The History of the Stoke Newington School


Betty Layward School Sites

1868 Ordinance Survey

In 1868 this area was very prosperoous indeed. The Church Street houses facing Clissold Park were a veritable 'millionaires row'. Factory owners, bankers and people living on dividends had at least three servants living in and long, beautiful gardens. The Willows, the house at the corner of Church Street and Park Lane (which we now call Clissold Crescent) owned a large garden, stables and greenhouses,and a series of paddocks stretching along Park Lane right to the corner of Albion Road.

This 1868 map is the most detailed the Ordnance Survey ever produced. It was so detailed thet they could never afford to make later editions to compare, but this Victorian extravagance allow us to see the site in extraordinary detail. One could spend hours looking at it and coparing the present with the past. It a splendid starting point for this study.

The Booth Maps of London Poverty,1889

In 1889, shortly before the next Ordnance Survey map was issued, Charles Booth pubisheded his ground-breaking map of London Poverty.


The Booth Poverty maps 1889-90

The Booth Poverty maps 1889-90



Charles Booth (not to be confused with General Booth of the Salvation Army) was a wealthy business man who refused to believe that a million Londoners lived in 'great poverty', as radical politicians claimed. He started a long survey to prove them wrong, the first really careful survey of how people lived and worked. Booth divided people into eight groups H-A, but coloured in his maps in seven colours ranging from'Wealthy' to 'The Lowest Class' as follows: -


Wealthy (three or more servants; houses rated £100 or more)

Well to do (one or two servants)

Working class comfort

Comfort mixed with poverty

Standard poverty


Very poor

The lowest grade


The information was collected by teams of people who interviewed the local clergy, police, teachers, and others with particular knowledge of the local areas. One of the main sources of information was the School Board Visitors. They were appointed after 1870 when compulsory education for all children aged 5-13 was introduced. Their original qualification was the ability to run faster than the children, and so catch truants, but they became far more than that, compiling unrivalled local knowledge. It was their duty to visit every house in every street and make notes on each family with children of school age. This began a few years before the children reached school age and continued until the last child in the family had left.

The reports of the different interviews are avaialble on the splendid London School of Econonics websit and can make fascinating reading. Written off the cuff, short and to the point, they can give an immediate picture of the economic situation and a sometimes critical picture of the official beny interviewed.

London School of Economics Library website,
where the Booth Poverty Maps are kept. 
LSE Charles Booth On Line


The contrast of rich and poor areas of London in 1889, especially when looking at the coloured maps laid out side by side, is startling. London Topographical Society reproduced the maps for most of London on four large coloured sheets. Lay out these maps in one block and the yellows and reds (the colours of wealth and warmth) are concentrated in smallish areas on the north-west sheet around Westminster and Kensington. All the other areas are drab purple and blue, with areas of dark blue and even black, the colours of cold and outer darkness.

The London School of Economic has published more maps including one for Stoke Newington which reaches up to Grazebrook Road. This is the top limit of the Booth map, so the Woodberry Down, Manor House area was not included.

Part of Map Descriptive of London Poverty, 1888-89

Sheet 3 Northern District

London School of Economics

Saved as SN Booth map 1889



This section of the map shows that Paradise Row, opposite Clissold Park, Highbury New Park and the old Church Street houses between Old St Mary’s Church and the Library, were wealthy areas. They are coloured Yellow (The same colour as Park Lane and Kensington) indicating that the houses were rated at at least £100 a year and had at least three servants each.

Clissold Road, Burma Road, Aden Terrace, and the northern part of Albion Road, are coloured Red, showing that the owners were middle class, well-to-do people with at least one servantliving in. Most of the nearby houses, including the southern end of Albion Road are coloured Red or Pink.Pink denoted, ‘Fairly comfortable – Good ordinary earnings’. This reflects the fact that the newer houses, on the west side of Albion Road, are smaller then the earlier ones on the east, and on narrower frontages.

There are a very few small patches of, ‘Light Blue (Poor 18 – 21 shillings a week for a moderate family.’ or ‘Dark Blue (Very poor, Casual, Chronic want). Back Street and one side of Meadow Street (now Lordship Terrace) were in the Light Blue / Dark Blue area and these houses, poor as they were) were not to be rebuilt until the 1930s. There were other patches of Light Blue around Mathias Road and a small block of Dark Blue inside a block in Allen Road of Mixed (Some comfortable, others poor),. This illustrates how near the very poor were to the better off and how easily disease could move from centres of bad housing and bad sanitation, to others who appeared to be better protected.

