Ordnance Survey of Highlands Ward (c.2014).
The London Borough of Enfield is split into 21 areas called wards, each represented by three Councillors. Highlands Ward occupies the third largest land area (5.1 square kilometres). Our ward is bordered by Cockfosters (second largest) to the west and (working clockwise) Chase (largest ward in the borough) to the north, Enfield Town to the east and, to the south, Grange and Southgate.
Highlands Ward is mapped within the masked outline, above. On clear days and from elevated windows it affords a glimpse, beyond its own domain, of spectacular features some distance from Enfield, which is just one of thirty two boroughs (another if you include City) comprising a vast connurbation that is London. Nearer to the eye, though having no significant woodland, Highlands Ward encompasses attractive rural views.
Western Enfield Residents' Association (WERA) was conceived and founded by the residents of Highlands Ward in response to civic neglect, shortly after the Second World War in 1945. Inauguration took place in 1946 and the very first AGM was held at Merryhills School in that year. After meeting there for many years, the Association has moved its open events to the Jolly Farmers pub and has since celebrated its 70th AGM. From an initial 60 subscribers it grew to the point in September 1961 where membership had risen to almost 1000 households. It has continued to thrive and has become the largest independent association of subscribing residents in the borough of Enfield and, perhaps, in the whole of Greater London.
The aims of WERA today are very much as they were: to foster and maintain active involvement with local affairs, promote mutual interests and register environmental concerns. WERA co-ordinates with resident members and corresponds with local authorities, parliamentary representatives and planners about local issues. Officers of its Committee are also key members of local action groups which include The Enfield Society and the Highlands Ward: Community Action Partnership - Enfield (CAPE) and The Green Belt Forum hosted by Enfield Council. It supports and monitors campaign groups both in the Ward (Enfield Road Watch) and across the Borough through the Federation of Enfield Residents and Allied Associations (FERAA). All organisations are covered on OUR CONNECTIONS page.
Famous inhabitants of earlier times include William Pitt the Younger (a Prime Minister) and Boris Karloff (a Hollywood Actor). Amy Winehouse (a Jazz singer and composer who, tragically, lost her life in 2011, at the age of 27) was born at Chase Farm Hospital. Pitt is commemorated by a 'blue plaque' at a place on Merryhills Drive (the house in which he lived having been demolished long since).
PLEASE NOTE: All Wards in the Borough are under review by the Boundaries Commission and announcement of changes is expected during 2020.
At the AGM in March 2013 Christine retired from the W.E.R.A. Committee, of which she had been the Chair for five busy and momentous years. She died in January 2017.
Christine was born and bred in Holloway, North London. In 2000 she moved from Palmers Green to Lowther Drive in Highlands Ward. For a time she was Membership Secretary for Weir Hall Residents Association. Before retirement she worked as Parish Administrator to St. Aldhelm's Church in Edmonton, then Parish Secretary to St. Andrew's Church in Enfield Market Place. Shortly after becoming a resident she read the annual Newsletter asking for applications to the position of W.E.R.A. Secretary. She took over this role from Shirley Merle in 2002 who presented her with two large suitcases containing all previous Minutes and the Constitution. In 2008 she was elected to the Chair, replacing John Allan - who became President.
She held regular, faithfully attended, well organised and highly effective meetings. Achievements during her tenure include traffic lights beside the Jolly Farmers, litter bins around local schools and the W.E.R.A. notice board. She launched the Association website and e-mail which brought us into the digital era. She was also, briefly, Secretary for FERAA. Latterly, she volunteered ground clearance for the Glenbrook Sustainable Drainage Scheme. In short she did just about everything.
Whether in scrutiny of planning applications, environmental problems or service issues her determination to pursue all causes worthy of the fight, to a favourable conclusion, was unwavering. She was, nevertheless, pragmatic and resilient in defeat. “If we lost, at least we'd given it our best shot.” The same strength of character helped her to manage her final illness.
She considered herself fortunate to have been supported by Ward Councillors (then Anne-Marie Pearce, Jon Kaye and Don Delman) who, she believed, were integral to her success. Her contribution has been outstanding and has helped to improve the quality of life for residents. Her hobbies in retirement were numerous; gardening, camping, needlework and card making. Many were shared with her husband, Richard. She is lovingly remembered by her family and grandchildren and by the residents of Highlands Ward who she served with distinction.
