In 1849 the Foy Estate consisted of 28½ acres in the central part of South Hornsey and 6 adjoining acres to the north-west. Most of the six acres had been brickfields and were by then full of stagnant pools. They were in Stoke Newington, not Hornsey Removed, but they were adjoining and so formed one block of land.
The entry for the larger area seems difficult to find as it was in Hornsey Removed.
The estate was owned by Offley Shore, a bankrupt who had to forfeit it to his creditors. The assignees, who arranged the bankruptcy, conveyed the land to the National Freehold Land Society, which divided it into small freehold plots and sold them to builders. Speculative building is always a risky affair because so many things can go wrong, so these small plots for only one or two houses encouraged small builders to risk it. As a result Albert Town was built by no fewer than 53 builders. The largest, James Whitcombe of Islington, built 53 houses but many built only a single house.
By 1852 the society had laid out the roads and called them after poets. Nearby, off the High Street, was a small development named after Queen Victoria, so the new estate was called Albert Town. St Matthias School was built in 1849 and St Matthias Church in 1853.
Building Albert Town
The 1861 Cross map of South Stoke Newington
The fields to the east of Wordsworth Road had not developed by 1861 and Allen Road was only half built. Cut Throat Lane, which appears on earlier maps, has been renamed as Wordsworth Road. Matthias Road was called Coach and Horses Lane. Howard Road was called after the prison reformer and Allen Road after the chemist, philanthropist and Quaker who lived in Stoke Newington.
This map shows Victoria Road development which probably suggested the name of Albert Town.
1894 Ordnance Survey map
Most of Albert Town was built on the ‘Hornsey Removed’ field east of Albion Road and on six acres to the north. It was not built on the second Hornsey Removed field to the north east.
The Houses in Albert Town
Construction of houses in Albert Town was by scores, if not hundreds, of independent builders, mostly on a very small scale. Victoria County History says:-
We can still see an example of this in Albert Town.At the northern end of Milton Grove the houses are all subtly different. A single house, a block of four, single, single, and so on down the road, as smaller and bigger men built. Why should this be? Compare the small-scale development with the long rows of Cubitt houses at the top of Albion Road.
In Albert Town the Freehold Land Society had divided their land into single plots, so that very small builders could venture to take one plot and build one house on it. We can still see the effect of that today.
Why was Albert Town built by so many different builders?
The building trade has always been a risky one. Bricklayers, carpenters and other skilled tradesmen dreamed of building complete houses and becoming developers. This way they might make their fortunes. They had seen a few men like themselves succeed, but far more went bankrupt each year and finished up with debts which could take years to pay off. They dared not take large plots, or plan to build rows of houses. They had to start small.
Quoted from the modern British Land website
Later The National Freehold Land Society had to change its nature and became two different organizations.
Before this they were liable for the complete loss a company might make, as the shareholders in Lloyds still are. This meant that they might be plunged into debt and be liable to continue paying it for the rest of their lives.
Note. The account of Southwood Smith’s buildings in King’s Cross, and Gibson Gardens in Stoke Newington on this website, are other examples of this problem of Unlimited Liability at that time.
The Scheme Backfires
At first the creation of freeholders may have increased the Liberal vote, especially in areas near the centre of London. Later however the various Land Companies began to buy land in the countryside around London and there they created many more freeholds. This is what we now call the stockbroker belt, so that in the end the freehold land holdings created more Tory votes than Liberal. Later again the voting qualifications were changed and freehold property ceased to be a requirement for voting. Albert Town is an interesting, if short lived, piece of political history.
24.6.08Freehold land Soc and Cobden.doc
Revised: October 25, 2011 8:49 AM