Clissold Road was lined on both sides blocks of large houses coloured Red (Well off- with at least one servant living in). Many of these have been demolished, while others have been rebuilt and converted into self-contained flats.


Lordship Park was Red ( well-to-do) but by 1889 the large houses in Lordship Road, with their tennis courts and large gardens, had slipped down to Pink, (fairly comfortable, good regular earnings). The large houses must have been divided into flats, or even let off as single rooms, by this time.

The picture by 1889 then is of Stoke Newington still holding on to its earlier history, with wealthy people still living facing the Park, but not yet aware that after 1900, Industry would move in and drive away the rich people in the Yellow houses.





The Willows Estate was owned by Mr Alexander, a bill broker, and when he died his estate was sold for development. Stoke Newinggton had been expanding rapidly, so the developers descended on this valuable site. The estate is typical of several local sites which had been sold in the previous twenty years and one of the largest. Its deveopment opened a dramatic new stage of local development.


The Willows Estate Sale Plan of 1891

saved willows sale plan coour




1894 Ordinance Survey

The Willows Estate had been sold in 1981 and by 1894 houses were being built along the curve of Park Lane. The developers proposed to develop an Industrial Site on the old stables and greenhouses of the Willows Estate. The Church Street millonaires did not like the prospect at all. Their gardens were going to be next door to the proposed Industrial Site, so they moved away in short order.


1913 Ordinance Survey

By 1913 two openings in Carysfort Road led tofactories on the old stables and greenhouses of the Willows Estate, but there were still some trees on the site so there was room for further dvelopment.

Church Walk had run from Newington Green to St Mary.s Church from at least Elizabethan times and probably much longer. Albion Road was built in the 1830s and then Clissold Road was built in the 1860s. A nursery occupied the wedge between the back gardens of the two rows if houses.

The 1936 Ordnance Survey of the same area

Early on the

By 1936 the Industrial Estate had taken over the gardens and many of the old houses in Church Street as factories. Shelford Place had been built and filled with new factories.




The Swimming Bath was built ETC ETC

TEXT DEPENDS ON 1936 map details


A Brief History of the Origins of Stoke Newington Secondary School

Stoke Newington Secondary School has a long and complicated history. This is an attempt to explain how the school came into existence and why.

Before the Second World War most pupils went to Elementary Schools, which took boys and girls from the age of five to fourteen. Most pupils left at fourteen to began work or apprenticeships. There was an examination at the age of eleven - the dreaded 11 plus - to decide which pupils would be allowed to go to Grammar Schools and stay until they were sixteen. There they would have a longer time at school and be taught in smaller classes, by better qualified teachers.

A few would go to Central Schools and stay until they were fifteen. Most of these would take Commercial or Technical subjects. The great majority of pupils would stay in their Elementary Schools and leave school when they were fourteen.

Pupils' fates were decided by this one 11 plus exam, on a day when a pupil may have been unwell, or not at his or her best. Each year One Fifth of the entrants passed. At this age girls are always better at exams than the boys, so their marks were adjusted downwards to give equal numbers of boys and girls. It was all a question of getting enough children to fill the seats in the Grammar Schools. The country needed enough literate and numerate people to run the economy. 20 % would be enough. Why go to the expense of educating more? The rest could go into unskilled jobs. That may sound cynical, but it was the economic reality of the way education was funded.

Secondary School Education in Stoke Newington after the Second World War

Many of us protested that the 11+ exam was unfair, and I later proved it to the hilt, as I will show. All we could do immediately after the War, was to show that the exam was unfair. We proved that a pupil's result could vary by as much as 17 marks because of feeling off colour: not bad enough to prevent a pupil from taking the exam, but bad enough to ruin any chances of entering a profession, or even aiming very high in later life by the academic route. At this time two marks could make the difference between passing and failing. We also said that Einstein, who was a late developer, would not have passed the 11+ exam. Be that as it may, the exam was palpably unfair and also inefficient. It also condemned the majority of pupils to regard themselves as failures. This could be was a lasting hurt to thousands of individuals and many elderly people recall it with pain or shame.

