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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Social and cultural activities
Stoke Newington probably had inns at an early date because of its position on a major road to London. There were 8 licensed victuallers in 1553 (fn. 85) and the line 'To Hogsden or to Newington where ale and cakes are plenty' dates from 1613. (fn. 86) In 1679 respectable inhabitants complained that alehouses had lately 'very much increased' (fn. 87) and in 1716 there were only 5 licensed victuallers. The numbers increased to 9 in 1723 and 12 in 1751, but declined again to 10 in 1765, 8 in 1779, and 6 in 1800 and 1823. (fn. 88) By 1848 there were 8 taverns and two beershops. (fn. 89)
Le Bell on the Hoop or Hope existed in Newington Lane, possibly Church Street, in 1403. (fn. 90) There were at least two inns, the Rose and the Hind, on the west side of High Street in 1570 and a wine tavern at Stamford Hill in 1600. (fn. 91) Other early inns were the Bull (1576-1624), (fn. 92) the Flower de Luce (1603-85), (fn. 93) the Cock (1608-25), (fn. 94) the Black Bull (1624), (fn. 95) the Sun (1624-1713), (fn. 96) the Spread Eagle (1658), (fn. 97) and the Three Pigeons (1678-92). (fn. 98)
A Green Dragon was mentioned in 1668 (fn. 99) as at Newington Green but the main inn of that name, recorded from 1721, was in High Street. (fn. 1) It survived in 1801 but a new house, probably the Rochester Castle, had been built there by 1809. (fn. 2) The Three Crowns was mentioned in 1683 as 'formerly the Flower de Luce' but in 1687 as 'formerly the Cock and Harp' (fl. 1663). (fn. 3) It occupied the key position at the junction of the London road with Church Street and the name is said to allude to James I, who, on his way to take the English throne in 1603, first glimpsed London from Stamford Hill. The inn, a meeting place of the vestry in the late 18th and the early 19th century, was rebuilt c. 1871 and in 1898, (fn. 4) and survived in 1983. The White Hind (1625-87) (fn. 5) can probably be identified with the White Hart (1723), which was in High Street, within the detached portion of South Hornsey, (fn. 6) and survived as a Victorian public house in 1983. One of the Palatine houses was the White Lion in 1723 (fn. 7) and was apparently one of the three taverns at the Palatine houses in 1765 called the Hare, the George (both licensed in 1751), and the Greyhound and Hare. About 1781 there were the Hare and the Hare and Hounds; the Greyhound was also mentioned but empty and had not been licensed in 1779, and neither it nor the Hare were licensed in 1800. (fn. 8) The Hare and Hounds was rebuilt in 1830 and in the 1870s (fn. 9) and in 1983 it existed as one of the Victorian public houses in High Street.
There were several inns in Church Street. The Rose and Crown existed by 1612. (fn. 10) The timber framed and gabled inn was replaced in 1815 and again in 1932 when it was moved to the west side of Albion Road where it survives in 1983. (fn. 11) The Red Lion stood on the north side of Church Street by 1697 and was in 1839 a meeting place for respectable tradesmen; (fn. 12) a public house called the Red Lion was still on the site in 1983. The Falcon, named in 1723 and almost certainly in existence by 1716 and rebuilt in 1854, stood on the south side until the 1930s. (fn. 13) The White Horse, in Paradise Row by 1734 (fn. 14) and called the White Horse and Half Moon in 1765, had closed by 1779. Another, apparently short lived, White Horse was in Church Street in 1751.
