FINSBURY WORK AND PLAY: A walk Through History

Finsbury was a small borough, and Shoreditch was a small borough … the boundary line was only across City Road and going round towards Old Street.  So really to get from one borough to another you just crossed a main road … and although you were so close, you seemed to keep within your own area.  It was more like, I suppose more like a village really.

Shirley Howard

Finsbury Work and Play is a walk around part of London’s EC1 area, taking in the old borough of Finsbury and the edge of Shoreditch.  In one sense these two areas don’t exist any more: they were merged with Islington and Hackney in 1965.  But Finsbury and Shoreditch have been parishes of London since the Middle Ages, and they’re still seen as distinctive areas on maps, in place-names – and especially by the people who live there.

This walk is meant as a wander round old Finsbury, accompanied by the voices and stories of Finsbury residents as they talk about the places where they went to school, worked, shopped and played in the 1940s and 1950s.  You can download the voices on an mp3 player to accompany the walk: there’s one numbered commentary for each of the eight stops.

Click on the links above to find out more about the stops, or go to the ‘Walk ‘ page to get started on the walk itself.

WALK INTRODUCTION  Introduction to Finsbury Work and Play



Site created by Linda Carey, 2012                                                                                     University of East London & London Metropolitan Archives


42 Responses to FINSBURY WORK AND PLAY: A walk Through History

  1. execelsior says:

    Ms Carey:

    Thank you very much for the ‘Finsbury Walk’.

    I was born in Bethanal Green and as a child spent much time in the East End. I have written about my childhood memories at:




    Both sites have been archived by The British Library as they said that they ‘had value and interest to the general reader and to those undertaking research topics’.

    I was trained as a chemist and after obtaining my Ph.D. was involved in both biochemical and medical research for 25+ years. Following this, I attended medical school. I have always been an academic and have held positions at University Hospitals in a number of countries and currently am retired and living in the U.S.

    Point One:
    I am trying to gain as much information as possible about DAWSON’s DEPARTMENT STORE to add to my story which appears on my website. No one seems to know when the store was built or who the architect was. Are you able to shed any light of this? Also I am looking for some photographs of the building. Again, are you able to help? Hackney Archives tell me that their information is in storage and awaiting moving to their new home in Dalston. They suggested that I write to the Metropolitan Archives.

    Point Two:
    I went to a school in ‘Clerkenwell’ in the mid-1950s, NORTHAMPTON SECONDARY TECHNICAL SCHOOL which was on Chequer Street, close to Bunhill Row. I am writing a small book on the schools that I attended in London and will include memories of this school and of my primary school, Sir John Cass Foundation School.

    Although the building is still present (now …………. (drumroll!!!) ………. luxury apartments, no one seems to know what actually happened to the school – I ‘believe’ that when it was ‘condemned’, the kids were moved to Risinghill Comprehensive, which subsequently closed (I have a book about the school, but I fear that it is too boring to be completed!).

    Do you have any information about this school? I would be most grateful. I am interested especially in when it was built and who the architect was. My book is almost complete – just lacking these few basic facts.

    As I live in the US, I am unable to come to the Archives personally, which is most unfortunate.

    If you are able to offer any help with my ‘quests’, I would be grateful.

    Once again, thank you so much for this walk. It was most informative. I hope that you will find my writings on Bunhill Fields and Dawson’s of interest. Should you wish, I would like to send you a copy of what I have written about Northampton Secondary Technical School since I include information about the area and the history of the Borough(s).

    With regards.

    Charles S.P. Jenkins Ph.D., D.Sc.(LONDON), M.D.

    • lincarey says:

      Dear Mr Jenkins

      Thank you for your kind comments on the ‘Finsbury Walk’. I do apologise for my discourtesy in not replying for so long: I’ve been away from my computer for some time. I am now very much enjoying ‘East End Memories’, though I haven’t so far done more than scratch the surface, and am still looking forward to reading your articles on the cinemas and Hackney Empire.

