St Mary's Primary School

And William Patten Primary School

Walk 2

A Walk down Defoe Road and up Oldfield Road

In this walk you will see old and new buildings standing side by side for no apparent reason. Old houses carefully restored, stand next to new ones. This walk tries to explain why. To understand it you will need to look hard at the different buildings and to imagine yourself as the different builders, each with his own problems and wishes. Each one would have built in his own period. For example, the builders of the earliest houses would not have thought of putting in bathrooms.

1894 Defoe Road

 

The Route of the Walk


The 1914 map of the Walk which has all the older houses marked on it.

 


South of Church Street in 1868.

Detail of the Walk area in 1868

The 1868 map of the Defoe Road area

There had been houses along both sides of Stoke Newington Church Street for centuries, but immediately behind there were still cattle fields. Daniel Defoe once lived in the house below and gave his name to the road. By this time it must have been demolished and it is not clear where it stood. It must have been in the short length of Defoe Road shown on the 1868 map, probably on the west side, perhaps on the site of the Assembly Rooms.

++or

There had been houses along both sides of Stoke Newington Church Street for centuries, but immediately behind the shallow row of houses there were still fields full of cattle. Daniel Defoe once lived in the house below and gave his name to the road. It stood opposite the Daniel Defoe pub, on the eastern corner of Defoe Road nearer to the High Street and is today marked with a plague.

Daniel Defoe’s house.

By 1894 the fields had been filled with houses. Some of these are still in existence. Others have gone. We can be sure that the remaining old houses were built between 1868 and 1914. Defoe School had been built in Ayresome Road. Today this has been converted into flats.

Things continued largely unchanged until The Second World War. People still alive will remember the houses much as they were on this map. Then a flying bomb struck Defoe and Oldfield Road.

The Defoe Road Flying Bomb

Colour Key References
Black - Total destruction
Purple - Damaged beyond repair
Dark Red - Doubtful if repairable
Light Red - Seriously damaged, but repairable at cost
Orange - General blast damage, not structural
Yellow - Blast damage, minor in nature
O V1 flying bomb large circle
o V2 long range rocket. small circle

The 1939-45 Bombing map of the flying bomb which landed in Defoe Road


There will be slight variations in the colours because the original maps
are old and the colour balance on computer monitors will vary

Uses of the Bombing Map on this website

The centre of impact was between Defoe Road and Oldfield Road.

The damage caused by the flying bomb was very severe indeed. In the centre, the houses were completely demolished (Black and Purple). All the way round is a deep ring of Dark Red and Orange. This accounts for the amount of completely new building in the area today.

The houses in Church Street are marked Dark Red and Orange but they were damaged in a different way from those nearer the centre. The lower storeys of the Church Street houses were protected by the nearer ones, but the backs of the upper storeys, high on the ridge, caught the blast and collapsed. The picture below shows that the y

Bomb damage spread around the centre of the impact. The closer houses took the greatest force and suffered most heavily .The gradually lighter rings of of colour show this, but bomb blast stretched for a very long way in all directions. 89-91 Church Street, for example’ were damaged by blast and are coloured Red. Their lower storeys had been protected by the houses in Defoe Road , but the top floors, high above on the ridge, caught the blast and collapsed. The colours of the bricks in the photograph show what happened.

 

 

++Picture of the back wall of 91 Church Street.

The party wall between Nos. 91 and 89 was built about 1780 and conformed to the new Fire of London Building Regulations (already 100 years old at the time). At this time fires had to be put out with buckets drawn from wells, or carried from the Hackney Brook which was a field away.. There was a tiny fire engine kept in Church Street but it was tiny and its tank was very small. Putting fires out could take a long time. The main thing was to prevent it spreading to the nearby houses.

