Stoke Newington: Introduction

Pages 139-140

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.

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Stoke Newington

STOKE NEWINGTON (fn. 1) parish, known for its connexions with Dissent and literature, lies some 5 km. north of Bishopsgate on Ermine Street. A small, narrow parish 3.2 km. long at its farthest point and under 1.6 km. wide, it did not include the district east of the London road, which was often called Stoke Newington and included a common of that name but lay within Hackney parish. Two ancient roads formed a large part of Stoke Newington's boundaries: (fn. 2) the London road divided it from Hackney and Green Lanes, (fn. 3) with its continuation Coach and Horses Lane, from Islington and Hornsey on the west and Islington on the south. Cock and Castle Lane (Crossway), which joined the two main roads, formed the short south-east boundary, with Hackney. Field boundaries divided Stoke Newington from Tottenham on the north and Hackney on the north-east. There was no apparent logic in the boundaries with the prebend of Brownswood in Hornsey, which left three blocks of South Hornsey embedded in the southern part of Stoke Newington and some 29 a. of Clissold Park jutting into the northern part. The effect was to isolate the south-eastern corner (later Palatine ward) from the rest of the parish. There was controversy over boundaries between Stoke Newington and Brownswood in the 16th century, (fn. 4) and disputes arose with Hackney over Cock and Castle Lane in the early 19th century (fn. 5) and with Hornsey over Green Lanes and the western boundary in the 1860s and 1870s. (fn. 6) When Stoke Newington M.B. was formed in 1900, boundaries were altered, not only by the inclusion of the detached portions of South Hornsey and the rest of Brownswood, the western boundary following Seven Sisters, Blackstock, and Mountgrove roads, but by minor adjustments to the south-western boundary with Islington (fn. 7) and to the north-eastern boundary with Hackney, which thereafter followed the Great Eastern railway line and Bethune Road. (fn. 8) Stoke Newington parish contained 639 a. and the M.B. 863 a. (fn. 9) From 1965 Stoke Newington has formed the north-western part of Hackney L.B. The present article includes both the ancient parish of Stoke Newington and the detached parts of South Hornsey. (fn. 10)

London Clay covers the whole area, itself overlain by river deposits of the Boyn Hill stage: brickearth extends south across the centre from just north of Church Street, and gravel covers the south and south-east. (fn. 11) The resulting soil was a heavy clay in the north, roughly coinciding with the manorial demesne, a strong loam on the brickearth, and a gravelly soil in the south. (fn. 12) The land, 'generally much on a level', (fn. 13) lies about 25 m. above sea level, rising slightly in the north and west to 30 m. (fn. 14) The openness on the east to winds made the parish cold in winter but was thought conducive to health. (fn. 15)

Hackney or Manor brook, a tributary of the Lea, crossed the parish from Islington to Hackney. (fn. 16) When building spread in the early 19th century it became an open sewer, (fn. 17) which was eventually replaced by the High Level sewer after the formation of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855. (fn. 18) Apart from tributaries in the north-east, the whole of Hackney brook disappeared into culverts. (fn. 19) The New River, completed in 1613, meandered through the north end of the parish, with another loop in the Hornsey part of Clissold Park. (fn. 20) The original course extended into Hackney but was shortened by a new cut c. 1724. (fn. 21)

In 1825 the New River Co. agreed to improve the flow of the New River through Stoke Newington after complaints about leakage and interference with drainage, (fn. 22) and in 1831 took a lease of 50 a. of demesne land for reservoirs. (fn. 23) In 1833 two reservoirs were constructed alongside the New River partly as a reserve and partly to purify the water. In accordance with the Metropolis Water Act of 1852, (fn. 24) the company constructed filter beds and built, to the designs of William Chadwell Mylne, a large pumping station in Green Lanes, in the style of a medieval Scottish castle with towers and turrets, in 1856, having acquired another 14 a. from the Eade estate in 1855. The Metropolitan Water Board, which in 1904 superseded the New River Co., made considerable additions to the pumping station in 1936 but ceased to use it and the filter beds in 1946. (fn. 25) From that date the New River terminated at the pumping station, leaving a stretch of ornamental water in Clissold Park. (fn. 26) The board purchased the freeholds of the reservoirs from the Church Commissioners in 1958. (fn. 27)


  • 1. The article was written in 1982-3.
  • 2. W. Robinson, Hist. and Antiquities of Stoke Newington (1820), frontispiece map.
  • 3. Boundary ran W. of rd. at SW. corner, probably originally including roadside waste.
  • 4. Guildhall MS. 14233/1, s.v. 1570; Mdx. County Rec. i. 62, 64.
  • 5. Vestry mins. 1819-38, 4, 48, 50
  • 6. Ibid. 1862-89, 46, 59, 229, 294; Hackney dist. bd. of wks. Ann. Rep. (1874), 1-2.
  • 7. From Green Lanes along Petherton and Leconfield rds. to Green Lanes.
  • 8. Stoke Newington vestry, Ann. Rep. (1899-1900), 12; N. Lond. Guardian, 30 Jan. 1900 (G.L.R.O., AR/BA/2/49).
  • 9. Census, 1861, 1901.
  • 10. Brownswood is treated in V.C.H. Mdx. vi.
  • 11. Geol. Surv. Map 6", Mdx. XII. SW., SE. (1934 edn.); V.C.H. Mdx. i. 7.
  • 12. Robinson, Stoke Newington, 5; Foot, Agric. of Mdx. 9.
  • 13. Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, ii, no. 9 (1783), 2.
  • 14. O.S. Map 1/10,000, TQ 38 NW. (1975 edn.).
  • 15. Stoke Newington vestry, M.O.H. Rep. (1895), 75.
  • 16. Robinson, Stoke Newington frontispiece map.
  • 17. Mins. of Cttee. of Health, 1831 (HA P/M/BH 1); P.R.O., MH 13/261, no. 307/48.
  • 18. Metropolitan Drainage, H.C. 233, p. 271 (1857 Sess. 2), xxxvi; below, pub. svces.
  • 19. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Lond. V, X (1870 edn.).
  • 20. V.C.H. Mdx. vi. 102.
  • 21. Memo. by official of New River Co. 1793 (transcript of docs. in possession of New River Co., S.N.L. cuttings 46.2, LC 901); Robinson, Stoke Newington, map facing p. 37; H. W. Dickinson, Water Supply of Gtr. Lond. (1954), 40.
  • 22. Guildhall MS. CC. 212290.
  • 23. Ibid. 33412. The co. had 55 a. by 1848: tithe (1848), nos. 43-7, 78-9.
  • 24. 15 & 16 Vic. c. 84.
  • 25. Guildhall MS. CC. 20359; H. W. Dickinson, Water Supply of Gtr. Lond. (1954), 75; Metropol. Water Bd. Water Supply of Lond. (1953 edn.), 221; Illus. Lond. News, 22 Nov. 1856 (S.N.L. cuttings 46.2).
  • 26. M. Cosh, New River (Islington libr. 1982), 12.
  • 27. Ch. Com., Surveys S2, p. 911.