diamond geezer

 Monday, November 22, 2021

Walking Britain's B Roads: the B105
Manor Road/Lordship Park/Brownswood Road
[1.3 miles]

The downside of a sequential blogging challenge is that you have no choice over what comes next. In this case what comes after the really-quite-interesting B104 is the not-especially-thrilling B105, but I have to blog it anyway otherwise I can't progress to later B Roads.

I had high hopes because we're barely quarter of a mile from the B104, so still in a Stoke Newington-y part of town, but the B105 merely proved quite pleasant with few distinguishing features. Join me anyway, because I have to get through this if we're ever going to reach the B9178.

The B105 begins on Stamford Hill immediately opposite Stoke Newington station, which is not a classic station but is technically on the A10 so can be disregarded here. On the proper street corner stands Hugh Gaitskell House, a stern 10-storey block of flats opened by the Labour leader's widow in 1964, as a plaque by the roadside attests. Shielding the railway from view is Manor Parade, a sad collection of shuttered businesses which once contained a cake shop, a minicab hire office and a kosher grocers, plus the excellently named Bismillah Kebab House. Of more genuine interest is the pre-Worboys road sign on the pavement confirming Dalston is 1½ miles away and Shoreditch 3. These blue and white signs are normally a rare sight in the capital, but coincidentally the B106 will be blessed with one too.

A few potentially functioning businesses follow, including a dry cleaners, a wine shop and a nail salon, before the parade fades away and Manor Road proper begins. I only gave the brick facade at number 18 a cursory look, long enough to admire faded letters which I think said T Something and underneath Depositories. I should have paid a lot more attention because this furniture warehouse turns out to be properly famous. It was the original home of the Dragon's Den, back in 2005, when its huge timber-ceilinged 1st floor contained five scary chairs facing entrepreneurs attempting to flog umbrella-vending machines. Acoustic issues forced the crew out after one series, but the real winner is the building's owner who recently put it on the market for £3¼m. You get none of this sense of TV history from standing outside.

The B105 is mostly houses from here on. They're really nice houses - large and desirably Victorian - but you don't want to hear me wittering on about well-trimmed hedges, bin stores and occasionally-tiled doorsteps. Look at the photo, you'll get the idea. A utilitarian housing block called St Anne's intrudes just before the first crossroads, which turns out to be a care home for the elderly run by a group of nuns. They're known as the Little Sisters of the Poor and have been based here on Manor Road since 1876, but the current building is a 2009 rebuild and again you get no idea of the backstory simply by walking past its electronic gates.

We do get a proper church further up but it's only United Reformed and in the school-gymnasium style. On the opposite corner is St Mary's Lodge, built in 1843 and thus one of the oldest buildings on the street. Alas it was gutted by fire in 2005, soon after Hackney council sold it off, and the shell is currently scaffolded awaiting conversion to a Jewish Orthodox boys' school. A local resident has created a webpage outlining the building's troubled history, and the fact it encourages you to get in touch via a netscape.net email address should give some idea of how long the redevelopment saga has been going on. The really nice houses return after that, some three-storey and some two-.

We're now in a conservation area because the really nice houses have got even nicer, and the street name has quietly changed to Lordship Park. Hackney's classic Clissold Park is really close, but alas has to be added to the long list of nearby things I cannot write about. Instead let me mention that a lot of the turnings off Manor Road have big yellow signs warning 'Access Only', because Low Traffic Neighbourhoods surround us on all sides, but the B105 runs clear. It's also the route of a London bus but annoyingly that bus is the 106 whereas it'd be much more appropriate, B-Road-wise, were the number one fewer. What the B105 does get numerically correct is that immediately ahead it crosses the A105, a road much better known as Green Lanes.

Here I can offer you brief descriptive respite from "oh look, a lot more houses" in the form of the pub on the corner. It's called The Brownswood (because Brownswood Road is the name of the street straight ahead), serves its beer from brass taps and is also a guesthouse for those who fancy a boutique room. But after that yes, it's more nice houses on one side of the street and a lot of flats on the other, because the Luftwaffe didn't miss everything round here. I almost smiled when I saw an actual shop because it might help get me through that difficult sixth paragraph, but it was only a Costcutter and even its neatly-arranged fruit stall out front didn't deliver any narrative joy.

The last hurrah of the B105 is a repeated wiggle to weave through some even nicer streets, one of which is called Finsbury Park Road, to give you a clue as to where we nearly are. A VW repair garage intrudes, with a sign that looks really old and says Kelvin Motor Wagons so sounds really old too. And half an hour after kicking off in Stoke Newington we've reached a) Blackstock Road b) the London borough of Islington c) the end of the road. This is prime Arsenal supporter territory, home to pubs and fish bars that pack 'em in after a match, the nearest being the trad-style King's Head. Sorry it's not been a vintage trek, but now I've ticked it off I can at least continue to the next in the series.

Before I blog any more B Roads, let me show you on a map those I've walked already.

Notice how they're all east of the A1, because had they been west they'd start with a 5. Notice how they all slot into the gap between the A1 and the A10, because that's where the '10-something' numbers went when roads were first classified in 1922. And notice how the B Road numbers increase sequentially as you head north, because there was a proper rationale to this back then.

But there's been a considerable amount of rejigging since, so for example the B103 no longer exists which leaves a bit of a gap. And there's a reason I've included the map today, after the B105, which is that the B106 no longer fits the model. It did originally but was then upgraded and the number's been relocated somewhere completely different - still in the A1/A10 slice but further out. The most important thing to know about road classification is that if you think there's a pattern you're probably wrong.

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