A Travellerspoint blog

HILL AND DALE: WIG AND VEIL

Take a stroll from Dalston up to the top of Stamford Hill: a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, experience.

Grilling at Arcola street Mangal

Grilling at Arcola street Mangal

For me, one of the best things about London is the great mix of peoples of all races and beliefs that makes up its population. Another delight is the lack of uniformity of the city, which resulted from the coalescing of once almost isolated towns and villages.

In this piece, we explore some aspects of three historic places - Dalston, Stoke Newington, and Stamford Hill - along the old Roman Road to Lincoln and York known as ‘Ermine Street’. The earliest record of Dalston is from 1294. The name is derived from ‘Deorlaf's tun’ (‘tun’, meaning ‘farm). Stoke Newington, which means ‘new town in the wood’ was built by the Saxons. Stamford Hill first appeared in records in the 13th century, its name meaning ‘the hill by the sandy ford’ (see: “The London Encyclopaedia”, ed. by B Weinreb and C Hibbert). Enough background, let's get a move on!

Former Reeve's paint factory - detail

Former Reeve's paint factory - detail

We started visiting the Dalston area on a regular basis in about 2006. It was then that we first tried, and then fell in love with, a highly-recommended Turkish grill restaurant, ‘Mangal’, in Arcola Street. We continue to eat there regularly, because it serves some of the best grilled meat that we have tasted anywhere. Opposite the restaurant, there used to be a wonderful theatre, the Arcola Theatre, which was housed in an old factory. This has now relocated (see below). Since its relocation, we have begun patronising Ozdiller - a marvellous warehouse-like Turkish ‘cash and carry’ grocery shop in the former factory (and theatre) premises opposite the restaurant.

Kebabs at  Arcola Street Mangal

Kebabs at Arcola Street Mangal

Arcola Street, named after Napoleon’s victory against the Austrians at Arcole (aka ‘Arcola’) in 1796, is a small lane leading into Kingsland Road (A10), which forms part of the Roman road that led to Lincoln and York, the so-called ‘Ermine Street’. Elsewhere, I have described in detail the part of this road between Seven Sisters and Upper Edmonton. Now, I will portray the stretch south of this between Dalston and Stamford Hill. In doing so, we will travel through areas where many women cover their heads, some with veils and others with wigs.

Old and new buildings at Kingsland Road Dalston Lane junction

Old and new buildings at Kingsland Road Dalston Lane junction

Our tour begins near Dalston Junction Station at the junction of Kingsland Road and Dalston Lane. The modernised station is part of a new development of apartment blocks, shops, and restaurants. Neighbouring these, and in complete contrast to them, there are some older (18th century or early 19th century) buildings on the Kingsland Road. Where the two roads meet, there is a 19th century building that was once the ‘Crown and Castle’ pub.

Former Crown and Castle, Kingsland Road

Former Crown and Castle, Kingsland Road

It was already open for business in 1851, and it closed its doors finally in about 2005 (see: http://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/Hackney/KingslandRd564.shtml). It was under threat of demolition after it closed (see: http://opendalston.blogspot.co.uk/2006/09/story-that-was-never-told.html), but has so far evaded destruction. Currently, its ground floor is home to an eatery called ‘The Diner’.

Once, the Reeves factory

Once, the Reeves factory

Ashwin Street, which runs north off Dalston Lane, leads to the relocated premises of the Arcola Theatre. This is now housed in the former Reeves paint factory. In 1766, William Reeves opened his first shop near St Pauls Cathedral, manufacturing and selling artists’ paints (see: http://www.reeves-art.com). William was a great innovator in paint production He invented the watercolour ‘blocks’ – solid lumps of paint whose surfaces dissolve when touched by a wet brush - artists still use them today. It was his brother Thomas, who set the company on the road to economic success. Much paint was sent to India for use by the East India Company, but the 1857 ‘Indian Mutiny’ damaged this profitable sector of the market. The company recovered, and by 1868 it was able to build the substantial factory that now houses the Arcola Theatre and various other leisure institutions. In 1948, Reeves shifted their offices to a new factory in Enfield.