Public houses multiplied during the 19th century. The Rochester Castle had opened in High Street by 1813 and the Victoria in the South Hornsey part of High Street by 1839. (fn. 17) Manor House, which replaced the Three Crowns as the vestry's meeting place, was built at the junction of Green Lanes and Seven Sisters Road in 1832. (fn. 18) By 1848 there were two other taverns, the Pegasus and the Royal Oak, in Green Lanes, (fn. 19) the Horse and Groom on the south side of Church Street, (fn. 20) and two beershops on the southern border. (fn. 21) The Peacock in Park Street and a beershop, probably the Free Trader, in Edward's Lane, had opened by 1849. (fn. 22) By c. 1870 there were some 25 taverns and beershops in Stoke Newington and the detached portions of South Hornsey, many at the corners of new roads. (fn. 23) In spite of opposition, mainly from nonconformist Sunday schools and abstinence associations, (fn. 24) the numbers had reached 28 by 1905 and 37 by 1918. (fn. 25) Most still existed in 1980, when Victorian taverns with names drawn from England's royal and aristocratic families incongruously housed North London 'pop' groups and Rastafarians. (fn. 26)
In 1649 the manor house had a room for hawks. (fn. 27) For the gentler recreation of the City businessmen and dissenting ladies who were later lords of the manor, there was a bowling green at Abney House in 1783. (fn. 28) There were others at Morton's academy in the 1680s (fn. 29) and in Newington in 1737, where rules included 'no swearing on the green'. (fn. 30) There was a fight at Stoke Newington in 1759 between 'four noted bruisers', in which two women beat two men. (fn. 31) In 1798, in fear of a French invasion, Stoke Newington raised subscriptions and formed an armed association, which still met in 1803. (fn. 32) A cricket match took place in 1811 on Newington Green between teams of women from Hampshire and Surrey. (fn. 33) There was wrestling in the 1820s at the sluice house of the New River in Green Lanes, and on one occasion, when a participant failed to appear, the audience adjourned to a public house for dogfights and rat-killing. (fn. 34)
Public houses were used for many social activities. The Golden Lion at Newington Green had skittle grounds in 1736. (fn. 35) Four houses, the Clarence, the Londesborough, the White Hart, and the Three Crowns, had billiard licences in 1879; (fn. 36) the Manor House converted its assembly room into a billiard saloon in 1883 (fn. 37) and the Three Crowns built a bigger billiard room in 1898. (fn. 38) The Manor House had a concert room seating 300 from 1852 to 1903 and the Pegasus was licensed for music from 1852 to 1874. (fn. 39) A social club met at the Rochester Castle in 1839 (fn. 40) and almost all the friendly societies met at taverns for, apart from a coffee house in the mid 18th century (fn. 41) and the assembly rooms of the 19th century, there were no other secular meeting places.
A box club existed in 1752. (fn. 42) The Rochester Castle was the meeting place of the True Brothers of Stoke Newington and Hackney Improved Birmingham benefit society from 1840 to 1866, (fn. 43) of the Ancient Order of Foresters from 1852 to 1868, (fn. 44) and of the Combined Friends of Stoke Newington Improved Working Man's Friend benefit society in 1861. (fn. 45) A provident and friendly society also met in High Street, next to the dispensary, in 1842 (fn. 46) and the Pride of Stoke Newington met at the Londesborough tavern in Londesborough Road from 1860 to 1864. (fn. 47) Another Ancient Order of Foresters group met at the Falcon from 1863 to 1869 (fn. 48) and the Hand and Heart United friendly society started meeting at the Freemasons tavern in Howard Road in 1863, moving in the same year to Allen Road where it remained until 1868. (fn. 49) Other so called Stoke Newington friendly societies met between 1802 and 1858 at public houses in Hackney. (fn. 50)
