Fishermen of Crouch End Many years ago, the Crouch was a wide sleepy river winding gently through wooded hills and peaceful valleys on its long journey south from the Watford gap to the Thames. On its way, it passed through a quiet vale bounded by meadows, where a small community of shepherds and farmers tended the land and their flocks, occasionally, but unsuccessfully, fishing in the river or hunting for deer or bear in the hills. Evidence of this pastoral existence comes from archeological evidence found at a recent excavation carried out at a site at the bottom of what is now known as Shepherds Hill. Among the many finds between the foundations of rude mud huts were remains of goat, rabbit and longhorn sheep. Although many primitive fish hooks and arrowheads have been found, surprisingly no trace of fish or game has been revealed. This has led to speculation that the river was named after the many fishermen crouched along its banks not catching fish.
Many centuries later, the area became famous - or infamous - as the location of the first recorded gold rush in Britain. A grizzled peasant called Cedric was looking for a stray ram in the Muswell Hills when he discovered several small nuggets of gold in the gravel on the bank of the Crouch. Word of the discovery quickly spread throughout the land, and the vale was suddenly filled with hundreds of prospectors, thieves, pedlars, and vagabonds, lured by the prospect of easy fortune but, alas, to no avail. The gold found by Cedric was revealed to be fillings from the teeth of an ancient monk, slaughtered by one of the many bands of marauding Vikings who frequently raped and pillaged the area in the middle ages. One of the vagrants, called Herold, fell in love with gentle countryside stayed after the rest had departed, and one of his descendants became Lord of the manor, and the first Baron Middlelane. Today his name is still remembered as one of our local streets.
Although the gold rush was quickly relegated to the realm of folk lore, one discovery, made by an old miner who had travelled many miles from the northern dales, was to have a lasting effect. While prospecting in a dry well, he recognized the tell-tale signs of tin and copper ore and although his story was treated with derision in the local inn, it was remembered by Herold, and was to prove to be of enormous significance in future years. The descendants of Herold guarded the secret jealously at first, smelting just enough ore to make small numbers of tin whistles and other instruments which they sold to passing musicians and tinkers. As the popularity of foxhunting grew in the south, the families hunting horns, made from Muswell copper, became regarded as the best of their kind, and as their fame grew so did the fortunes of the family until they owned not only the Muswell Hills, but the whole of the valley that lay beneath it, and in recognition of the origin of their wealth, adopted the family name of Horne.
The Horne family became famous for the many charitable and magnanimous uses to which it endowed it's wealth, none more so than the building of a great cathedral in 1507, an act of such munificence that the king ennobled the family, Sir Josiah Horne becoming the first Baron Middlelane. The first Bishop, Ferme the Saintly, in recognition of the great gift of the Baron named his Diocese after the old family name and he became known as the Bishop of the See of Horne, latterly corrupted to Hornsey. The Middelane dynasty prospered for many years, until it aligned itself with the wrong side in the civil war, losing not only many of its young men but also all of it's titles and much of it's land. However, due to the clever subterfuge of hiding large numbers of gold bars in the old mine shafts they retained most of their wealth, and after the Reformation they resumed as Squires of the Manor, building a great house at the southernmost edge of their domain, next to an ancient park. They also built a magnificent hunting lodge at the top of the Muswell Hills, inviting gentry from near and far to hunt deer and peasants in the woods, followed by gargantuan feasts and banquets.
In 1560 a great tragedy befell the family. Sir Archimedes Llangthorn and his eldest son Rufus were fishing in the Muswell Hills when Rufus caught a fish. His father was so surprised at this strange occurrence that he called out that it was the work of the Devil, and dropped dead on the spot. Rufus, deciding that these were bad omens, ran to the hunting lodge where he cast a flaming brand into the foundations, and as the great lodge burnt to the ground, cast himself into the flames and perished.
His younger brother Thadeus Llangthorne was informed of his inheritance while travelling in Europe, and he returned to the family home in great sadness. Thadeus had travelled widely in Saxony, where he had seen the start of an industrial revolution based on the iron and coal mines, and had spent much time in The Hague consorting with the great Dutch merchants and sea captains. He returned to Hornsey with a great vision - he would re-open the old tin and copper mines, and in order to open a gateway to the sea, he would divert the waters of the Crouch into a vast canal. When this was done, the sleepy hamlet where the River Crouch ended, soon to become a teeming shipping and industrial conurbation and the smuggling capital of the south, became known throughout the world as Crouch End.