Grasmere School Walks: The Introduction

This first section is a preamble to the all the Grasmere School Walks.

last revised: October 25, 2011 8:03 AM

A good deal of this work will have to be done in the classroom beforehand if the pupils are to begin to understand what they are looking at during the various walks. The growth of the neighbourhood is a good story, full of changes.

London began to expand outside its old City walls, slowly advancing from Moorfields along the new City Road and along the Kingsland road, through Islington as solid lines of houses. There were still open fields behind the houses in the main roads but gradually they too were filled with houses. The houses advanced like a conquering army.

1611 Speed map of London

This map was made before the New River had been cut. The hills of Hampstead, Highgate and Muswell Hill are in the North and the Isle of Dogs, where East Enders programme is set, is the loop to the South. The River Lea runs north and helps to form the border with Essex. Newington is Stoke Newington. A new town, but when it was new nobody is quite sure. It must have been a long time ago.

This very early map was made soon after Queen Elizabeth had died and King James VI of Scotland had inherited the throne. He became King James the First of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. For the first time the two countries were united and John Speed was asked to map the two countries as if they were peaceful friends, instead of two enemies which had been at war for centuries. James I wanted one United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Making the map was a gigantic task. Speed’s maps show rivers but very few roads and he still drew hills as small pyramids. This style of cartography was soon to become old fashioned.

The map shows a river starting somewhere near Muswell Hill and flowing into the River Lea. This was the Moselle, a river which has disappeared today into the sewer system. The Hackney Brook, which we shall come across later, has been left out. It was the reason for the names Grazebrook School, Brook Road and Sandbrook Road, but it too is now lost in the sewer system.

1611 Speed Map of London

This small section of the map shows Newington, Canbury (Canonbury) and Kingsland, among other villages.

The 1741 John Rocque Map

In 1611 the Cities of London and Westminster had been tiny, overcrowded centres of commerce and the court. Areas like Islington and Dalston were still tiny villages far out in the country. Slowly people began to move further out and by 1741 Islington Green was a square of modern houses surrounded by green fields. Church Path has been tinted to show that Albion Road had not yet been built.

1800. The Milne Land Usage Map

Church Path was the original bridleway across the fields from Newington Green to St. Mary’s Church and the village of Stoke Newington. It is centuries older than Albion Road. It may be thousands of years older.

When Milne drew this map, the road to Stoke Newington was along Green Lanes to the corner of Clissold Park and then along Stoke Newington Church Street to the High Road. In 1810 the Earl of Darlington, who owned the land south of Church Street, decided to sell. He invited builders to build houses on the fields. When they did so, he would be able to charge the tenants ground rent on the houses for ever and ever. He planned to make far more money that he could have received for growing crops on his land.

The 1810 Sale Document

The Sales Document laid out a Proposed Road from Church Street to Newington Green. This became Albion Road. It starts on the map on one side of Church Path, and runs down to what is now the Albion Parade shopping centre. There it crosses Church Path and runs down the other side of Church Path to Newington Green.

The 1810 Sale Plan with Albion Road marked out as building plots and wrapped round Church Path. It runs the same course today.

Church Path is not shown on this plan, but it runs on the west side of the northern plots. Then Albion Road crosses it and Church Path continues on the east side of the southern plots as far as Newington Green.


(Printed by courtesy of Hackney Archive)

Addition to Grasmere School Walks Preparation from

Addition to Grasmere School Walks Preparation.doc


Albert Town


++TO BE FITTED IN 1861 in the text


Albert Town in 1861

This 1861 map shows Albert Town, which we know as Milton Gardens, or The Poets’ Roads. It stretched from Allen Road in the north to St Matthias Road in the south, and from Milton Row to Wordsworth Road. Built on one of the Hornsey Removed fields, it was the earliest large development in this area.

The 1861 map South of Church Street

The larger map shows that two footpaths from Church Street. One was called Pawnbroker’s Lane, presumably because the back lane which people used to take their goods to the pawnbrokers to be pawned on Mondays and to redeem them on a Friday night for the weekend. It says a lot about how poor people were in those days.

The footpath from Church Street to to St Matthias Road was called Cut Throat Lane, which shows how dangerous it could be after dark. From 1860 to 1880 the City of London was being torn apart. New Roads, new railways, new sewers, made it like the Wild West, so noisy and dirty and violent that 90 % of the population were to fly to the outskirts in those twenty years. Developers were building Albert Town as a block of good quality houses to attract some of the well-off refugees. Cut Throat Lane did not sound like a good advertisement so they renamed it as Wordsworth Road. Wordsworth had been quite revolutionary at the start of the French Revolution. He had welcomed the fall of the Bastille but when the violence began, he became very conservative. His was just the sort of name to make Cut Throat Lane respectable.

Picture of Albion Road with a road-seeper leaning on his broom
and respectable iron railings securing the gardens.

This faded old picture shows the large houses in Albion Road when they were separate private residences, one family to a house, each behind its secure garden railings. Every house would have had several servants, tradesmen’s entrances and semi-basement kitchens.

++Link to Sutherfield Ave

Site of Albion Parade (Left Side) 1881.

At this time Nos. 138-152 Albion Road were still private houses. Later they lost their bay windows and front gardens when they were converted into shops. The other side of the road was still lined with large trees. These were part of the huge estate called The Willows, which ran all the way up Clissold Crescent to Church Street.

The Sale Document of 1891
and Later Developments

By 1891 when Mr. Alexander, the owner, died the sale document was impressive. It describes a ten acre site and each of the various houses in detail and, at the end, was this coloured plan, now lying in Hackney Archive as bright as when it was first printed. You will find details on this sale and the continuing story of the development of Clissold Crescent by clicking on the map.


