Building the Howard Road Estate in 1938

Housing Conditions in Howard Road between the Wars

This is one typical report

This undated detail of a report by a Housing Inspector shows that the Local Authority was concerned with the accommodation in Howard Road between the wars. The room was below ground level but no damp proof courses have been provided and the floor had probably not been concreted. The light to the room was inadequate. The inspector thought that the two basement rooms were unfit for human habitation. Not all houses were as bad as this but some were not much better.

(Photograph by permission of
Hackney Archive)


Building the Howard Road Estate in 1938

In the years immediately before the Second World War a large estate was started in the Howard Road area, between Matthias Road and Howard Road. The Victoria County History (p.158) says briefly:-

'Another 3 blocks containing 90 flats were built on the Hewling Street site between Howard St and Matthias Rd in 1939'

.The problem, as usual, must have been to find a site. There were plenty of houses in Stoke Newington which called out to be demolished and replaced but managing to do it was a gigantic game of chess. People had to be moved out of their old housing into new before the old houses could be demolished. The problem was where to start. Back gardens had been enough for Wordsworth Central School (the present Grasmere Primary School site). Here a much bigger site was needed. It was decided to clear the old streets between Matthias Road and Howard Road, working slowly along the site.

A Sequence of Maps Showing the site of the Howard Road Estate over the Years

(It is now called the Hewling Estate)

Howard Road and Matthias Road in 1894

Howard Rd and Matthias Rd in 1914


The Howard Street area in 1936



Building the Howard Road Estate in 1938

  The 1936 Ordnance Survey shows that the area to be demolished consisted of small houses bordering Howard Road, Spencer Grove, Matthias Road and Watson Street. The last was on the site of the present Watson Court. In 1936 the area had hardly altered from 1914 and no doubt the houses were in a sorry state. The Inspector's Report on No 40 Howard Road was only one of many which were made between the wars.


Pictures of the flats under construction.

Howard Road Estate picture looking east towards St Matthias's Church in 1938

The building of Derwent House in 1938, with its foundation stone in place.

It was between Matthias Road and Howard Road.
This view looks northwards along Shakespeare Walk.


The View in 2007 north along Shakespeare Walk from the old site of Derwent House


Looking across the site along Howard Road


Building the Howard Estate in 1939.

Looking east across the building works, showing the north side of Howard Road
and the Howard Arms public house on the corner of Spencer Grove.


Wall of No 43 Watson Street, showing brickwork preparation for the
erection of Hewling House, Howard Road Estate, 1938.

Block A near completion.
It is not clear from the picture which block this is


Children's coach trip to Margate.

Outside Derwent House, Howard Road,circa 1950


The Howard Estate seventy years later, in 2007


During the Second World War the new blocks suffered bomb damage. It appears that Derwent House had to be completely demolished. Hewling House and Matthias House were repaired and are still in use today. Today this pair are called The Hewling Estate.



The original buildings as seen from the back with the later fire escape tower built on.

The back of Hewling House photographed in 2007

The back of Matthias House photographed in 2007.

The fire escape towers would have been added much later,
probably in the nineteen-seventies.


Watson House in Watson Close.

This block appears to have replaced the third Howard Estate block, Derwent House, which appears to have been bombed. Alternatively, the bock may never have been completed. Certainly, this is a new block. Further research is needed.

These blocks are much later than the 1936 Derwent House Block. They were built with modern cavity walls, using small cavity wall bricks like those in Cowper Road


New houses in Cowper Road have cavity walls

The new buildings in Cowper Road and Watson Close are different from others in the neighbourhood.


Cavity Walls

How High Fuel Prices Change the Building Regulations
and Demanded Cavity Walls.

When the price of oil and other fuels rocketed in the 1970s, the government altered the Building Regulations. All new buildings had to be built so as to save and retain heat. A double skin with a layer of air between them, has always been known to hold heat well. It is difficult for heat to pass across a cavity of still air, so it helps to conserve heat. The Cavity Wall became compulsory and in addition, the inner skin had to be made of Thermal Concrete. This concrete mix is particularly good at holding heat as It is full of tiny air cavities. These make it difficult for heat to pass across them and therefore they help to keep the heat in a building from escaping through the wall. The design will save the householders a great deal in heating costs over the years.

Details of the construction

Drawings of cavity walls

We saw other examples of cavity wall in Walk 2 in Church Path. The outside walls of these houses have been built with specially shaped facing bricks. They are thicker and slightly narrower than standard bricks. This means that the outside walls are thinner than usual and fewer courses of brickwork are needed to build the same height of wall. The shape reduces both the number of bricks and the time taken to build the wall.

The new cavity wall bricks in Cowper Road.

These special cavity wall bricks measure 19 cms x 9 cms x 9 cms. The length of a brick = 2 widths = 2 thicknesses. This means that, allowing 1 cm for mortar, they are in the proportion 2 x 1 x 1.

Normal bricks are in the proportion 3 x 1.5 x 1. The length of a brick = 2 widths = 3 thicknesses.

This change of shape means that the outside skin of these walls can be thinner than normal bricks but the individual courses are deeper. Thus it takes slightly fewer bricks to build a wall and bricklayers can work faster. It took the fuel crisis of the 1970s to change the shape of the standard brick.

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Revised: January 10, 2009 4:28 PM