Betty Layward School

The View from the Playground

The Buildings that Surround the School

Betty Layward School Building


The Betty Laywood Primary School from the playground, with Clissold Road Houses in the background.



This is a two storey building lying roughly East West built over the top of the old Riverside School .. It is constructed like a giant marquee built with metal tent poles. The roof framework is a rectangle of vertical steel, or perhaps cast iron tubes, with ball finials added on top for fun. These tubes are joined to each other by a network of steel straps. One can imagine the whole building being made of canvas and held up by guy ropes from the ball finials.


The two storey building was once the New River Centre and the much larger roof has been hung over the old building. The double roof is very ingenious. The upper roof shades the upper classroom windows against the strong summer sun, while the lower roof gives a continuous sheltered area almost all the way round building. Most schools have to have a separate covered area for use in wet playtimes, but here it is incorporated in the school itself.


The main roof is a large, sloping surface which continues right to the back wall, so that the building is higher on the far side and can draw more North light into the upper rooms. This must be ideal for art work. The Ground floor has generous French windows which allow direct access from the classrooms to the playground. For the younger children, this is largely a bungalow school..

There is one design fault. Instead of incorporating the down water rain pipes into the steel tubes, which could have been done, the rainwater system is in fragile plastic pipes which arecontinually coming apart. This is a pity and a false economy.


The buildings which surround the school.


Betty Layward School Entrance.


The School was fitted into a triangle of land behind Clissold Road and Carysfort Road , so an entrance had to be squeezed between the houses. Stoke Newington Secondary School has a wide open entrance. Everyone can see where it is. Betty Layward School is more hidden. People squeeze in through a narrow passage into secret garden.


The backs of the Clissold Road houses from Betty Layward School Entrance



Clissold Road was built before 1868: the houses are big and the original owners were wealthy people. They lived with one family to a house, often with several children, a couple of unmarried aunts and several servants. One or more servants living in each house would have been normal. Over the years the rich people moved away and the houses were divided into separate floors and rooms. Most had no proper kitchens, shared lavatories and perhaps the one bathroom in the house, if there was a bathroom. By the end of the Second World War the houses had become very dilapidated. Many were bombed and empty: soon squatters moved in. Squatters had no homes and saw properties lying empty. They were desperate for somewhere to live, so they broke open the doors and moved in.


This was illegal, but the squatters used the law to delay their eviction. There were huge demonstrations up and down the country protesting at properties being left empty in a time of housing shortage. Squatters defied eviction and many local councilors agreed with them. In many cases they came to an agreement with the squatters, who promised to pay a nominal rent, take care of the buildings until money could be found to restore them and to prevent vandalism. The squatters began to become caretakers.


The houses in Clissold Road had been Listed Grade 2, so they could not be demolished. They had to be restored and this would be a slow, expensive process. The Council had the duty to build houses as quickly as possible for all the people left homeless after the War, so first they built new blocks of flats on the many empty bomb sites. It was 1980, thirty five years after the end of the Second World War, before they could consider restoring the Clissold Road houses.


Then they did an excellent job. The fronts have been restored carefully and backs of the houses have been completely rebuilt. The houses on the Betty Layward side of Clissold Road were restored as separate flats and are now very desirable properties indeed. This process of restoration is described in the section on Clissold Road . On the other side of the road the story is different. Clissold School was built on the site of a few old houses in the 1960s. The site was expanded to amalgamate Clissold and Woodberry Down Schools in the 1980s and form Stoke Newington School . More houses were demolished and others completely rebuilt as blocks of new flats.


The new backs of the completely restored Clissold Road houses



For a full description of restoring these Clissold Road in the 1980, click on to Clissold Road Rebuilding.





On the opposite side of the road, the story was completely different. Some houses were demolished to build Clissold Secondary School which opened in 1960. More were demolished about 1980, when Clissold School was expanded to combine Woodberry Down Comprehensive School and Clissold School to form the new Stoke Newington Secondary School . This required far more space. Church Path and the Nursery land at the back of the old school were taken over and eventually all the old houses on that side of Clissold Road were demolished. Some were completely rebuilt as blocks of flats and an astro-turf pitch built on the others.


