Josiah Forster was born in Tottenham and attended the school established by his grandfather (also Josiah Forster) at Tottenham Green: Forster’s School. He “showed intelligence and was quick at acquiring foreign languages” and displayed an early inclination towards teaching. He became an assistant at the school for some years, working under his uncle, Thomas Coar.
When Thomas retired, Josiah took over running of the school, retiring in 1826. He was a successful teacher, and always kind and generous. This sometimes allowed the boys to get the better of him. An amusing incident occurred when he discovered boys with fireworks. They were asked to give them up whereupon Josiah decided the best method of disposing of them was to throw them on the fire, much to his own consternation and the boys’ delight.
In 1826, Josiah decided to give up teaching to devote more time to Quaker work. Aside from education, his great passions were the anti-slavery campaign and the British and Foreign Bible Society. He became well known in all these, earning a national reputation. Josiah wrote several books of a religious nature and on the iniquities of the slave trade.
Josiah was a founder member of Grove House School (established in 1828). He became a subscriber to the Lancasterian Boys’ School in Tottenham and sat on the management committee.
Josiah and Rachel Forster had four cottages built on Philip Lane in 1860. These were built on former orchard land and were to be
“occupied by persons, the inhabitants of Tottenham for not less than one year, who shall have resources to maintain themselves with some degree of comfort in the cottages. Preference is to be given to widows or unmarried women of 55 or upwards, but also men with their wives or husbands to continue after the decease of their wives. No undue preference is to be given to members of the Society of Friends.”.
The accommodation was a living room with a bed space, a kitchen and an entrance lobby. The original Trustees were Josiah Forster, his wife Robert, his sisters Mary, Ann, Sarah and Elizabeth, and his nephew William Edward.
Forster Cottages now
In 1985 the property was improved with central heating, new bathrooms and separate bedrooms. Legal requirements made administration a more onerous task and in 1992 the property was handed over to the Family Welfare Association, after 132 years administration by Tottenham Monthly Meeting. The FWA still manage the property.
May Mortimer was the only Friend to reside in the cottages. She lived at No. 90 for many years until 1985, often making her visitors warmly welcome to friendly discussion in her parlour.