      On Dawson’s Department Store, I’m sorry to say that Maureen Halliday’s ‘Reader’s Memories’ on your site has very vividly covered all the information I had and more. Her picture of the store is also the first I’ve managed to see: thank you very much for posting it. I work at London Metropolitan Archives, and can tell you that the archive doesn’t have a specific listing for Dawson’s. I looked the store up in trade directories there, and found it listed as a draper’s shop in 1910. I can send you the exact wording or a printout of the page if that would be useful. I haven’t been able to find out when the store was built (and didn’t enquire about the architect for my own research), but we have some architectural journals that might help. I’ll certainly let you know if I find anything more.

      The archive has a big collection of photos of school buildings taken in the late 60s and 70s, so if Northampton Secondary Technical School was still around then we may have an image of it. There may also be architects’ or planning records of the building. Again, I’ll put in a search and let you know if anything comes up.

      Thank you for the introduction to your very entertaining websites, and sorry again for this delay!

      Kind regards
      Linda Carey

      • execelsior says:

        Ms Carey:

        Thank you very much for your reply to my email.

        I am grateful to you for your kind comments.

        If you would like Archive the Dawson’s series of stories, please let me know.

        The original owner of the photograph of Dawson’s has ‘given it to me’ and I am sure that she will share with me when I offer you a copy for your records. A stores of this ‘magnitude’ and importance should not be forgotten.

        I am working on a book about Northampton Secondary Technical School (building still present on Cheqeur Street (which connects Whitecross Street and Bunhill Row) and is now ‘luxury apts’) and would welcome any information about it so I can include it. Naturally reference would be given to you.

        I find it hard to believe that such buildings as these have been ‘forgotten’, but such is the way of the world.

        Please also check out my other website at:

        LONDON TALES –

        and the websites’ Facebook page at:

        LONDON TALES –

        I live in the US and come to London once a year. Perhaps the next time I come, I might be able to come to the library with your permission.

        With regards.

        Charles S.P. Jenkins Ph.D., D.Sc.(LONDON), M.D., MP.H.

      • lincarey says:

        Dear Mr Jenkins

        Thank you for your reply! I’m afraid I haven’t yet been able to look up Northampton School, but will do so as soon as I can (I work at the archive part-time). I certainly plan to check out London Tales – though unfortunately I’m not on Facebook.

        You would be very welcome to come to the archive when next you’re in London: in fact it’s open to the public, and offers free membership. If you apply for a ‘history card’ there, you can order up material the same day – or use their catalogue online.

        All the best

        Linda Carey

    • Ken Hutchings says:

      Hello Charles, my name is Ken Hutchings, I attended NSTS 1952 -1955 and I have just discovered your article browsing the WCC web site. I also am interested to find out more about the School and some of my contemporaries. I have kept touch with one and found reference to others on Friends Reunited; I sent emails but got no replies! Have you tried that web site, you may have better luck?
      I could say more but it is 02:09 here in UK [Middx] and I am ready for shut eye.
      Perhaps we could continue later?
      Regards and Best Wishes

  2. execelsior says:

    I have just typed a long reply to your message above and was next asked to LOG IN – does this mean that my message has been lost.

    Please advise and I will sent it once more.

    Charles S.P. Jenkins Ph.D., D.Sc.(LONDON), M.D., M.P.H.

  3. execelsior says:

    Ms Carey:

    I have left two replies here and note that they have not appeared. How may I communicate with you and ensure that you receive it?


    Charles S.P. Jenkins

    • lincarey says:

      Dear Mr Jenkins

      Apologies for my site! Your replies were sent to my Spam folder: I hope I’ve now managed to rectify this. I’d love to add the photo of Dawson’s to my site if you and the original owner allow – and also to provide a link to your site.

      Linda Carey

  4. execelsior says:

    Would you send me your email address and I will send you a copy of my photograph and Dawsons’ tales, if you wish.

  5. John Nanfan says:

    Fascinating. I went to Northampton Secondary in Chequer Street and left in 1959. I now live in the Isle of Man. The head duriong my time was Mr Wilkinson and some of the teachers from my recollection were Messrs. Shorthouse, Frost, Mulholland, Saxton, Turner and Cleary..

