Stoke Newington: Growth, between the world wars

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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A P Baggs. Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot, 'Stoke Newington: Growth, between the world wars', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985), pp. 158-160. British History Online [accessed 23 June 2024].

A P Baggs. Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot. "Stoke Newington: Growth, between the world wars", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985) 158-160. British History Online, accessed June 23, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Bolton, Diane K. Croot, Patricia E C. "Stoke Newington: Growth, between the world wars", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985). 158-160. British History Online. Web. 23 June 2024,

Between the world wars

In 1919, when no working-class houses had been built for 10 years, about half of the 8,028 houses were working-class and three quarters were tenemented. Overcrowding was particularly acute in South Hornsey where there were on average more than two occupants to a room. (fn. 48) In 1921 Stoke Newington was 'not one of the worst boroughs', with an average of 1.67 families to a dwelling. There were then 103 blocks of flats (housing 2,390) and the population was densest in Palatine and Church wards, with 147 and 122 people to the acre, and lowest in Lordship and Manor wards, with 19 and 35 to the acre. (fn. 49)

Eleven houses were built in the northern part of Green Lanes in the 1920s and J. Pryor put up three in Queen Elizabeth's Walk in 1923. (fn. 50) The southern side of Woodberry Grove was built up during the 1920s, partly by Rock Estates, which also built at the north-east end of Seven Sisters Road and at Woodberry Down in the late 1920s and early 1930s, accounting for most of the 89 houses and flats built between 1918 and 1930. (fn. 51) By 1931 there were 8,196 occupied and 172 vacant dwellings. (fn. 52)

There was a little private building during the 1930s, mostly north of Church Street: 9 houses on the north side of Eade Road and 7 shops in Trumans Road and Stoke Newington Road in 1932; (fn. 53) 4 houses in Bethune Road behind no. 93 Amhurst Park and 3 by Bernstein Properties behind no. 289 Seven Sisters Road in 1933; 6 by Bernstein behind no. 287 and 9 by other builders on the site of nos. 307 and 331 Seven Sisters Road, 6 in Woodberry Down and 6 by Foux in St. Andrew's Road in 1934. In 1928 nos. 203-5 Albion Road were converted into flats (Alexandra Villas), as was no. 241 Green Lanes in 1933. Flats were built at no. 182 Green Lanes in 1935, at no. 100 Amhurst Park in 1936, and by Lydford Estates in Green Lanes in 1937. The last were probably part of the redevelopment, necessitated by the opening of Manor House tube station in 1932, in which the hotel was rebuilt, the street widened, and new flats and shops were erected. (fn. 54) During the 1920s and 1930s large factories took most of the few remaining vacant spaces, often within a triangle or rectangle formed by the backs of houses. The largest space, on the Willows estate, was covered with the factory buildings of Carysfort Road and Shelford Place. (fn. 55)

In 1921 Stoke Newington borough council built its first flats on land purchased from the Church Commissioners in Lordship Grove, at the southern end of Lordship Road. (fn. 56) The 18 flats, however, were already said to be in danger of collapse in 1928. (fn. 57) In an attempt to relieve overcrowding, 111 families from Stoke Newington were rehoused in L.C.C. estates outside the borough in 1927-30. (fn. 58) In 1933 the borough council declared seven clearance areas under the 1930 Housing Act: Masons Court and Place, Rochester Place, and White Hart Court, all off the London road, Selsea Place, off Crossway, Hewling Street, once part of the Grove House estate, and Leonard Place in Albert Town. Barn Street was added in 1934. (fn. 59) The Church Commissioners sold a site at the corner of Queen Elizabeth's Walk and Lordship Terrace to the council, which in 1934 opened three blocks (Ormond, Clissold, and Lordship houses), 100 flats in all, for those displaced by clearance. At the same time land south of the council flats of 1921 and stretching to Lordship Terrace was sold by the commissioners to the L.C.C., which agreed to an exchange, (fn. 60) and in 1937 the borough council opened four more blocks, named after trees and containing 96 flats, east of the existing 100 flats. (fn. 61) The site acquired in the exchange was Glebe Place, which had been purchased in 1927 by the borough for swimming baths, built in 1928, and public housing. (fn. 62) In 1937 the L.C.C. opened blocks, named after rectors of Stoke Newington, of 74 flats in all on the Glebe Place site and Clissold Court in Greenway Close, north of Clissold Park. (fn. 63)

In 1937 the Church Commissioners erected Denman House, the first of five blocks for 89 families on land adjoining the borough council's flats, south of Lordship Terrace, between Lordship Road and Edward's Lane, replacing 50 early 19th-century cottages. (fn. 64) By 1937 Stoke Newington contained 6,764 undivided houses and 1,257 flats. (fn. 65) Another three blocks containing 90 flats were built on the Hewling Street site between Howard and Matthias roads in 1939. (fn. 66)

The most ambitious housing scheme was for a vast L.C.C. estate on 64 a. at Woodberry Down. Herbert Morrison proposed in 1936 to replace the 185 houses occupied by 1,200 people, only 200 of whom were working-class, by flats for 12,000 slum-dwellers from the East End. His supporters argued that many old houses were in multiple occupation and others were 'rotten property'. Opponents, who included the borough council and most local organizations, objected that the scheme would demolish well built houses and completely change the character of Stoke Newington; (fn. 67) instead of replacing dingy streets in the south part of the borough it involved planting thousands of Labour voters in the heart of a Conservative area. (fn. 68) A compulsory purchase order was confirmed in 1937. The L.C.C. produced a scheme for 1,667 flats in 1938. (fn. 69) In 1939 it bought the freehold of the triangular area bounded by the New River from the Church Commissioners, (fn. 70) whereupon progress was halted by the war.

