The History of the South Villa Site after 1893

The Building of Numbers 106-106d Albion Road

In some way South Villa came into the possession of a builder. How and on what terms, is not clear but in 1893, Mr. A. P. Osmond, of 17 Lealand Road, Stamford Hill, began building on the South Villa site. The new properties stretched from what is now 106 Albion to 106 D (a total of five houses) and back to Church Path. South Villa itself was at the Albion Road end of the site, with a large garden behind. Mr Osmond planned to build houses on the site, but first he had to ask permission and submit drainage plans. The Local Authority has the duty to maintain the drains so that rain water, household water and sewage are carried away safely and healthily. All builders have to submit plans and ask for approval before they can tap into the Local Authority drains. Without this permission they cannot build.

On 22 September, 1893, Osmond sent a hand-written letter giving notice that he proposed to build on the east side of Albion Road. He asked permission to build over an old barrel drain which he had found on his property. The original sewer ran along Albion Road, but a few years earlier the Local Authority had built a new sewer along Church Path and the houses in Albion Road were then diverted into it. The old pipes which used to flow into the barrel drain had been cut off. The drain was empty and out of use. The presence of the drain had come as a complete surprise to Mr Osmond. He had bought South Villa but the old drain was not mentioned in the lease.

The application to build was accompanied by a plan of the proposed houses, the drain layout, and a side view of the houses sunk in their semi-basements.

Part of the Drainage Plan Application for 106-106D Albion Road, which was submitted by Mr. Osmond on 7 October, 1893. Numbers 104 and 108 had already been built and their end walls are shown in the plan.

The drainage plan shows that to squeeze in five houses along the Albion Road, the houses could be only 17 feet wide. This is quite narrow but the builder made up for this by building high. There are old London houses in, for example, Fleet Street only 14 feet wide, very tall and narrow. Like them, to increase the accommodation, Osmond built up into the roof space by using Mansard roofs. In this case the site was so narrow thaat wasn't quite room for 5 houses, therefore house 106d, which reaches the old Hornsey Remove border squeezes the house in at the back. Therefore the back addition can not be so large as the others and has to be 4 stories high instead on the more ordinary 2 to provide the extra floor space.

The full Drainage Application drawing,
including a section of the houses.

Photographed in its book in the Hackney Archive

The original application drawings showing the plan of the five houses and an end view of the houses sunk in semi-basements, with the Back Additions at ground level. The various comments and conditions by the Local Authority have been written on the actual drawings as usual, so that drawings and permissions could not be separated.

The side view of the houses shows that the Back Additions have no cellars. They start at the original ground surface, so that the front and back rooms are at different levels and have to be linked by short half staircases

The houses were built on gravel, so the basements would drain well. This meant that people in this part of Stoke Newington could live and work in the basements. The Geology map shows that houses South of Stoke Newington Church Street are built on Gravel, while most of the houses North of Church Street are built on Clay. Clay holds water so that any basements built here would have become very damp and unhealthy. This is why you find only coal cellars in these houses. [Today basements in Clay can be made waterproof, but only by ‘tanking’ them with bitumen and facing this with brick or mortar. This is very expensive indeed and no builder in the Nineteenth Century could have sold his houses at an acceptable price if he had tanked the cellars].


Link to Geology Map of Stoke Newington



The Five Houses, 106-106d Albion Road

Example of another narrow fronted building in London

87 Chancery Lane, London, a Victorian Gothic building in Chancery Lane,
which was built only a few years before the Albion Road houses.
This is a photograph of 87 Chancery Lane, a Grade II listed building, which I think may have been drawn by Thomas Hardy, the novelist, when he was working as a Gothic draughtsman for the architect William Blomfied from 1862-67. It was built as a set of lawyers’ chambers and the frontage is only 14 feet wide. The building, now carefully restored, shows what could be done on a narrow frontage, but one had to build high. Four, five and even six storeys are typical. Above that it became difficult to carry coal. Central heating and lifts would be necessary before one could build higher.

