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!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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