A growing body of teachers and others campaigned for a Common School, where all pupils would study to their proper level and be able to move up the scale as they developed, all within the one school. The name was later changed from the Common to the Comprehensive School and slowly they were opened up and down the country. The Inner London Education Authority opened Woodberry Down Comprehensive School in 1955 in Woodberry Grove, on the Northern edge of the Stoke Newington West Reservoir. It was the first London Comprehensive School north of the Thames, taking Boys and Girls from 11 to 19, in its own purpose-built building. Crown Woods Comprehensive School, in South London , opened within a few months the same time.

Both schools became very well known as models of what could be done. The story of Woodberry Down is too long to tell here. If you want to know that story, click on the link.


Very few schools have the children covering the complete range of ability, but we had them for the first few years at Woodberry Down. We had pupils covering the complete intelligence range, from potential Ph Ds at one end, to children who had difficulty tying their own shoe laces. Few people have taught across that range and it is a salutary experience. Most people who pontificate about teaching, especially politicians, simply do not know what they are talking about.

I must make one point before continuing with Stoke Newington School. In 1955, when Woodberry Down opened, there was still an 11+ exam and at first we used these marks in English and Maths to arrange the pupils in eight classes. I saw great transformations. One year, in the 6th class of eight according to their 11+ results, I had a boy who became a doctor and a girl who came into the school speaking no English, but later went from the Sixth Form to Cambridge and got a First. In one year, in the sixth class of eight, a doctor and a future academic, both of whom would have been lost elsewhere else, were saved by the comprehensive system. These are only a couple which I happen to remember. There were many, many others.

The Creation of Clissold Road Secondary School

The other Secondary Schools in Stoke Newington in the late 1950s were Defoe School , in Ayresome Road, Palantine School in Palantine Road , and Wordsworth Central School in Albion Road, now the home of Grasmere Primary. It was decided to unite them into one large Comprehensive School like Woodberry Down.



The Creation of Clissold School 

Woodberry Down Comprehensive had been opened in 1955 and six years later it was decided to open a similar school to amalgamete the other Stoke Newington Secondary Schools as a new Clissold School. The one fashionable Clissold Road houses had suffered badly durig the Second World War. The houses were delaidated and would have been very expensive to restore. Instead it ws decided to demolish Nos. 25-39 Clissold Road and build the school there. The site was not as large as the site of the present Stoke Newington School, which will be discussed later.

London county council minutes








The opening of Clissold School




Ordnance Survey map Clissold Road in 1952

The future site of Clissold School


Any drawings Photos etc. including colour painting of the houses at the corner of the present site TO BE FOUND













The Clean Air Act

In the nineteen fifties London was still one of the great manufacturing areas of the country. You have only to look at the variety of local cast-iron cellar covers to realise how many local foundries there used to be. Each factory had its own furnace, cast its own components and looked around for extra casting work to keep its foundry active. Local coal celar covers, gas and eletricty covers etc. were permanent advertisements and today they remind us of how many local manufacturing firms there used to be in London and almost all burnt coal. Only the newer factories on the Cambridge Road used electricity.

The smoke from industry and the old fashioned coal burning trains produced dense yellow smogs and many people died each year. Tuberculosis was rife. During the Second World War, people who had had Tuberculosis were cured by serving in the 8th Army in the dry North African Desert. Before the War, Egypt had been a favorite sanatrium for TB patients. Now Egypt had cured some of tha Army. Unfortunately some of those cured in Egypt, developed the illness afresh when they returned to London.

London continued to burn coal. There were a few electric fires, but electricity was expensive compared with coal. A whole house heated by electricity drew headlines in local papers. The pollution got worse and worse and each winter there were periods of dense smog. This was a thick, choking, yellow fog which killed many people who had with asthma or other chest infections. In Victorian times these smogs were called London Pea-soupers, because the air was so thick you had to eat it, not breathe it. Eventually the problem became so great that Parliament passed the Clean Air Act, forbidding the burning of fossil fuels. Diesel trains were introduced and slowly London buildings could be cleaned of their age-old soot.

The Effect of the Clean Air Act on London Schools

In the 1960s every London Railway Station had notices advertising new factories in the New Towns. Generous government grants enabled firms to re-locate in Stevenage, Harlow and other New Towns. New factories and new houses with bathrooms, were available for the workers so that a mass migration took place. The factories which could no longer operate in London, could flourish in the country, while their workers exchanged queuing up for a bath on Friday nights at the local London slipper baths, for a bathroom, a separate downstairs toilet, their own front door,and a garden. Families with young children were delighted with the prospect and moved in droves. The older workers were less sure. Those nearing retirement hesitated at the prospect of starting again and then retiring within a few years to unfamiliar places, away from friends and neighbours.

