Stoke Newington or 'new town in the wood', has been lightly settled for many hundreds of years, close to larger neighbouring Saxon settlements near the River Lea. In the 19th century it was discovered that Stoke Newington Common and Abney Park Cemetery had been part of a Neolithic working area for axe-making, some examples of which can be seen in the Museum of London.
Stoke Newington is recorded as part of the Ossulstone hundred in the county of Middlesex in the Domesday Book of 1086. In the 17th century, for administrative purposes the west of Stoke Newington High Street became part of the new Finsbury division and the east part of the Tower division. Both divisions were in 1889 then incorporated into the County of London.
In the Middle Ages and Tudor times, it was a very small village a few miles from the city of London, frequently visited by wayfarers as a pit stop before journeying north, Stoke Newington High Street being part of the Cambridge road (A10). At this date the whole manor was owned by St. Paul's Cathedral and yielded a small income, enough to support part of their work. During the 17th century the Cathedral sold the Manor to William Patten, who became the first Lord of the Manor. His initials 'WP' and the motto 'ab alto' can be seen inscribed above the doorway of the old church next to Clissold Park.
A century later, it passed to Lady Mary Abney who drew up the first detailed maps of field boundaries and began to lay out a manorial parkland behind today's fire station on Church Street, with the aid of Dr Isaac Watts and her daughters.
During the early 19th century, as London expanded, the Manor of Stoke Newington was 'enfranchised' to be sold in parcels as freehold land for building purposes. Gradually the village became absorbed into the seamless expansion of London. It was no longer a separate village by the mid-to-late 19th century.
Being on the outskirts at this time, many expensive and large houses were built to house London's expanding population of nouveau riche whose journey to the commercial heart of the capital was made possible by the birth of the railways and the first omnibuses. The latter were first introduced into central London in the 1820s by George Shillibeer, following his successful trial of the world's first school bus for William Allen and Susannah Corder's novel Quaker school, Newington Academy for Girls. By the mid-nineteenth century, Stoke Newington had "the largest concentration of Quakers in London", including many who had moved up the A10 from Gracechurch Street meeting house in the City. A meeting house was built in Park Street (now Yoakley Road) by the architect William Alderson, who later designed Hanwell Lunatic Asylum.
St Mary's Lodge on Lordship Road, the 1843 home of architect and district surveyor John Young, is the last-surviving of several grand detached houses built in the area around that time for well-off members of the new commuter class. Gibson Gardens, an early example of quality tenement buildings erected for the housing of 'the industrious classes', were built off Stoke Newington High Street in 1880 and still stand today.
As a late Victorian and Edwardian suburb, Stoke Newington prospered, and continued in relative affluence and civic pride with its own municipal government until changes brought about by the Second World War.
Early 20th century
Second World War
During World War II, much of the area was damaged in the Blitz and many were made homeless, although the level of destruction was much lower than in those areas of East London further south such as Stepney or Shoreditch or even in next-door Hackney. The death toll was also relatively low: almost three-quarters of civilian deaths being due to one tragic incident on 13 October 1940 when a crowded shelter at Coronation Avenue off the high street received a direct hit. The memorial to all the residents of the Borough who died in the air raids, including local Jewish people, can be seen in Abney Park Cemetery. Like Hackney and Tottenham, Stoke Newington avoided most of the later V-weapon attacks, which fell disproportionately on South London; only a total of seven V-1s and two V-2s hit the borough.
Most of the historic buildings at the heart of Stoke Newington survived, at least in a repairable state. Two notable exceptions are the classically grand parish church of West Hackney, St James's, on Stoke Newington Road, which dated from 1824, and St Faith's, a Victorian Gothic church by William Burges. Both were so severely damaged, the former in the October 1940 bombing, and the latter by a flying bomb in 1944, that they were entirely demolished. St James's was replaced after the war by a much more modest structure, St Paul's, which is set well back from the street. Traces of the old church's stonework can still be seen facing Stoke Newington Road.
After the war a substantial amount of residential housing, particularly to the east of modern Stoke Newington, in Hackney borough at the time, had been either destroyed or left in such a bad state that it was seen by the urban planners of that era as better to demolish it. Postwar redevelopment has replaced many of these areas with large estates, some more successful than others. Much of this residential redevelopment was planned by Frederick Gibberd, the designer of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.
Political radicalism and terrorism
Ever a home to radicals, Communist Party meetings were held in the Town Hall in the post-war years. And although Stoke Newington became part of the London Borough of Hackney in 1965, it has never quite lost its own identity. Indeed, following the 1960s, it increasingly became home to a number of squatters, artists, bohemians and also political radicals. Famously, the 'Stoke Newington 8' were arrested on 20 August 1971 at 359 Amhurst Road for suspected involvement in The Angry Brigade bombings.
The third, Muktar Said Ibrahim, was convicted, as the ring leader, on an indictment of conspiracy to murder. He planted a failed bomb on a 26 bus, which misfired later on the Hackney Road on 21 July 2005. Ibrahim used to work at an off-licence on Amhurst Road. In February 2005, police were seeking Ibrahim on an arrest warrant for an outstanding public order offence and sent a letter to his Farleigh Road address saying "Call us, before we call you." After the attack, Ibrahim was seen on the run in Farleigh Road and was later arrested in Dalgrano Gardens, W10. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of forty years before being considered for release.
These days, Stoke Newington is a very multicultural area, with large Asian, Irish, Turkish, Jewish and Afro-Caribbean communities. The area continues to be home to many new and emerging communities such as Polish and Somali immigrants.
Stoke Newington has undergone major gentrification within the last 10 years, as has neighboring Newington Green, Canonbury and Dalston. Much of the gentrification of the area has been based around Church Street which is now home to many independent shops, pubs, bars and cafe's.
On Saturday mornings, St Paul's churchyard in Stoke Newington High Street hosts an active farmers' market – relocated in July/August 2011 from its earlier site in the playground of William Patten Primary school on Stoke Newington Church Street. This was the first farmers' market in the UK to have only organic and biodynamic producers.
In June 2011 property developer Newmark Properties LLP announced their proposed development for Wilmer Place. This includes a large Sainsburys supermarket, "high quality private and affordable residential apartments" and a 90+ vehicle car park. This development requires the demolition of some of the existing properties in Wilmer Place and 195–201 Stoke Newington High Street. There has been strong local reaction against this development during the brief pre-planning consultation. Several local groups are protesting this development, including Hackney Unites, the Hackney Liberal Democrat Party, and Stokey Local, a group formed by local business leaders and residents.