Arcola Theatre entrance

Arcola Theatre entrance

Arcola Theatre: largest stage

Arcola Theatre: largest stage

The Arcola Theatre was started in 2000 in an old textile factory in Arcola Street by the Turkish theatre director Mehmet Ergen. It moved to the Ashwin Street site in 2011, when the landlord in Arcola Street wanted to re-develop the building. It remains undeveloped. The present Arcola in the Reeves Factory has three performance spaces – one large, and two intimately small. It also has a spacious bar, and a café area near to the ticket office in the foyer. The theatre company prides itself on trying to be energy efficient. It puts on a range of plays, often performed to a high standard. We have rarely been disappointed, but often amazed by the top-rate acting and direction. In all three auditoria, there is not a seat with a poor view of the stage. Like several ‘alternative’ theatres in London (e.g. The Finborough, The Park, The Gate, The Print Room), what is on offer at the Arcola is usually far more satisfying than what is performed at the more ‘mainstream’ (and expensive) West End theatres. We attend the Arcola frequently.

Shiloh Pentacostal Church in Ashwin Street

Shiloh Pentacostal Church in Ashwin Street

Opposite the theatre, there is a large church, which was built in 1871. The architectural historians B Cherry and N Pevsner describe this building as: “… a hefty former Baptist chapel …” built with “… a coarse Lombard Romanesque front…”. Now, it is called ‘The Shiloh Pentecostal Chapel’. Services are held there, but its main purpose is to teach prospective pastors and ‘Christian workers’. Close to this on a corner site, there are the premises of ‘HJ Aris’, which still advertises itself as: “Wine shipper and Bonder”.

HJ Aris, Ashwin Street

HJ Aris, Ashwin Street

This was built as a pub, the former ‘Railway Tavern’ in Victorian times (1868). HJ Aris, whose name is carved above its main entrance, was the publican between 1899 and 1939 (see: http://hackneybuildings.org/items/show/19559). It closed in the 1970s. Now, the premises are used as a second-hand ‘emporium’. Its attractive, varied wares are well-displayed in such a way that one feels as if one has entered the set for ghost film or a ‘gothick’ story. Tasty, carefully prepared snacks and drinks are available, and consumers can sit on the antique/second-hand seating that is being offered for sale.

Ridley Road market

Ridley Road market

Returning to Kingsland Road, we soon reach Ridley Road, where a market is held most days. Located opposite Dalston Kingsland Station, this market was established in the 1880s. It straggles along the long Ridley Road. Although many exotic fruits and vegetables are on offer, it is not a particularly picturesque market. Many of the lady customers wear head coverings, and the area’s rich ethnic mix can be observed in this bustling centre of commerce.

Gillett Square

Gillett Square

Further north, a short passage leads to Gillett Square. In good weather, clusters of people can be seen here enjoying themselves: making music, chatting, playing cards and chess, and so on. At one end of the rectangular ‘square’, there is a modern building, a converted factory, the ‘Dalston Culture House’ (completed 2005). Several ‘pod kiosks’ line the south side of the square. At least one of these serves as a café. Near these, there is an art installation consisting of a freight container covered with small mirrors angulated in various directions. I am not clear who created this, but I believe that it is used to store outdoor toys.

Mirrored container in Gillett Square

Mirrored container in Gillett Square

The project to develop the square (from disused industrial premises and a car park) into a ‘new urban space’ began in the late 1990s (see: http://www.gillettsquare.org.uk/about/a-brief-history), and has been successful. A good time to visit it is on a warm summer evening when plenty of people are enjoying it. The squares website describes it well: “A blank canvas for a community to paint differently, every day.”

Voodo Ray's

Voodo Ray's

Just north of the square, one restaurant stands out from the many that line Kingsland Road. This is one of three branches of ‘Voodo Ray’s’, a restaurant that serves delicious looking pizzas by the slice or as a huge 22-inch whole. I imagine that the restaurant’s name is related to the acid house single, “Voodoo Ray”, by Gerald Simpson, released in 1988.

Rio Cinema

Rio Cinema

The elegant Rio Cinema is several doors north of the pizza parlour. Beautifully restored (or conserved), this building dates from 1937, when an older building, which had been a cinema, the ‘Empire’, since 1915 was restyled (internally and externally) in the art-deco style by the cinema architect FE Bromige (see: http://riocinema.org.uk). Until 1979, when it became known as the ‘Rio’, the Empire was re-named the ‘Classic’. An independent cinema, it shows films with less popular appeal as well as those on general widespread release. One year, we attended several screenings of films presented as part of a Turkish film festival.

