I’ve been in Wood Green Library all morning reading up on gentrification, i.e. the process of displacing working class residents and replacing them with middle class types. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but you know what I mean. The key case study for this is actually Barnsbury, just down the road, but Stokie is definitely on the euphemistically titled ‘urban renaissance’ roster. It has its background in Quaker non-conformism and like Barnsbury was a fairly well-off sector, full of little Victorian terraces surrounding Church Street and Stoke Newington High Street, now the A10 but dating back to the Roman Ermine Street. Post-war, this was a thoroughly working class area in keeping with its entry into the London Borough of Hackney.
Lately however, like Barnsbury, Crouch End etc. nearby, Stokie has been overrun by the young, the wealthy, the stylish: it’s a very media-type area, full of sandal-wearing coffee-shop denizens with weedy beards and the Guardian tucked into their back pocket. And it has every amenity to cater to them: a range of extremely beautiful cafes all just on the far side of expensive; restaurants particularly representing the South Indian community of the area; a Saturday morning farmers market; boutiques and ridiculously over-priced children’s and locally-themed tat shops.
That said, it’s a very pleasant way to wile away a couple of hours, especially when combined with the gloriously overgrown Abney Park Cemetery. It lacks on charity shops, sadly, even when you broaden most yuppies’ stamping ground of Church Street onto the more ethnically-diverse A10 – they pop up as you go either direction (either South towards Dalston or North to Stamford Hill/Tottenham). Stokie has just the one, Mind, at the foot of Church Street. It’s a decent enough shop, though small: there’s little in the way of clothing, but the book section is, as you’d expect, fairly literary. The cd’s are often pretty good – my guess is that the journalists of the region offload their promos here, and you never quite know if you’ll happen on something useful.
This is prime trendy Londoner territory, surrounded on all sides by more down to earth parts, but remaining cheerfully aloof. For all that, it’s not a snobbish type of place, and though there’s definitely a Stoke Newington ‘type’, visitors won’t feel looked down on as you might get in Highgate, for instance. With outdoor coffee, the cemetery and Clissold Park, it’s definitely a pleasant place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Find: Stoke Newington @ Google Maps
Consume with: For coffee, breakfast or lunch, the Blue Legume is excellent (try the juices), but for dinner there’s nothing finer than Rasa.
Visit: Abney Park Cemetery is home to William Booth and all sorts of fun others, as well as some beautifully decayed monumental masonry and some serious atmosphere.
Overall rating: three pairs of sandals.