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Stoke Newington

Links - a site aimed at schools developing local histories.  It begins with a very comprehensive history of Stoke Newington’s development from the 18th century onwards.

British History online - from the 1985 History of the County of Middlesex, volume 6.  Very detailed.

The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Stoke Newington - an 1842 online book by William Robinson

Time Line - subtitled Fun and Facts about Stoke Newington and Hackney History and Heritage, this is an online (and paper I think) magazine about the history of the district.  Odds and ends of interest.  There is a comprehensive index.

Photographs - A set of photographs on Flickr taken by Alan Denney, a Stoke Newington resident, of the area in which he lives.  They date from 1975.

Vision of Britain - The usual statistical and factual information.

Stoke Newington Quakers - I think this is a subset of the Quakers site - anyway a fairly comprehensive history of the Quakers in Stoke Newington.

The National Archives - From the National Archives Education section comes this illustrated history of Tudor Hackney

Hidden London - a brief overview with lots of interesting little snippets.

Hackney Museum - videos about Hackney and its history as well as a guide to their collections

The Hackney Society - is the local society dedicated to preserving Hackney’s heritage.

The Radical History of Hackney - This page is a reproduction of a Centreprise talk on Working Class Life and Politics in Hackney 1870-1900.

Abney Park Trust - The Trust now manages the cemetery.  It is a wonderful place.  On the Grave Searches page you will find a link to a surname search of burials in the cemetery.

Richard Smith 1784-1854

Charles Richard Smith

Robert Mollett 1783-1866

robert mollett gravestone 4.jpg

My first teaching job was in Stoke Newington - then an ‘officially’ deprived area of London education wise.  We were paid extra to teach there and the children were from poor, mostly West Indian, immigrant families.  On a recent visit to England I made the pilgrimage there because, in the meantime, I had discovered that two separate yet ultimately connected, sets of ancestors had lived there, and that one of them was buried with members of his family, in the wonderfully atmospheric Victorian Abney Park Cemetery.  The picture I have chosen to head this page is one of my great-great-great grandfather Mollett’s family tomb - the boxy one in the middle overgrown with ivy.  And on this trip I also discovered that, although not a wealthy area, there were signs that Stoke Newington was moving up in the world again - due no doubt to its proximity to the City.  The cultural mix was somewhat different too - there were still West Indians, but there were also lots of East European and Turkish shops.  So maybe, one day it will come full circle, for at one point in time it was the home of millionaires.  “a venerable old town .... filled with tree-lined avenues and a thousand shrubberies"

Paradise Row 1750.jpg

As you can see from the long list of links above this is a place that has had much written about it.   It also seems to have a very active community spirit - in keeping with its history.  I keep finding new sites dedicated to it.   So I shall not write much here.  You will be much better served if you visit any or all of them.  They each have their own particular slant on the place, so pick and choose.


As far as early history is concerned, there have been people here since paleolithic times.  The Roman road, Ermine Street passed through here.  This is now the A10 which leads to Cambridge.  So because of this road Stoke Newington became a popular stopping place along the way.  It must have once been a wooded place for the name means ‘new town in the wood’.  In Tudor times it was a small village, and in the seventeenth century, St Paul’s Cathedral which owned the lands around there sold them to William Patten (the namesake of the school in which I taught) and he became the first lord of the manor.   The eighteenth century continued the establishment of very large houses with large estates.  This is the time when it became a millionaires playground.

Paradise Row and the New River in 1750

Paradise Bridge & clissold House.jpg
Abney House 1845.png
Paradise row.jpg
paradise row 19 c.jpg

in the nineteenth century it became a very fashionable home for the working rich who were now in commuting distance of London via railways and better roads.  Many of them built substantial homes in the area, but with less land than the manor houses.  Paradise Row continued to flourish, as shown in the two pictures at left, but other areas within Stoke Newington also contained gracious homes.

Above - Two of the grand mansions - Clissold House at the top (which is still standing), with Paradise Row and Abney House below.

However, in the late nineteenth century many of the larger parcels of land were sold off and much denser housing was built, some of it for the working classes and I guess the area gradually declined until the time I knew it, when it and very many inner London suburbs were decaying, poor and uninviting to the English.  This was the time when ghettos of West Indians, Indians and Pakistanis developed, but over time our perception of immigrants have changed, the groups of immigrants have changed and the fundamental desirability of living close to the City of London has been recognised, with the accompanying gentrification of such areas.  Stoke Newington may not yet have reached the status of Islington or Wapping or the Isle of Dogs, but it’s time cannot be far off.   Indeed it is obviously a culturally active area.  Inhabitants seem to like to call themselves Stokeys it seems, there are trendy food shops and cafés and many other cultural activiites.  Art seems to be a big thing, particularly street art.  Banksy has contributed to the walls.  

street art.jpg
modern print.jpg
girl of wolsey road.jpg
Bus poster.jpg

Some examples - the bus poster is modern, though in a vintage kind of style.


The print below is by Jesse Richards and certainly has a trendy sort of feel to it.

The other thing that leaps out at you when you start to look into Stoke Newington, is that first and foremost Stoke Newington is known for its radical dissenting history.  Famous inhabitants include Daniel Defoe and Edgar Allan Poe, (his house is shown at right) and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was a centre for various nonconformist churches - most notably perhaps the Quakers who met at Gracechurch. In the nineteenth century this was where the largest concentration of Quakers was.  I have not yet come across an explanation of why this should be so, although in the late nineteenth century when Abney Park Cemetery was opened, nonconformists were attracted to it because they could be buried there.  Suffice to say that Stoke Newington’s place in the nonconformist world is assured.  Indeed my Smith ancestors, who lived here, were nonconformists themselves - of the Wesleyan persuasion I believe and involved in the church management.  There are some who say that it is still a hotbed of radicalism and dissent.  


The painting at right is of the Quaker Meeting House.


So perhaps not a blindingly obvious place to visit when one is in London but nevertheless a place with much to offer of interest.  A treasure trove in fact.

quakers at gracechurch.jpg
poe's house.jpg

Richard Smith 1784-1854

Charles Richard Smith

Robert Mollett 1783-1866

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