Eric Brett supported the Association for many years, eventually taking over the Chair from Mr. Slack in 1994 where he held office beyond the turn of the millennium and retired, in poor health, after his last meeting in May 2002. He helped to grow and maintain membership, steering the community through many uncertain times (including redevelopment of Highlands Hospital Estate on the fringe of our Ward).
He was considered a true gentleman: well mannered, good humoured and hard working. Throughout his tenure he was supported by a supremely capable Secretary: Shirley Merle. Following Eric's untimely death, from cancer, in September 2002, John Allan (our current President) took on the role. Councillor Vince addressed Eric’s funeral audience, expressing appreciation for a distinguished era of mutual support and effective co-operation.
Eric's wife (Audrey) continued to frequent the Association until her own death on Christmas Eve in 2012. Both are survived by their children Stuart and Hilary and recalled by many residents with affection and gratitude.
Mr. Slack joined the General Committee in 1956. From then until 1962 he held responsibility for membership. From 1959 he strengthened his grip on affairs by assuming the title of General Secretary. He continued there until 1967 when R J Lumsden retired because of ill health and the Chair beckoned. Thus began his first long reign of 13 years until 1980.
Nowhere in the Association files has Mr. Slack’s first name been stated. It has only been revealed, inadvertantly, on a copy of a private Schedule of Conditions for Purchase of property on the Laing Estate which was 'signed, sealed and delivered' by Albert William Slack. He was known, informally, as ‘Nobby’. Ironically, in those days, Committee Members were not in the habit of addressing each other by first names. However, photographs openly acknowledged to be the work of his son (John Slack) found their way onto the front cover of modernised editions of The Journal.
There followed a term of 3 years with D J Farman (who had progressed from Vice Chairman and went on to give even longer service for 25 years as Auditor until 2005). From 1984 until 1989 D A Allen succeeded him but it seems there was no appetite to stay on and Mr. Slack returned for a second stint in 1990 retaining the title of President (awarded in 1981). His second term was to last until 1993.
Certainly, he seems to have been able and industrious, judging by the volume of correspondence generated over that period. The image (above) of Nobby, captured in 1990 at the Enfield Civic Centre during his second term as Chairman shows a hale and hearty man; perhaps 75 years of age. Concurrently, he was ordained as President of WERA.
It seems almost every change in the Borough landscape was worthy of protest. In 1991 a Committee Member (Ken Harvey) resigned after disagreeing with the Association’s preoccupation over what he called ‘political trivia’. Nevertheless, WERA was engaged in correspondence with eminent politicians of the day Michael Portillo local MP for Southgate and Sir George Young Minister of State for Housing about matters of lasting importance.
This was a turbulent time for secretarial support as Vilma Millward died suddenly in 1990. Her role was assumed, temporarily, by Susan Davey (who lives in Highlands Ward still and keeps a close eye on the welfare of Boxers Lake). Susan was unable to continue after the first year and Mr. Slack persevered for a while with neat hand written correspondence until (in 1992) Shirley Merle arrived to save the show with her impeccable typing and administrative skills.
Having ruled for so long (fully 17 years) and having, reportedly, always been ‘available in difficult times’ Mr. Slack retired permanently in April 1994 after 'many battles lost and won' but before the Committee could give thanks at the AGM. He moved away to Devon with his wife Margaret and settled closer to their family, wishing the Association good luck. In April 1999 his death was announced to the Committee by his successor (Eric Brett).
Norah joined WERA over forty years ago. She became President and News Editor and was also a Ward Envoy. Without question, she possessed a strong constitution and played a major part in establishing and maintaining the Association. She had moved to Trentwood Side, Highlands Ward, in 1954 where she was destined to remain for the next sixty years. From 1986 to 1989 she was appointed Vice Chairman, doubtless stepping in when the Chairman (D. A. Allen) was indisposed. She retired from all her duties in 2008 at around 90 years of age. John Allan (formerly Chairman) took over her role as President.
Born during 1918 in the seaside town of Whitstable, Norah began her life at the end of the First World War and went on to marry just before the end of the Second World War. She was, at once, rebellious and a high achiever, becoming Head Girl at school. She went on to train as a teacher, wishing others to learn from her positive experiences in education. Moving to Hull with her husband George she eventually returned south, first to Surrey and then to Enfield. She taught in Barnet and, later, at home where she honed her altruistic skills, working with children from all backgrounds, abilities, attainments and states of health. She applied her lessons with good humour and never betrayed the confidences entrusted by her pupils.