Although Dalston is being ‘discovered’ and colonised by young trend-setters, it remains a veritable ethnic mixing pot. Turkish and Kurdish hairdressers’ shops have, as neighbours, African hairdressers, whose female clients sit for ages while they have hair extensions applied. Trendy new bars are interspersed between numerous eateries offering all manner of (mostly) Turkish and Kurdish foods. This is the place to enjoy a kebab, or some lahmacun, or some börek, or some sarma, or a gösleme, or Turkish tea, or baklava, or simit, or a plate of meze, or some imam bayildi, or, perhaps, all of them at one sitting! At Tugra bakery, not only can you sample some of the best baklava that I have ever eaten, but you might well be served by Turkish-speaking Uighur people, Moslem refugees from Communist China.

Numerous food shops offer a bewildering range of goods, for example: tropical fish (fresh and frozen); exotic fruit and vegetables; halal meat; and alcoholic drinks from all over the world. This is a place to buy white cheeses or olives from Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Matching this variety of foodstuffs is the diversity of different clothing styles that can be seen: ‘Europeans’ in ‘smart casual’, Africans and Afro-Carribeans in colourful, often flamboyant, outfits; and Moslem women protecting their modesty in a variety of styles relating to where their families originated, be it the Middle East or parts of Africa. Although the architecture is British, the area feels anything but British. In warm weather, one could easily imagine being abroad when mixing with the varied crowd on the street. However, there are few places out of London, where one could meet so many nationalities in one place, and that is what helps make the city almost unique.

Savoy, then ABC cinema, now snooker parlour

Savoy, then ABC cinema, now snooker parlour

The Efes Snooker Club, a few yards north of the Rio, was once a cinema. Like the Rio, it was an art-deco cinema. Designed by ABC cinema’s in-house architect William R Glen (1885-1950), the Savoy Cinema opened in 1936 (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14878). Between 1961 and 1977, it was called the ‘ABC’. Then, it changed hands, and became the ‘Konak’ cinema, which screened movies from India’s ‘Bollywood’ studios. From 1982 to 1984, new owners called it the ‘Ace’, which was not a successful venture. After that, the building was left to become derelict and a target for vandals. When Turkish organisations took over the building in about 1995, its future was assured. Although its exterior looks rather shabby, it is still recognisable as a former cinema.

Princess May School

Princess May School

Just north of Arcola Street (see above), there is the corner plot on which the Princes May Road School stands. This magnificent gabled building in red brick bears the date 1900, but it was first opened as a ‘board school’ (locally-run elementary school: free education for children of hard-up families, otherwise fee-paying) in 1892 for 304 boys and the same number of girls. The school faces the A10, which has at this point become Stoke Newington Road.

St Johns Court

St Johns Court

The school faces a neo-classical building, St Johns Court, across the main road. Built to the designs of Sir John Taylor (1833-1912, see: http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/) of The Office of Works in 1889, the same year as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, this was originally the Dalston Police Court, and then later the North London Magistrates Court (see: http://hackneybuildings.org/items/show/19718). Like many other court houses (e.g. the West London County Court in West Kensington and Central London County Court in Regents Park) in London, this one has been converted to commercial and residential use.

Former Simpsons factory, NOW Olympic House

Former Simpsons factory, NOW Olympic House

Next to the former courthouse, there is a huge art-deco building with large windows, and faced with white stone. It stands on a corner plot. The white building is the front of a line of massive industrial buildings that stretch along Somerford Grove. Now named ‘Olympia House’ the white building that faces Stoke Newington Road was once the front of the former Simpsons factory. Its construction was commissioned by ‘rags-to riches’ Simeon Simpson, one of the biggest manufacturers of high quality men’s clothing during the period between the two World Wars. The company moved from smaller premises in Middlesex Street (in E1) into this enormous factory after it was built in 1929 to the designs of Hobden and Porri (see: http://hackneybuildings.org/items/show/19719). It was in this factory that the once well-known ‘DAKS’ trousers were made. Ten to fifteen years ago, we visited this building, part of which then served as a Kurdish community meeting centre. I remember entering a large room where many people were sitting at long tables drinking tea. We joined them for a ‘cuppa’. It reminded me of a waiting area at a bus station in Eastern Europe long ago. Now, different parts of the building serve a variety of purposes.

