Ralph Llangthorne heard of his Father's death while on his honeymoon in Great Yarmouth, and immediately returned to London with the lovely Sharon. Both families welcomed the young couple with open arms, and after the funeral it was decided that as the households had been united by the marriage, so the business concerns should be combined to form the largest manufacturing and shipping company in English history.
As trade along the Channel increased, it became obvious that the normal ocean-going ships of the day were ill-suited to the intricacies of navigation required to negotiate the locks and conduits of the Channel, and it was decided that a new type of ship was necessary. A committee of local traders and sea captains was convened, and after many days of heated discussion, it was determined that the first ship to be constructed should be a three-masted clinker-built sloop, quarter-rigged fore and aft with three main decks.
As lack of space precluded the use of slipways, the ships were constructed in the dry dock where Hornsey Town Hall now stands, and the land from the dock up to Crouch Hill used for storing and ageing Oak and Ash lumber from the forests of the Muswell Hills.
The dry dock itself was one hundred yards long and fifty yards wide, and it's deepest point was thirty yards below the level of the surrounding land. Massive gates at the East end held back the water of the slip canal, and steam driven pumps worked day and night to maintain the dry conditions necessary for unhindered toil and exertion. The south and west sides of the dock were lined with long, low sheds where the carpenters, shipwrights and sailmakers worked, and the whole of the shipyard surrounded by an iron fence twenty feet high, with two massive gates of wrought iron twenty feet across, each embellished with a crest of Crouch End and topped with images of mythical sea creatures.
The dockyard and the harbour prospered for many years, and the shipwrights of Crouch End became famous not only for their skill and craftsmanship, but for the vast amounts of bitter beer they would consume in the taverns around the shipyard. On Friday and Saturday nights, when the consumption of Hornsey Headache was at it's greatest, they would form small groups and visit the sailor's and docker's taverns along the Channel, invariably and inevitably ending in fights and brawls along the banks, with a wet ending for many of the participants. The problem reached such proportions that a company of special constables was formed to keep the peace, and a new barracks, courthouse and jail built on the site of the old University at the top of the Muswell Hills, and on any Monday morning it was not unusual for the constables to parade several hundred miscreants before the infamous Hanging Judge, Byron Bardswell. Bardswell, known as the Hanging Judge from his habit of hanging round bars in the sailors quarter, dealt fairly but firmly with the offenders, usually sentencing them to two or three days in jail, although those fished out of the Channel received an extra two days to get over their cold.
The absence of so many of the yard workers, from either enforced residency in jail, broken limbs from fighting, or simply extended hangovers, had a serious effect on the productivity of the shipyard. The management, in an effort to return to normal working and profitability, introduced draconian measures to eliminate absenteeism, including loss of pay, instant dismissal, and public flogging, and for some time this proved effective, as the workers turned their backs on the taverns in fear of their jobs or their skins. A small group of shipwrights, however, deeply deplored the oppressive nature of the regime which they felt was at odds with the new social climate of independence and freedom which marked the middle years of the eighteenth century, and so they called a meeting of all the workers and formed the Hornsey Shipwrights Association, which became famous as the first trade union in Britain.
The committee of the H.S.A. worked tirelessly to mitigate the oppressive regime of the yard owners by peaceful means, but at every turn they were thwarted or simply ignored by the management. On one occasion they organised a mass rally to Parliament to present their case, but Sir Ralph, who not only owned the shipyard but the Hornsey Brewery, countered by cutting the price of Hornsey Headache in half on the day of the march, and a sympathetic article in the local Journal was mysteriously withdrawn at the last moment, with the editor later seen riding through Crouch End on a new and expensive horse. Finally, at one of the regular H.S.A. meetings, which were held in a room above a local tavern and were well known for their long and acrimonious discussions lasting well into the night, it was decided to apply the only sanction left open to them, and by a unanimous show of hands, declared a strike.
The strike began with a workers rally outside the gates of the shipyard, and a group were dispatched to blockade the Channel at one of the great locks on the northern edge of the Tottenham Marshes, still known today as Picketts Lock. The closing of the Channel had an immediate effect, with all industry and commerce grinding to a halt, and the striking workers were soon joined by hundreds of miners, sailors and dockers to form an unruly, but good tempered mob. Sir Ralph, who was also the local magistrate, decided that firm action was needed to restore order and to this end issued a warrant for the arrest of the H.S.A. committee. A platoon of special constables detained the seven leaders of the strike at the shipyard gates, and marched them up the hill to the courthouse to appear before Judge Bardswell, charged with disturbing the peace and interfering with the due and legal passage of ships along the Great Channel. The seven - known to history as the Muswell Hill Martyrs - spoke long and eloquently in their defence, but the evidence against them was incontrovertible, and to the consternation of the mob the seven were found guilty. In sentencing the martyrs, Judge Bardswell declared that he found the usual punishment for these offences, deportation to the colony of Australia, was too lenient for the magnitude of the crimes, and to the dismay of the families and friends of the accused, exiled the seven to Campden Town.
News of the dreadful fate of their leaders spread swiftly through ranks of the strikers and supporters, and as one they marched up the hill to the courthouse. Sir Ralph and Judge Bardswell, on seeing the rioters approaching and deciding that the rule of law could best be furthered by a hasty retreat, slipped out of the building with the constables by a back door, leaving the mob to storm the courthouse unopposed. They quickly released all the prisoners, and in a final act of defiance, burnt the entire edifice to the ground. As Sir Ralph prepared the cast his final card and call in the army to quell the rioters, news began to spread like wildfire up the Channel - news of an event which was once more to turn the history of Crouch End - the first appearance of shoals of freshwater herring swarming up the Channel in their millions to spawn