Much social life centred on the churches and chapels. In the 18th century the Unitarian chapel made Newington Green 'one of the cultural spots in London', as did the Quaker residents of Paradise Row in the early 19th century. In 1842 a conversation society, which was still flourishing in 1898, was founded at the Unitarian chapel, which formed a library about the same time. (fn. 51) Abney chapel had lending libraries for girls and boys from 1829 and 1834 respectively and a literary society from 1866. (fn. 52) The Quakers had founded Stoke Newington Mutual Instruction society by 1850 and it still flourished in 1863. (fn. 53) Libraries were formed at St. Matthias's by the 1860s, at Raleigh Memorial Congregational church in 1880, and at St. Mary's by the 1880s. (fn. 54) Lecture halls were attached to Raleigh in 1880 and to Devonshire Square Baptist chapel in 1890, and St. Mary's sponsored lectures on church history in 1900. (fn. 55) There was a society for theological study at the Unitarian chapel by the 1880s, (fn. 56) a literary society at the Presbyterian chapel from 1887, (fn. 57) another at All Saints' by 1913, and a dramatic society at St. Olave's in the 1920s. (fn. 58) Parish magazines were started by St. Mary's in 1882, St. Andrew's in 1884, St. Faith's c. 1885, the Presbyterian chapel in 1889, St. Matthias's in 1893, Abney chapel in 1896, and All Saints' by 1913. St. Mary's had a drum and fife band by 1882, St. Andrew's held subscription concerts in 1884, (fn. 59) and several chapels supported bands of hope, usually as adjuncts to their temperance societies. (fn. 60) There were sports clubs: cricket and cycling at the Unitarian chapel, football at Abney from c. 1886 and at St. Olave's by the 1930s, lawn tennis at St. Andrew's by 1889, and athletics at St. Faith's by 1901. (fn. 61)
The churches provided some support for the poor, rivalling the friendly societies. St. Mary's formed a district visiting society in 1843 to promote self-help and encourage saving during summer employment, and in 1882 the society formed a sick club. (fn. 62) The Unitarian chapel ran a domestic mission society in the mid 19th century. (fn. 63) St. Matthias's had a work society to assist the poor in winter in the 1860s, a £20 provident society which met at the Freemasons tavern in 1865, and a home in Walford Road by 1871. (fn. 64) In 1880 St. Faith's formed the guild of St. Mary, a social club to advance 'all womanly virtues' and later the guild of the Holy Child, which collected toys for poor children. (fn. 65) St. Mary's working men's club started in 1881 in a room in Edward's Lane and moved to no. 106 Church Street, which opened in 1882 as the Amethyst club and coffee room. It soon had 80 members and in 1885 moved to larger premises at no. 110, where it remained until 1917. Also associated with St. Mary's were a girls' friendly society (1882), a day nursery at no. 99 Church Street (1884-1906) and then at no. 106 (1906-18), a working men's club at the Good Shepherd mission (1889), the order of St. Barnabas (1891) for 'work amongst rough lads', a preseverance guild, a guild of St. Ambrose to instruct confirmed boys in carpentry and similar skills (1892), and a guild of St. Agnes (1893) for girls. (fn. 66) There were young men's and women's provident societies at the Unitarian chapel and a young men's guild at the Presbyterian chapel in the 1880s; (fn. 67) the Abney brotherhood was founded in 1907. (fn. 68)
When Abney chapel was built in 1838 the old Congregational chapel on the north side of Church Street, between nos. 46 and 48, became Manor rooms, (fn. 69) the parish assembly rooms until new ones were built in Defoe Road in 1868. In 1872 additions were made to the Defoe Road rooms, which in 1905 were sold to St. Mary's for use as a mission room. (fn. 70) By that date a public hall at the public library in Church Street seated 550 and another hall at the Manor House public house in Green Lanes seated 300. (fn. 71) An assembly hall seating 616 besides 146 in the balcony formed part of the town hall buildings opened in 1937. (fn. 72)
There was a workmen's hall at no. 46 Back (later Boleyn) Road from c. 1871 to c. 1880 (fn. 73) and an Eden hall at no. 127 Stoke Newington Road from c. 1876 to c. 1897. (fn. 74) By 1936 two halls had been built in Albion Road and Woodberry hall at no. 218 Green Lanes; (fn. 75) no. 59 Clissold Road, a former Mormon chapel, was opened as a hall of remembrance in 1945. (fn. 76) Manor Park club existed by 1884 at Grayling Terrace (later no. 49 Grayling Road); (fn. 77) it had a skittle club by 1904. (fn. 78) Stoke Newington social club met at no. 119 Stoke Newington Road from 1913 to 1915. (fn. 79) In 1914 a trust company was to acquire no. 7 Albion Grove as headquarters for the Stoke Newington Reserve. In 1934 the premises were leased to Stoke Newington club, primarily for ex-servicemen. The club had moved to nos. 25-6 by 1966 and had closed by 1968. (fn. 80)
