The Site of Woodberry Down
Community Primary School

History of the school site in maps

Let us go a long way back, long before this school was even thought of. In 1734 Lady Abney owned a large estate which stretched from Stoke Newington Church Street right up to Woodberry Down and the border with our modern Haringey. Lady Abney ordered a new map to be drawn and this is the result.

1734 Map of the Manor

The 1734 map shows the Abney Estate with the New River running through it. On the north, the river skirts the edge of the Abney lands at the ridge which today separates Hackney from Haringay. No doubt the ridge had separated farms for many centuries before the Abneys came. There is a mistake on this map. It is dated 1734 but must be a copy of an earlier one. About 1708, a row of houses called Church Row, was built. Photographs show that they were like those in The Grove, Highgate, and Will Owen's sketch of them before they were demolished is reproduced later. Lady Abney asked for a map to be made of her property, but instead of making a new one showing the Church Row houses, the surveyor copied an earlier map which included the outbuildings of the old Manor House. These had been knocked down years before but appear on the 1734 map.

Land Tenancy in 1734

In 1734, land tenancy and the laws on leases still held traces of the Feudal System. The King owned the land which he leased to major tenants in return for services. These, in their turn, leased parts to smaller tenants. Transactions of land took place in the manorial court, and were recorded in copies of the court rolls, so the land holders were called copyholders. A fee or "fine" was payable to the lord of the manor whenever land was sold, inherited or leased. Copyholders could not grant leases for more than 21 years, and the lord of the manor of Stoke Newington was not legally able to grant building leases. Builders needed the encouragement of longer term leases. They would not build houses unless they could be sure of fifty or more years before the houses became the property of the lord of the manor and their own families be left, for all their work and investment, with nothing.

The Modern School sites found on the old map

  • Woodberry Down Junior School site was in South River Field
  • Sir Thomas Abney site was in Wood Land Piece
  • Woodberry Down Comprehensive School, now part of Stoke Newington Secondary School, was in Wood Berry Down Meadow
  • Grazebrook School was in Third Croft Meadow

The Modern School sites found NOT on the 1834 map but on the later 1814 one

  • St Mary's CE School site was on the north side of Church Street
  • Betty Laywood Junior School and Stoke Newington Secondary School sites were in the Glebe Field. (The Glebe field was the property of the Prebendary, the Vicar of St Mary's Church, and either run by him as his private farm, or let out to a tenant farmer.)
  • William Patten Junior School site was in Stoke Newington Church Street
  • Grasmere Junior School site was somewhere in the fields between Stoke Newington Church Street and Newington Green. Albion Road had not been built, so the site is difficult to locate.

The 1747 John Warburton Map

The 1747 John Warburton's map shows the twin cities of London and Westminster clustering on the banks of the Thames . Almost all the houses were on the north bank of the Thames, with only a small development in marshy Southwark, south of the River. The north was much better building ground, higher and more solid.

The New River had been built a few years earlier to bring clean water to London . It snaked its way along the contours, through the open fields and farmland, all the way from the springs at Ware. One of these same curves can be found today, circling round the ridge of Woodberry Down as it has done since the time of Charles II. Newington was a tiny village far outside the built up cities. It is shown just over three miles from Cornhill, at the edge of the Circle of Mortality.

Bewick Wood Engraving

The Circle of Mortality

After the Plague of London a law was passed to monitor the disease. A circle of three miles radius was drawn round Cornhill and all villages within it had to report their deaths to the government regularly. Any sudden increases could be a warning of a new epidemic. This was one of the earliest cases of monitoring disease.

The Milne Land Usage map, 1800

(Trigoometrical Survey 1795-1799)

1800 Milne's Land Usage Map

This is probably the first map of the London area showing how fields were used for different crops. This shows how they were used in 1800. In other years it would have varied slightly. But most fields in Stoke Newington would have stayed as meadows for many years because Stoke Newington lived by producing milk for London .

Each field is coloured according to the table below to show how it was used in the year of the survey. The following year it might be used for another crop and changed back again later. Meadows might be used unchanged for years. This map is a typical snapshot of the period. Stoke Newington people live in these fields today and you may be able to find your own one.

At this period the land had not been fully enclosed: some fields were still held in common by people who lived in the village, as in feudal times. Villagers had had the right to graze their geese, cow or horse on the common. By 1800, many fields had been enclosed. Newington Common had been enclosed and shared out among the Commoners (the villagers who shared the common). Some common meadows, arable fields and marsh are still left, but even the enclosing of the marshes has begun.

The map has been beautifully reproduced in colour by the London Topogrphical Society. It costs only £18, covers an area of about 42" x 42" in six sheets, and has an erudite accompanying text, itself worthy of display. Covered with a plastic and framed, it would enhance any school corridor or foyer.

