Clissold House
(Built about 1790)


It used to be said that this house was built by Joseph Woods for his uncle Jonathan Hoare, who was a merchant. He was related to the banking family but was rather the ne'er do well. The others were highly upright Quakers and his brother Samuel Hoare campaigned tirelessly against slavery. Apparently Joseph Woods was only twelve years old when the house was built, so this story is doubtful.

Clissold House, built about 1790, is a fine, rather severe building with two storeys at the front and three at the rear. An impressive double carriageway leads to a flight of steps and a cut stone porch running the full width of the house. Six reeded stone Doric columns support a plain, stone balcony with stone pillars and cast iron railings on three sides. On the ground floor there is a central door with two windows on each side. All these reach the full height of the ground floor storey, giving an impression of dignity. The first floor has five windows with cut brick lintels. Above is a parapet, with stone balusters and top rail, which gives a fretted appearance against the sky. The building is rectangular, with semi-circular bays to the ground floor at both ends with stone copings. No ornament is allowed to spoil the perfect sweep of the bricks.

The right hand bay, which faces south, is the natural sitting-out area. It has a curved, copper verandah on round, iron pillars. These must be replacements as no architect in 1790 would have left such pillars undecorated. The copper has oxydised to green. (Copper always goes green (the dome of St Joseph's Highgate: lead goes grey - St Paul's).

The chimneys are placed in the main end walls. This allows four rows of fireplaces on the lower floors instead of the usual two. The chimneys are in brick but, curiously, the chimneys are broken at the level of the top balustrade by triangular, stone pediments. The chimneys then continue upwards as if the architect had changed his mind half way through.

The house was sited very carefully to take full advantage of the New River which curved its was through the park.

All that remains today is the curved stretch where the ducks swim, but when the house was built the river entered at green Lanes, wound its was to the duck pond stretch and then back along Church Street to a bridge in Church Street and along what are now the allotments. Clissold House was sited to overlook the bend in the river and the front approach was raised to give a better view. This is why there are three storeys at the back but only two in the front. Good thinking for a boy of twelve.

According to legend, the house was built from bricks made from the clay dug out when making the fish ponds but bricks made from London Clay are red. The house is faced with fine yellow bricks, probably Brimstones, which must contain up to 17% chalk. They are the bricks made in the Thames Estuary of clay and chalk and brought by barge along the River Lea. These were the bricks of the time.

At this period,the time of Swift and Walpole, Rome was greatly admired and especially the period of Augustus. People called themselves Augustans. They tried to build like Augustus who 'found Rome in brick and left it in marble'. They used stone, or failing that, the new, strong plaster mixture called 'stucco'. The red brick of the period after the Fire of London (like Sisters' Place) was considered too violent and fierce for the times. Instead, they preferred the yellow/grey bricks, and were prepared to pay more for them, because they matched the stucco. No doubt the 'Fish Pond' bricks were used for the inner walls of the house and plastered over.

In 2011 Clissold House and the grounds are being extensively restored . The house is being remodeled: the stretch of the New River has been de-muddied and opened further along towards the old Green Lanes entrance. It will be a transformation of an already popular park with far more water exposed.

Old Rectory House, Stoke Newington

This was a weather-boarded house with plain barge-boards and an over-sailing room projecting over the front door. A fine window for the village gossip to watch everything that was going on.

1800 Milne's Map of Land Usage

1810 Turnpikes

Updated: October 13, 2011