Aziziye Camii

Aziziye Camii

Continuing northwards along Stoke Newington Road, the drab line of buildings is dramatically punctuated by a building that looks as if it had been transported there from Bukhara or Samarkand. Covered in blue and white tiles and sporting several golden domes, this is the Aziziye Camii. It is an Ottoman-style mosque funded by the UK Turkish Islamic Association. The building looks almost brand new, but it is not. Its history (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14874) is one of profanity to sanctity.

Aziziye Camii

Aziziye Camii

The building began life in 1913 as the ‘Apollo Picture House’. In 1933, it became the ‘Ambassador Cinema’, which closed in 1963. Between 1965 and 1974, it became a bingo club, but in 1974 it returned to being a cinema, ‘The Astra’. The Astra became a private cinema club screening films of martial arts and soft porn. Then in 1994, after closing in 1983 and having been disused for several years, it became a mosque, and acquired its glorious tiling and domes. The former foyer of the cinema contains shops including a halal butcher and a Turkish grill restaurant.

Coronation Avenue

Coronation Avenue

Our next landmark is one of a series of Edwardian apartment blocks (built 1910), Coronation Avenue, opposite a large police station on Victorian Road. The gates to this and its neighbour Imperial Avenue are in the art-nouveau style, designed by the Jewish architect and social worker Nathan Joseph (1834-1909). On the 13th of October 1940, 160 people were killed when an explosive bomb made a direct hit on an air-raid shelter beneath Coronation Avenue (for a first-hand account of this tragedy, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/26/a2090026.shtml).

White Hart, Stoke Newington

White Hart, Stoke Newington

Several picturesque pubs in 18th and 19th century buildings line Stoke Newington High Street north of the police station. These include ‘The White Hart’ (first established as ‘The White Hind’ between 1625 and 1703); ‘The Rochester Castle’ with its attractively decorated bow window (formerly ‘The Green Dragon’, established by 1702); ‘The Coach and Horses’ (an 18th century coaching house: “…it is one of the oldest remaining public houses in the borough of Hackney which was formerly in the county of Middlesex”, according to http://coachandhorsesn16.com/); ‘The Three Crowns’ (an old establishment, rebuilt in 1898); and the flamboyantly decorated ‘The Jolly Butchers’ (it has been in existence as a pub since before 1826). This cluster of hostelries attests to Stoke Newington’s early existence as a village and, also, a stopping place on the road from London to the north.

Rochester Castle detail

Rochester Castle detail

The Coach and Horses

The Coach and Horses

Three Crowns, St Newington detail

Three Crowns, St Newington detail

Jolly Butcher Stoke Newington detail

Jolly Butcher Stoke Newington detail

In between the pubs, one can spot evidence of the immense Turkish influence in north-east London not only in the form of Turkish shops and eateries, but also in the shape of a discrete shopfront that bears a sign “Beşiktaş FC, members only”.

Besiktas FC Stoke Newington

Besiktas FC Stoke Newington

This is a social club for local supporters of an important Istanbul football team. And amongst these, there is the beautiful modern ‘High Street Methodist Church’. An elegantly simple 21st century structure, it was designed by Julian Cowie’s architectural practice.

High Street Methodist Church Stoke Newington

High Street Methodist Church Stoke Newington

An aging notice on number 220 Stoke Newington High Street (just south of the junction with Northwold Road) reads “Market Place”. This “… suggests a previous, though long since forgotten, use” (see: https://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/ep-stoke-newington-appraisal.pdf). Almost opposite this, there are several large 18th century patrician buildings. One of them, number 189, was a private residence until 1864, when it became a dispensary, which it remained until after WW2. Now, it houses a solicitors’ firm.

189 Stoke Newington High Str

189 Stoke Newington High Str

Next door to it, and set back from the road, stands number 191. This building went through several reincarnations: until 1848, it housed an infant orphan asylum; during the 1850s, it became a private home; by 1860, it was a girls’ school; and after reverting to be a residence, it was the London Female Penitentiary (later London Female Guardian Society) from 1884 until WW2 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol8/pp168-171). This organisation worked “… for the rescue, reclamation and protection of betrayed and fallen women” (see: “Do Penance Or Perish: Magdalen Asylums in Ireland” by F Finnegan).

