Grasmere Walk 1

Preparation for the Walk

The Milton Grove and Matthias Church area used to be a very wealthy area. About 1880 London was ful of very bad housing, far worse than any housig we see today in London.

The Booth Poverty maps 1889-90

Part of Map Descriptive of
London Poverty, 1888-89

Sheet 3 Northern District. This is the
furthest north that the Survey covers

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 careful survey of how people lived and worked. He found in the end that the position was even worse than he had been told.


Booth divided people into eight groups H-A, but coloured in his maps in seven colours ranging from'Wealthy' to 'The Lowest Class' as follows:-

Wealthy (three or more servants; houses rated £100 or more)
Well to do (one or two servants)
Working class comfort
Comfort mixed with poverty
Standard poverty
Very poor

The lowest grade



Map and details from London School of Economics and London Topographical Reprint 1984.

Booth published coloured maps of the streets of London showing their status.


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, and so catch truants, 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. This began a few years before the children reached school age and continued until the last child in the family had left.

This piece of the map shows that Stoke Newington was a prosperous area at this time, with only small patches of poverty, unlike, for example, parts of Islington, or the southern part of our present borough of Hackney

This section of the map shows that Paradise Row, opposite Clissold Park, Highbury New Park and the old Church Street houses between Old St Mary's Church and the Library, were wealthy areas. They are coloured Yellow, indicating that the houses were rated at at least £100 a year and had at least three servants per house.


The Local Position

Clissold Road, Burma Road, Aden Terrace, and the northern part of Albion Road, are coloured Red, showing that the owners had at least one servant. Most of the nearby houses, including the southern end of Albion Road are coloured Pink, denoting, 'Fairly comfortable - Good ordinary earnings'. There are a few small patches of, 'Light Blue (Poor 18 - 21 shillings a week for a moderate family.) or even Dark Blue (Very poor, Casual, Chronic want). Back Street and one side of Meadow Street (now Lordship Terrace) were in the Light Blue / Dark Blue area and these houses were not rebuilt until the 1930s. There were other patches of Light Blue around Mathias Road and a small block of Dark Blue inside a block of 'Mixed, some comfortable, others poor,' in Allen Road. This illustrates how near the very poor were to the better off and how easily disease could move from centres of bad housing and bad sanitation, to others which appeared to be better protected.

Lordship Park was 'Red, well-to-do', but by 1889 the large houses in Lordship Road, with their tennis courts and large gardens, had slipped down to 'Pink, fairly comfortable, good regular earnings.' The large houses must have been divided into flats, or rooms, by this time and the original owners, who could afford a complete house, had moved away or died.


The Grasmere area.

The Booth Maps of London Poverty, 1889

Uses of the Booth Poverty Maps in this website.

The Grasmere School/Mathias School Area

The area around St Matthias Church was "well off". Cowper Rd, Spenser Rd, Allen Rd and Howard Rd houses are coloured Red (at least one servant), This was a prosperous area, prosperous enough to be able to attract such a famous architect as Butterfield to built the church for them. He had one of the most famous architectural practices in the country.

Shakespeare Walk Shakespeare Road (not Walk) and Milton Grove had slipped down by that time to Pink (Good ordianary earnings).

Cowper Road, Stoke Newington, East side. Nos 95-97, 1977
Entrance to Cowper Road from Allen Road, shows also
No 4a Allen Road, April 1977

These houses were on the east side of Cowper Road. They were later demolished to form part of Butterfield Green.

Butterfield Green with Butterfield's church behind.


Cowper Road, Stoke Newington, c1964
West side looking south west showing houses from No.70

These houses were later demolished and the new three storey houses were built on the site, overlooking Butterfield Green

The new houses in Cowper Road

The Position in 1945

During the Second World War some houses were damaged by bombing. Others deteriorated because there was no time to keep them in good repair during the six years of War. Therefore, at the end of the Second World War everyone decided to build what has now become a pleasant little area of about eight streets. Almost all the traffic by-passes it and does not know that it is there.

And Seventy Years later

Grasmere Walk 4 will describe the building of Milton Gardens Estate in detail but, in the meantime, this is a picture of Butterfield Green, a new lung for the neighbourhood, which could so easily have become a mass of flats. In the end the houses on the east side of Cowper Road were demolished and the site added to Butterfield Green, so the gardens became even bigger than shown on the preliminary sketch above.

Part of Butterfield Green in 2007, showing the end of Cowper Road

In Walk 1 we will see how everyone built a new urban Town City.

Grasmere School

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Revised: January 1, 2013