April 30, 2012

My 'hood.

The area we live in is Mildmay, in the wider area of Newington Green. It straddles the borders of the boroughs of Islington and Hackney. The first record of the area is as 'Neutone' in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The thirteenth century saw 'Newton' become 'Newington'. For my local friends, the prefix 'Stoke' was added to the northern area, distinguishing it from 'Newington Barrow' in Islington. 'Newington Barrow' later became known as 'Highbury'.

Newington Green, north side

There was probably a medieval settlement, and the prevailing activity was agriculture, growing hay and food for the inhabitants of nearby London. By the 15th century the area had become more prosperous and in 1445 there were a good number of Londoners living in the hamlet.

In the 16th century the area became connected to the court of Henry VIII. (Hence local street names like Boleyn Rd. and King Henry's Walk.) The king used a house on the south side of the Green as a base for hunting the wild bulls, stags and wild boars that roamed the surrounding forest. 

By 1611, a large house on the south side of the green, probably of at least six bays with three storeys and with ornate ceilings, was occupied by Alderman William Halliday. It was later called Mildmay House and then Eagle House. By 1649, the Halliday (Mildmay) estate had about seven dwellings in addition to this main house.

1964 / 2012
Newington Green, south side

In 1708, the Unitarian Church was built on the North side of the Green and, historically, has had the biggest impact on the area. It was a hotbed of radical thinkers, social reformers and Protestant dissension. 

1900 / 2012
Newington Green, north side

Their first minister was housed in London's oldest brick terrace (No 54, dated 1658). FYI, residential London, particularly outside Westminster and the City, is essentially a 19th century city. Even in the centre, there are no brick houses this old, pre-dating the Great Fire of 1666. 

1965 / 2012
Newington Green, west side. Number 54 is the one with the green door.

In the 1860s, building was extended over much of the Halliday (Mildmay) Estate and, in 1863, Queen Margarets Grove was built. Apparently, relatively little happened to my road until it was bombed in WWII (pics from previous blog). After the bomb, my road seems to have remained pretty derelict until the 1970s when money was pumped into the area and the houses rebuilt.  

It was my goal to find out more about the people that have lived in the house, but alas time has all but run out on me. Sorry about that. I hope you'll be consoled with the following interesting pictures...

1900 / 1969 / 2012
Newington Green, east side


1890 / 1969 / 2012
Newington Green, north side


1900 / 2012
Newington Green, southeast side


Obviously this is just a tidbit of local info with some interesting then and now pics. There are much more informed and involved people, and factually-detailed books available. Check out the sources below or the Islington and Hackney Archives for more info.


April 29, 2012

Seven Days.

What would you do if you had seven days left to live in London?

This is what's on my agenda:

  • Use my Groupon voucher.
  • Have coffee with friends.
  • Get my hair cut.
  • Go out on the razzle dazzle.
  • Write thank you cards to teachers and childminder.
  • Pack.
  • Get rid of my house plants.
  • Safety-check my gas meter.

Please help - inspirational ideas desperately needed.

April 22, 2012

Before and After

I've gotten the researching bug. It won't last long (reference previous interests: jam making, crafting) so I'm striking while the iron's hot and drip-feeding info through rather than one, final piéce de réistance on the history of my area. Besides, it's pretty taxing reading through a lot of history at once, so consider it a favor. You're welcome.

Anywhooo... I spent all day Friday at the Islington Local History Center. Awesome. I can't remember the last time I trolled through old, weighty, hand-written ledgers.

I found a lot of stuff, but what struck me most were the pictures of my house and my street.

WWII land mine damage, c1940
Both sides of my street were destroyed. Look at the houses to the back of the destruction - hardly touched thanks to the railway line separating them. The housing estates were built in 1959.

Rat infested, derelict housing, c1963
There are a few architectural changes but I'm 99% this is my house. Note that on the end terrace, the door has been converted into a window and a portico was added to the side for access. Also, the molding above the windows have been removed and the chimney pots replaced.

Regeneration, c197-
Donal's family owned this same model Escort so he thinks it's 1972. I'm too young to know any different. I'm also very humble. I'm also not that young.

Local shops, c1980
I'm pretty sure this guy was a hipster in his time. Note the addition of two windows above the coffee shop; the budget must've been tight - no decorative features were added to match the existing ones.