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The Fronts of the Carysfort Road houses


Mr. Alexander, a bill broker, once owned the large Willows Estate which stretched from Stoke Newington Church Street , along the length of Clissold Crescent as far as the end of Clissold Road . When he died in 1891, the estate was sold and the houses in Clissold Road and Carysfort Road were built. Some of the houses at the Albion Road end of Carysfort Road now back onto the Betty Layward playground.


These Carysfort Road houses were built between 1984 and 1914 as is described in the Willows Estate chapter on the 1891 Clissold Crescent Sale .









Carysfort Road from the school playground, with the School play equipment in front.









The houses in Carysfort Road have Back Additions


Get pictures of the back additions and import the text from Oldfield Road Walk. THIS WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL I CAN GET CLOSER TO THE BACKS OF THE HOUSES WHICH SHOULD BE FAIRLY SOON.





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THE Fronts of the Carysfort Road houses


Mr. Alexander, a bill broker, once owned the large estate which stretched from Stoke Newington Church Street , along the length of Clissold Crescent as far as the end of Clissold Road . When he died in 1891, the estate was sold and the houses in Clissold Road and Carysfort Road were built. Some of the houses at the Albion Road end of Carysfort Road now back onto the Betty Layward playground.


These Carysfort Road houses were built between 1984 and 1914 as is described in the chapter on the 1891 Clissold Crescent Sale .


Back Additions


The backs of the Cazenove Road houses.


The Back additions of the Defoe Road Houses

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I will find a similar picture from the Betty Layward playground when I can manage to do so. In the meantime please use this.


Back Addition Houses


In the middle of the 19th Century, many Londoners lived in appalling conditions. Many houses had been very badly built originally, with outside toilets each shared by several other families, no running water and certainly no bathrooms. At the same time life in the countryside was becoming harder, so more and more people were moving into the towns to escape the agriculural poverty. Rents became so high that landlords began to build over back gardens. Shacks lead out of the back rooms to cover every inch of space. Complete families crammed into single rooms without water, a place to store food and even light, because some rooms led out of other rooms and there was no place for winows. These overcrowed, airless hovels were certain breeding places for disease.


Local authorities were faced with very bad health problems. Tuberculosis, which is a killing disease, was rife. It was a disease which condmned people to a long painful illness and the only known cure was to go to a country with clean air, either warm like Egypt or cold like Switzerland , but with clean, unpolluted air. This was an impossible solution for poor people.


Victims of the disease became too ill to work and so could not feed their families. At the same time they were a danger to everyone they met, because the illness is spread by coughing. In overcrowded conditions, one person with tuberculosis in the family would infect all the rest. Streptomycin, our modern cure for Tuberculosis, was not to be discovered until the1950s. A hundred years before this, people were dying of tubeculosis year after year. People needed fresh air and yet landlords were building unhealthy, airless dens.


New bye-laws made by the local authorities, not central government, insisted that every habitable room had to have windows which could be opened to the air and these had to be of a size related to the floor area of the room. Cross draughts would reduce fevers and contagious disease by allowing the free passage of air into every room. Landlords did not like this idea beacause it would mean that houses could be only two rooms thick To fit in the same number of rooms, they would have to build longer houses Longer houses meant longer house frontages, more land to buy and more roads and pavement to build. It would cost much more, but the Local Authorites insisted that healh was more inportant than greed..


Almost at once these regulations led to the invention of the Bye-Law House, with its Back Addition and the typical L- shaped plan. This design gave three thicknesses of rooms with windows to fresh air, instead of the normal two and frrontages could still be kept short. The idea swept the country.


The 1867-77 plan below shows a terraced cottage built by the Artizans, Labourers, and General Dwellings Company. The 1867-77 plan shows a terraced cottage built by the Artizans, Labourers, and General Dwellings Company at Queen's Park, in Kilburn, and Noel Park in Wood Green, near the ‘ Salisbury '.


