Building Milton Gardens
Preparation for Grasmere School Walk 4
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. They 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 suffered at least Blast Damage (Yellow) so it was decided to build a completely new estate.
Houses which could be patched up were retained for as long as possible. People had to live somewhere and these were better than nothing. Building started on the completely devastated area. The whole district was full of building works. Speed was essential if people were to be moved along the 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 at the same time there was a perpetual demand to increase exports to help pay for the War. Rationing was tighter even than in the War. Britain was stlll a great manufacturing nation but our machines were old and worn out. It 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 at a surprising rate considering all the difficulties.
Milton Grove looking south from Town Hall Approach,
At the same time the Town Hall, which was opposite, and the houses in Milton Grove beyond Town Hall Approach were still occupied.
In 1961 Binyon House had been occupied for some years and the Council was preparing to build on the other side of the road. The picture below looks south from Town Hall Approach shows Binyon House on the left and the Old Town Hall, Public Laundry and Public Baths on the right 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 were 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 because the new flats would have their own bathrooms, so the Council did not rebuild the Public Baths.
Some people had washing machines which had to be worked by hand. They were better then hand washing but still very hard work. When electric washing machines were brought in they were large and expensive, beyond the pockets of most people, so families took their washing to Public Laundries. 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 Zoom Around was built on the site.
In 1977 the houses in Shakespeare Walk and Shakespeare Mews were still standing.
This means that everything between had been obliterated..
LINK TO THE HISTORY OF STOKE NEWINGTON LATER ON
Soon these old houses were to be demolished. Clearly industry and housing were mixed. Industry had moved into the area years before and children lived above and next door to factories of all sorts. 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 had moved away and the Stoke Newington was short of children. Here were some of the redundant factories being demolished.
Let us go back to the Start of the Rebuilding in the 1950s
A Reminder of the Bomb Damage area we are considering.
Restoring the Area after the Second World War
The post-war building effort was frantic, with the different political parties vying with each other to build more ‘housing units' than the other. Stoke Newington Council began building blocks of flats and small houses on the bombsites. The tradition of using the names of Poets continued with Binyon, Shelley, Browning, Houses, etc. These rows of flats, maisonettes and small houses were to become Milton Gardens Estate, with its northern rebuilding limit at first, at the old Right of Way. For centuries there had been a footpath through the fields, and later preserved as a series of passageways between the houses, from Albion Road to Cut Throat Lane (now Wordsworth Road ) . This Right of Way, established over centuries, could not be extinguished so today it can still be traced as an irregular alleyway from Town Hall Path, along the southern edge of the new Butterfield Green, to Spenser Grove, Cowper Road, and Neville Road.
The 1952 map of the bombed site and neighbourhood
This building is used as Grasmere Primary School today but it was built as Wordsworth Senior School about 1936. On this map of 1952 it is called Clissold Secondary School and shows how far ahead Education Committees have to plan. By 1952 the local Primary Schools were filling up fast with children born soon after the Second World War. In a few years they would need Secondary Schools and the Education Committee was planning for this. Woodberry Down Comprehensive School, the first north of the Thames, was already being built on Woodberry Grove, overlooking the West Reservoir, but this would not be large enough, Other local secondary schools, including this Wordsworth one, were to be combined to form a new Clissold Road School, to be built on some old house sites in Clissold Road. Here on the map was a prophecy of the future.
What the Committee could not prophecy was that the Clean Air Acts of the 1950s would drive Industry out of London and empty its schools of pupils. By the 1980s classes had become so small that Woodberry Down and Clissold Schools had to be combined on an expanded Clissold Road site to form Stoke Newington School . Woodberry Down was closed. Education committees have to plan far ahead and are always outwitted by history. School buildings are never where one wants them to be.
Rebuilding Milton Gardens Estate
The First Steps
A planners' Rough Layout of the first rebuilding.
Binyon House and Shelley House were the first blocks of flats built on the heavily bombed area
For some reason which I do not yet know the First Binyon house and presumably the forst Shelley House were demolished and rebuilt. When and Why ?
The Second Binyon House, and Shelley House
By 2007 Binyon House had been demolished and a new one with a sloping a sloping, tiled roof built. The flats have new, modern windows, are larger and more comfortable than the earlier Binyon House ones.
++LINK TO THE HISTORY OF STOKE NEWINGTON SCHOOL LATER ON
revised: February 12, 2012