After the Fire of London in 1666, all Party Walls (the walls between houses) had to be thick enough and strong enough to resist fire for several hours and prevent it from spreading to the next door houses. Therefore, when the blast from the flying bomb hit the party wall end on, it was strong enough to resist. The tops of the back walls collapsed on both sides, yet the party wall survived. Today the colour of the old bricks in the lower storeys continues in a thin line all the way up to the roof, but the rest of the top back walls have been rebuilt is in a slightly different coloured brick.

long and Party walls in this period, long before our modern fire engines,

The darker colour of the old bricks which face the end of the party wall between 89 and 91 continues in a thin line all the way up to the roof. The top walls on either side were rebuilt in a lighter coloured brick and the contrast still shows.

 

Start the Walk at the top of Defoe Road.

 

The corner of Defoe Road and Stoke Newington Church Street.

The front of the Church Street shop was undamaged but the back may have needed some repair. The back upper storey is in a different brick. It is not clear if this is a reapir or an extra storey which has been added later: probably the latter.


St Mary’s Church Rooms

This building appears to have survived intact. It is called Assembly Rooms on the 1868 map. A few years later there was a big protest meeting against the plan to destroy Clissold Park and cover it with rows of houses.

The building has a two storey front entrance and a taller hall building behind. The front rises high and square above the sloping roof behind, designed to impress. The architect was saying, “This is an important building.”

The front entrance and the tall windows behind are inside bold semicircular arches. These are Roman arches. The front windows and the square openings in the pediment above are simple oblongs, but the main church windows are pairs of lancet windows, with oculus (circular) windows above. These could have come from a Gothic cathedral. It is a strange mixture of shapes. The brickwork is in a white Gault brick with red brick dressings.

 

A second view

 

 

Where the Bomb Fell

This picture shows the site where the bomb exploded. After the War the area between Defoe Road and Oldfield Road was cleared and Selkirk House was built to fill the compete space.


Defoe House and Selkirk House:
the new flats built where the flying bomb fell.

Selkirk House

These flats have front access balconies and wooden casement windows with narrow lights. They also have unusual glazed panels protecting the central stair well from direct draught. Why do you think the windows are this unusual shape? Think of safety of all kinds and ventilation.

It is a very interesting design which it makes the flats look more open than usual and more like a pile of houses in an ordinary street, the iron safety railings seem to disappear, so that one can see the hall doors through the gaps in the balcony walls.

A small covered room on the roof can just be seen. Presumably this houses the main cold water tank for all the flats.

++SIMILAR PICTURE OF DEFOE HOUSE

Defoe House, next door, is a similar building to Selkirk House. Why choose these two names? Defoe lived in a house nearby and gave his name to the road, His name is obvious but why Selkirk? The answer is that Defoe’s most famous novel was Robinson Crusoe and this was based on the story of Alexander Selkirk who ran away to sea in 1704. He later, according to legend, asked to be left on an uninhabited island and rescued five years later.

 

This shows the other end of Defoe House in Defoe Road
and the old houses next door which survived the bomb.

This sort of house filled Defoe Road before the Second World War Two storey houses like this are typical of the end of the nineteenth century and the road had hardly changed after that. The houses are built in bricks burnt in local brickfield and made from the local London Clay. The houses have pediments which hide the roofs and projecting ground floor bays with small slate roofs, sash windows and very simple plasterwork. They have little or no decoration of the capitals, unlike other similar houses nearby. They are simplified versions of a popular design of the time.

The small bays give slightly larger rooms on the ground floor and allow one to see who is coming to the door. They help to give a feeling of security to the householder and were very popular at this period. They are being reintroduced in different ways in much modern property.

 


The original houses in the road with their small three-sided bays.

The round pillars have flowered capitals typical if those which Ruskin introduced in the 186os,when he published Stones of Venice, but the rest if the capitals and the brackets of the doorway are extremely plain. It was as if the builder was moving on to a new, plain style like the houses opposite, but had a few Ruskin capitals to use up.

The tall brick pediments date beck to 1666 and the Fire of London. Why are there pediments? Where have the roofs gone? What shape are they? Where does the rain go? For answers to these questions we shall have to wait until we are in Oldfield Road.

