Model Traffic Area

I’ve been living in Tottenham for over 2 years now and I live quite near Lordship Recreation Ground where I have on various occasions exercised, exercised animals, read the sunday papers and generally skulked around in when I haven’t thought of anything better to do.

Tuesday this week I was working from home so to clear my head of pointless non-descript software error messages and my hatred of project managers I went for an amble over the rec at lunchtime… In the south-western corner of the park is a strange pattern of dilapidated pathways which is separate from the main thoroughfare path. It always struck me as being a slightly weird feature. some of the paths were too wide to be for pedestrians walking around and it was also made of tarmac but they were far too small for cars. There were also signs of electrical wiring and old fuse boxes so the area was also electrified at one time. When I run through here on a saturday I always remind myself to look up the history of the park but I think the sheer agony of putting myself through my weekly exercise seems to cause my brain to pretty much forget anything I thought of for the duration so this time, not feeling light-headed and hecked up on endorphins, I went home and looked up the history of Lordship Recreation Ground. (cue incidental music)

Now this next part is going to get seriously geeky, I warn you now. If such geekery offends you I would urge to move away to another part of the internet where it is safe.

Anyway, it turns out that this complex system of mini-roads are exactly that! A complex system of mini-roads.

– No. Not impressed? Maybe I should explain.

In 1938 the very first ‘Model Traffic Area’ was opened by the Minister of Transport in Lordship Recreation Ground. The idea behind Model Traffic Areas was to teach children about road safety in a safe environment. The area was even marked out with roads,signs, traffic lights and junctions. Children could hire pedal cars and bicycles to use the roads and learn about the highway code and also pedestrians would have to safely navigate their way across the roads and the traffic to get to the main playground.

Well, I think that was a pretty neat idea.. At the time, obviously.. It was 1938 afterall and modern traffic lights and road signage had only been introduced gradually over the last 10 years. When seen in that sense, it really does seem quite unique and also a ‘pioneering education facility’ (i’m quoting here) for its time. It also sounded like a lot of fun.

It also seems to have the distinction of being the only Model Traffic Area in the UK. Sadly it appears the idea never caught on anywhere else (although the facility was in use for many years and is still used by young cyclists) but it’s legacy has lived on.. Thanks to funding and the hard work of local community groups, the park is currently undergoing a facelift and the Model Traffic Area will be restored and preserved so others can enjoy and remember a bit quirky local history.

I also found this original newsreel of the official Grand Opening of the park on the British Pathe website.

I’ll be going to the local museum this weekend to see what other treasures I can find.