Westside, Fortis Green
Westside and its neighbouring large houses in Fortis Green must have been built in the 1860s, in the heavy Victorian Gothic style which is still to be seen nearby in Bernard Johnson House. Westside and the next door house were demolished and redeveloped in the 1960s, but it was in the late 1930s that they first became well known as Fortis Green School. Indeed, at one time, to the outside world Fortis Green was not a road but the name of a school.
When I first went into the house, about 1937, it had been empty for several years. The roof leaked; vandals had damaged windows and doors and the place reeked of damp. Walls were covered in mould, while a huge fungus, like a yellow-purple serving dish, was growing from a picture rail in the front dining room. The back garden, which had once been elegantly laid out with lawns and marble slabs round a large sunken pool, was a shambles. All the marble had gone except for a few broken corners, damaged in the removal. In its place was a gigantic cardboard beer bottle from some off-license window display, draped with lengths of 8mm film of Neville Chamberlain. The scene was a surrealist nightmare.
photograph by Wolf Suschitzky