So, you don't know where Haggerston is? Neither did I! But it has a station - on the Highbury and Islington to West Croydon route, if you are wondering - so what better place as a starting point for some New Year psycho-geography.
It's in Hackney - sandwiched between Hoxton and Dalston. E8 is the postal area. Haggerston station was rebuilt and reopened six years ago, and in the bright winter sun looks rather fetching - as does the adjoining Stonebridge Gardens.
The whole point of these rambles it to discover the unexpected - and just three minutes stroll from the station is the delightful Albion Square, with a wonderful, almost tropical-looking, garden.
Adjoining the square, on Albion Drive, is the home of Iain Sinclair - psychogeographer extraordinary and author of Hackney, that Rose-Red Empire. And plumb in the middle of the gardens, deservedly listed as a local landmark, is a splendid granite drinking fountain
Venturing on, the real surprise of the ramble came - as so often - on a back street. This 'Gothic Revival spectacle', in Sinclair's judgement, was built as the Hamburg Lutheran Church, its foundation stone laid by the Duke of Cambridge in 1875. Apparently, its minister in the late 1930s was a Hitler sympathiser, and on the outbreak of war he headed back sharpish to Germany. The building is now used by a Pentecostal group, the Faith Tabernacle Church of God.
Still more delightful is the array of adjoining buildings, tucked away from view - these are, or were, the German Hospital.
The hospital was established nearby in the 1840s. These buildings date from 1864. Although intended for local Germans of all religions, the hospital also provided care for anyone who needed it.
By the 1930s, the hospital had almost two-hundred beds. But in 1940 the German staff were arrested and interned on the Isle of Man as enemy aliens.
It became part of the NHS as a general hospital in 1948 later became a specialist psychiatric and psycho-geriatric hospital and eventually closed in 1987. The older, listed buildings now provide affordable housing.
The hospital into which this one was subsumed offered the only modern architecture of note (Haggerston Station apart) encountered in E8. Here's part of Homerton University Hospital - a splash of bue among the rose red:
On Shacklewell Lane, there were two memorable moments - a wonderful old dairy frontage ... and an old public wash house now done up as flats.
I had this vague sense as I promenaded along Shacklewell Lane that I was heading out, out, out - that Newham could well be next stop. Then I hit Stoke Newington Road. So I was about as wrong as could be. But taking to some of the back streets of good old Stokey, I still found some new places to ponder over.
On Walford Road, just two or three minutes from the main road, is a back street synagogue - and independent orthodox synagogue, according to its website, which dates back to the inter-war years, initially serving I imagine those Jews who moved out of the East End for a more comfortable life. Architecturally, it's distinctly drab - but nice that it survives, and as a place of worship too.
Zig-zagging to the south side of Abney Park, I chanced across Aden Terrace, which follows what was once the course of the New River, the ancient waterway which once provided drinking water to the capital. And delightfully, where the river once ran there are now allotments. How could I have never spotted this before?
The course of the New River crosses Green Lanes on its way south and then once ran in the middle of Petherton Road, now grassed over and a long green snake of a dog walk. And on the one-time shopfronts facing the road, one last surprise -
A fashionable restaurant has made a virtue of being located in a former garage - to the extent of keeping the old, fading signboard, complete with the three letter area code.
This is CAN for Canonbury. CAN do!
What an astonishing photograph! It appears in George Sims' Living London, published in three volumes from 1901. The Ayahs' Home at that time was on King Edward's Road, close to the southern end of Mare Street.
Ayahs are Indian nannies - hundreds came over with British colonial-era families returning from India, and quite a few ended up abandoned, or homeless as they sought new employment. An ayahs' home seems to have been set up in Aldgate from the 1820s or a little later. The home had moved to a large house at 26 King Edward's Road by 1891, when it came under the management of the London City Mission.
This photo of the exterior of the Ayahs' Home appeared in the London City Mission magazine in 1900. The mission of course was trying to save souls as well as help the distressed - and clearly seeking to reassure its donors that this was a well-run enterprise.
The building still stands - none of the signage survives, but otherwise it is much as it was when ayahs sought refuge here a century and more ago. I went down to King Edward's Road today - this is what No. 26 looks like:
The First World War made it all but impossible for ayahs to return home. And during or more probably just after the war, the home moved one-hundred yards or so to slightly bigger and more modern premises at 4 King Edward's Road. And that building too is still standing - again with none of the old signage, but with the porch and rudiments of the exterior design little changed, and perhaps even the same railings:
Its not clear when the Ayahs' Home closed - perhaps in the mid-1920s, though one imagines that the problem of stranded ayahs may well have persisted into the 1950s. Perhaps as the Indian population in the UK grew, ayahs were able to seek help from within the community.
You can find out more about the Ayahs' Home at the following sites and in an article by Suzanne Conway in a volume entitled Children, Childhood and Youth in the British World. And thanks to the Geffrye Museum in Dalston - it was a mention of the Ayah's Home in their current exhibition 'Swept under the Carpet?: Servants in London Households, 1600-2000' which put me on this track.
Hackney's Broadway Market at the south end of London Fields has a bit of an edge to it. Shops dispensing goat's cheese in ciabatta and a Costcutters; a Situationist bookshop - one of three bookshops in this not very long street - next to a hardware store. And then at one end, the less than might glory of the Regent's canal.
Leaving aside Stoke Newington Church Street, which is (can't resist it) a touch hackneyed and past its prime, Broadway Market is the epitome of Hackney cool. So cool that is bound to be lambasted any day now by Iain Sinclair and others who rejoice in the Hackney grime of the 1970s.
But I think this Broadway is every bit as tasty as my pastrami and cheese on rye.
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