Concerts and illustrated lectures on music were held at the Manor rooms in 1844. (fn. 81) There was a Stoke Newington book society in 1844, which met at members' houses. (fn. 82) Stoke Newington Literary and Scientific Institution, mentioned in 1847, was on the Hackney side of High Street and probably housed the society of that name which met in 1855. (fn. 83) In 1888 the rector proposed a society for the middle classes, since the lower classes were catered for but the young should be shielded from 'the temptations abounding everywhere'. As a result the Literary and Scientific association was founded, which met once a month, sometimes at the 'Mansion House' possibly Clissold House, until 1938. (fn. 84) A literary reading society, which included the local historian Francis William Baxter (d. 1932), met at no. 170 Church Street to read plays, lapsed in 1897 but revived again in 1902 and lasted until 1920. (fn. 85a) The Amethyst literary and debating society was meeting at the Amethyst club by 1896. (fn. 86a) In 1921 there was an attempt to found another debating society, Stoke Newington parliament. (fn. 87a)
Stoke Newington and South Hornsey Conservative association had been founded at no. 179 Church Street by 1885. (fn. 88a) By 1890 the premises had become the Primrose League institute and there were two other political clubs in Church Street, North Hackney Radical club at no. 83 and a Conservative club at no. 91. East Highbury Liberal club had opened at Newington Green, at the junction with Albion Road. (fn. 89a) The Conservatives moved again, to no. 20 Church Street by 1920 and to no. 99 by 1925. In 1920 the Liberals were at no. 132 and by 1925 there was a Labour party at no. 99 Belgrade Road. (fn. 90a) Mildmay Radical club opened in 1888 at no. 36 Newington Green Road (Islington) and moved to a newly built clubhouse at no. 34 Newington Green, near the Unitarian chapel, in 1893, when the vicar of St. Matthias castigated its 'pernicious influence among the young'. In 1930 it changed its name to Mildmay club and institute, and became nonpolitical; in the 1950s it staged weekly variety shows. (fn. 91a)
Stoke Newington borough had its own military band by 1910 and open-air concerts were held in Clissold Park by 1916. (fn. 92a) A Stoke Newington choral society, existing by 1925, met in Upper Clapton, Hackney. (fn. 93a) Stoke Newington schools' music association was founded in 1937 and survived in 1953. (fn. 94a) Alexander Henry Chalmers (d. 1927), a local inhabitant, bequeathed paintings and other objects d'art to the borough council, with an endowment to add to the collection, which was exhibited in a gallery converted from the library hall in 1964. (fn. 95a)
Stoke Newington was noted in the 1850s and 1860s for its garden flowers and still had many fruit trees. (fn. 96a) The first English chrysanthemum society, later the National Chrysanthemum Society, was founded in Stoke Newington in 1846. (fn. 97a) Flower shows were held in the large gardens of Stamford Hill in the 1870s and a horticultural society held its first show in 1911. Hackney, Stoke Newington and District fanciers' association, founded in 1914 for those who wished to breed rabbits and birds, met at the Amethyst club. (fn. 98a)
Stoke Newington was playing cricket against Edmonton in 1866 and in 1869 there was a cricket club with its own grounds in Albion Road. (fn. 99a) In 1900 Brownswood bowling club, established in 1871 in King's Road, Brownswood, in Hornsey, purchased Marlborough Cottage, no. 256 Green Lanes, with extensive grounds where it opened new greens in 1913. By 1936 it had tennis courts and a putting green but it had gone by 1940 when the site was purchased for Woodberry Down estate. (fn. 1a) Another bowling club, called Clissold, existed by 1911 and was one of the first to play in a public park. (fn. 2a) Bethune lawn tennis and bowling club existed in Bethune Road by 1929. (fn. 3a) Stoke Newington harriers, founded in 1881, had their headquarters at Clapton Common, in Hackney. (fn. 4a) Pavilions were built by the lawn tennis association behind Fairholt Road in 1883 and by Queens lawn tennis club, which existed by 1890, in Princess Road, Brownswood, in 1922. (fn. 5a) In 1929 Finsbury Park tennis club, founded before 1885, had courts in Queen Elizabeth's Walk, Mildmay Park Wesleyan guild had a tennis club in Church Walk, and there were also grounds in Clissold Road and Woodberry Down. (fn. 6a) Stoke Newington rifle club, founded in 1907, opened a new range and headquarters in a converted factory at no. 49 Grayling Road in 1912. (fn. 7a) Rifle ranges were added to the facilities of Mildmay club in 1907 and 1921 and to the premises at no. 7 Albion Road by 1920. (fn. 8a) Stoke Newington schools' athletic association was formed in 1921 and held annual contests. (fn. 9a)
