Grasmere Primary School Walk 2

The Infilling of the back gardens in Church Path

This piece of the Walk shows how valuable land has become in the inner cities and finds some of the ingenious ways in which architects have shoe-horned houses into very small spaces.

Start the Walk at the school gates and turn into Town Hall Path

1868 Map of the Walk

Google map of same area

A Classical design at the corner of Town Hall Path

This four-square nineteenth century house is a classic design which can be found in dozens of building pattern books. Imagine it standing in an attractive garden, with plenty of space and it would come into its own.

It is in plain brick with stucco surrounds to the windows and a bold porch. The windows have wide heads above them supported on simple Gibbs brackets. The sash windows have small panes on the first floor and larger ones below. The upper windows have two sliding sashes which can be opened to any extent and the sash will stay still. Why?

Each sash is held on either side by two heavy weights on cords. The cords run over pulleys and the two weights together balance the weight of the sash. Therefore the sash stays still. One sash is always in front of the other. Which one and why?

The ground floor windows have shallow cast iron balconies. This allows the windows to be made as double doors to open inwards to the room and till prevent anyone from falling out.

The porch is substantial, with side walls and round-headed windows to give a feeling of lightness. All mouldings are extremely simple, made with straight lengths of wood. A straight-forward Classical design, it is lost here, overpowered by its huge neighbour but in a different setting, it would be a different story.


An Edwardian Development

At the corner of Town Hall Path and Church Walk are these Edwardian buildings which look like ordinary houses, but the doorway has three doors. Other houses may have three bells and a family living on each floor, but these were built as three or four different flats. The central door leads up to one or perhaps two flats on the first floor.

This corner site was once the back gardens of the houses in Albion Road. Then a developer took the ends of the gardens and built flats on them. There was a fashion at about this period for building flats like this to resemble ordinary houses. They can be found East Finchley and many other parts of London.

Well built and attractive, with all the appearance of ordinary houses, they put several properties in a small space. People who not could not afford a complete house, were pleased to have a good looking flat at a lower rent. Years before, when land was cheaper, builders could afford to build houses with long gardens. When land became expensive they had to find ways of squeezing more properties onto smaller spaces. This is what has happened all along Church Walk for years in different ways and is still happening today.


The effect of the increase on heating costs

Walk further along Church Walk to these new houses which were photographed during construction. They reflect the huge increase in the cost of fuel since the Oil crisis of the 1970s and also our concern with global warming. This architect has designed his houses to save heat and prevent it from being lost to the atmosphere.

Again the ends of the Albion Road gardens were being built on. The photograph shows several stages in the building process.

  1. In the foreground the three houses have been built in thermal concrete bricks and given a single-thickness brick skin, with an air cavity between the concrete and the brick. The thermal concrete will retain the heat within the building. The air gap will help retain more heat. The outer brick skin will give an attractive appearance, weather well so that it will look attractive when it is old, and will retain more heat. Electricity and gas bills should be small.
  2. Next is a house being built in thermal concrete blocks.
  3. Beyond that, is a house with a high covering so that the timber floors can be put in, and the roof tiled, all in the dry.

The houses are very small indeed, on tiny pieces of ground. Instead of being side by side, as in any normal terrace, they have been skewed sideways. Thus each one has its own tiny entrance corner and is slightly separated from the next. Instead of a loft, the roof has been tilted so that this extra half space is within the house and the roof is a single slope with a narrow window in the end wall. It is very ingenious.

The corner of the upper floors are supported on Steel ‘I’ shaped joists. This shape is very strong. When they were used in this way, in the 1960s, architects tried to hide the joists behind rows of thin bricks. These fell off and were a maintenance problem, so this architect has painted them and will have no troubles of this sort.

The houses are alternately in yellow London Stock brick and rendered in stucco. The contrast in materials helps to separate them and make each one look a little larger.

Again one house has been moved forward to fit the road shape and also to give a feeling of separation. Some panel of glass bricks have been inserted into the end wall to give some light to inner rooms. The bricks are obscure so nobody could look in, even with a ladder.


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

The brick cavity wall stands on an I girder and so creates a small porch. The bricks are all stretchers (we can see the full length of all the bricks). This shows that the wall is only one brick thick and it is probably a cavity wall. The end wall by the front door is also a single thick ness wall but is clearly not a cavity wall.


Headers and stretchers

This is a normal brick bond for a solid wall two bricks thick. It is built in Flemish Bond. The ends of the bricks (headers) show that the brick goes right through a two – brick -thick wall and ties the two thicknesses together. We shall see other two - thick brick walls during the walk and find out if this one is really two bricks thick.


The picture shows the first stage of construction.

These houses are being built in thermal concrete blocks, ready for the top awning and the roof.