Thus, when large firms like Gilbey's left Camden Town, Nagretti & Zambra, the Instrument makers left Islington, and hundreds of other firms moved away, the young married families with children went with them. Older people tended to take their redundancy pay and find other work within their own familiar streets.

Immediately the movement of industry affected our pupils by destroying their prospects of apprenticeships. Many of the local firms which had given apprenticeships for years, ceased to trade, or moved away. A number of my boys who had taken out apprenticeships a few years earlier found themselves out of work because their firms haed closed down. Some moved to other firms to complete their training, while others had to find completely different fields of work.

The effect on local London schools was catastrophic. One cannot run a comprehensive school below a certain size. The curriculum must offer a wide variety of subjects and at different levels. Schools simply cannot afford to pay teachers to teach tiny classes and comprehensive schools must offer a wide choice of subjects if they are to serve the needs of all their pupils. Classes below a certain number are impossible. Latin, for example, had been a problem for several years, but when half the children moved out of the district, things became desperate in all subjects. The only solution was to amalgamate pairs of local schools on a single site.


The Amalgamation of Woodberry Down and Clissold Comprehensive Schools

to form Stoke Newington School

Choosing the Site of the New School

Amalgamation meant that the Woodberry Down and Clissold School buildings had to be assessed and, while Woodberry Down was a good building with some very interesting features, the Clissold School site had fewer problems and also room to expand.

It was decided to create Stoke Newington School on the Clissold School site. For centuries Church Path had run from Newington Green to St Mary's Church, taking the faithful to church. The school was now to spread over the northern end of Church Path and the adjoining Nursery land. A playing field with astro-turf and some housing have now been built on the site.

All teachers had to apply for their own jobs in competition with the teachers from the other school. This was very distressing and traumatic experience for everyone, and was being repeated all over London at the time. Fortunately for me I could retire, but it was not an enjoyable experience for anyone.





When the Children had fled the Borough


This small table shows what happened to Stoke Newington School in a few short years



The Amalgamation of Woodberry Down and Clissold Comprehensive Schools

to form

Stoke Newington School

Choosing the Site of the New School

Woodberry Down School was on the very border of Hackney. Transport was quite good but relatively few could walk to school. Clissold was nearer the centre but transport was not quite so convenient but ore pupils would be able to walk to school.

Woodberry Down was on a landlocked site, bordered by the West Reservoir, on Lordship Road, and by blocks of brand new flats. There was no room to expand. The school had no playing fields, each pupil having to go by coach each week to playing fields in Debden. This was an expensive and time-consuming process, getting more difficult each year as the road traffic increased.

Clissold School was next to the football pitches, tennis courts, and open spaces of Clissold Park . It had room to expand over the Nursery land and Church Path, which ran alongside the school. The houses nearby were old. Many were dilapidated and patched up after war damage. Some of these could be demolished for the school expansion. Finally, the Swimming Bath was on the other side of the road. It was game, set and match. Clissold School site was the clear winner, so it was chosen as the new school site rather than the Woodberry Down one.

The two schools came together and became the new Stoke Newington Secondary School . The older pupils at Woodberry Down finished off their schooling and Woodberry Down closed slowly.

Changes to the Clissold Road Site

The old Clissold School site was expanded and eventually the houses on the other side of Clissold Road were restored and redesigned as modern flats. The old facades, with their handsome Doric columns and front steps would be kept, but the insides transformed to create modern blocks of flats, Today they look like the original Clissold Road houses but the backs are completely new. The houses on the School side of Clissold Road were demolished and completely new blocks built instead, but this was in the future. In this way the whole road was be redeveloped. Eventually too, a Mosque would be built at the end of Clissold Road . The whole road was transformed.


The old Woodberry Down Comprehensive School site in Woodberry Grove.

Very briefly, all but the old Technical Block, the ROSLA (Raising of the School Laving Age) Building and the Girls' Gym, have been demolished. A small Jewish School has taken over these buildings, but not the workshops, which, in 2008 , stood derelict.

In 2008 Woodberry Down Estate is being rebuilt and the first stage will be to build new flats on the old Woodberry Down School site. Thee new properties will allow people from other blocks of flats to move in and then their blocks will be demolished and rebuilt. Woodberry Down, which started so many things, will start the new housing estate.






The map shows the future sites of Stoke Newington Secondary School

and Betty Layward Primary School .









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