After disruption caused by the Second World War, the borough council in 1946 joined with the L.C.C. to sponsor weekly lectures on the arts, with the intention of stimulating societies. (fn. 10a) Clubs founded under the sponsorship of the council included the Mozart social club (which became the A. D. Saray club in 1972) at no. 66 Albion Road, a photographic society, a poultry and rabbit club, and a swimming club, all dating from 1946, a gardeners' guild (1947), a gramophone society 'soon after the war', the Progress Players (1951), and a library club for the blind. (fn. 11a) There was an aquaria society by 1955 (fn. 12a) and societies for art, boxing, and cage birds, a Caribbean social club, and a variety club by 1959. (fn. 13a) The Stoke Newington Society was founded after 1965 with the aim of rehabilitating Church Street. (fn. 14a) An annual field day was held in Clissold Park from 1953, and from 1959 the borough held annual gala weeks, which were continued after 1965 as Hackney festival. (fn. 15a)
The Alexandra theatre was built to the designs of Frank Matcham at nos. 65 and 67 Stoke Newington Road in 1897. It accommodated 1,710 and among those who played there in its early years were Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Lily Langtry, and Dan Leno. Called the Palace Theatre of Varieties from 1906 to 1909, it was run by the Alexandra Theatre Stock Co. from 1910 until 1912, when it housed variety and cinema shows. It became a cinema in 1917 but reverted to being a theatre in 1920, when it provided films, circus, and pantomime besides plays. It closed in 1935, reopened in 1939, and from 1947 to 1949 was the home of the New Yiddish Theatre Co. It closed again in 1950 and made way for Alexandra Court. (fn. 16a)
Two cinemas (fn. 17a) were built in 1911: (fn. 18a) the Albion at no. 4 Albion Parade, Albion Road, which closed in 1952, and the Coliseum at nos. 31-3 Stoke Newington Road, which seated 600 and closed in 1972. Biograph Theatre Ltd., at no. 181 High Street just north of the Three Crowns, from 1911 to 1919, had opened a cinema there by 1915 but it had become billiard rooms by 1924. (fn. 19a) The Apollo cinema opened with 1,080 seats in 1915 at no. 117 Stoke Newington Road, next to the Baptist chapel. Renamed the Ambassador in 1936, it closed in 1963, and housed bingo until 1974 when it reopened as the Astra. The Savoy cinema was built with 1,800 seats at nos. 11-15 Stoke Newington Road, south of the junction with Truman's Road, in 1935. (fn. 20a) It was an ABC cinema from 1962 until 1977 when it became the independent Konak cinema.
The Stoke Newington and Hackney Recorder originated as the Ball's Pond Advertiser (1871- 88), and was called the Stoke Newington and Islington Recorder (1897-1907), the Hackney and Stoke Newington Recorder (1908-26), and the North London Recorder (1926-39). (fn. 21a) A weekly published in Church Street, it was in its early years 'fiercely blue' but by 1939 considered itself to have no political bias. (fn. 22a) It was suspended in 1939 and later incorporated in The Recorder (1943-61). The Hackney Monthly and Stoke Newington Review (1920), founded in 1919 as the Churchman's Hackney Monthly and Review, was incorporated into the Hackney Review and Stoke Newington Chronicle, a twice monthly paper, in 1921 but closed in 1922. In 1924 the Hackney and Stoke Newington Illustrated Leader printed 28 issues. The Stoke Newington and Hackney Observer (1940-71) was founded in 1939 as the North London Observer, an independent paper printed in Manor Road and later in Allen Road and in Hornsey. The Stoke Newington Citizen was published monthly by the London Co-operative Society political committee from 1930 to 1939. In 1983 the only local newspaper serving Stoke Newington was the Hackney Gazette, founded in 1869 as the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette and called the Hackney Gazette and North London Recorder since 1926.