The construction comes as a surprise. The houses are so small that they can be built under cover and work can continue even in the rain. The cover means that the building does not become wet, so it saves the long drying out period which is usually required in England. All the walls here are made of thermal concrete blocks.

At the same time as these were being built, houses were being built of the same thermal concrete blocks in the Lake District, near Grasmere, and covered with Lakeland Slate gathered from the fellside. The reason is the same, to retain heat within the building. The same principle will be found in all future buildings and no doubt they will have outer skins of local materials.

One of the the finished houses.

This pair of houses is built of thermal concrete blocks, as we saw in the earlier photographs, but they have no brick outer skin or air cavity. It is not clear if the if the rendering is a thermal one, but this seems unlikely. The glass windows at either end will loses a lot of heat, so these houses will not be so thermally efficient as the others which have brick skins and small windows.

The corner of Newington Green and Church Path

The corner of Newington Green and Church Path

Most architects building along Church Walk have only a very narrow frontage. This site, which took all the garden of the Albion Road house, offered the luxury of two frontages and the architect made full use of them. The upper floor is set behind a sloping Mansard roof, which is attractive and relatively cheap to construct. The windows are vertical and so project. with small roof additions above them.

Mansard was a Frenchman who built palaces for Louis the Fourteenth. Paris is full of tall houses and blocks of flats with Mansard roofs. This is the Mansard idea applied to a cottage.




Walk along Church Path until you reach this house.

It is the one Church Path house still standing out of a terrace of five. Until 1893 the site of this house was part of South Villa, a large house in Albion Road. At that time this part of Albion Road did not belong to Stoke Newington, but was part of South Hornsey (sometimes called Hornsey Removed). At some tine in the distant past someone must have left a few fields to some religious organization in Hornsey and from then on it was administered from Hornsey. It caused a lot of confusion. One borough had to pay the other to clear up the rubbish and to allow the houses to use sewers built and paid for by another borough. Sometimes the boundary line ran through a house and the householder had to pay part of the rates to one authority and part to another. There were lots of examples of this sort of nonsense all over London until 1900, when there was a general sorting out.

South Villa was in the very north-west corner of South Hornsey and the garden stretched back to Church Path.

An 1893 Church Path House.


The 1893 Church Path house is built on a site with an interesting story. Link to the full story of South Villa. The other four houses have been demolished for various reasons, but below is a computer generated picture of the complete terrace.

The original Nos. 113-121 Church Walk and what happened to them

The five houses in Church Path, built in 1893 and shown earlier as a computer simulation, had survived the Second World War, but some were squatted and eventually one burnt down. All but one of the remaining four were abandoned and stood empty for some years. Then the three derelict houses were bought and demolished.

The old houses, derelict, forlorn and ready for demolition

The site cleared and the bricks carefully stacked ready for reuse.
The houses in Albion Road can be seen in the background.

The two new houses, 115 &117 Church Walk,
built on the site of the earlier three beside the old No 119.


When they were demolished the bricks were carefully stacked and saved for re-use. Then these modern two houses were built on the site of the previous three, standing next to the one surviving early house. Church Path is narrow, so the architect has made it difficult to look into the two lower floors, but easy to look out from the top one.

The New Building Regulations

Like he houses being built at the other end of Church Walk, these houses were built to conserve heat. They had to save heat and reduce fuel costs by using thermal concrete blocks inside, an air gap and then a thin brick wall. In the ones that were being built at the other end of Church Walk we could see the concrete blocks. How can tell they are there?

The old house next door has walls which are two bricks thick


Detail of the brick skin of the two new houses.

There are headers and stretchers, apparently in Flemish Bond, but it is not a normal Flemish Bond wall like the one next door, a detail of which is shown below.

The brick work of the old house in Flemish Bond

This is a detail of the outside wall, made from the bricks of the old houses. It matches the brick bond of the old house next door but there is one great difference. This wall is only one brick thick. It has a thin outside wall, an air-gap and then a layer of thermal concrete blocks, just like the new houses at the other end of Church Walk. There the bricks are all stretchers (long bricks). In these new houses there are stretchers and headers (the ends of bricks).

All new houses have to obey the new building Regulations about building warm houses. The difference is that here the architect decided to match the appearance of the brick bond next door. It was in Flemish Bond and he mimicked it. He had to build a wall only one brick thick and to do it he had to cut his bricks in half to make headers. It was architectural good manners. This building is not so easy to read as the ones faced with stretches at the other end of Church Walk, but in fact it obeys the same rules.

These are re-used bricks so they have many colours. The black ones probably came from the insides of chimneys and still have a coating of old soot. I wonder who last warmed their hands at those fires.


The New Houses

Rear Elevation of the Two New Houses

Grasmere School
Walk 1

Walk 3: Rebuilding the
Albion Road Triangle

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