  6. John Nanfan says:

    There were three houses at the school during my time, Earnshaw (Red), Graham (Green) and Mudge (Blue). As far as I can remember they were clock technicians. Shorthouse taught Maths, Frost Geography, History and Art. There was also Shah (Physics), Ramm (RE) whist Turner and Cleary both taught PE or PT as we called it in those days. We used to go to a sports field in Palmers Green, North London for football, cricket and athletics. I believe the ground was owned by the Northampton Polytechnic. Our swimming lessons took place at the Polytechnic swimming pool. I was trying to remember who took metal work and Workshop Technology. I remember it being the most boring lesson of all (a double period). Wilkinson wasn’t a bad head, didn’t see a lot of him but if sent to him for the cane he did so almost reluctantly. The worst one was Shah. Scattergun approach and not particularly fair. Our thoughts as boys were ‘if you did something wrong, fair enough we’ll take the cane and no hard feelings’. Shah never bothered with the culprit so he was greatly disliked. As the saying goes though ‘A man amongst boys and a boy amongst men’. How apt was that fixation. Hope that this has put a bit more meat on the bone as thy say.

    John Nanfan

  7. Mike Schopman says:

    Mike Schopman replies
    I recall John Nanfan name. He was I think in the next year up. I joined the school in 1958 in the third year. Shah had left before I joined the school. Thank goodness.
    A bloke called “Clive” was the lab technician keeping machines up to scratch. The main teacher for metalwork was H E Woolhead, a teacher that I found excellent. Shorthouse a stockily built chap took technical drawing, White took maths & sometimes workshop practice. Foster took chemistry, Nunn took maths & physics, Metric took maths, Virgeese took history. Some teachers taught several subjects. Turner left, and we didn’t have a permanent PT teacher..
    I was classed as an out of county boy, because I lived in Twickenham. What I didn’t realise was my grandfather was born in Whitechapel in King Edward street, a turning off what is now Vallance Road. So I am a direct descendant of an east end boy.
    When the school shut in 1960, I went to Risinghill, and our technical education continued, however, when Risinghill closed, H E Woolhead transferred to Sir Philip Magnus, then I lost contact.
    Your surname has a Cornish flavour.
    Do you know any other old boys or teachers.

    • John Nanfan says:

      Fascinating Mike, yes those names come back. Nunn I remember and Foster for Chemistry. Boys in my class were Daden twins George and Jim, Raymond Bridgewater, a lad called Hort good footballer, Johnny Gregory. I was in Mudge house which was Blue I think. There was also Graham (Green) and Earnshaw (Red). We had quite a few out of county lads as well. One or two came on the Metropolitan Line from Pinner. I have now retired to the Isle of Man having spent many years in the employ of NatWest. Oh yes, Fitzgerald was another name, keen on train spotting if I recall. There seems to be no record of the school on the in ternet though, at least my computer skills did not enable me to find an entry.
      John Nanfan

      • execelsior says:

        I have sent the web address of this site to Ray Bridgewater.
        I had left the school in 1956 – re-housed to Slough.
        Charles S.P. Jenkins

  8. John Sansom says:

    How facinating to read all this. I too went to Norhampton Sec Tech from 1953 to 1956. I was Head Boy in the last year! I was hard pressed to remember the names of all the teachers but my memory has been wonderfully jogged! Thank you.

  9. Hi All.
    I was at NSTS in 1954 to 1957. and remember Shar very well because if you were not attending him he would throw the wooden board eraser at you.Prosecution would result nowadays.
    Chemistry was taken by Finnegan and I was enamoured by Mr Woolhead and became top of the class but only in metalwork which I still enjoy today as a model engineer. I used to remember many of the lads in the school in those days but now have problems remembering names, still remember the faces though. I remember Peter Willis a bird fancier if I remember right and a lad in the year below me, David I think who lived at the top end of Old Ford rd in a grocer shop run by his father and mother. I remember walking along Old street on the way to another school where we had lunch, it was a good 10-15 minutes each way and I often arrived late or back to classes because I was looking in the watch maker shops and forgot time, a bit of a ditherer I was called but that didn’t stop me getting a Honors degree in electronics and later to develop a deep interest in Cosmological physics, Hypnotherapy, Psychology not forgetting the Precision engineering.
    Homework ever day was a curse for me as I always left it until the last moment to do and was again late for classes due to attempting to get my homework ready for the next lesson. All in all a memorable experience which I still think back on today.
    Best regards to all who might remember me .
    Maurice (Mo) King

