Sean Gubbins walks us through Hackney’s oldest buildings

Built as part of a church in about 1275, St Augustine’s Tower (1), just off Mare Street’s Narrow Way, is the oldest building in today’s Hackney, created when Stoke Newington and Shoreditch were joined with Hackney in 1965. Although the church was rebuilt in 1519, it still makes it 16 years older than the second oldest, and oldest domestic, building: Sutton House (2) in Homerton.

St Augustine’s Tower

The oldest building in Stoke Newington is St Mary’s Church (3) next to Clissold Park, rebuilt in 1563 by William Patten. Shoreditch pulled down its medieval church in 1736. So, Shoreditch’s oldest building is probably what remains of a house, of about 1693 (4), now right next to the bridge carrying the East London Line over Shoreditch High Street, opposite Boxpark. A few other houses remain from the 1690s: on the north side of Newington Green (4), in Sylvester Path (4), behind Mare Street, and the just-surviving mansion at 195 Mare Street (4). Of course, earlier than these is the magnificent 1658 terrace on the west side of Newington Green – but that’s in Islington.

Former house in Shoreditch, circa 1693

More survives from the 1700s. Stoke Newington Church Street and High Street boast a number of 18th century houses: 109-111 Church Street from about 1700 (5) and No. 169, Sisters’ Place, (6), built in 1714, as well as Nos. 81-87 dating from 1733 (10). In the High Street, Nos. 187(Yum Yum)-189 went up between 1715 and 1728 (8). At the other end of today’s Hackney, you can find No. 237 Hoxton Street, built around 1700 (5); further down the road No 126 dates from 1725-30 (9), currently being restored with its 19th century shop-front stripped away. Around the corner is No. 16, Charles Square, from 1725 (7), the first Hackney building to be listed. Nearby is the Geffrye Museum, constructed as almshouses in 1714 (6). George Dance the Elder’s Shoreditch Church (11), just down Kingsland Road, was completed 24 years later.

Other survivors are scattered around the borough. In the middle of Dalston Lane, at No.160, stands a house from the second quarter of the 18th century. Opposite Bannister House and in the heart of Homerton’s traffic-laden High Street, there still stand a handsome Georgian pair with pediments and Tuscan columns. Perhaps the most surprising survivors, well disguised behind shop fronts, are the houses beside the Kingsland Waste Market, the oldest being from 1758.

More buildings from Hackney’s past could have survived had they not been built over by swathes of Victorian housing from the 1840s onwards, blitzed or allowed to decay into slums to be compulsorily purchased and cleared. As you walk though Hackney’s streets look out for the remnants of Hackney’s architectural heritage and cherish them.

Looking for something to do one weekend?  Intrigued to find out more about Hackney?

Look up and pick a walk that takes your fancy. The next four are in this edition’s What’s On section. I look forward to welcoming you on one of my walks.

Images © and courtesy of Sean Gubbins