2/15 Cross the road to Pond House, built about 1800. It was reputed to have a lady ghost walking up and down the stairs. This was the home of the Hackney Volunteers Social Club from 1939 to 2007, when the building was on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register for over 10 years. Next to Pond House is Bishop Wood’s alms houses, which accommodated poor local widows from the 1690s until 2012. Note the small chapel in the north-east corner, now converted into part of an apartment.
3/15 In a previous house at the corner with Newick Road lived Mary Howitt, the English translator of Hans Christian Anderson, who visited here. Newick Road is named after the Powell family’s Sussex estate. James Powell bought Clapton House, which stood at the top of today’s Thistlethwaite Road, and surrounding estate in 1799.
4/15 Walk down Newick Road past houses built by 1899, when a single fronted house sold for £480; £680 for a double fronted house. Note the finials which have survived on some of the turret roofs. Stop at Cornthwaite Road, named for Miss Cornthwaite who married James Powell. There was open land south of here leading down to the River Lea with a cricket pitch until roads were laid out after 1894.
5/15 Turn right towards Millfields Rd and then left to follow down hill what was an old country lane which crossed the River Lea to Essex at Cow Bridge. Originally called Marsh Lane, by 1831 it was called Pond Lane and from 1887 Millfields Road. On the other side of the road was Pond Lane plant nursery until streets were laid out there in 1896.
6/15 At the bottom of the hill turn left into Chatsworth Rd. Legend has it that a battle was fought in 527 on the site of Millfields Park, opposite, between East Saxons and forces from Kent who sailed up the River Lea to march on London. The East Saxons won and kept London as the capital of their kingdom of Essex.
7/15 Walk on to the corner with Fletchling Road. From the electricity station on the other side of the park the first air-raid sirens were sounded over Hackney in February 1918: 3 blasts of 15 seconds with 15 second intervals for take cover and 30 seconds continuous for all clear. Millfields Estate, next to the electricity station, was the site of Clapton Orient’s ground then a dog racing stadium which closed in 1974.
8/15 Left into Fletching Rd, named for another Sussex village associated with the Powell family. Then go right into Wattisfield Road with Hackney War Memorial Homes on the left opened in 1923 for 10 men disabled by war and their families. The homes still accommodate residents disabled in public service.
9/15 On to Lea Bridge Road, known as Mill Lane in 1443. The road took traffic down to Jeremy’s Ferry to cross the Lea. It became Lea Bridge Road in 1745, when a wooden (later iron) bridge was built over the river. In 1757 a Turnpike Trust was set up for the road with a tollhouse on the Hackney side of the river.
10/15 Turn left up Lea Bridge Road to the traffic lights. On the other side of road No. 47 was, until demolished in 2006, the Clapton Federation Synagogue. Built in 1931 in art-deco, Romanesque style, it served Clapton’s Jewish community; local lad the playwright Harold Pinter had his bar mitzvah here. Go left into Cornthwaite Road.
11/15 Turn right up Thistlethwaite Rd to the top of the road. As you pass by, notice No 25 the site of Hackney’s first synagogue built privately in the 1770s in the grounds of Clapton House, which stood at the top of the road. No 19 was the childhood home of Harold Pinter. Until about 15 years ago many houses in this and surrounding roads had Mezuzahs on the doorposts, denoting Jewish homes.
12/15 At the top of the road notice in the distance to your right BSix College. It is on the site of c15th Brooke House. In 1666 Samuel Pepys first saw oranges growing here in the house’s ‘excellent’ garden.The house became a private asylum for the mentally ill from 1758 until WW2 when it was bombed, not badly enough to be restored but the house was demolished in the 1950s. Some of the house’s panelling was removed to Harrow School.
13/15 The Clapton Hart opposite was one of four pubs licensed in 1722 in Hackney. Before the pub reopened in more recent times it was Chimes Bar. Next door opened in 1910 the Clapton Cinematograph Theatre, refronted in the 1930s. The cinema closed in 1979. After 2000 it was the Palace Pavilion Club. This area was called Murder Mile because the bar and club attracted violence until they were closed in 2007.
14/15 The cinema site is now owned by an Ethiopian Church. St James’s Church, next to it, was built in 1841 on land given by the Powell family who provided the first three vicars. Next to the church at No 219 was the site of a watering can factory set up in 1886 by 50 year old John Haws after retiring from colonial service in Mauritius, with his Mauritius born wife. Haws watering cans are still made in Smethwick, West Midlands.
15/15 Return to Clapton Pond. In 2006 an archaeological dig here found prehistoric artefacts, a coin of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, minted in northern Italy in about 325 AD; a George III coin of 1779; c18th English and imported Chinese porcelain and a tie pin with an inscription in Hebrew: ‘mazel’ (good luck).