  10. Dear Mr Jenkins,
    I was a pupil at Chequer Street technical school from 1949 to 1952.
    To save me writing a long memory list here, please get (all of you) in touch.
    Note I am still working at the age of 80 with a list of 40 or so patents to my name.
    Every time you use an ATM think of me because I was responsible for the design of the vertical cash dispenser mechanism now standard in all makes of through the wall ATM’s to this day.
    My love of precision engineering design began at the NSTS.
    Mr Wilkinson (Headmaster), Mr Shah, Mr Woolhead well remembered.
    Why don’t we have such practical hands dirty schools now?
    Stuart Jenkins

  11. Derek Haynes says:

    Dear Mr Jenkins
    I was as Stuart Jenkins and I were in the same class and we remained friends over the years he in fact passed on your note about Chequer Street. One name that escaped you all was Mr Toms who taught English Mr. Harrison who routinely held up his hand to show two lost fingers saying I used to work on a milling machine taught us Workshop tech latterly apparently replaced by Mr Woolhead and I always had fond memories of Mr Shah apparently not shared by others
    Also you forgot Dr Stern who taught Chemistry and was not well liked by our year.
    then of course who could forget old Wilky Wilkinson, always seemed a little seedy to me.
    I still have a class Photo from one year showing Mr Shah as our house master. What is even more surprising I do still remember some of the names.
    Who remembers the Chelsea buns we sometimes had at “Milk Break” for a delicious 3 pence, and running across the bomb sites to get to Northampton Poly for lunch
    Like Stuart I ended up in the electronics business and worked for IBM who brought me to the US in the late 60s and where I have stayed since.
    Interesting times for sure.
    Regards Derek Haynes 49 to 52 Mudge

  12. andy parlour says:

    very interested in your project re northampton tec. i am an east london boy and was very surprised when leaving junior school st pauls in dalston east london and placed into northampton. was there when it was amalgated into risinghill – but that is another story. i have a photo taken at northampton tec – most likely the last one of our class – can name most of the boys and in fact still see one of them now. remember one teacher in particular a mr ramm i believe.
    andrew parlour

    • Peter Clapson says:

      Hi Andy I was at NSTS between 1956-1960 would very much like to have a copy of the photo if that’s possible .Peter Clapson

    • Mike Schopman says:

      Hello Andy,
      Mike Schopman here. aka Sam.
      I too would really appreciate a copy of the photo you have. This could be married up with the list of names I have. I drew the list up for the year of boys I was with for both schools. In 1958 I joined the school and was in class 3X. Mr White being our form master. There was class 3Y & 3Z in the third year, and Cleary was the form master of 3Y.
      My email address is

  13. Ken Stoat says:

    What memories, brings back a different world 1956 to 1960. Regards to all.

    • Mike Schopman says:

      Hello Ken,
      Mike Schopman here.
      I believe you went to work for the Royal Mint. ??
      Did you ever finish building the locomotive ??
      Mike Schopman aka Sam

      • Ken Stoat says:

        Hi Mike,

        After my apprenticeship in instrument making I went to the Royal Mint and stayed there for the rest of my working life, moving to Wales in 1970 when the mint relocated. Retired 2005 and am busy in my own workshop with various model engineering projects including a 5″ gauge steam locomotive.
        Have two children who are both married with families of their own.
        Good memories of Northampton 1956-1960. Best friends were Ronald Reed, Stuart Hibbert and Raymond Hurst, unfortunately lost contact many years ago. I remember most of the teachers mentioned on this site but cannot remember very many boys.
        Lovely to read the messages, brings back a lost world.