The other side of Defoe Road was also devastated. The first few houses were spared but then a large swathe of houses had to be demolished and Flanders House was built.

 

Flanders House seen as a whole.

It is an impressive block of modern flats in attractive bricks, with narrow casement windows. Two panels of windows, with sliding panes, are sunk back behind protective iron railings. This allows full height windows like the tall first floor windows found in elegant Georgian houses. Local examples of these can be seen 203-223 Stoke Newington Church Street, by the new St Mary’s Church. The windows must give plenty of air in hot sultry weather and safety. It is a very attractive elevation, tied together by its continuous pediment and a credit to the architect.


Nos 207-223 Stoke Newington Church Street

This shallow crescent of four storey houses with basements appears on the 1855 map but not on the 1846, so they were built at about the same time as the new St Mary's Church next door. The following is the description of one typical house but details have been taken from several as none is in exactly its original condition.

The house is built in yellow brick and the ground floor and basements rendered to imitate stone. The Ground Floor is approached by a flight of seven stone steps and a square porch. The porch has two simple, round pillars built of brick and rendered. Porch and steps have cast iron railings (No. 221) screwed into a wrought iron handrail.

The tops of the porches are linked by a narrower balcony on stone brackets, which runs the whole length of the crescent: The balcony anti porch tops give a pleasant sitting-out area and a place of rescue in the case of fire . The First Floor held the main Drawing Room, the tallest and most impressive room in the house, with french windows leading to the balcony. The Second Floor (family bedrooms) have shorter windows. Above, are the Attics in a Mansard roof, set back behind a pierced pediment (No 223). The pediment has been replaced in various ways along the crescent, over the years.

A Mansard-roof (named after a French architect) is an economical way of putting rooms in the roof. Instead of bricks, there was a draughty screen of wooden laths and hung slates. There were no fireplaces but plenty of air which was said to be good for servants. In the original houses, the windows would have been very small. This had a big advantage from the architect's point of view. His house appears to have a definite shape. As you look at the house from the front, the windows are very large on the First Floor, smaller on the Second, smaller still in the Attics. Keeping these proportions, with the windows getting smaller as they go up, the house could not go any higher or the top windows would have disappeared entirely.

This is the difference between designing a house where the owners have the best rooms (but the servants can be kept, in the cellars and attics) and designing a democratic block of flats. Today, the windows and ceilings of the top flat must be as tall as the lower ones. This is much better for the people living there but, outside, it is much harder to stop the eye from rising. The flats seem to go on, one above the other, and then stop for no reason.


In Flanders House the architect has taken tall windows which open to floor level and given them to all his three floors. Instead of a balcony he has built a safety barrier, but the effect is the same. He has built a very strong pediment at the top of the building to stop the eye from rising. It is a very attractive elevation, tied together by its continuous pediment.


Three storey houses in Defoe Road

These three storey houses are in a traditional design. Their warm orange/yellow bricks glow in the sunshine. They are a warm, attractive addition to the street.

Further down the road are some flats built on a completely different plan. These have front access balconies and are of a style which the London County Council was building in the 1930s. The architect wanted to make his flats fit into the street and not look out of place. The nearby houses have only two floors but their pediments make them look taller. These pediments allowed the architect to fit in three storeys of flats instead of two and still keep to a similar height. The flats are also set back from road which helps to make them appear smaller. In this photograph, which is what people see as they walk down the street, the houses and flats seem the same height. They fit in very well.


The old houses at the bottom of the road

At the bottom of the road is a terrace of old houses with their brick pediments and three-cornered bays. Most have been painted in different colours, which may or may not have been a good idea. They look very attractive, but this paint has a life of perhaps ten years. After that time they will need repainting. One hopes that the owners will do it regularly and so keep the road looking attractive. Without this, keeping to the brick might have been a wiser choice.

Now walk to the end of the road, turn right and right again up Oldfield Road.