191 Stoke Newington High Street

191 Stoke Newington High Street

A map surveyed in 1870 shows that number 187 (the original building is now much modified) was an ‘Invalid Female Asylum’. This was founded by the Quaker Mary Lister in 1825 as the ‘Invalid Asylum for Respectable Women in London and Its Vicinity’. It “was intended to accommodate working women of the servant class whose health had broken down and who need rest and some nursing and medical care, but who were not seriously ill. It was felt that the country air of Stoke Newington would be beneficial to them. … Before admission, each patient had to produce a certificate of good moral conduct signed by two respectable housekeepers or her employer. Strict rules had to be followed within the Asylum and patients were required to provide some nursing care for their fellow patients, as well as undertaking cleaning of the wards.” (my italics, see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/homehospital.html). Later, until it closed in 1940, it served as a hospital for women.

Entrance to Abney Park

Entrance to Abney Park

Just north of these institutions that were supposed to enhance or preserve life, there is a large cemetery, Abney Park. For anyone who likes Victorian cemeteries, this is a ‘must-see’. It is entered through a neo-Egyptian style gateway. A long, straight, cobbled roadway heads towards a veritable forest. Amongst the trees and bushes, there are paths lined with funerary monuments. Some of the footpaths are overgrown, the gravestones lining them are buried in luxuriant vegetation. In the middle of the cemetery, there stands the skeleton of a cruciform ‘Gothick’ chapel, which was designed by William Hosking (1800-1861) and opened in 1840.

Abney Park chapel detail

Abney Park chapel detail

Its ghostly appearance is enhanced by the dark spaces where once there was delicate stone tracery holding panes of glass, which have long since disappeared through neglect and vandalism in the past. Although a place where the dead repose, the cemetery is a hive of activity with: visitors; babies being aired in their push-chairs; dogs being taken for walks; and groups schoolchildren roaming around with their teachers looking at the place’s abundance of wildlife.

Abney Park: a leafy alley

Abney Park: a leafy alley

Abney Park Cemetery was one of a series (or ring) of public burial grounds (including, for example, Abney Park, Highgate Cemetery, Norwood, and Kensal Green) that were established around London following a campaign led by the barrister George F Carden (1798-1874) between the years 1831 to 1841. He was inspired to do this after visiting the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in 1821. Abney Park was established in the late 1830s (for detailed history, see: “A Guide to Abney Park Cemetery” by Paul Joyce, publ. 1994). Unlike many of the cemeteries established during that period in London, Abney Park was non-denominational. It was declared that every portion of it: “… should be open to all parties without distinction or preference.” (see: Joyce, above).

Abney Park: 'graffiti' on a rubbish container

Abney Park: 'graffiti' on a rubbish container

Amongst those buried in the cemetery, many were non-conformists. The best known of these is William Booth (1829-1912), the Methodist founder of the Salvation Army. In 2005, the grave of Joanna Vassa (1795-1857) was discovered at Abney Park. She was a child of the former ‘black’ African slave (born in West Africa, an Igbo) and then abolitionist Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), known during his lifetime as ‘Gustavus Vassa’, and his ‘white’ British wife Susannah (née Cullen, from Soham in Cambridgeshire). Joanna married the congregational minister Henry Bromley, and lived with him in Hackney, where she died in 1857 (see: http://www.abneypark.org/history/well-known-names).

Given that this piece is about a multicultural part of London, allow me to digress a little about Equiano. He achieved great fame with the publication of his autobiography in 1789 (“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: or, Gustavus Vassa, the African…”). While on a bookselling tour in Cambridgeshire, he first met his future wife, and married her in 1792 (see: “Equiano the African”, by V Carretta, publ. 2006). He felt that his marriage to a European foretold on a personal level the union that he hoped would be achieved between nations. Carretta wrote that in 18th century England, there was a greater demand for male black servants than for female. This led to a gender imbalance in the black serving peoples’ community in England, and consequently there were far more ‘black’ males living with ‘white’ females than the opposite. These inter-racial relationships were rarely frowned upon (in public). Equiano and his family were not discriminated against. Today, relationships between members of different ethnic groups are common in London, but, clearly, nothing new. A liberal attitude to marrying out of one’s own community is rare amongst some of those people living in the part of London immediately to the north of Abney Park.

