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Stoke Newington is an area occupying the northwest part of the London Borough of Hackney, England. The area is five miles (eight kilometres) northeast of Charing Cross. The Manor of Stoke Newington gave its name to Stoke Newington the ancient parish.
The historic core on Stoke Newington Church Street retains the distinct London village character which led Nikolaus Pevsner to write in 1953 that he found it hard to see the district as being in London at all.
The modern London Borough of Hackney was formed in 1965 by the merger of three former Metropolitan Boroughs, Hackney and the smaller authorities of Stoke Newington and Shoreditch. These Metropolitan Boroughs had been in existence since 1899 but their names and boundaries were very closely based on parishes dating back to the Middle Ages.
Unlike many London districts, such as nearby Stamford Hill and Dalston, Stoke Newington has longstanding fixed boundaries; however, to many. the informal perception of Stoke Newington has blurred over time, to stretch east of the originally Roman A10 to overlap areas of the former Ancient Parish and subsequent Metropolitan Borough of Hackney.
The Metropolitan Borough largely adopted the Ancient Parish’s boundaries, including the eastern boundary which followed the A10 road, though there were minor rationalisations, notably the transfer of areas of Hornsey.
Stoke Newington’s northern and western boundaries have become the north-west borders of the modern London Borough. The eastern boundary was formed by the A10 road where it goes by the name Stoke Newington High Street (originally High Street, until a name change in 1937) and Stoke Newington Road (meaning the road to the hamlet of Stoke Newington), further south.
These boundaries included the sites of the small hamlet of Stoke Newington and part of Newington Green, however it excluded the open space known since the early 20th century as Stoke Newington Common (originally Cockhangar Green), and Stoke Newington railway station was built close to, but just outside this area.
More recently, Stoke Newington has come to be viewed by many as extending east of the A10 to overlap the AP\MB of Hackney to include West Hackney, an ill-defined area of the N16 postal area which includes Stoke Newington railway station, Rectory Road railway station and Stoke Newington Common.
As a consequence Stoke Newington, like nearby Stamford Hill, has become closely associated with the N16 postcode, though a significant part of western Stoke Newington is covered by the N4 postcode district.
The Manor (estate) of Stoke Newington was part of a huge block of land around London held by the Diocese of London. This broad area comprised many estates, stretching from the Manor of Stepney in the east (of which neighbouring Hackney was a part), to Willesden in the west and Hornsey in the north. The Manor is recorded, as Neutone, in the Domesday Book of 1086, as being part of the Ossulstone hundred of the county of Middlesex. Domesday also records that the Manor was held by St Paul’s both before and after the Norman Conquest. Stoke Newington was a Prebendary Manor, providing an income to the work of the cathedral.
The Ancient Parish of Stoke Newington was established to serve the area of the Manor with which it was coterminous and, like other parishes would have had its boundaries permanently fixed by the 1180s, even if the boundaries of the underlying Manor changed (though manor boundaries were generally stable at this early date).
From the Tudor period, parishes were obliged to take on a civil as well as ecclesiastical role, with the administration of the new Poor Law of 1601.
In the 17th century, the Ossulstone Hundred was sub-divided, with the parish of Stoke Newington, lying on the west side of Stoke Newington High Street, becoming part of the new Finsbury division and the parish of Hackney to the east becoming part of the Tower division.
The Ancient Parishes provided a framework for both civil (administrative) and ecclesiastical (church) functions, but during the nineteenth century there was a divergence into distinct civil and ecclesiastical parish systems. In London the Ecclesiastical Parishes sub-divided to better serve the needs of a growing population, while the Civil Parishes continued to be based on the same Ancient Parish areas.
The Metropolis Management Act 1855 merged the Civil Parishes of Hackney and Stoke Newington under a new Hackney District. This proved very unpopular, especially in more affluent Stoke Newington and after four unsuccessful attempts the two parishes regained their independence when they were separated by mutual consent under the Metropolis Management (Plumstead and Hackney) Act of 1893.
The London Government Act 1899 converted the parishes into Metropolitan Boroughs based on the same boundaries, sometimes with mergers or minor boundary rationalisations . Stoke Newington was smaller than the desired size for the new boroughs, and there were proposals to re-merge Stoke Newington and Hackney, or to detach the northern part of Hackney and join it with Stoke Newington. These proposals were rejected due to the experience of “intolerable and interminable feuds” between the districts when they were previously “forced together”, and because Parliament recognised that there was “great ill-feeling and mutual ill-will… between the inhabitants of the two districts”.
