Thursday, 14 June 2012

Poetry Please!

Nick, our resident historian, enlivened our AGM this year with a short talk about how some of our local streets acquired their names.

Nick said that the area was developed in the mid-19th century, in anticipation of the sprawling metropolis spreading north to leafy Stoke Newington - or Albert Town, as it then was. Developers laid down the streets and, perhaps hoping to create a sense of this as a cultural oasis, named several of them after poets. Thus we have Milton Grove, Shakespeare Walk, Cowper Road and Spencer Grove. And a street that rejoiced in the name of Cut Throat Lane was renamed Wordsworth Road.

Barbauld Road was named later, but the poet whose name it bears is perhaps well-known. Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825) was a children's writer and essayist. She fell from favour when she declared herself an opponent of the Napoleonic Wars. She was re-discovered by 20th century feminists, and Bron read a few lines from Washing Day, Barbauld's poem about how doing the laundry each week made women cross - and men nervous:
...Come, Muse, and sing the dreaded washing day.
Ye who beneath the yoke of wedlock bend,
With bowed soul, full well ye ken the day
Which week, smooth sliding after week, brings on
Too soon; for to that day nor peace belongs,
Nor comfort; ere the first grey streak of dawn,
The red-armed washers come and chase repose.
Nor pleasant smile, nor quaint device of mirth,
Ere visited that day; the very cat,
From the wet kitchen scared, and reeking hearth,
Visits the parlour, an unwonted guest. 
The local estates were built and named in the post-WWII building boom. We have Binyon, Shelley, Browning and Blake House. Bron celebrated the last of these with a reading of William Blake's Garden of Love.

Thanks to Nick and Bron for a very entertaining presentation.

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