 


The backs of Defoe Road Houses

This picture shows two important features of this type of house:

1. The ‘V’ roofs

2. The Back Additions

These are the backs of the Defoe Road houses. Now we can answer the questions which we asked about the 1870s Defoe Road houses and their pediments. The Oldfield Road ones behind you have similar ones. It all goes back to the Fire of London.

.


A drawing of Staple Inn by Will Owen
From Old London Town, 1921.

After the Great Fire of 1666, London was rebuilt. Early London had been built largely of wood. Each storey projected beyond the next, so that people on the top floor could shake hands with those on the other side of the narrow roads. London was built originally within its protective walls. Every inch of space was valuable. The roads were tiny lanes, so that pedestrians had to squeeze against the walls to let a cart go by. Roads were tunnels with only a narrow ribbon of light above. Imagine a second row of houses opposite the ones in the picture and a very narrow lane between them. Heat was trapped by the overhanging jetties. Fire spread rapidly from one side of the street to the next, and huge areas of London were lost in a couple of days.

Why were Wooden Houses built like this?

Before the Fire of London, almost all London houses were built in tinber and thatch. Trees were grown to about 200mm (8") diameter, felled and squared, This gave posts about 150mm (6") square and usually about 2-M metres long (~N-8 ft), Bigger trees could have been grown, but this took a long time, so most trees were cut as soon as they were useable, The two metre height controlled the height of the heights if the rooms and also the shape of the buildings,

++SAVED AS WOODEN HOUSE TXT


 

A Brick London

Laws were passed immediately to ban wooden buildings. London had to be in brick. New Building Regulations insisted that all houses had to be built in brick, with thick party walls between the houses to slow the spread of fire sideways. House fronts had to have brick pediments with no projecting eaves which could trap fire. The roof timbers were to be short and the rain drained to the back. We can see all these rules being followed in these houses in Defoe Road.

Sisters Houses, opposite the Library in Church Street, were built in1747, only forty years after the Fire and their short timber roofs, hidden behind the pediments, can be seen from the opposite pavement.


1714 Houses with pediment roofs.

Picture of Sisters’ Houses in Church Street, opposite the Library.

These houses were built less than forty years after the Fire of London. They show the pediment walls and the M roofs tucked behind them which became the rule after 1666. However, there is a major difference between the Sisters’ Houses and these ones in Defoe Road.

Over the years, the original Fire of London Building Regulations have been modernised. Back Additions, which are used in these 1870/80s houses, were not invented until much later. These Defoe Road houses also show another typical London feature, the Back Addition.

 

The Back additions of the Defoe Road Houses

Why did they start building Back Additions

By the 1860s terraced cottages were being built everywhere, narrow and extremely small. This need for narrow frontages, to keep down the road building costs, conflicted with new health regulations, Landlords wanted short road frontages (which were cheaper) and to build behind, so that what had once been gardens became covered with warrens of interlining tenements.

Local authorities had other ideas. They were faced with bad health problems. They demanded healthy buildings with through draughts of healthy fresh air. Up to this time it had been possible for landlords to open rooms out of other rooms, so that inner ones might have had no windows opening to sunlight, or fresh air. Tuberculosis was rife. Streptomycin (our modern cure for Tuberculosis) was not invented until the1950s. When these houses were built, people were dying of tuberculosis year after year. People needed fresh air and landlords were still 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. Big room – big window. This would reduce fevers and contagious disease by allowing the free passage of air into every, room. These regulations led to the Bye-Law House, with its Back Addition and typical L shaped plan. The design gave three thicknesses of rooms with windows to fresh air, instead of the normal two. The design swept the country.

The 1867-77 plan shows a terraced cottage built by the Artizans, Labourers, and General Dwellings Company at Queen s Park and Noel Park. Crammed on a fifteen foot frontage are two small rooms with a a scullery in the back addition behind, Above are three-bedrooms, The W, C, is outside, built next to the scullery but completely separated from it fo health reasons. You had to go out of the houses to use it. 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. Today they are fashionable and very expensive.

The houses have projecting ground floor bays with small slate roofs, sash windows and very simple plasterwork. They have no decoration of the capitals, unlike other similar houses nearby.