Stoke Newington was permitted to become an independent Borough, and most of South Hornsey (also a part of the Finsbury Division was transferred to Stoke Newington in order to increase the size of the new authority. Parts of South Hornsey had previously been exclaves which separated southern Stoke Newington from the rest of the area. The Finsbury Division was abolished at that time.
Stoke Newington lost its independence in 1965, when it merged with the Metropolitan Boroughs of Hackney and Shoreditch to form the new London Borough of Hackney.
Stoke Newington is part of the Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency which has been represented by Labour MP Diane Abbott since 1987.
Stoke Newington or ‘new town in the wood’, has been lightly settled for hundreds of years, close to larger neighbouring Saxon settlements near the River Lea. In the 19th 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.
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 her daughters and Dr Isaac Watts. During the course of the century, given its proximity to the city a number of Quaker and nonconformist families became settled in the area.
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 19th century.
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 of the world’s first school bus for William Allen and Susanna Corder’s novel Quaker school, Newington Academy for Girls. By the mid-19th century, Stoke Newington had “the largest concentration of Quakers in London”, including many who had moved up the A10 from Gracechurch Street meeting house in the city. A meeting house was built in Park Street (now Yoakley Road) by the architect William Alderson, who later designed Hanwell Pauper and Lunatic Asylum. The Anglican St Mary’s Church, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1854–58, replaced the older parish church (also St. Mary’s), which survives on the opposite side of Church Street.
St Mary’s Lodge on Lordship Road, the 1843 home of architect and district surveyor John Young, is the last-surviving (though now ruined and derelict) of several grand detached houses built in the area around that time for well-off members of the new commuter class. Gibson Gardens, an early example of quality tenement buildings erected for the housing of ‘the industrious classes’, was built off Stoke Newington High Street in 1880 and still stands today.
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.
Between 1935 and 1937, the curved brick and Portland stone Town Hall was built for the Metropolitan Borough of Stoke Newington by J. Reginald Truelove.
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 was also relatively low: almost three-quarters of civilian deaths being due to one 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. Like Hackney, Stoke Newington avoided most of the later V-weapon attacks, which fell disproportionately on South London; seven V-1s and two V-2s hit the borough.
Most of the historic buildings at the heart of Stoke Newington survived, at least in a repairable state. Two notable exceptions are the classically grand parish church of West Hackney, St James’s, on Stoke Newington Road, which dated from 1824, and St Faith’s, a Victorian Gothic church by William Burges. Both were so severely damaged, the former in the October 1940 bombing, and the latter by a flying bomb in 1944, that they were entirely demolished. St James’s 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 Stoke Newington Road.
During the war a substantial amount of residential housing had been destroyed, and in the armath much was demolished, being considered beyond economic repair. 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.
Communist Party meetings were held in the Town Hall in the post-war years. From the 1970s onwards the area has experienced, or been associated with, a number of terrorist acts. The ‘Stoke Newington 8’ were arrested on 20 August 1971 at 359 Amhurst Road for suspected involvement in The Angry Brigade bombings.
Stoke Newington residents Patrick Hayes and Jan Taylor (not originally from the area) were convicted of two IRA bombings and had substantial links to lorry bombs in the 1990s. Both were arrested, firing at officers in Walford Road and later sentenced to thirty years imprisonment.
Muktar Said Ibrahim was convicted, as the ring leader, on an indictment of conspiracy to murder. He planted a failed bomb on a 26 bus, which misfired later on the Hackney Road on 21 July 2005. In February 2005, police were seeking Ibrahim on an arrest warrant for an outstanding public order offence. After the attack, Ibrahim was seen on the run in Farleigh Road and was later arrested in Dalgrano Gardens. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of forty years before being considered for release.
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.
Stoke Newington has undergone major gentrification, as have neighbouring Newington Green, Canonbury and Dalston. Church Street includes many independent shops, pubs, bars and cafes.
In 2022 traders formed the Stoke Newington Business Association and launched “See you in Stokey” – a website dedicated to the area including event listings, articles, area guides and much more.
In the north of the district is the extensive West Reservoir, now a non-working facility, but open for leisure and surrounded by green space. At the entrance is the Castle Climbing Centre, once the main Water Board pumping station. It was designed, by William Chadwell Mylne, to look like a towering Scottish castle.
To the south of these facilities is Clissold Park, which contains a small menagerie, aviary and Clissold Mansion, a Grade II listed building, built in the 1790s for Jonathan Hoare, a local Quaker and brother of Samuel Hoare.