Satmar butcher, Stamford Hill

Satmar butcher, Stamford Hill

Stoke Newington High Street ends at Abney Park. Then, the A10 begins ascending the stretch of road called ‘Stamford Hill’. Very soon after the road begins to climb, you will see ‘Satmar’, a shop selling meat and poultry. In addition to the Hebrew on the shop sign, there is a circular notice in both Hebrew and English indicating that the shop sells Kosher goods. Stamford Hill is well-known for its Hasidic Jewish community.

Some Jewish people lived in the Stamford Hill area as early as the 18th century, but the Jewish population only began to grow significantly in the 1880s. This resulted from Jewish families wishing to escape the poverty of places like Stepney in the East End. Jewish refugees from Europe (for example Nazi Germany, and later Soviet Russia) joined them later. In 1926, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations was established in Stamford Hill. This is one of the reasons that the area attracted the highly Orthodox Jews (like the Hasidics). The area has, therefore, the largest Hasidic community in Europe.

Stamford Hill local people

Stamford Hill local people

You would have to be very unobservant not to notice the characteristic garb worn by the religious Jewish men and boys. Many of them wear clothing that would not looked out of place during the 19th (or even 18th) century in the Jewish areas of towns all over Eastern Europe. Knee length jackets/coats (‘bekishe’), often black, are frequently worn along with a variety of head coverings ranging from skull caps to cylindrical fur hats (‘shtreimel’). The men have luxuriant facial hair. The young boys have dangling side curls. The Hasidic wives wear wigs, known as 'sheytl' in Yiddish, to conceal their own hair. This has its parallels in Islam, where rules of ‘hijab’ often prevail. Due to the multi-ethnic population in the area, one can often see Jewish women wearing wigs (sheytls) walking along the same stretch of pavement as Moslem women wearing veils (hijab).

Scheytl and hijab

Scheytl and hijab

A young man near  Stamford Hill Library

A young man near Stamford Hill Library

Stamford Hill at Corner of Reizel Close

Stamford Hill at Corner of Reizel Close

At the corner of Reizels Close and Stamford Hill, there are two large houses that look as if they are either late 18th or early 19th century. Up the hill from these, stand the large brick buildings that comprise the Guinness Trust Estate, which was completed in 1932 and contains 400 residential units. “In 1890, philanthropist Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, the great grandson of the founder of the Guinness Brewery, gave £200,000 to set up The Guinness Trust in London … He wanted to help improve the lives of ordinary people, many of whom couldn’t afford decent homes.” (quoted from: http://history.guinnesspartnership.com/the-origins/). Guinness was not the only charitable trust set up to improve Londoners’ living conditions. His was one of about thirty such organisations that included the well-known Peabody Trust.

Stamford Hill Guiness Trust Estate Adam House

Stamford Hill Guiness Trust Estate Adam House

The Guinness buildings are opposite another huge, ugly housing estate, ‘Stamford Hill’. This was built in the 1930s by the London County Council. Further up the hill and well-protected by security guards and closed-circuit tv cameras, there are several buildings of importance to the local Jewish community.

Stamford Hill Brenner Community Centre

Stamford Hill Brenner Community Centre

One of these is the Brenner Community Centre, which offers care and support for the elderly, might be at risk of closure (see: https://www.thejc.com/community/community-news/jewish-care-to-shut-its-brenner-centre-in-stamford-hill-1.431433). This is embedded amongst other Jewish organisations including the large Lubavitch House (‘Chabad Lubavitch UK’), UK headquarters and community centre of the Lubavitch, a major worldwide Hasidic movement. The movement (aka ‘chabad’) was founded Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812) in Liozna, which is now in Belarus. ‘Chabad’ is the transliteration of a Hebrew acronym meaning ‘wisdom, understanding, and knowledge’. Lubavitch was the village in Belarus, where the movement was first based.