The end of the terrace of houses would have been left as bare brick when the next house was demolished. It has been made waterproof with a sand and cement rendering.

Selkirk House next to the older houses in Defoe Road from Oldfield Road

(++called Defoe House in doc)

Behind the wooden gates is the back of the first house to survive the explosion. For years the end must have been rendered and made watertight, while the site was waiting to be cleared. The houses have sloping roofs behind the pediments and pairs of back additions. In this case one half of the back addition has been has been shorn away and the flats built to meet it. When the next house was demolished, the end of the terrace of houses would have been left as bare brick. No doubt it was made waterproof with a sand and cement rendering, and the people living there would have been next to a bomb site where children played.

The Defoe and Selkirk House Flats

These are the other side of the new flats. The same warm orange brown bricks: balconies with the doors set at 45% to give a corner bay and a feeling of space inside the rooms, and the same windows. The original builders had laid out their streets laid out north/south so that the houses had sunshine on one side in the morning and on the other in the afternoon. In the same way, these flats have balconies on both sides

The flats are built on thin ferro-concrete platforms which give them a light and elegant appearance. They are only three storeys high, so the weights they carry are small compared with the huge weights of tall skyscrapers. This allows the platforms to be very thin and adds to their delicacy.

Another view of Selkirk House from Oldfield Road

 

And a third view of the flats, with some of the old trees which were
carefully preserved during the rebuilding.
They give a mature and settled appearance to these young flats.

This is the end of this walk Go to the corner and turn right through the passage and into Defoe Road again.


++Extra Bit

Alterations and additions to A WALK down Defoe Road etc on hmt

 

++Change title t Flats with front access balconies.

Saved as IMG 2236

o 1868 maop caption to

 

South of Church Street in 1868. Detail of the Walk area in 1868

 

 

 

There had been houses along both sides of Stoke Newington Church Street for centuries, but immediately behind the shallow row of houses there were still fields full of cattle. Daniel Defoe once lived in the house below and gave his name to the road. It stood opposite the Daniel Defoe pub, on the eastern corner of Defoe Road nearer to the High Street and is today marked with a plague.

Add bombing key and copyright note please

 

St Mary’s Church Rooms text

 

Change Gothic to Romanesque

and remove It is a strange mixture of shapes

 

 

PICTIRES 2245 ON P.8 AND 2236 ON P.14 HAVE TO BE BROUGHT TOGETHER WITH A NEW TEXT

 


Selkirk House

Defoe and Selkirk Houses

These blocks stand side by side, as one would expect from the names. Defoe lived in a house nearby and gave his name to the road. His name is obvious, but why Selkirk? Defoe's most famous novel was Robinson Crusoe and this was based on the story of Alexander Selkirk who ran away to sea in 1704. He later, according to legend, asked to be left on an uninhabited island and rescued five years later.

The architect wanted to make his flats fit into the street and not look out of place. The nearby houses have only two floors, yet their pediments make them look taller. We shall see why they had pediments later. These pediments allowed the architect to fit in three storeys of flats, instead of two, and still keep to a similar height. The flats are also set back from road which helps to make them appear smaller. In this photograph, which is what people see as they walk down the street, the houses and flats seem the same height. They merge in very well.

Both blocks of flats have front access balconies which is a style that the London County Council was building in the 1920s. Both have balconies, with front doors facing the street and wooden casement windows with narrow lights, but they look different.

Selkirk House has glazed panels protecting the central stair well from .direct draughts and the balconies are cut away. One can see the front doors through the gaps in the balcony walls. The iron safety railings seem to disappear. This exposes layers of front doors and makes the fronts look like sets of bungalows placed one on top of the other. If the blocks had had continuous balconies, without the iron gaps, the effect would have been endless, dwarfing the small houses nearby.

A small covered room on the roof can just be seen. Presumably this houses the main cold water tank for all the flats.

 

Other Work in Progress

Main Index


from "St Marys+ WPatten Walk 2 4-1-08.doc"