Church Street Stoke Newington (known as 'Stokey' to the locals) wasn't always the popular, bohemian area we see today. While flint tools dating back 200,000 years were found in Stoke Newington Common, a village didn't grow here until the 1500s. Gradually this expanded into the sprawl of London.
The Stoke Newington we know and love today has emerged, with Church Street at the epicentre. Despite being just a few miles from Finsbury Park, Dalston and Shoreditch, the lack of tube connection keeps the tourists away and helps preserve the bohemian community atmosphere.
While you may have heard of a few great cafes in the area, we've dug a little deeper to bring you a whole host of things you should know about this fantastic area. Read on and enjoy!
The entrance to the beautiful Abney Park Cemetery is located on Church Street, giving you no reason not to pop in if you’re in the area. This lovely green park is now a nature reserve and arboretum, but still retains the spooky, overgrown atmosphere it has had since the Victorian period, when it was a cemetery for non-conformists. It’s also a great spot for dog walking, being very canine-friendly.
Just a short walk from Church Street is London’s only all-organic farmer’s market in front of St Paul’s Church on the High Street. Held every Saturday, it’s the perfect place to get to know the locals and stock up on delicious organic fare.
Church Street actually boasts another park, too, this time on the western end of the Street. Clissold Park is much more groomed than Abney Park, and features a lake and a deer enclosure. Clissold Park Cafe was recently refurbished and is most definitely worth a visit – when the weather is nice, the stately steps outside are perfect for relaxing and watching the world go by with a big slice of cake.
The locals are so proud of Stoke Newington, they’ve even set up their own magazine, ‘Stereo Stokey’. They have restaurant and pub reviews and loads of info on upcoming events. Their twitter is particularly active – check them out at @stereostokey.
While most vintage-lovers head straight to Shoreditch for their shopping fix, Church Street has a great selection of independent vintage shops to rival even the best East London has to offer. Dirty Blonde and Ribbons Taylor are particularly popular for clothing, and there are a smattering of retro furniture and antique shops around tooDirty Blonde, 129 Stoke Newington Church St, London N16 0UH Phone:020 7923 4414 Ribbons Taylor, 157 Stoke Newington Church St, London N16 0UH Phone:020 7254 4735
Perhaps it’s something in the water, but Stoke Newington seems to breed great writers – both Daniel Defoe and Edgar Allan Poe lived here back in the day. There was even a pub called the ‘Robinson Crusoe’ (now Tommy Flynn's) in honour of Defoe’s most famous work.
Church Street has a brilliant selection of Turkish restaurants, due to the large influx of Turkish settlers in the 1970s. They are largely ocakbasi restaurants, known for their grilled food. We particularly love Cirrek Brothers, and there are some nice kebab places, too (however unlikely that might sound to some!)
Stoke Newington may not be on the tube, but did you know that you can get to Liverpool Street in just 15 minutes? For what it lacks in underground transport, the area more than makes up for with trains and buses. Richmond and Clapham Junction are easily accessible by train, while the Overground at Dalston Kingsland isn’t too far away. The buses are particularly well connected – the 73 goes through London to Victoria, while the 76 and 243 both go to Waterloo and pass through Old Street and Farringdon on the way.
Many small businesses on Church Street have signed up to the Wedge card, a loyalty card that offers benefits to those supporting local businesses. This covers not only a great selection of shops, but also galleries, accommodation, hairdressers, local attractions and bars and restaurants. Offers range from 10% off certain items, 2-4-1 discounts, and even free bottles of wine! Check out the Wedge Card website to find out more.
Stoke Newington has a high number of Grade II listed buildings, so chances are you might be able to find a property with some history. They come at a price though – a two bed flat on Church Street is around £1800-2100 pcm in rent.
Ever thought of sailing in London? A few minutes’ walk north of Church Street is the West Reservoir, where you can learn to sail, kayak or try many other types of water sports on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. You can even swim in the reservoir, if you’re feeling brave! They also have a lovely cafe overlooking the water.
The great selection of restaurants here means you can almost do a culinary world tour without leaving N16! Along with the Turkish eateries, Stoke Newington also offers vegetarian dishes from Kerela at Rasa, Spanish tapas at El Olivo, Asian fusion at Itto, Italian fine dining at Il Bacio, Mexican favourites at Mercado, and many more. Make sure you arrive with an appetite!
Did you know that Church Street was home to the world’s first school bus? In the nineteenth century, a bus was organised by the Quaker school Newington Academy for Girls to take them to the Gracechurch Street Meeting house for worship, creating a method of transport that most schoolchildren now use.
Stoke Newington has quite a few well-known fans – Barbara Windsor, famous for her role as Peggy Mitchell in Eastenders, grew up here. She told Hackney Today in 2009: “Stoke Newington was in my life until I was about 22. I went back recently, my house isn’t there anymore, but the area hasn’t really changed at all. Clissold Park is wonderful. It was a favourite place of mine, I used to love the swings and zoo and concerts. I used to hang around outside the Spread Eagle pub on Newington Green, waiting for my granddad to come out and give me tuppence. They were very, very happy times.”. We agree, Barbara!
The ‘Stokeys’ are very protective about the community spirit and independence of the area – there were strong protests against the Nandos on Church Street when it opened in 2009, and so far no other chains have managed to make it onto the street.
Classic Irish pub Auld Shillelagh holds themed music nights which are always a huge hit with the locals. Despite the small facade, the pub stretches back pretty far and includes a big beer garden where you can enjoy ‘the best Guinness in London’.
Antique bargain hunters need to take a look at Cobbled Yard, located on Bouvierie Road. This former Victorian stables has been converted into a huge antique and retro furniture emporium full of eclectic pieces and great bargains. Plan your visit though – it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays.
Ryan’s Bar on Church Street is the best place to watch live music in Stoke Newington. They showcase bands from all over the world, and the venue is cosy and friendly too.
Finally, if you want to spend the afternoon in a proper traditional pub, pop into Jolly Butchers. They have a wide selection of real ales, a fab Sunday lunch, and have been named one of the 10 best pubs in Britain by The Guardian!
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