Clissold Road When It Was First Built
Restoring and Rebuilding the Clissold Road Houses
In 1850 the Rector of St Mary's Church granted a lease on 11½ acres of land to Charles Birch and others to build 21 houses at the top end of Park Road . This was later renamed Clissold Road . Nine of these houses were to face Clissold Park and became the Crescent by the Church, where the ice cream van stands. The houses had to contain at least 10 rooms each, so they were designed for wealthy people, probably with large families, and certainly with several servants living in. The houses have now been adapted as self-contained flats. The rest of the houses were built on the west side (the Swimming Bath side) of Clissold Road.
Birch made the road and he asked the Vestry to adopt it in 1853. This meant that the Council (called the Vestry) would be responsible for the road and charge the house-holders for doing so. At first the road was called Park Road but it was later renamed as Clissold Road. Several builders worked on 39 houses in 1851-2 and by 1855 Park Crescent and the east side of Clissold Road , were completed. At that time there were a few houses on the opposite on the east side and by 1862, the whole road was complete.
(Adapted from Victoria County History p.149).
Albion Road was built in the 1860s to attract well-off people. It was a wide, generous road near the Park, with impressive houses designed to attract the owners of businesses and factories, solicitors, doctors, members of the Stock Exchange and others who could afford the high prices of the houses, or the high rents. The census could tell some interesting details about the people who first moved in.
The picture shows a street completely clear of cars for this was before the car age. At this time there were no cars and when they did come in, a man had to walk in front with a red flag to warn the public that a dangerous, fiery vehicle was approaching them at a walking pace. These houses were built when the man with the red flag was still a child. Instead of a double row of cars there is a wooden cart with two wheels and a bicycle propped against a lamp-post. This was the period of the bicycle so, if you want to know what it was like to live then, read Mr Kipps by H.G.Wells. Not that Mr Kipps would ever have come into a road like this without putting his best suit on.
Albion Road on the 1889 Booth Map Descriptive of London Poverty
Charles Booth (not to be confused with General Booth of the Salvation Army) was a wealthy business man who refused to believe that a million Londoners lived in 'great poverty', as radical politicians claimed. He started a long survey to prove them wrong, the first really carefu1 survey of how people lived and worked. In the end he found that the situation was even worse than he had been told.
Not that Albion Road was poor. Stoke Newington was a very prosperous area at this time. People living in the Yellow houses facing the Park were ‘Wealthy'. Clissold Road and the northern end of Albion Road ones were ‘Well-off'. Almost all of the rest were Working class Comfort. There were only a few, very small, pockets of Blue in the area.
Booth published coloured maps of the streets of London showing their status. These maps are now held at London School of Economics.
How the Survey was compiled
The information was collected by teams of people who interviewed the local clergy, police, teachers, and others with particular knowledge of the local areas. One of the main sources of information was the School Board Visitors. Their original qualification was the ability to run faster than the children, but they became far more than that, compiling unrivalled local knowledge. It was their duty to visit every house in every street and make notes on each family with children of school age. They began a few years before the children reached school age and continued until the last child in the family had left.
The Albion Road Houses
The houses were built to impress. Each house was occupied by one family, which might include numerous children and perhaps a grand parent, or unmarried relation, living with the family. There were good front gardens behind solid cast iron railings. A tall flight of stairs led to the ground floor, with its round columns and a portico with Ionic capitals. The walls were built in London Stock bricks, which blended in well with the white-painted stucco. The slate roofs have a gentle slope. This roof style can be traced back to Early Georgian architecture and before that to Italy. The steep-sloping roofs of the Victorian Gothic houses in Summerhouse Road and other roads off Church Street date from the 1880s, after Albion Road was built.
Between each pair of houses is a row of chimneys. Count the chimney pots, divide by 2 and you have the number of coal fires in each house. The fires back on to back other, so each house was a mirror image of the one next door.
Some of the chimney pots in the photograph have been replaced by much taller ones. Clearly the fires in these rooms did not ‘draw' properly. Instead of the chimney drawing the air up through the fire and making it burn brightly, the smoke came down the chimney and filled the room with soot. A longer chimney usually cured that.
This is an account of life in Sutherland Road, near Little Venice, at the same period in a house slightly taller and better off (Yellow) than the Clissold Road. It gives a vivid picture of the prosperous life at that time.