East from here and past the two Church of England parish churches, both called St Mary’s (Stoke Newington decided to retain the old one, unusual in a London parish), is Abney Park Cemetery, one of the most splendid and enlightened of Victorian London cemeteries. It is the main London burial ground for 19th-century non-conformist ministers and William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, is buried here. It is now a nature reserve. Abney Park was scheduled in 2009 as one of Britain’s historic parks and gardens at risk from neglect and decay.
Across the high street to the east is the fragmented Stoke Newington Common, which has had an extensive and diverse programme of tree planting.
From the 16th century onwards, Stoke Newington has played a prominent role in assuring a water supply to sustain London’s rapid growth. The artificial New River runs through the area and still makes a contribution to London’s water. It used to terminate at the New River Head in Finsbury, but since 1946 its main flow has ended at Stoke Newington reservoirs. The river bank, the New River Path, can be walked for some distance to the north through Haringey and on to its source near Hertford.
Stoke Newington East and West Reservoirs were constructed in 1833 to hold water prior to treatment in the New River Company’s filter beds on the other side of Green Lanes, in the area now known as Brownswood Park. Water is now sent from here to the Lee Valley Reservoir Chain for treatment.
The West Reservoir is now a leisure facility, offering sailing, canoeing and other water sports, plus Royal Yachting Association-approved sailing courses. On its western edge stands the former filter house, now set out as a visitor centre with a café; some of the old hydraulic machinery can be viewed in the main hall. The pumping station at the reservoir gates, converted to a climbing centre in 1995 was designed in a distinctive castellated style by Robert Billings under the supervision of William Chadwell Mylne and built in 1854–56. The site is still used as a pumping station for the Thames Water Ring Main.
Besides the water board facilities and the New River, Clissold Park 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 fed from the brook, which has disappeared into the maze of sewers under London, but from the mains supply.
At the time of the 2011 census, there were 13,658 residents in Stoke Newington Central ward. Of these, 63.1% were White (44.9% British, 15.2% Other, 2.9% Irish and Gypsy or Irish Traveller, 0.1%). 16.6% was Black (7.3% Caribbean, 6.2% African, 3.1% Other) and 9.9% was Asian (4.2% Indian, 1.3% Pakistani, 1.6% Bangladeshi, 0.8% Chinese and 2% Other).
33.8% of the ward were Christian, 11.1% Muslim, 3.2% Jewish, 39% had no religion and 10% did not state their religion.
Although Stoke Newington contains only one Grade I listed building (St Matthias Church), and several Grade II* and Grade II buildings.
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.
Close to the local pub The Lion, local resident and property owner Sofie Attrill gave consent for pop group Blur to create some publicity for their 2003 single “Crazy Beat”. The album’s cover and single artwork were undertaken by graffiti artist Banksy, with the single featuring a spoof image of the British Royal Family, replicated as a mural on the building. By 2009 it had become a tourist attraction, but Hackney Council had wanted to remove all graffiti from the area and tried to contact the building owner to gain her agreement to remove the artwork. Unable to contact her due to incorrect Land Registry records, they started painting over the artwork with black paint. They were stopped after they had partly covered the mural.
About 1+1⁄2 miles (2.5 kilometres) away, the nearest London Underground station is Manor House on the Piccadilly line.
It is served by bus routes 67, 73, 76, 106, 141, 149, 243, 276, 341, 393 and 476 and Night Buses N73 and N76. 149, 243 and 341 are 24-hour services.
Stoke Newington is well known for its pubs and bars, lively music scene, including contemporary jazz, and open mic comedy sessions. The Vortex Jazz Club used to be on Church Street but has now moved to Dalston.
Since 2010, Stoke Newington has also had its own literary festival, created to celebrate the area’s literary and radical history. It takes place in early June in venues across the area and was described in 2011 by Time Out magazine as ‘Just like Hay-on-Wye, but in Hackney’, by The Times as one of its ‘Top 5 Summer of Books’ and by Londonist.com as ‘a literary festival that’s thrown its pretensions in a skip’.
A Stoke Newington music festival was instituted in 2015, taking place at various venues around town in late October. The 2016 festival saw a performance by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth at the Mascara Bar stage on Sunday 23 October and by Hank Wangford that same evening at the main stage at St Paul’s Church Hall. For the 2017 festival, the main St Paul’s stage was headlined on Friday 20 to Sunday 22 October by The Cesarians, The Featherz and The Frank Chickens respectively on each night. In 2018 the St Paul’s stage was used only on the Sunday with the Mascara Bar serving as main stage, headlined on Friday 19 to Sunday 21 October by the Cesarians again, Dodgy and Urban Voodoo Machine frontman Paul-Ronney Angel. Mediæval Bæbes also appeared on the Friday at the Abney Public Hall.