April 18, 2012

My House.

My house...
was built in 1863 and is 149 years old. Victoria reigned from 1837 - 1901, so this puts her firmly in that era. Most likely it was built for middle class families, without servants. There are three floors plus an attic and a small garden. We we are mid-terrace which means we share our side walls with our neighbors. It is solid yellow London stock brick (hanging stuff on the walls is a real commitment).

The lower ground floor...
houses our study, kitchen and a bathroom. In ye olden days it would've also been the kitchen, as it had easy access to the coal hole. The coal hole is just that - a covered, dinner-plate sized hole in the sidewalk outside our house that opens directly into the space below. (It's also a pub where Donal once saw Sir Ian McKellen.) Coal deliveries were dumped into this hole and then dispensed throughout the house as necessary. Until we got the seal waterproofed I could pop off the cover and poke my head out. A pretty fun trick for passersby... Of interest, the cover that's there is most probably the one installed in 1863. Our neighbor's had theirs stolen about a year ago, so rule of thumb says that it must be of some value or interest to someone.

Our back garden...
might hold possible remnants of an Allen Shed - a war bunker. Our neighbors have them but ours was replaced, under different ownership, with a palm tree and a fuscia plant. These Allen Sheds were a damn good idea - our street suffered bombing in WWII. (More about my 'hood in my next post.)

The main floor...
is our double reception room. In ye olden days, I would've been a lady, I would've called this a drawing room, and I would've accepted all my lovely visitors here (as opposed to my kitchen where we generally seem to congregate). There are two fireplaces, both of which work and both of which probably have original Victorian tiles (which I think are generally pretty ugly, but I'm not Victorian so what do I know?). The best parts of these rooms are the huge sash windows (ignore the God almighty drafts), the double height ceilings and the cornicing.

The upstairs...
is where we sleep. There's also another bathroom, if you're keeping track. I imagine it was also used as sleeping quarters for the Victorian families because, well, there's no where else to go at this point. (Unless possibly the attic, which I'm sure they'd never get planning permission for anyway.) There are two bedrooms which used to have a fireplace each, before they were covered over (we need space, not heat!). When we moved in, we peeled back the carpet to the original floorboards. I love them. They're a bit dry and wonky but beautiful. (We also peeled the carpet out of the bathroom because, well, gross - carpet in a bathroom!)

The attic...
freaks me out so I've never been up there.

We've lived in this home for seven years (.04% of its entire life). It's a good house. I hope the next owners think so too.

April 16, 2012


I've been making a lot of lists in preparation for our imminent departure. Packing lists, moving lists, flight lists, what-to-do-before-we-leave lists, what-to-do-when-we-get-there lists, etc. I can't seem to break the habit.

The top 10 things I will miss about living in London:

10. Being able to say that I live in London.
9. Walking to get places = exercise bonus.
8. The Olympics.
7. People watching.
6. Easily accessible organic, free range meat and produce.
5. Independent coffee shops (not all of them; she knows who she is).
4. Public transportation, especially the trains.
3. Being in a place where trends start.
2. Easy access to great and varied food, restaurants and markets.
1. My friends.
1. Online grocery shopping.

Yes, I do equally value online grocery shopping and my friends. Probably because they both keep me away from my Number 1 thing that I will not miss about living in London...:

10. The relative likelihood of being burgled.
9. Lack of space.
8. Having to be on hyper alert to avoid dog poo on the pavement.
7. Men taking off their shirts at the first glimpse of sunshine, regardless of actual temperature.
6. Ghetto / status dogs in lieu of nice family pets.
5. The crowds.
4. Urban dirt and grime.
3, 2, 1. The Kingsland shopping center, a unique mixture of all the points above.

April 5, 2012

Back on the horse.

Uggh. I've become the worst blogger imaginable. A silent one. My computer glares at me - the flashing blue eye of judgement - reminding me of my literary inadequacies*. And yet, I've done nothing about it. Until now.

I'm getting back on the horse.

Speaking of horses, did you know they can swim? They can! I saw them!

They're either race horses or jump horses; this is for exercise, apparently.

* My computer also reminds me that I have (a) no new emails, (b) no new plans in my calendar, and (c) I have not been tracking my WW points. Happy Easter Break, everyone!