Hidden London

Woodberry Down

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Hackney

A very large housing estate situated just east of Manor House, comprising the area within a loop of the New River. This was dairy farmland until the 1820s when it was opened up by new roads, and the conversion of disused clay pits into reservoirs alleviated the threat of flooding. By the early twentieth century it had become ‘the posh end of Stoke Newington’ – home to several wealthy Jewish families and to Albert Chevalier, the music hall artiste. In 1934, despite powerful opposition, the London County Council compulsorily purchased all of Woodberry Down and the construction of an ‘estate of the future’ began after the war. 57 blocks of flats were erected on 64 acres of land and the project was completed in 1962. The 2,500 homes have a mix of deck access and lobby access with the majority being two or three bedroom flats. Woodberry Down school, now closed, became one of Britain’s first purpose-built comprehensives in 1955. Like some other utopian schemes, Woodberry Down is today a flawed place in which to live, with an array of characteristic inner city issues and flats that have structural problems, water penetration and few amenities. A regeneration plan is underway to provide new and refurbished housing and improve residents’ ‘life chances’. However, proposals under discussion at the time of writing envisage the replacement of all existing social rented housing and the provision of 1,226 new dwellings, possibly including tower blocks (which are euphemistically called ‘tall buildings’), with improvements to community retail and service provision as well as public open space.

click for area map (opens in a new window)
A corner of one of the dozens of blocks of low-rise flats on the Woodberry Down estate

Postal district: N4
Further reading: Woodberry Down Memories Group, Woodberry Down Memories: the History of an LCC Housing Estate, ILEA Education Resource Unit for Older People, 1989 – a model of participative local history
and Harriett Reynolds Chetwynd, Comprehensive School: The Story of Woodberry Down, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

 
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