Stoke Newington is a district in the London Borough of Hackney.
Throughout all these changes, the core of Stoke Newington, centred around Stoke Newington Church Street, has retained its own distinct 'London village' character, and indeed, Nikolaus Pevsner confessed that he found it hard to see the district as being in London at all. It also has large Orthodox Jewish and Turkish populations as well as a long term Irish population.
For one small district, Stoke Newington is endowed with a generous amount of open space. To its north, there is the extensive West Reservoir, now a non-working facility, but open for leisure and surrounded by greenspace, at the entrance to which is the architecturally bizarre Castle Climbing Centre, once the main Water Board pumping station. It was originally designed to look like a towering Scottish castle, and is now much-loved in the area.
South of these facilities is Clissold Park, an extensive swathe of parkland complete with a small menagerie, aviary and Clissold Mansion, a Grade II listed building, built for Jonathan Hoare, a local Quaker, in the 1790¹s.
Tracking east from here and past the two Church of England parish churches, both called Saint Mary's (Stoke Newington strangely decided to retain the old one, unusual in a London parish), leads to Abney Park Cemetery, one of the most splendid and enlightened of Victorian London cemeteries. It is now a nature reserve, a role that it was in many ways originally intended for, as it was set up as an arboretum. Finally, across the high street to the east is the fragmented Stoke Newington Common. This, however, has its charms, largely due to the extensive and diverse programme of tree planting it has enjoyed in recent years.
The East and West Reservoirs, to the north of Clissold Park, are quite substantial for urban facilities. They were constructed in 1833 to purify the New River water and to act as a water reserve. As mentioned, the West Reservoir is now a leisure facility, offering sailing, canoeing and other water sports, plus Royal Yachting Association- approved sailing courses. Its local pump station is set out as a visitor centre, with a café, and pieces of the old hydraulic machinery can be viewed in the main pump hall. The other main pumping station at the reservoir gates, now a climbing centre (as mentioned above) was designed in its distinctive castellated style by William Chadwell Mylne (a past Snell Exhibitioner) and built in 1856.
Besides the water board facilities and the New River, Clissold Park also contains two large ornamental lakes, a home to many water birds and a population of terrapins. These lakes - purportedly the remains of clay pits dug for the bricks used in the building of Clissold House - are all that is left to mark the course of the Hackney Brook, one of London's lost rivers, which once flowed from west to east across Stoke Newington on its way to the River Lea. In flood at this point, the brook was known to span 10 metres. The two lakes are not actually fed from the brook, which has long disappeared into the maze of sewers under London, but from the mains supply - ultimately the New River.
Stoke Newington or 'new town in the wood', has been lightly settled for many hundreds of years, close to larger neighbouring Saxon settlements near the River Lea. In the nineteenth century it was discovered that Stoke Newington Common and Abney Park Cemetery had been part of a Neolithic working area for axe-making, some examples of which can be seen in the Museum of London.
Stoke Newington is recorded as part of the Ossulstone hundred in the county of Middlesex in the Domesday Book of 1086. In the 17th century, for administrative purposes the west of Stoke Newington High Street became part of the new Finsbury division and the east part of the Tower division. Both divisions were in 1889 then incorporated into the County of London.
In the Middle Ages and Tudor times it was a very small village a few miles from the city of London, frequently visited by wayfarers as a pit stop before journeying north, Stoke Newington High Street being part of the Cambridge road (A10). At this date the whole Manor was owned by St. Paul's Cathedral and yielded a small income, enough to support part of their work. During the 17th century the Cathedral sold the Manor to William Patten who became the first Lord of the Manor. His initials 'WP' and the motto 'ab alto' can be seen inscribed above the doorway of the old church next to Clissold Park. A century later it passed to Lady Mary Abney who drew up the first detailed maps of field boundaries and began to lay out a manorial parkland behind today's Fire Station on Church Street, with the aid of Dr Isaac Watts and her daughters.
During the early 19th century, as London expanded, the Manor of Stoke Newington was 'enfranchised' to be sold in parcels as freehold land for building purposes. Gradually the village became absorbed into the seamless expansion of London. It was no longer a separate village by the mid to late 1800s.
