Spotlight on Stoke Newington: bohemian and arty – and not afraid to speak its mind

Steeped in history and with a new rail link to the City, “Stokey” is raising its game for home buyers, discovers Anthea Masey
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Clissold Park café in Stoke Newington
Take tea at the recently reopened Clissold Park café
Stoke Newington — or Stokey as its residents affectionately call it — in north-east London is accustomed to dissent. In the late 18th century, Quakers settled there after Elizabeth Abney instructed that her manor be sold for the benefit of dissenting ministers.

In the early Seventies, members of the Angry Brigade known as the Stoke Newington Eight, who were suspected of planting 25 bombs over a five-year period, were arrested in Amhurst Road and put on trial for conspiracy.

And this habit of protest continues today, with locals mounting a vigorous campaign against plans for a Sainsbury’s near the corner of Stoke Newington Church Street, with its many independent shops, and busy, multicultural Stoke Newington High Street.

A village past

Stoke Newington has long been subsumed into London’s suburban sprawl but the lovely old St Mary’s Church, some fine early 18th-century houses and Clissold House, the mansion that Jonathan Hoare, of the Quaker banking family, built in 1790 as a rural retreat, still bear witness to its origins as a country village.

Stokey has an arty, bohemian vibe that even the influx of City workers, who have arrived with the East London line extension at nearby Dalston Junction, has failed to extinguish.

A Saturday morning in Stoke Newington Church Street could involve a rummage in one of the vintage stores, a visit to the nearby all-organic farmers’ market, a leisurely lunch in one of the many cafés or pubs and then tea in the newly reopened café in Clissold House.

Vicky Bibiris, of local estate agents Location Location, says Stoke Newington is growing in reputation, with prices, especially for houses, now well above the level achieved at the top of the last peak in the autumn of 2007.
Shops in Church Street, Stoke Newington
Church Street’s independent businesses include vintage clothing stores, quirky cafés and restaurants
Properties in Stoke Newington: there are some fine Georgian houses on the main roads and overlooking Stoke Newington Common, but most of the stock is Victorian, either two- and three-bedroom cottages or larger four- and five-bedroom houses. The larger four-storey houses are usually divided into flats. These attract young professionals and young families in arts and media-related jobs who can’t afford Islington, and there are an increasing number of buyers from the City.

Renting in Stoke Newington: according to Vicky Bibiris, Stoke Newington is popular with young professional sharers. “We don’t have enough three- and four-bedroom flats and houses to rent. We can have 50 applicants each time we get such a property, so we have started to hold open house events to give everyone a chance.”

New and up and coming

Bouverie Gardens (through Location Location; 020 7384 7373) is launching soon, with eight flats in a converted warehouse and three new townhouses in Bouverie Road.

Stokey residents talk about going over to the “other side”, which here means crossing to the other side of Stoke Newington High Street to the roads around Stoke Newington Common, off Northwold Road. Here the Victorian houses in the Northwold and Cazenove conservation area offer more space for the same money as roads south of Stoke Newington Church Street.
Bread stall at Stoke Newington's all-organic Saturday market
Saturday’s market is the only all-organic one in London

Getting an education

There is a wide choice of state primary schools in Stoke Newington and the two that are judged “outstanding” are St Mary’s CofE in Lordship Road and Benthall in the road of the same name.

There are a large number of private schools in the area but these tend to cater exclusively for the large Orthodox Jewish community in nearby Stamford Hill. Stoke Newington School (co-ed ages 11 to 18) is the community comprehensive, judged “good” by Ofsted.

Other nearby state schools are Our Lady’s Convent RC (girls ages 11 to 18) in Amhurst Park and The Petchey Academy (co-ed ages 11 to 18), both judged “good”. Mossbourne (co-ed ages 11 to 18) in Downs Park Road is judged “outstanding” but there is heavy competition for places.

Shops and restaurants: Stoke Newington Church Street is full of independent shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants, and the Wedge card, the loyalty card that supports local businesses, is well supported. There are vintage clothing stores; lots of shops such as Born and Olive Loves Alfie, catering for young parents and selling ethical products, toys, clothes and shoes. Meat N16 is a free-range butcher and deli and there is a large branch of Whole Foods, the organic supermarket. The two branches of Hub, one for women, one for men, sell edgy clothing. Homage sells furniture made from recycled wood. The Fox Reformed is the established local wine bar and bistro.

Fantastic organic

The Saturday farmers’ market in front of St Paul’s Church on Stoke Newington High Street is London’s only all-organic farmers’ market. Also in the high street you will find Rouge, selling lacquered Chinese furniture and gifts; a large, well-stocked bookshop, and the Lemon Monkey café.
Sailing boats at West Reservoir
Sailing at West Reservoir
Stoke Newington’s large Turkish community has spawned a generous number of Ocakbasi restaurants that cook on big indoor charcoal grills. Good examples are Cirrik Brothers, Mangal and Testi, and in Green Lanes, Beyli.

There are good pubs, too, with the Jolly Butchers and the Three Crowns on the high street always busy. The Londesborough in Barbauld Road is the local gastropub.
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Open spaces: Stoke Newington is blessed with open spaces. For spooky romance there is the overgrown Abney Park Cemetery, a former Victorian cemetery which is now a nature reserve. Clissold Park has recently undergone a £9 million restoration funded by the local council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. There is sailing and canoeing on the West Reservoir and a climbing wall has been added to the old pumping station building which was built in the style of a Scottish castle.

Leisure and the arts: the nearest council-owned swimming pool is at the Clissold Leisure Centre on Clissold Road. The Hub is a new music venue beneath the Three Crowns pub. Ryan’s Bar on Church Street has live music. The Arcola Theatre started in Arcola Street and the Vortex jazz club in Church Street, but both are now at Dalston Junction. The Rio is an Art Deco cinema in Kingsland High Street.

Travel: overground trains from Stoke Newington and Rectory Road take 15 minutes to Liverpool Street, and East London line trains run from Dalston Junction to Shoreditch and Canary Wharf via Canada Water. All stations are in Zone 2 (annual travelcard to central London, £1,168). The No 73 bus goes to Victoria, the 76 and 243 to Waterloo, the 106 to Whitechapel, and the 149 to London Bridge.

Council: Hackney (Labour controlled); the Band D council tax for 2011/2012 is £1,308.27.
Climbing wall at the old pumping station, West Reservoir in Stoke Newington
The old pumping station at West Reservoir now has a climbing wall

Average prices

Buying in Stoke Newington
One-bedroom flat £256,000
Two-bedroom flat £302,000
Two-bedroom house £502,000
Three-bedroom house £564,000
Four-bedroom house £701,000
Source: Hometrack

Renting in Stoke Newington
One-bedroom flat £240 to £300 a week
Two-bedroom flat £300 to £425 a week
Two-bedroom house £450 to £550 a week
Three-bedroom house £550 to £650 a week
Four-bedroom house £600 to £750 a week
Five-bedroom plus £700 to £800 a week
Source: Location Location

Photographs: Graham Hussey

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