Norah bore three sons – who have moved away from Enfield. She was a keen golfer and walker and, until quite recently, an avid reader in her book club. She enjoyed gardening; especially her vegetable plot with runner beans. She stayed in touch with her roots and family connections becoming the beloved matriarch and guardian of family history. Norah died in 2014 and is buried in Whitstable.
Early Presidents and Chairmen
Our very first President was F. Simmons nominated at the founders meeting in 1945. Frederick cast a fatherly eye over the Ward until 1970 when he died at the age of 87. He had missed only 3 AGM's in that quarter century; the last due to his final illness. His son arranged for a commemorative bench to be installed at the top of Lonsdale Drive on the patch of common ground at the boundary of Highlands Ward overlooking the road to Enfield Town. It is sobering to reflect that (with the passage of half a century since) he, too, will almost certainly have passed on. Latterly, the original, wooden structure has been replaced by more durable plastic but the inscribed memorial plate remains. Successive Presidents were drawn from the ranks of retiring Chairman with one exception (Norah Davis) for whom a tribute is posted elsewhere on this page.
Our first inaugurated Chairman was P. E. Thomas who sat for one year only in 1946, handing on to a sequence of eight appointments, drawn from the ranks of hopeful Vice Chairmen and spanning 21 years until the advent of A. W. Slack in 1968 – which began another longer chapter.
In the early nineteen-fifties Association paper was imprinted with the name R. S. Goad. Late in the sixties, Mrs. G I Burke and her type-writer steered the Executive through Mr. Slack’s apprenticeship, culminating in his appointment as Chairman in 1972. There were others, but none so frequently mentioned in dispatches.
Early in the eighties, D. A. Allen assumed a General Secretarial role. For the last five years, Mary Skinner, Florence Cracknell, Vilma Millward and Susan Davey somehow maintained production during unsettled times. 1991 was a challenging year when Mr. Slack held both positions of Chairman and President with no proper secretarial support.
So, it was with relief that he announced the arrival of Shirley Merle in 1992. Shirley wasted no time in restoring a professional and prodigious output while exercising civic diplomacy and sympathetic communication with residents behind the scenes. This coincided with D. A. Allen taking over the Newsletter from Tom Porter and Eric Brett relieving Mr. Slack at last.
Ten years later, in 2002, having nursed the Association from the age of paper into the electronic, digitally processed, modern era, Shirley moved out. She handed over her files, diligently maintained, to Christine Bunce, where they were securely packed in shoe boxes for the next fifteen years. Shirley went to Frinton; the seaside destination of many retirees. It is not known how she fared thereafter.
Treasurers and Auditors
At first A. Mountcastle then G. W. R. Brooks, were busy detailing expenditure on Social and Youth Sub-Committee activities. In 1964 E. A. Gordon took over but sadly succumbed in 1965. With post war prosperity returning and emancipation in the nineteen sixties there was less reliance on community and a more global outlook. Subordinate accounts dwindled away over the ensuing thirty years.
There followed a stable epoch of two decades during which K. E. (Ken) Watson held the purse strings. Ken regularly invited Editor, Robert (Bob) Lumsden in the mid sixties and played chess with him to an accompaniment of tea and notoriously tasty home-made sultana buns provided by his wife. Ken retired unwell and his death followed in 1985. Committed to his duties he filed his last accounts only weeks before the end. Bob wrote a heartfelt commemorative poem entitled 'Beloved Opponent'. Chairman D. A. Allen reflected with sadness that he had been a ‘good friend to all’. His daughter (Heather) remains a Ward Envoy to this day.
F C Plewis took over for 2 years (his wife managing the membership). They retired and moved away in 1987. His fluent signature on expense slips had always been with a fountain pen. Our current President (John Allan) served 7 years, handing that pen to Michael Holdup who persevered for a remarkable 23 years. Accounting statements were consolidated, formalised and printed, becoming what they are today. Latterly John Allan has taken back the pen and substituted a spreadsheet.
Throughout the existence of WERA there have been internal Auditors. From the beginning they worked in pairs, the second taking over from the first in some cases. Founding figures were E. L. Cave (who subsequently became a Chairman) and C. W. Thornley (who did not). Then the Association survived several years of swopping places. In 1981, D. J. Farman made it a career, signing off accounts until he resigned in 2006. After all that his subsequent fate is unrecorded.
First appearing on the Social Sub-Committee records in 1978 David Salt performed a constant service as an accounting partner. The pairing practice was eventually discontinued and, from 2006 until his sudden death in 2013, he audited the figures. His loyalty and vigilance was acknowledged during the 2014 AGM. As an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants he was eminently qualified and he is remembered for his sure and steady contribution to the financial well being of the Association. It is fair to suggest that he was a modest, capable individual who did not seek to lead. Nevertheless, his unmistakable signature lives on.