Mr. Osmond’s application to build the five Albion Road houses was approved subject to his using 12” drain pipes. By 25 October 1893 he was free to build.

The New Houses in Church Path

By November 1893, only two months after his earlier application, Mr Osmond was asking permission to build over the drain he has just put in. He now wanted to build a further five houses at the other end of his site, in Church Path. Again he had to submit a Drainage Plan. This shows that Church Path narrowed at this point from a road capable of taking traffic, to a brick-laid footpath, just as it does today. The Board asked him to give about half a metre of land at the end of his site to widen the path. This area has been cross-hatched in the plan for the purpose of this book. The narrowing of the roadway, from road to path, meant that the site edge curved. The houses followed the curve to use every inch of space and the new houses built on the site in 2005 follow the same building line.


Part of the Drainage Plan Application for
109-117 Church Path dated 16th November 1893,
which was submitted by Mr. Osmond
(North is to the left)

The 1893 Church Path houses, like the Albion Road ones, were about 17 feet wide and about 50 feet deep, including the long back-additions. The plan shows central rectangles in the centre of each house tinted slightly darker then the rest. They may be cellars, but this is not clear. What does seem clear is that they were built on low, curved arches. How or why this was we do not know, but several people remember these arches. They appear to have been too shallow for cellars.

No. 119 Church Path

No. 119 is now the one remaining house. The other four have been demolished for various reasons, but below is a computer generated picture of the complete terrace.

The Builder of the houses

Henry Osmond, who built the ten houses on the South Villa site in 1893, was 49 years old at the time. The census return says that he was born in Hoxton, London. In 1891 he was living at 17 Lealand Road, Stamford Hill, with his wife, also aged 49 and who had been born in Essex. He was listed as a carpenter. There is no mention of him being a builder and yet, two years later, he was planning to build 10 houses. There must be an interesting story here.

In 1891 there were three children living at home - Arthur aged 20, Robert 17 and Alfred aged 8. Henry’s brother Alfred, who was also a carpenter, lived with them. So Henry had named his son after his brother. There was also a lodger in the house. He was a polisher, aged 49, the same age as Henry. Perhaps they had met at work somewhere and he was told there was a room to let. He was a lodger, not a boarder, so he must have had his own cooking facilities.

Next door, at No.19, there was an Engine fitter, his wife and family and William Garner, who was a Farrier (blacksmith who shoed horses) with his wife and family. There were fourteen people in the house, four parents and ten children.

At No. 21 lived Mr. and Mrs. Miller. He was a leather goods maker and this was his second marriage. When he married he took over a ready-made family. His step-daughter was aged 24 and the two step-sons aged 21 and 17. The step-daughter and the second step-son were also leather goods makers, but the second son was a violinist. Lastly there was a step-daughter aged 16, who is listed as a servant. This would have been a curious household. Cinderella was a servant to her own mother. Perhaps she was a servant in another house.

At No 23 were Henry Humphries, aged 57, married to Martha, 43, which means that she was 14 years younger. They had a son aged 28 who was a carpenter, like his father. If these figures are right, and many census details are wrong, Martha must have had the child when she was 14, and Henry 29.

None of this group of people, living in four adjoining houses sounds like people who build blocks of houses.

Ten years earlier, the 1881 census shows the Osmond family living in Stoke Newington, at 3 Sandbrook Road. Henry is listed as a carpenter and joiner. Clearly he could do the finer making of doors and cupboards, besides the coarser work of building roofs and laying floor joists.

The 1901 census returns of of Nos. 106 to 106d Albion Road

The First Occupants of Nos. 106 to 106d Albion Road.

The Heads of Households were as follows:-









Frederick W. Lane, 48, Architect working at home

Susannah B. Penney, 78, Widow living on her own means

Jane Eliza Groves, 51, Manageress Domestic Machines Co.

Salomon Friezer, 48, Capmaker

We shall have to wait until 2012 before we can learn more about these houses immediately before the First World War from the census returns.

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Revised: October 25, 2011 8:46 AM