The area west of Albion Road was very heavily bombed during the Second World War. Large areas on both sides of Milton Gardens, both sides of Shakespeare Walk and a few houses in Spencer Road were beyond repair. These are coloured Purple (Damaged beyond repair) and Dark Red (Seriously damaged: doubtful if repairable) on the Bomb Damage map. A strip of these houses, which happened to be along the old right of way from Albion Road to Cowper Road, was later turned into the linear garden called Butterfield Green. All the rest of the houses in the area had suffered at least Blast Damage (Yellow) so it was decided to build a completely new estate.
Two of the three blocks of flats in the Howard Estate, which was built immediately before the (1937-39 War), suffered only blast damage and could be repaired. The new Howard Estate flats had never been put on the 1936 map. The bomb damage had to be marked on the 1936 map and the old houses between Mildmay Road and Howard Road, where the flats were built, were marked in Yellow. In fact these houses on the map had been demolished years before.
Houses which could be patched up were retained for as long as possible. People had to live somewhere and these patched up properties were better than nothing. Building started on the completely devastated area. By 1950 Hawksley Court in Albion Road was a promise of what was to come. The whole district was full of building works. Speed was essential if people were to be moved along the endless housing queue.
At this time Britain was almost bankrupt. Everything had gone to pay for the War and yet people were demanding decent housing and general improvement in living standards. Timber and other materials were in short supply and there was a perpetual demand to increase exports to help pay for the War. The world need was so great that anything that could be made could be sold. Manufactures had to be sold to pay for food and raw materials, so rationing was tighter even than in wartime. Britain was still a great manufacturing nation but our machines were old and worn out. Everything was in short supply. 'You can't get the wood' was the catch phrase and the period became known as the Age of Austerity. The Post War building effort must be seen against this background. In this atmosphere the houses and flats got built and considering all the difficulties, at a surprising rate.
At the same time the Old Town Hall, which was opposite, and the houses in Milton Grove beyond Town Hall Approach were still occupied.
Milton Grove looking south from Town Hall Approach,
In 2007 Binyon House has a sloping, tiled roof. Presumably
the old flat roof leaked and
By 1961, Binyon House had been occupied for some years and the Council was preparing to build on the other side of the road. The next picture, looking south from Town Hall Approach, shows the Old Town Hall, Public Laundry and Public Baths just before their demolition.
By 1975, the Old Town Hall had been demolished. Leet House and the whole length of flats south of Town Hall Approach had been built. The houses on to the north of Town Hall Approach looked just as they do in the 21 st Century. They have been modernized and improved since, but are essentially the same buildings as they ever were.
A Public Laundry had been built on the corner of Town Hall Path. This site is now occupied by Zoom Around.
The choice of the name Leet House is interesting. A leet was a yearly, or half-yearly, court held by the lords of certain manors. It was one of the earliest forms of local government, so the name was appropriate for flats built on the Old Town Hall site.
There had been a Public Bath and Laundry beside the Town Hall for years. When the houses in the poets Roads were built, in the 1860s, they had been built without bathrooms. People bathed in the kitchen, in zinc baths which were hung outside the house between bath nights.
Alternatively, people could go with their soap and towels, to the Public Baths and many did so every week. Now there would be no need for Public Baths in this neighbourhood because the new flats would have their own bathrooms, so the Council did not rebuild the Public Baths.
In those days some people had washing machines which had to be worked by hand. The clothes were put into a wooden tub which had to be rotated backwards and forwards by hand. It was better then hand washing but was still very hard work. When electric washing machines were brought in, they were large and expensive, far beyond the pockets of most people, so families took their washing to Public Laundries. They used to say in Camden, "Never travels by tram on a Monday. They are full of the smell of dirty washing." Therefore the Council rebuilt the Laundry but not the Public Baths.
At that time, individual washing machines in every kitchen seemed an unachievable dream. Later, when washing machines became smaller and fell in price, the need for the launderette fell away. The Laundry was demolished and a gym was built on the site. Later still this was replaced by Zoom Around.
In 1977 the houses in Shakespeare Walk and Shakespeare Mews were still standing.
Soon these old houses were to be demolished. The rear photograph of the Shakespeare Walk houses shows a large entrance which would take vehicles through to the back. This must have been for industrial purposes. The street directory lists people in various trades, so they would have had workrooms mixed within the houses. Clearly industry and housing were mixed in this row of houses and the Mews, but a major change happening to Industry.
The Zoning of Industry
Industry had moved into the area years before and children lived above and next door to factories of all sorts. Workshop doors would have a couple of interested children looking in and watching how things were made, instead of thinking, as they do today, that everything comes in plastic bags from planet Zog.
By the nineteen-sixties Industry was being zoned. Many firms had taken advantage of government grants to move to Harlow and the other New Towns. We shall come across this story later in the History of Stoke Newington School. This school was formed by the amalgamation of Woodberry Down and Clissold Schools in the 1980s, when half the children from each school had moved away with their parents and the Stoke Newington schools werre short of children. Here, in Shakespeare Walk, were some of the redundant factories which were to be demolished.
Revised: October 25, 2011