Stamford Hill Lubavitch House

Stamford Hill Lubavitch House

In addition to the Hasidic Jews, there are also many Haredi Jews in the area. The Haredi Jews, which include the Hasidics, are strictly Orthodox. The Hebrew word ‘haredi’ can be interpreted as ‘one who trembles at the word of God’. The Haredi Jews, who reject modern secular culture, are very family minded, and often have large numbers of children, a far higher birth-rate than the national average. In a highly informative article about the Haredi of Stamford Hill, Mick Brown wrote: “While mainstream Judaism in Britain is in decline, as people ‘marry out’ and abandon the faith, the Haredi community is expanding at a phenomenal rate” (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8326339/Inside-the-private-world-of-Londons-ultra-Orthodox-Jews.html). They try to be self-sufficient and charitable (see “The Jewish Community of Golders Green”, by P Fox, publ. 2016), but resist change. I did notice several men in traditional apparel deep in conversation with their mobile ‘phones held close to their ears.

Beis Ruchel D'Satmar School

Beis Ruchel D'Satmar School

Beis Ruchel D'Satmar School detail

Beis Ruchel D'Satmar School detail

At the summit of Stamford Hill, where a rather dismal shopping centre is arranged around a major road crossing, there is one exceptional building. It is an elaborate 19th century building with a small central cupola, mansard windows and other architectural finery. This was once the ‘Skinners Company School for Girls’. It was built in 1889 to the designs of EH Burnell, and then modified by W Campbell Jones in the 1890s (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1392846). The school closed in 2010. Now, it houses a Jewish primary school for girls aged five to eleven years. It is now called ‘Beis Ruchel D’Satmar’ (‘Satmar’ is the name of one of the largest Haredi congregations in the area).

St Ignatius

St Ignatius

A short distance north of the summit of Stamford Hill, there is the imposing St Ignatus Catholic Church built mostly in brick with two massive bell-towers. Completed in 1911 to the designs of architect/priest Benedict Williamson (1868-1948), it was described in 1966 by the architectural writer Ian Nairn as: “Grandeur in mean surroundings…”. The meanness of the surroundings persists, but not in the sense meant by Nairn. When I visited the church, I noticed a special container, a ‘knife bin’, which bore the words “Get a life, bin that knife”.

STAM 18j St Ignatius: knife bin

STAM 18j St Ignatius: knife bin

This church marked the end of my exploration of this part of the Ermine Street. From there, many buses will take you back to Dalston, which is where I will conclude this piece with a description of a very special place.

Hackney Peace Carnival mural- a detail

Hackney Peace Carnival mural- a detail

Almost opposite Dalton Junction Station and just east of HJ Aris (see above), there is a small open space bordered by a windowless wall, the end of a row of buildings, covered with a huge painting. This vivacious artwork full of political messages, mostly anti-nuclear, is the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural, created by Ray Walker (1945-1984) and painted, after his death, in 1985. It stands next to one of the wonders of Hackney, The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. The garden was created in 2010 on wasteland that had been part of the: “…Eastern Curve railway line’ which once linked Dalston Junction Station to the goods yard and the North London Line” (see: http://dalstongarden.org/about-2/).

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

You enter the garden from a small square, which is dominated by the mural by Ray Walker. As soon as you enter the garden, you find yourself in a wood-covered enclosure that is open to the garden and the elements. Under the canopy, there is a bar/café, that serves hot and cold beverages as well as alcohol. In summer, a wood-fired pizza oven is in action producing pizzas on some evenings. The garden is overflowing with plants (tended by local volunteers), an assortment of seats, and quirky folksy artwork. During one visit, I spotted a group of wild rabbits gambolling amongst the vegetation. At the far end of the garden there is a children's play area and, also, a view of a fantastic mural on a nearby building. This garden of delights is well worth a visit. Order a pint of beer or a cup of tea, and recover from either your exploration of this area or just reading about it!

Dalston Curve Garden

Dalston Curve Garden

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 07:15 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged turkish african islam multi-ethnic kurdish dalston stamford_hill stoke_newington judaisn hassidic haredi lubavitch

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A fascinating read - thank you. Interesting that you cite the BBC People's War archive, as my father in law contributed to that (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/79/a2166879.shtml)

by ToonSarah

Another wonderful entry Adam. Beautifully illustrated.

by Wabat

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