The Key
a arable yellow 
g market gardens blue
m meadow green 
p paddock or small park pink


This series of maps traces the history of the Woodberry Down /Manor House area from 1828.

The 1814 map

In 1814, a private Act of Parliament, brought by the Prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral, who was the lord of the manor, changed the law so far as Stoke Newington was concerned. This allowed sub-leases for building to be granted. Copyholds could be enfranchised (set free) and their freeholds could be sold. Tenancies had to be for a period of years. Fifty or ninety-nine year leases were common. People were willing to buy houses on long leases because they could rely on the full number of years before the land and the house on it, became the landlord's property again. At last speculative builders could risk building and many bricklayers and carpenters could risk building a couple of houses in the hope that it would lead to greater things. All speculative building is risky, but long leases encouraged people to gamble on building and then hoping to sell.

The 1814 Estate Map

The tinted area corresponds to the 1734 Abney Map and the complete map
corresponds to the 1814 Prebendary Estate Map of Stoke Newington

The 1814 map was made as a result of the 1814 Act. Common land was going to be divided among the local copyholders, who had the right to graze their animals on the common land. Everyone had to have new leases so an up-to-date map was necessary and this is why the map says, 'From an actual survey 1814'.

There was a map dated 1813, by James Wadmore, with a Book of Reference. The book gives the Leaseholder/Copyholder, and the actual tenantof each house or plot. Unfortunately the map is missing.

In this version of the 1814 map the Abney land has been tinted to make it easier to compare the two maps. The Church Row houses are at the southern end of the tinted part and in about the middle of the map. You will see that the Abney Estate owned Queen Elizabeth's Walk, the eastern side of Clissold Park , but only part of the land which became the Clissold Park ponds.

The part we call Haringey was then still in the Parish of Tottenham. Field shapes had hardly changed.


The 1814 Prebendary Estate Map of Stoke Newington

The 1814 Prebendary map with the
Northern end (Manor House end) to the left.

For years Britain had been at war with France, but Napoleon had been captured and imprisoned on Elbe . It seemed that the war was over. This map was made in the piping years when Napoleon was still a prisoner in Elba and Britain thought that she had finally won the long drawn out war with France . It was a period of great forward planning. Everyone was thinking of great industrial expansion, planning new factories, converting warships to merchant vessels and looking forward to future prosperity.

In 1910 ther had been an attempt to sell the southern half of Stoke Nwington to developers for house building but it had failed because landlords could offer only short leases. After thirty years the land and any houses built on it, became the property of the ground landlord. Developers wanted long leases if they were to build and this required an Act of Parliament. This Prebendal map was made for the Act.

A year later Napoleon escaped and for a hundred days was free. After Waterloo and Napoleon's final defeat, the Stoke Newington Estate, which belonged to St Paul 's Cathedral, could continue to plan for the future and the map was ready.

The Northern half of the 1814 Prebendal map with the North turned to the top.

1848 Tithe map

1848 Tithe map of the Woodberry Down Junior School site

This fragment of Allerton's Tithe Map shows the shortened curve of the New River surrounding River House on three sides. Number 39 is the number given to the short road and bridge which gave access to River House. When they built Seven Sisters Road they could have strengthened the bridge and continued lot 39 to Stamford Hill and Finsbury Park. In fact, later maps show that they took another route towards Tottenham and the road forks to Stamford Hill soon after crossing the River. The short road which led to River House is now called Newnton Close.

River House, used to lie within the curve of the New River . It is shown on the 1848 Tithe Map and the Sale Plan below and is described in the Auctioneer's text.



Is surrounded by its own Pleasure Grounds and Lawns sloping down to the New River, and commanding views of the surrounding country, including Muswell Hill, and the Alexandra Palace . The whole comprising



Is removed front the road, approached by a Carriage Drive,
is Brick-built, and contains -.

ON THE GROUND,FLOOR - Entrance and Inner Ilalls, Drawing Room, Dining Rorom, Breakfast Room, Morning Room, small Conservatory, Kitchen, Scullery, Houselmaid's Room. Larder, Dairy, Store Closet, Wine and Coal Cellars.

ON THE FIRST FLoor - And approached by Principal and Secondary Stairs, are Six Bed Rooms, Two Dressing Booms, Bath Room, W.C., Servants' Bed Room, and Lumber Room.


Surround the House, are tastefully laid out, and comprise - Fl, ower Garden, Lawn and Shrubheries, intersected by Pleasant and Shady Walk., and bounded by the New River.