        Regards and Best Wishes to all,
        Ken Stoat

      • bobco9 says:

        Hi Ken,
        My name is Peter Clapson I too was friends with Raymond Hurst your name seems to ring a bell with me, if you do remember me please get in touch my email is
        Kind regards
        Peter Clapson

    • Hi Ken, your name rings a bell do you remember me I too was friends with Raymond Hurst if you do remember me it would be great to catch up my email is regards Peter Clapson

      • Ken Stoat says:

        Hello Peter,
        I am sorry to say I do not remember you. We must have been in the same year though!
        Some years ago I did manage to contact Raymond Hurst through Friends Reunited I think, after finishing his apprenticeship he worked for the post office engineering at Mount Pleasant.
        I lived in Hackney by Victoria Park and went to Northampton from London Fields junior school in 1956, moving to Rising Hill in 1960 when Northampton closed. Could not get on at Rising Hill and left as soon as I could.
        Nice to talk with you and recall those years.

        Best Wishes to All,
        Ken Stoat

  14. Vivien Winter says:

    Just to say it has been so interesting reading the above. My family lived in M block (in fact my parents lived in the Peabody buildings all their lives) and we were just on the corner of Chequer Street next to the school. I passed the school every day on my walk to St Luke’s Primary School (1953 till 1959) in Old Street and often wondered about the pupils in Chequer Street. The areas of land between Chequer Alley and Bunhill Row and Featherstone Street were bomb sites surrounded by 3′ 6″ walls one brick wide and we would walk along the top. Lots of memories of Peabody Buildings, Whitecross Street and St Lukes. Towards the end of his life, in the 1980s, my father attended a day centre at Chequer school and took part in craft activities there.

  15. Peter Clapson says:

    I to went to NSTS between 1956-1960 left when the school relocated to Risinghill I remember all the teachers names but seeing as there was only a 100 students at the school I don’t seem to be able to remember any of the boys names on this site.

    • Mike Schopman says:

      Hello Peter,
      Mike Schopman here aka Sam
      I can clearly remember you. We were in the same year but not in the same class. I recall you about to go home from Risinghill on your pushbike.
      I have a copy of most if not all of the boys in our year at both schools, so if you manage to get a photo of us, maybe the list I have will be a useful mind jogger.
      My email address is
      Mike Schopman

      • says:

        I attended between 1955 and 1959. I was also in 3x and then 4a before I left. I went into Insurance for a couple of years and then joined NatWest finishing as their Senior Manager Operations. I then worke4d for an American Company based in Nebraska and now kive happily in the Isle of Man.

        I remember John Gregory and Peter Hort (good footballers) the Daden twins George and his tewin), Raymond Bridgewater and Ronnie Palmer. John Hammond was also a good friend.

        Didn’t like Frost (Geography teacher) and Shah (nasty piece of work), they were pals I recall.

        John Nanfan

  16. I have found it interesting to read that in later years Mr Shah appeared to be generally unpopular.
    During my time at the NSTS (1949-1952) he was our physics teacher and I have only good memories of him as a teacher.

    It would be nice to hear from anyone from my old class with any memories of Chequer Street.

    Stuart Jenkins

  17. Maureen Broughal says:

    Hi just found this site, I lived in Central Street in a flat above a ‘bag wash’ shop. I attended St Joseph’s Primary school in Bunhill row. We didn’t have a bathroom so would go to Ironmonger?row for a bath where my Mother also did her washing. We moved out of Finsbury in 1972- I remember the Bombsites- one is now Tennis courts.

    • John Nanfan says:

      Hello Maureen, although I didn’t know you, my brother Trevor Nanfan went to St Joseph’s school and we lived by Whitecross Street so we knew Central Street well. We also went to Ironmonger Row Baths for our bath as well as to use the swimming pool. Trevor now lives in Northampton and I live on the Isle of Man. I went back about 4 years ago but hardly recognised the area. I trust that you are enjoying life wherever you now live. Regards
      John Nanfan

  18. Robert Tosh says:

    Hello, am looking for archive pics of New Charles Street EC1, from appx 1965 my
    Birth Street before it was Demolished.
    I was born in 26 and also lived in 42
    All the brother and sisters lived and we’re born between 1949 and 1962, we also lived in No.44 before my time, we was eventually moved out 1967 as Finsbury council Was to Develop and demolition started in autumn 1967. Thanks.
    Was to d

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