Being on the outskirts at this time, many expensive and large houses were built to house London's expanding population of nouveau riche whose journey to the commercial heart of the capital was made possible by the birth of the railways and the first omnibuses. The latter were first introduced into central London in the 1820s by George Shillibeer, following his successful trial in a more limited capacity of the first school bus in the world for William Allen and Susannah Corder's novel Quaker school at Fleetwood House, Abney Park in Stoke Newington.
St Mary's Lodge on Lordship Road - the 1843 home of noted architect and District Surveyor John Young - is the last-surviving of several grand detached homes built in the area around that time for well-off members of the new commuter class.
As a late Victorian and Edwardian suburb, Stoke Newington prospered, and continued in relative affluence and civic pride with its own municipal government until changes brought about by the Second World War.
Gibson Gardens, an early example of quality tenement buildings erected for the housing of 'the industrious classes' were built off Stoke Newington High Street in 1880 and still stand today.
During World War II, much of the area was damaged in the Blitz, and many were made homeless, although the level of destruction was much lower than in those areas of East London further south, such as Stepney or Shoreditch, or even in next-door Hackney. The death toll, too, was relatively low, almost three-quarters of civilian deaths being due to one tragic incident on 13 October 1940, when a crowded shelter, at Coronation Avenue off the high street, received a direct hit. The memorial to all the residents of the Borough who died in the air raids, including local Jewish people, can be seen in Abney Park Cemetery. And (like Hackney and Tottenham), Stoke Newington avoided most of the later V-weapon attacks, which fell disproportionately on South London; only a total of seven V-1s and two V-2s hit the borough.
So most of the historic buildings at the heart of Stoke Newington survived, at least in a repairable state. A notable exception was the classically grand Parish Church of West Hackney, St James's, on Stoke Newington High Street, which dated from 1824. This was so severely damaged in the October 1940 bombing that the entire church had to be demolished, never to be rebuilt. It was replaced after the war by a much more modest structure, St Paul's, which is set well back from the street. Traces of the old church's stonework can still be seen facing the High Street.
After the war a substantial amount of residential housing, particularly to the east of modern Stoke Newington, in Hackney borough at the time, had been either destroyed or left in such a bad state that it was seen by the urban planners of that era as better to demolish it. Postwar redevelopment has replaced many of these areas with large estates, some more successful than others. Much of this residential redevelopment was planned by Frederick Gibberd, the designer of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.
Ever a home to radicals, Communist Party meetings were held in the Town Hall in the post-war years. And although Stoke Newington became part of the London Borough of Hackney in 1965, it has never quite lost its own identity. Indeed, following the 1960s, it increasingly became home to a number of squatters, artists, bohemians and also political radicals. Famously, the 'Stoke Newington 8' were arrested on 20 August 1971 at 359 Amhurst Road for suspected involvement in The Angry Brigade bombings.
The most famous examples of political terrorism by Stoke Newington residents, none originally from the area, are Patrick Hayes, Jan Taylor and Muktar Said Ibrahim. The first two were convicted of two bombings and had substantial links to the huge lorry bombs of the 1990s. Both were arrested, firing at officers in Walford Road and later sentenced to thirty years imprisonment. The third, Muktar Said Ibrahim, was arrested in Farleigh Road and later convicted of planting a failed bomb on the 26 bus, misfiring later in Shoreditch on the 21st July 2005.
These days, Stoke Newington is a very multicultural area, with large Asian, Irish, Turkish, Jewish and Afro-Caribbean communities. The area continues to be home to many new and emerging communities such as Polish and Somali immigrants. In recent years, the area has undergone a rapid gentrification, attracting many affluent professionals and the housing around Stoke Newington Church Street in particular has become increasingly desirable. It is also worth noting that Stoke Newington is home to both a very large lesbian community and the greatest number of young families in London.
On Saturday mornings, the playground of William Patten Primary school, in Stoke Newington Church Street, hosts an active farmers' market This was the first farmers’ market in the UK to have only organic and biodynamic producers.
Grade II (selective)
There are many Grade II listed properties on Stoke Newington Church Street, the historical heart of the district, and two other notable residential streets to the west of the district — Albion Road and Clissold Road — are replete with listed properties.