drain". He built a network of inns and taverns to slake the thirst of his workforce, and then constructed a brewery on the top of the Muswell Hills to brew bitter ale, thence to be sold in the local taverns. The brew, which became known as Hornsey Headache because of the intensity of the ensuing hangover, was extremely popular and every evening the taverns would throng with impending drunks, and at closing time the streets would fill with singing inebriates staggering home holding their heads in anticipation of the impending hangover.
The success of the Squire's taverns came to the notice of the Abbot of the local Priory, who was greatly distressed with the danger of eternal damnation to the souls of the drinkers and the total collapse in the sales of his own ale, which the Squire had refused to sell in his taverns. He then sent his monks forth every evening to the taverns, where they preached sobriety and self-denial to the patrons and, with their increasing success, began to affect the profits of the brewery and so put the entire channel project in jeopardy. Thadeus pondered for many days on the problem, and then decided that as most of the countryside was now taken up by housing, his workers needed more recreation space so he had the Priory pulled down and created a park in it's place, and banished the monks forever. After the exile life in the taverns returned to normal, but the Squire was outraged to hear that one monk was still to be seen in the area, and that despite all the efforts of his constables, the monk always evaded capture. Perplexed, he consulted his local Gypsy oracle, who after putting herself into a trance by drinking Hornsey Headache, declared that this monk was a lost soul under a spell, doomed for eternity to haunt the taverns of the valley of Crouch End, haranguing the carousers and praying for their redemption.
The channel took thirty long years to complete, as many unforeseen obstacles and problems had to be overcome, one being the discovery of deposits of salt just under the ground at the first passing point, which caused the abandonment of an entire stretch of channel and it's subsequent diversion around the area. Thadeus turned the discovery to his advantage by mining the salt, and some of the tunnels left by his miners are still in use today, taking Victoria line trains from Seven Sisters to Tottenham Hale.
Eventually, however, the completion of the great enterprise was realized, and plans were made for the Grand Opening Ceremony, and the arrival of the first ship to sail to Crouch End, and to fulfil the dreams of the Llangthorn dynasty. The Great Channel would connect their factories directly to the outside world, a world eager to procure the tin and copper wares of the Crouch End industrial empire, and in return fill the warehouses along the Great Channel with precious artifacts from all the continents of the known world.
As the first ship sailed slowly into the dock, the multitude who had gathered and the rows of invited royalty and noted celebrities cheered to the echo, and as the gangplank touched the ground a magnificent firework display illuminated the sky, and the noise of the exploding rockets was heard for many miles. Unfortunately, one rocket deviated from its course and fell directly onto the brewery, which was immediately engulfed by giant flames, a spectacle which was considered by most to be the crowning glory of the occasion, although one or two of the older denizens of the valley muttered darkly about the Abbot's revenge.