In the early years publicity was taken care of by a Journal Sub-Committee but in 1960 it was decided that an Editor should be identified and G W Rodger was the name in the frame. He was followed in 1962 by R. J. (Bob) Lumsden who retired because of ill health in 1968. Bob was an erudite and literary figure who had published several anthologies of poetry and prose. His place was taken by Mrs. C. L. Aston who, in turn, handed over to Miss V. K Simons who managed until 1972. Christine Aston died in 1974 during the editorship of Mrs. G. Rothwell. Then P. G. Inkpin, a likeable man blessed with cheerful energy, took on the role of Editor in 1979. Alas, he was not blessed with longevity and died suddenly in February 1980; to the dismay and chagrin of the Committee.
H. T. Porter, almost serendipitously, plugged the gap to make an immediate and positive impact. At that point in the late 20th Century, before desktop publishing, Tom Porter's multipage newsletters were lavishly produced and partly financed by local advertising. They garnered a reputation among residents for being comprehensive and entertaining. Certainly, he never let humdrum events get in the way of a fanciful yarn; spun in a style reminiscent of the late Tom Sharpe. Yet he, personally, avoided attention and little is recorded about him. He retired after failing health in 1992 at which point his successor (D A Allen) acknowledged the challenge in maintaining his high standards.
Eric Willan: Eric moved to Highlands Ward (Slades Hill) before the Second World War; having lived in Tottenham (his birth place) and Edmonton (Hedge Lane). During the war he transferred from volunteer Territorial to regular Army as Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Engineers and Parachute Regiments. In the post-war years he pursued a working career as Office Manager in charge of administration at a large local branch of the Eastern Electricity Board. In 1953 he moved into Cotswold Green. Here he established himself in the local community and took an interest in the newly formed residents’ association. His organisation and administrative skills were brought to good use since he served as an Officer on the General Committee from 1954 to 1958. After 1956 he was largely responsible for a considerable growth in membership which exceeded 1,000 households. In those austere times of ‘make do and mend’ he was also, crucially, custodian of equipment hired out to residents. The following record illustrates his enterprise: Distemper & Scrub Brush: 3 days hire for 1 shilling then 6 pence per day thereafter. Chimney Brush Set: 3 days free of charge then 6 pence per day thereafter. Ladder: 3 days free of charge then 6 pence per day thereafter. Tree Pruner (9’ 6”): 1 day free of charge then 6 pence per day thereafter. A deposit of 1 pound required for each item borrowed. Eric was a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur football club and a member of the North London Model Engineers Society. He died in 1993 aged 72 after a short illness and was survived by his wife until her death in the early days of 2020. His son Dudley has carried forward the concept of duty as a committee member of WERA.
David Elliot: David was a loyal supporter of WERA for several years and joined the Committee in 2007. He died early in 2009. His cheerful and humorous disposition was a valuable asset at meetings.
L. R. Frankland: In 1992 Chairman Slack wrote to Mr. Frankland acknowledging his resignation from the Committee, after an unspecified number of years. He had been indisposed for some time and felt unable to continue. He had also served as a Delegate to FERAA. The Committee were unanimous in extending their gratitude. It was their hope he would be able to join future meetings without any obligation. However; he was never to return and died early in 1993.
Mr. and Mrs. Harold Youlden
Harold was born in the Ward, loved his community and never moved away; his father before him. He and his wife lived in the same house on Links Side for more than 60 years. They joined the Committee in 1960 and were active and prominent members until his retirement in 1986. They continued to attend for the next decade. In March 1995 a sad letter reached the Committee from Harold, thanking them effusively for flowers sent to the hospital where Mrs. Youlden lay seriously ill. Her Consultant had predicted she was unlikely to return home. Mr Youden soldiered on until 1998 when another sad letter reached the Association in June; this time from his daughter. A series of strokes had cut him down and he was to be moved into a nursing home. However, a final letter announced his death in Chase Farm towards the end of July; a card from WERA at his bedside.
Ernie Willson: Ernie was a good friend and supporter of the Association for many years. He died in May 2008. He was survived by his wife (Doreen) and family.
Mr. and Mrs. Bundock: In 1998 Mr. Bundock reported the death of his wife, a stalwart supporter of the Association for many years. Her kindness and gentility were acknowledged by the conscientious Shirley Merle.