The same view of Albion Parade in 2006

Large houses were built by Cubitt on both sides of the Stoke Newington end of Albion Road. The big houses continued down the east side of Albion Road about half way to Newington Green, but then building faltered and the houses became smaller. There was a single line of houses down Albion Road from what is now the shopping parade to Newington Green, but only on the eastern side. The wealthy people who first moved into these houses looked out on green fields as far as Green Lanes, or beyond. The fields between Albion Road and Stoke Newington High Street, which were in Hornsey removed, were rapidly filled with houses, but the area to the west of Albion Road, which was in Stoke Newington, was still farmland. The 1868 map shows this clearly. By 1868 these fields were beginning to fill with houses.

++Picture of large Albion Road Houses




Industry Moves into Church Path

By the end of the Nineteenth Century Stoke Newington was changing. Industry was starting to move north from Clekenwell and Islington. Clissold Crescent was being developed and would have piano factories behind it in what is now Red Square, The prosperous people who lived in the large houses did not want to live here any longer. They had been Bankers, members of the Stock Exchange, owners of factories and solicitors. By this time the railways had come. They could move further out to Kew, or Muswell Hill, or Sydenham, and still travel into the City of London and the West End to work. No more big houses were wanted in Stoke Newington. Instead, the large estates were sold off for house building, rows of much more modest Victorian villas were built and Industry began to move in. We shall see examples of all these trends in the rest of the walk.

At the turn of the century, the houses in Albion Road began to be used in a very different way from when they were first built. The period of large houses for single families behind their secure fences and with their generous gardens, was coming to an end. The 1901 census is the latest open to us at present so, unless previous occupants can give us facts, documents, copies of leases, rent books and other ephemera, we are hamstrung. The history of the period from 1901 can becomes the province of the imaginative novelist, rather that a historian who is tethered by facts.

It seems clear from the census returns that the members of the Stock Exchange, the managing clerks of large firms, and the fund holders, had moved away, or come down in the world. Many of the houses were being converted into flats and even single rooms, as the population changed. Election rolls show that single houses moved into multiple occupancy, and the whole nature of the area changed. Industry began to move into the back gardens of Albion Road. As we have seen, some houses had been built in Church Path in 1893. Soon factories and more houses began to appear.

(Hackney Archive Ref: H2)

The Drainage Application for a factory behind Nos. 108-110 Albion Road.


The new factory fitting snugly into the old hedgerow shape of the
Hornsey Removed border, seen on the 1868 map.

The factory took up almost all the garden. It was just within the Stoke Newington border, while No 106 was just within the Hornsey Removed estate and the southern border is shaped to conform to the hedgerow shape in the early maps. It is a remarkable survival of an old border in a completely invisible way.

(Hackney Archive Ref: H2)

Drainage behind No. 104 Albion Road

On 11th June 1923, Mr. G. Gabell, who lived in 104 Albion Road, applied to build and drain some new W.C.s at the rear of an existing factory in Church Path. The factory was behind his Albion Road house. From the section drawing on the drainage application, the workshop seems to have consisted of a building with a pitched roof and windows onto a forecourt on the Church Path side, with an open shed behind. Beyond this was a brick office with a fireplace in the corner. There was also a small building adjoining the workshop, built on the garden of No 102.

Later the factory was enlarged to cover the garden of No 102 as well, and the whole was re-roofed as one. Today the earlier buildings can be identified within the whole, so the factory must have grown piecemeal over the years.

In January1931, when Britain was still in the worst slump in history, Victor H. Watson, managing director of the games firm John Waddington Ltd., laid the foundation stone for a three-bay factory in Church Path. It was built behind 108-118 Albion Road. It had a traditional saw-back factory roof and covered almost all of the original back gardens.

(Hackney Archive Ref: H2)

Drainage plan for new workshop behind 108-118 Albion Road

(Hackney Archive Ref: H2)

Longitudinal Section of the factory

(Hackney Archive Ref: H2)

The saw-tooth elevation of the Waddington Factory
from Church Path, dated December 1930

(Hackney Archive Ref: H2)

Drainage Application for 128 Albion Road

In the meantime, houses in Albion Road had to have drains repaired and in this case the drains appear to run under No.135 Church Path. A situation like this could be awkward. Perhaps the applicant, who lived in Upminster, may have owned both properties.

Industry had also moved into the old Nursery Land nearby, behind the Clissold Road houses. The 1936 Ordnance Survey map shows two piano factories, a toy factory, one making electric batteries, a laundry, a cabinet works and perhaps some others unmarked, all within a small area.

At the same time the four old Glebe House had been demolished and blocks of Municipal flats built under the Slum Clearance Scheme.

A Saw-tooth Roof

Factories like this have saw-tooth roofs. The glass is in the vertical sides and these face the north, so that the sun cannot beat in and make the working temperature unbearable. The Saw-tooth shape keeps the air cool. It also suit artists and industries where colour matching is important. Direct sunlight changes during the day, from cool blue colours to orange reds. Light room the north does not vary so much, so that colours of paints and fabrics stay true, instead of varying through the day with the amounts of blue and red in the sky.

Numbers 109-111 Church Walk is a furniture factory but it has a simple sloping roof, sot a saw tooth one.

Industry had moved into the area behind Carysfort Road much earlier. Soon after 1900 there were several factories there, including two piano factories. This 1936 map shows how much the area had changed from the country village it had been a hundred years earlier.

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Revised: October 25, 2011