White Hart Lane In The 40’s And 50’s

Many of us, in addition to watching or playing football, have other interests. One of mine is that of the history of trolley buses, particularly those in the Greater London area and, more specifically, in those that travelled past the Spurs ground in the High Road. I have in my possession two books that cover the history of the trolleybus from its introduction in the Feltham area in 1931 until the last trolleybus ran in 1962. Both books are profusely illustrated with views of the different types of trolleybuses that ran for 30 years in London.

Two of these photographs concern the queues of trolleybuses outside the Spurs ground after the match played on October 16th 1948 against QPR, at Tottenham, when we were still in Division 2, which, incidentally, we won 1-0 thanks to an Eddie Baily goal. Both views were taken moments after the final whistle had gone and the 69,718 spectators were streaming from the ground. In one photograph, the camera is looking north to Snells Park. The trolleybuses are queueing up, as far as the camera can see, waiting to pick up passengers. The queues at the bus stops are very long for very few people owned a car in those days. Indeed, as I have pointed out elsewhere, only Ted Ditchburn of the 1951 Championship side owned a car. The rest either walked to the ground alongside the supporters walking in the same direction or they caught a trolleybus to the ground.

In the other photograph, the camera is looking at a factory called Crest Motor Products, which, if my memory serves me correctly, was the building now occupied by local government on the corner of Paxton Road. (Please bear in mind I have not been to Tottenham since April 1998 so am not aware of any changes that have occurred in my absence.) The supporters are streaming across the High Road, with hair styles that are only seen in grainy black and white films from that era. A striking (to those of you who have grown up with car ownership) omission from the scene is the almost total absence of cars. Today, the same scene would be one of total gridlock in both directions.

The crowd that day would have been happy as Spurs were playing well at the time. They had only lost two matches, away to Coventry City and away to West Ham United. But Spurs were dropping too many points, drawing games they should have won, something which ultimately cost them promotion and Joe Hulme his job. And yet the bulk of the side that was to run away with the championship the following season was already present. Vic Buckingham was in his last season as a player and would be replaced by Harry Clarke. Sid Tickridge was soon to give way to Alf Ramsey when he was signed during the following summer. Ernie Jones was swapped with Alf Ramsey in order to accommodate Les Medley, who had returned from Canada. And Freddie Cox was soon to leave for Arsenal, allowing ‘Sonny’ Walters to replace him. All it needed was the genius of Arthur Rowe…..

Many of you will have, like me, begun a lifetime of supporting Tottenham by standing on the Shelf, now alas just a memory as much as Liverpool’s Kop. I can remember going through the turnstiles as soon as they opened at 12.30pm in those days and scrambling across the terraces to the Shelf and grabbing a position by the fencing. Around 1pm, the Enfield Central Band would appear to entertain us until the match started at 3pm. The team never emerged before 2.55pm and they always ran out to the strains of McNamara’s Band, a tune I will always associate with some of my happiest moments. The cut and thrust of the game was accompanied by the crowd swaying as everyone jockeyed for position to obtain a better view of the proceedings. At half-time, there was no rush for a tea bar or the loo because if you left your position, you’d never get it back again. As the teams re-emerged for the second half, there would be guys working to put up the half-time scores against various letters of the alphabet which corresponded with a printed list of fixtures in the four-paged programme. The crowd politely applauded the departure of the Enfield Central Band as the game re-started. And at 4.40pm we all filed out of the ground, discussing the afternoon’s events and looking forward to buying the classified an hour or so later with reports and results of other matches.

Football was at its most popular in the ’40s and ’50s. There was an innocence present that was only to be shattered by the ending of the maximum wage in 1961 and the rise of the hooligan in the mid 1960s.

Happy days!

By Brian Judson.


  1. Re Brian Judson’s memories of Spurs matches of yesteryear I lived in Tottenham until 1965. Like Brian one of my other hobbies is local history and someone had sent me a copy of the photograph showing the crowds of supporters getting onto the trolley buses. outside Crest Motor Products and until now I wondered where this firm was situate
    Brian also mentions that there were few cars around in those days but as a lad we ame and my friends made quite a bit of pocket=money on a Saturday by standing on the corner of Chalgrove Road and Park Lane ushering motorists to roadside parking spaces and we’d look after the cars until the match was over in the hope that we’d make a bob or two (5 to 10p). Other kids did the same in the other side roads around the ground. The local scout group and some of the house-owners nearby the ground would look after supporter’s bicycles for 6d (2.5 new p) and both the cars and bikes were nice little earners as they say. I went to infant and junior school in Park Lane and if there were a mid week afternoon match the gates would be opened half time just as we came out of school. That was very handy as we just nipped across the road and up the stairs into the ground to watch the rest of the match. Ted Ditchburn, yes he had a car would have had a job getting to the players entrance in the High Road what with all the crowds and he too could have easily have walked to the ground as he lived in nearby Commonwealth Road just around the corner from his grocery shop in Northumberland Park.
    In the late 50s early 60s my friends and I would be found standing at the back of the Park Lane end or at the front on the centre line opposite the Directors box. We tear the names f the players, both teams, to make a “lucky dip” that cost about 10p a time and the person picking the player who scored the first goal would get the money
    In view of the size of the crowds in those days, people very often fainted and many a time you’ed see a body being handed up over the heads of the spectators where it was man-handled down to a keen member of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade who would waiting to administer smelling salts and glasses of water. Alas, the person that had fainted was not able to get back to his original place in the crowd so once he or she had been revived the poor soul had to sit in comfort on the side of the pitch along side the police and other officials where they had some of the best views of the game.
    As Brian says, theoe were “Happy Days” and even with crowds in excess of 80,000 there was very little trouble or at least I saw none

  2. Hi

    I lived at no.3 park lane during this time, and my nan would also look after the bikes, our little house would be full of them. Complete strangers would wheel their bikes through the passage and out into the yard, when the yard was full, the next lot would go in the scullery, then the kitchen, then the passage etc until the house was full. All these strangers coming into the house, and nothing was ever stolen. Our back bedroom overlooked the pitch, so people would even go up there to watch the match. A nice little earner for my nan, and also the rest of the neighbours in that little row of houses.

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