De Beauvoir Town stands on the west side
of the old Roman road north out of London, but our modern history starts in 1821, when speculative builder William Rhodes secured
a building lease for 150 acres of land from Reverend Peter de Beauvoir of Downham
Rhodes had spotted an opportunity. The Regent’s Canal had been cut through the area in 1818 and was starting to stimulate development.
Rhodes’ original plan was for four squares surrounding an octagonal plaza. This was soon abandoned in favour of more piecemeal development of modest homes with a view to attracting tenants from among the clerical staff working in the City.
Rhodes sublet some parts of the neighbourhood to other builders in 1822 but in 1823, Richard Benyon de Beauvoir, distantly related to the Reverend and his only surviving heir, stopped all building activity through an injunction. Rhodes was soon allowed to resume building along the Canal basin but by 1824, control of all other building was in Benyon de Beauvoir’s hands.
The area, with its new, less ambitious design, was originally planned to be mostly residential but fast forward to the 1930s, when many parts of De Beauvoir were zoned for industrial and business use.
The next major changes came, courtesy of World War II, when some parts of the area were bombed, most notably on the west side of De Beauvoir Square and the west end of Downham Road.
Then, in the early 1960s, further change brought swathes of affordable housing for many people. An area between Buckingham Road and Tottenham Road was rebuilt as the Kingsgate Estate. This was followed, in around 1969, by a large area west of the canal basin, which had housed many small factories, making way for the De Beauvoir Estate. Finally, De Beauvoir Square lost its oldest (east) side to the Lockner Estate.
De Beauvoir today is a lively mixture of tenants, leaseholders and owner-occupiers. There are plenty of small local shops, a huge range of cafes, restaurants and pubs, an active church, Women’s Institute and Gardeners Club – and of course, the wonderful De Beauvoir Association.
De Beauvoir is mentioned in the Charles Booth notebooks. We have extracted two of the drawings.