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A visit to Clissold Park - less than a mile from the Tube. On the way you will pass this splendid 'castle'.

Manor House station is unusual in having no real road frontage. There is a rather feeble entrance next to Finsbury Park, but otherwise it is accessed via a series of subways. Even the tavern that gave the station its name has gone. As if to make up for this lack of identity there are delightful ventilation grills on the platforms depicting birds and trees in nearby Finsbury Park. 

However, our Manor House trail leads to Clissold Park in the opposite direction, so take Exit No. 3 (Station Place). On emerging from the subway, walk straight ahead (Green Lanes). This is a rather dispiriting walk of about seven minutes ( a bus is available for cheating) – but then you will be rewarded by the sight of one of the wackiest buildings in London – a Victorian water-pumping station built (1854) to resemble a Scottish baronial castle. This once served the adjacent reservoirs, which became redundant in the 1980’s, and has been adapted to create a climbing centre. You may be entertained (or terrified, depending on your attitude to heights) by teams of people abseiling down the walls of this grand edifice. Those interested in old machinery will enjoy visiting the Primary Filter House (1936) (West Reservoir Centre), as some of the original equipment is still on view in the former filter house. The reservoir itself, where cormorants hunt and sailing boats glide, can be seen from the picture windows at the back of the large hall. The East Reservoir, now Woodberry Wetlands, can be accessed via the New River Walk which starts on the left over a bridge just inside the entrance to the whole complex.  It's about a mile before you reach the actual nature reserve which is a trail round reed-fringed water. Unless you want to explore this, you should now return to Green Lanes to continue the Manor House route.

Clissold Park is only another five minutes walk.  It is a delightful place with two lakes, the remnants of Hackney Brook, and a splendid large play park. Plenty of organized activities too. The lakes are called Beckmere and Runtzmere after the leaders of the campaign in the 1880’s to buy Clissold Park and open it to the public. The stretch of water in front of Clissold House was originally part of the New River mentioned above. This was created in 1613 to bring fresh water to Islington from the River Lee in Hertfordshire.

Clissold House itself was built in the 1790’s and is a delightful neo-classical building with a colonnade of Doric columns.  The house has a romantic history. In 1811 it had become the property of a rich iron magnate, one William Crawshay whose daughter fell in love with the local vicar, Augustus Clissold. This liaison was so strongly opposed by her father that he threatened to shoot the friend who delivered the couple’s love letters. He was also rumoured to have raised the height of the garden wall so they could not even catch a glimpse of each other. The story had a happy ending, however, as when the father died they married and moved into the family home, renaming it Clissold House as a final gesture of defiance. The estate became a public park in 1889.  At the Stoke Newington end is a section devoted to animals such as deer and goats, a butterfly tunnel (seasonal) and a small aviary. To reach all these, pass over an iron bridge. After exploring this area, return to the main path and turn right to exit the park. You are now in Stoke Newington Church Street.

The large church tower that dominates the scene here is that of the new St. Mary’s. It was constructed immediately opposite the old church, also St. Mary’s, which looks somewhat intimidated by its large neighbour. The smaller church was (unusually) rebuilt in Tudor times - look out for the date 1563 carved over the door. The delicate oak shingle spire was added in 1829 and there have been a series of other additions and alterations. Wandering round the quiet and shady churchyard it is easy to imagine the time when Stoke Newington was just a village. The site of the later church, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, reflects the fact that in the 1850’s when it was built Stoke Newington was already becoming a suburb.

Return to Stoke Newington Church Street and turn left. Opposite the library you will see a pretty run of buildings, including a red brick terrace on which there is a plaque: ‘On this site stood a medieval mansion . . . . demolished c 1710. Sisters’ Place built in 1714.’ The name was first used in Victorian times, probably because the house belonged to four sisters. The adjoining dwelling has the delightful name of 'Sweetapple House’, possibly after a local schoolmistress, Sarah Sweetapple - what a splendid name for a teacher! There is an large curved building immediately behind old St. Mary’s on the corner of Queen Elizabeth Walk. This is the old Metropolitan Borough Town Hall, erected in the 1930’s. Like the new St. Mary’s, it is out of scale with the old architecture nearby. Not a pretty sight. However, the street itself is attractive, being full of small independent shops - the facades are protected as this is a Conservation Area. Go a bit further on to Nos. 135-7 and you will see a pair of very large Georgian (1769) houses set back from the road. No. 135 has a lovely Doric porch. Like many of the grander dwellings in Stoke Newington, they were built for the wealthy Quaker families who settled here in the eighteenth century. Time now to return to Manor Park Tube station - the most pleasant route back is to retrace your steps through the park. 

Manor House is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings even in the most unpromising areas covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to click on the link above to see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR