‘I went on the hunt for Tottenham’s forgotten Little Russia once known as the ‘roughest area’ in London’ – Charlie Lawrence-Jones

Anyone looking at a map of North London might spy a mysterious neighbourhood called Little Russia.

It sits not far from White Hart Lane and dwarfed by the huge Tottenham Hotspurs stadium, so not exactly a backwater.

As opposed to it’s more famous cousins such as Banglatown in East London or Chinatown it wasn’t one I had ever heard of, with no bustling Russian market and accompanying churches leaping to mind.

So I set out there for an explore.

READ MORE: The forgotten story of London’s first Chinatown which Charles Dickens referenced

I’m not completely without skin in the game, having Russian blood from my mother’s side.

My English surname hides a descendent of Tchicherins and Saknovskys, but with my ancestors choosing to start a life in Kent and not the capital.

Little Russia was centred around three streets, Durban Road, Pretoria Road and Lorenco Road.

It was the centre of an influx of Russian immigrants during the early 20th Century and back in its heyday, it was an area known as being a rough area.

In the book ‘An Edmonton Boy’, Terry Webb described it saying: “My mother came out of Tottenham, out of a road called Lorenco Road (now demolished). Now that had the nickname of “Little Russia” – why it had that name I don’t know, but it was the roughest area.”

Front page of The Illustrated London News, January 30 1909, showing an artist’s interpretation of the Tottenham outrage

It was at the heart of a 1909 incident known as the ‘Tottenham Outrage’ where a robbery gone wrong led to a six mile chase across the city with around 400 bullets exchanged between police and armed criminals.

Eventually the two robbers, emigres from the Russian empire, shot themselves but not before a police constable and 10-year-old had also been killed in the cross fire.

Lorenco Road is now demolished so little to be found there.

1 The Tottenham Outrage Waltham Forest Heritage

A memorial plaque in Walthamstow dedicated to the Outrage

I walked the length of the still existing Pretoria Road starting at White Hart Lane and it’s offshoot Durban Road.

Nowadays it’s little but residential with a small industrial estate half way up Pretoria Road.

Traces of a bustling Russian community are next to nothing.

The one corner shop in the area boasted of selling Turkish, Polish, English, Bulgarian, Romanian and Continental produce.

The most Russian thing in there was the vodka behind the counter.

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The Haringey Irish Centre on Pretoria Road – not exactly what I was looking for

I asked the guy behind the counter about Little Russia.

He said: “A lot of people want to know that. I’ve been here 10 years and I’ve never seen any Russians.

“A lot of Polish, Turkish, even some English but no Russians. It’s rubbish area, not Russian.”

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The community that gave this area it’s name seems to be long gone.

Not a shop, church or sign holds trace of a thriving Little Russia.

Like much of the city it’s an area in constant charge and in another 30 years it might have a whole new community.

Perhaps from Russia?

Then it can reclaim it’s forgotten name.

Is there a story in your corner of the city you think MyLondon should be covering? Please get in touch at [email protected]


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