The Stabling and Coach House Premises

Adjoin the House, and comprise Three Stall Stable, and Loose Box, Harness Room, arid Coach House, wilh Two Rooms and Loft over.


ls well,stocked with Fruit Trees, and adjoins the East Reservoir of the New River Company, and herein is a


containing Four Rooms




No. on Plan Description Quantity Remarks
    A R P  
1 House, Lawn, and Pleasure Grounds 2 1 12  
2 Kitchen Garden, and Cottage 0 2 28  
  Total Acres 3 0 0  

Modern Note.

(A R P are Acres Roods Perches)

1 perch = 5½ yards square = 30¼ square yards
16 square perches = 1 rood
4 roods = 1 acre

  £ s d
The estate is in the occupation of the Representatives, of the late R. STAGG, Esq., under Lease originally granted for a Term of 21 years, from 25th March, 1862, determinable by the Lessee at the end of tile first 7, 10, or 14 Years, the Lessee paying all Rates and Taxes, at the moderate Rent of 155 0 0

Held by the Vendor for a Term of 98 Year, from 25th March. I 837, of whicl, Term 60 Years were unexpired at Lady Day last, at a Rent of

45 0 0


The Quantities and descriptions given in these Particulars are believed to be correct, and shall be taken as such by the Purchaser.

The Properly is sold subject to all Easements, and to any Rights that the New River Company may have over the ground immediately adjoining the New River, and m tile Lessee's Right, under his Lease.

The strip of Land 30 ft. wide, from A to B on the plan, with Forcing Pits, &c., thereon, has been and is still occupied by the Lessee, but it is not included in his Lease, or in the Lease under which the Vendor holds, or in the present Sale. In the Plan upon the last-mentioned Lease, it is decscribed as "Carriage Road from Lordship Road to Bridge," and the present Purchaser will only be entitled to such Right of Way, or other interest in it, as the Vendor possesses.


Clearly this was a substantial property, where a wealthy family could live in comfort on the edge of the country and yet be within easy distance of the City of London.

The Area In 1868

The Site of Woodberry Down Primary School in 1868

In those days the Manor Road was the important road linking the Manor House area to Church Street and so opening up the estate for development. Manor Road did not join Seven Sisters Road, as it does today, but turned left along Woodberry Grove to Green Lanes. Seven Sisters Road had been built but very few houses had been built along it. This was still farmland, supplying milk and hay to London.


This could have been a typical Woodberry Down scene in 1868 with fields of cattle among the large new houses. It is a wood engraving which illustrated a dairy farm in East Finchley, but could equally well have been about a Stoke Newington one.

There was a thatched cottage at the bend in Manor Road on the modern shopping centre site.

The Woodberry Down Thatched Cottage

An Engraving of a typical farm with
thatched roofs and hay-stacks by Bewick



At one time most of the houses in Stoke Newington must have been thatched cottages like this, but most had been swept away long before 1868. This was a lone survivor.

There is one amusing story worth telling, about the roof that was put on upside down.

Samuel Butler, the Victorian writer, photographer, wrote the two utopias Erehwon and Erehwon Revisited. He was the son of a bishop and, as a young man, he wanted to get away from his father, so he went to New Zealand, which became the setting for Erehwon. There he bought a small sheep farm, but he was much more interested in producing plays in the local town than sheep raising, so he asked others to build him a house. It was a very simple house like the one in the picture above. The friends who built the house were amateurs. Instead of starting by tying in the bundles of thatch from the bottom and working upwards, they started at the top and worked downwards. This meant that the ends of the pieces of straw making the thatch pointed upwards instead if being protected by the straw above. The rain ran straight down into the house, like water though thousands of drinking straws.


The Area in 1894

The Site of Woodberry Down Primary School in 1894

By 1984 there were large houses all along Seven Sisters Road . Tramlines ran along the centre of Seven Sisters Road to Stamford Hill and |Finsbury Park . The future Woodberry Down Primary School site was a large garden running along Manor Road, with the houses at one end and what was probably a stable or a gardener's cottage at the other.

The Area in 1912-3

The whole area was covered with houses. Woodberry Down had been extended all the way to Bethune Road, with houses on only one side of the road and stretching down to the reservoir. It joined Bethune Road

The Site of Woodberry Down Primary School in 1913


The Site of Woodberry Down Primary School in 1935

1939-45 Bombing Map

Uses of the Bombing Map on this website


The Site of Woodberry Down Primary School in 1953


Later Maps to the Present

Ordnance Survey maps are copyright for 50 years, so all their maps which have been printed so far are out of copyright. Schools will have permission to use later ones and to print them for educational use. Thus they can extend this sequence of maps for themselves and bring the story up to date.