The ratio of females in the population, 54 per cent, remained the same in 1921 and 1931 and was cited in 1921 as an indication that, although changed, Stoke Newington was not yet an industrial borough. (fn. 71) In 1921 there were 16,307 employed men, of whom the largest proportion, 146 per 1,000, worked in commerce, finance, and insurance, and 107 per 1,000 were clerks and draftsmen. Stoke Newington ranked first among London boroughs in the number of commercial travellers (21 per 1,000) and second in that of clerks. (fn. 72) The City clerk portrayed in Priestley's Angel Pavement, published in 1930, lived in a sixroomed house 'between the High Street and Clissold Park'. (fn. 73) The largest category of industrial workers in 1921 was those in metal, with 61 per 1,000. There were 9,428 women in paid employment. Domestic service was still the largest category, with 276 per 1,000, but the clothing industry, which employed 203 per 1,000, was catching up and there were 178 per 1,000 female clerks and typists and another 81 per 1,000 women in commerce and finance. Forty-three per cent of the working population were employed outside the borough, 4,445 of them in the City. In 1932 it was observed that Stoke Newington had, since the 18th century, been mainly a residential district for people working in the City but that there was no longer so high a proportion of the well-to-do. Most inhabitants, 73.4 per cent in 1921, had been born in London and probably included part of the 'considerable influx' of Jews within the last 30 years. (fn. 74) First-generation Jewish immigrants were represented in 1921 by some 1,270 born in Russia, Poland, or Germany. (fn. 75)

Slums, caused by an increasing population and shortage of land, were a dominant problem in the period between the World Wars. In 1930 it was said that most houses had been built between 1870 and 1890 and were leasehold. Widespread subletting had 'a lowering effect on the general status of the district', added to which was the tendency, especially in the south, for private houses to be used by small businesses. Landlords failed to enforce repair clauses, causing a general dilapidation. The resulting damp and the inhabiting of basements, which were sometimes ratinfested, led to an increase in rheumatism and respiratory disease. Stoke Newington, long noted for its health, had a death rate by 1930 (12.2) that was higher than London's average, with tuberculosis the fourth largest cause of death. (fn. 76) The clearance areas of 1933 were in 1929-30 'below Booth's poverty line' and the whole of Albert Town, a 'mass of unskilled labourers etc. above the poverty line', was also overcrowded and included decayed 19th-century property and ill kept blocks of tenements. The rest of the area south of Church Street, and also stretching north of Church Street to Grayling Road and including land in the north-west, north of Woodberry Grove, housed 'skilled workers and similar'. (fn. 77) Migration alleviated some of the overcrowding in the south and by 1931 the density in Palatine and Church wards had improved to 133.5 and 113.6 people to the acre. During the 1930s the worst of the slums were replaced by council housing.

The contrast between north and south continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The Jews who settled during the 1930s in St. Olave's parish in the north (fn. 78) were unlike the poor Jews who had previously flooded in farther south. They followed Jewish purchases of Church Commission property in the north between 1916 and 1929, who included a furrier from Commercial Street, a Hatton Garden jeweller, a mantle manufacturer from Howard Road, and a merchant and a clothier from Bow. (fn. 79) Jacob Gestetner, brother and partner of the founder of the duplicating-machine firm, moved to no. 21 Lordship Park in 1920. (fn. 80) In 1928 the Woodberry Down site coveted by the L.C.C. contained large houses with gardens backing on the New River and reservoirs, inhabited by, among others, Sir John Baddeley (d. 1926), lord mayor of London 1921-2, (fn. 81) Albert Chevalier (d. 1923), the music hall singer and comedian, (fn. 82) H. J. Beavis, prominent in local government, (fn. 83) and Sir G.W.H. Jones, Stoke Newington's M.P. (fn. 84) In 1929-30 the whole area between Seven Sisters Road and Manor Road was classified as wealthy, (fn. 85) although pressure on housing eventually led to a change even there. In 1934 the Church Commissioners wanted to use the Lordship Terrace site for good-class houses and flats, but under threat of compulsory purchase put up working-class housing. (fn. 86) In the late 1930s, before building started on the Woodberry Down estate, the area began to run down as people left or neglected property in anticipation of purchase by the L.C.C.