The Ground floor and the First floor are shown side by side. Crammmed on a fifteen foot frontage are two small rooms with a scullery in the back addition behind, Above are three-bedrooms, The W. C. is outside but integral with the house. Small front and back gardens complete a long narrow site 15 ft by 70 ft, Built to be rented at seven or eight shillings a week, these cottages were very popular and were let even before they were built. Today they are fashionable and very expensive




The houses in Cazenove Road, which were built about the end of the 19th Century, are much larger than these Queens Park ones and on larger frontages, but the L shaped plans are similar and for the same reasons. The kitchens and back bedrooms have windows at the side and so does the third bedroom, while the scullery has a window on the side.













The Industrial Estate


When the New River School was built in the 1960s, it looked out onto an Industrial Estate. It was factories making pianos and electrical goods, printers' works, joinery worhshops, etc, but then the Clean Air Act was passed. London air had become so polluted by soot and other impurities that the London pea-souper fogs became intolerable. London had always been notorious for its bad, yellow fogs in winter. The pollution hung about for days. Every year old people and those suffering from chest troubles, died as result..

The Clean Air Act


At last Parliament passed the Clean Air Act, which forbade the burning of coal in London houses and factories. Railway trains were to be diesel or electric and air quality was to be monitored at all times. This meant that factories could not be powered by Steam engines. Iron could not be smelted in London , so the small factories which had each made street manhole covers, junction boxes for the electrical trade, lamp-posts, and the myriad small articles in iron, could no longer do so. Some larger firms joined the flight to the New Towns, which had started after the Second World War. Other firms just collapsed as their livelihoods had disappeared.


The factories which moved to the New Towns took their younger employees and their children, with them. Older workers did not like the idea of retiring in a few years in a place where they would know nobody, so many of them preferred to take their redundancy pay and retire early. This split the population and the young followed the Pied Piper to a new house with a bathroom, in a new town.


The effect on the schools was decisive. In 1998, when Betty Layward was being planned, there was a shortage of Primary School places. In 1980 there was such a shortage of pupils that there were no longer enough pupils to run two Secondary Schools. Woodberry Down Comprehensive School and Clissold Road Comprehensive, had to be amalgamated into Stoke Newington School on the Clissold Road site.


At the same time the Clean Air Act was emptying the Industrial site. It had begun to

to empty in the 1970s and parts of it was converted into ‘Live and Work' maisonettes where individuals can carry on a business and also live there. Recently some maisonettes have become purely residential.







The old Industrial Area beside Betty Layward School

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This Industrial Estate began to empty in the 1980s and a part of it was convered into ‘Live and Work' maisonettes where individuals can carry on a business and also live there. Recently some have become purely residential.



The map of the 1891 Sale


All the coloured houses and open spaces were owned by Mr. Alexander. When he died the estate was sold for building


Betty Layward School was built on the garden of Thistleton House (lot 13) over a hundred years later.


The Industrial area was on lot 2, which had been a huge paddock and vegetable area, with stables and a gardener's cottage. These form a square on the plan.






Red Square , the new double maisonettes built on the old Industrial site next door..

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They are four storey buildings built a two layers of maisonettes. They were designed as ‘Live/work. Buildings so that people cold live and work in one unit. This people like designers, photographers and others with their ownsmall businesses.


Picture of Red Square buildings

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The roofs of the Red Square buildings

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These flats have double-storey Mansard roofs with double-glazed windows pivoted at the centre. Mansard was a famous French architect who invented the attic roof faced with tiles. One can see this type of roof above the shops in Albion Parade and many other places nearby. Mansard used tiles but these roofs are covered in metal. There are small conical vents into the roof cladding to make sure that the air in the roof cavity does not become stagnant and so encourage dry rot in the roof timbers.


The windows are Velux windows, specially designed for roofs. They are pivoted in the middle and can be swung round so that the insides can be cleaned.




Red Square

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This is a view from inside Red Square . One can see the two floors of the ground –floor maisonettes and the two floors of the upper ones. The upper ones have a continuous access walk-ways and curved roofs. They do not have French windows like the ground floor maisonettes as there is a gap between the walkways and the houses. The pavement is cobbled, perhaps as a reminder that this was once a mass of piano and other factories, served by horses and carts.