  • 48. Stoke Newington boro. M.O.H. Rep. (1919), 324.
  • 49. Census, 1921.
  • 50. Cutting 23 Mar. 1923 (S.N.L. cuttings 55.4).
  • 51. Stoke Newington boro. M.O.H. Rep. (1930).
  • 52. Census, 1931.
  • 53. G.L.R.O., CL/LOC/1/64 (L.C.C. Local Govt. Cttee.).
  • 54. Stoke Newington, Official Guide (1938), 47.
  • 55. O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Lond. II. 10, 11, 14, 15; V. 3 (1915, 1936 edns.); below, econ., industry.
  • 56. Stoke Newington boro. M.O.H. Rep. (1921); cutting 29 June 1921 (S.N.L. cuttings 41.8 LOR); Ch. Com., Estate maps, Stoke Newington Estate 3.
  • 57. Stoke Newington Recorder, 8 June 1928 (S.N.L. illus. 41.8 LOR, LC 2709).
  • 58. Stoke Newington boro. M.O.H. Rep. (1930); The Times, 14 Nov. 1933, 11c.
  • 59. Official Opening of Lordship Rd.-Lordship Terr. Housing Est. 1934 (S.N.L. cuttings 41.8 LOR, LC 471).
  • 60. The Times, 2 Aug. 1933, 7c; 29 Sept. 1934, 14c; Builder, 21 Sept. 1934 (S.N.L. illus. 41.8 LOR, LC 1913); Ch. Com. file 6439 pt. 2.
  • 61. The Times, 25 Jan. 1937, 14d; Official Opening of Lordship Terr.-Queen Eliz.'s Walk, 1937 (S.N.L. 41.8, LC 1590).
  • 62. Opening of Pub. Swimming Bath, 1930 (S.N.L. cuttings 46.26).
  • 63. Stoke Newington, Official Guide (1938), 46, 57-9; (1950), 58; L.C.C. Lond. Statistics, xli (1936-8), 150.
  • 64. The Times, 3 May 1937, 11a; Architect and Bldg. News, 6 Aug. 1937 (S.N.L. illus. 41.8 DEN, LC 2389); Stoke Newington, Official Guide (1938), 59.
  • 65. Stoke Newington boro. Ann. Rep. 1936-7 (S.N.L. 34.3).
  • 66. Stoke Newington B.C. Mins. 1937-8, 30; Builder, 25 Aug. 1939 (S.N.L. illus. 41.8 HEW, LC 2178, 2369-71); N. Lond. Recorder, 8 July 1938 (S.N.L. cuttings 41.8 HEW, LC 3101); Stoke Newington, Official Guide [1955], 58.
  • 67. The Times, 24 Feb. 1936, 9g; Hackney Gaz. 28 Feb. 1936 (S.N.L. cuttings 41.8); L.C.C. Woodberry Down Housing Scheme (S.N.L. illus. 41.8 WOO, LC 1493); G.L.R.O., CL/ HSL/2/55 (L.C.C., Housing and Pub. Health Cttee. rep. on Woodberry Down site).
  • 68. N. Lond. Recorder, 28 Feb. 1936 (S.N.L. cuttings 41.8).
  • 69. G.L.R.O., CL/HSL/2/55.
  • 70. Ch. Com., Estate maps, Stoke Newington Estate 3.
  • 71. In industrial areas there were more men and the pop. was younger: Census, 1921.
  • 72. Census, 1921.
  • 73. The name of the rd., Chaucer Rd., is fictitious: J. B. Priestley, Angel Pavement (Everyman edn. 1953), 52.
  • 74. New Lond. Life and Labour, iii, Social Survey, I. 369-71.
  • 75. Census, 1921.
  • 76. Stoke Newington boro. M.O.H. Rep. (1930); The Times, 14 Nov. 1933, 11c.
  • 77. New Lond. Life and Labour, iii, Social Survey, I. 369-71; (1929-30), IV, Map of Eastern Area, sheets 1, 3; (1931), Map of overcrowding.
  • 78. B. Murray, 'Short hist. of St. Olave's' (TS. pamphlet 1969, S.N.L. 14.02, LC 3220).
  • 79. Guildhall MSS. CC. 345106, 359861, 369055, 369059, 372471.
  • 80. Ibid. 366028; inf. from Gestetner International Ltd. 1983.
  • 81. Who Was Who, 1916-28, 40.
  • 82. Who was Who in the Theatre (1912-76), i. 436.
  • 83. Stoke Newington, Official Guide (1928); photo. (S.N.L. illus. 80. 1, LC 32); Stoke Newington Recorder, 8 Apr. 1927 (S.N.L. cuttings 35); MS. note by J. Dailey 1973 (S.N.L. cuttings 78 BAD); cutting 15 Nov. 1912 (S.N.L. cuttings 78 BEA).
  • 84. 'Stoke Newington', vol. 2 (scrapbk. of cuttings S.N.L. 80, LC 1661).
  • 85. New Lond. Life and Labour (1929-30), iv, Map of Eastern Area, sheet 3.
  • 86. Ch. Com. file 6439 pt. 2.