The premises of 195 Mare Street

It is almost certain that the house standing today at 195 Mare Street in Hackney (London), was built in 1697 as a residence for the wealthy merchant of Dutch origin named Abraham Dolins.

For centuries Hackney has been a place for prominent citizens from the City and select vestries (the elite who run local governament). Substantial houses lay once lined along Mare Street, which was the southern part of the present road. The northern part was called Church Road until the mid-18th century.

The ancient Mare Street was rough and quite narrow. 195 Mare Street was set back from the road and it had an extensive T-shaped garden to the rear.

The Dolins family

The Abraham Dolin's City house was in Garlick Hill. Like his father (Abraham Dolin d.1663) he was a merchant. His family moved from Ghent in 1604.

The Dolin family was undoubtedly wealthy and prominent in the City. Traces of Abraham Dolin can be found in some important buisineness and projects as the sale of Dunkirk in 1663 and the drainage of the fenlands at Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire, in 1726. He had another income as deacon and then elder of the Dutch church in Austin Friars. He left a fortune of more than £15,000 on his death.

He married twice and only three of his children survived into adulthood. Mary and Rebecca married merchants and left home. The house was inherited by his only son Daniel.

“Letters from his estranged daughters were addressed to his house in Garlick Hill until 1697, briefly to 'Bendall Green' and then, from 1698, Hackney. From the dates of these letters we have the best available clue, such as it is, to the building date of the house”. (Pag.4)

The plan of the ground floor of the house shows a perfect square crossed by one (maybe two in the past) corridors and a hall. The north-south axis links two set of stairs and the east-west one to two entrances. There were four main rooms with chimney breasts and closets with windows that suggest a late 17th century building more than a 18th one.

The pitched roof with dormers rested on a second floor with four rooms and four chimney breasts. It was replaced probably in the early 19th century by an “M” roof behind parapets which allows the use of a wider and fully second floor.

Abraham Dolin's son, Daniel, (1678-1728) didn't become a successful merchant like his father. He studied and published philosophical works in Utrecht at the end of the 17th century. He married Margaret Cooke, the daughter of a goldsmith who covered important offices in London, became lord of the manor of Lordshold from 1675 and was knighted in 1722.

Daniel Dolin left the house to his wife, who lived there until her death in 1740. Their son Daniel died at the early age of 30 and their daughter Margaret died in 1801. She had married John Berney, a landowner of Barcon Ash of Norfolk. They hadn't any children and Margaret was the last of the Dolins.

It is known from Margaret's marriage settlement that she was worth £10,200 and that a large collection of Dutch paintings (including van Dyck, van Mieris and Corrnelius Johnson) once hung at 195 Mare Street.

“The house was sold in 1801 to John Francis Blacke (1733-1809), a wine merchant, who lived in England by the late 1750s but originally of Berne. The sale included -Garden Ground Stables and Coach Houses behind and adjoining to or belonging to the said messuage tenement or dwellinghouse.”(Pag.6)

The Wilson era

Merchant Thomas Wilson (1768-1852) was the next owner of the house since 1801. He started a career as politician and was Tory MP for the City of London from 1818 to 1826.

During the first decade of the 19th century some alterations were made to the house, including a remodelled roof. The doorcase seems to have been part of the building since c.1780.

According to the census of 1821 seven males and nine females lived in 195 Mare Street. A clear picture of the site of this house is given by the Starling's map of 1831 (view) and by the B. Clarke's Glimpses of Ancient Hackney and Stoke Newington (cited, pag.7).

In the next seven paragraphs will be presented in the text a "glimpse" of the area near 195 Mare Street and of some buildings whitch once stood. See the Starling's map for reference. In parallel a series of maps in chronological order of Hackney and London can be found in the section Gallery. Thi0s is the story of how a peaceful village became a crowded central borough of London during the 19th century.

We know from the Clarke's book that Sir Walter Raleigh lived in one of the substantial houses that were once in Mare Street. A wealthy retired goldsmith lived in the same mansion, indicated with the letter B in the in the Starling's map. It was demolished in the late 19th century. Referring to 195 Mare Street (letter C) Jon Bolter says: “The proximity may suggest it was built on part of the grounds of the house [indicated with the letter B] view". (pag.7).

The adjacent house to the north side of 195 Mare Street (letter D, view) was the dwelling of a family of goldsmiths and bankers. It became a school in mid 19th century and later the Wint industrial home.

A terrace of six houses long stood to the north. Not only isolated villas were being built in this part of Hackney so in turn the landscape was changing. The Bruce family lived in the next sustantial house (letter E, view). It had become a lunatic asylum (the London House) by 1826. This, like the previous tranformations (and like 195 Mare Street) shows that Hackney is no longer a place for wealthy gentlemen to live.

Elm house (letter F) built before 1716, was demolished in the early 20th century. Like others it was replaced by new buildings, mostly for commercial use.

195 Mare Street is the only ancient villa of Mare Street that stands today. It was “one of the most valuable properties in the parish throughout the 18th and early 19th century" (pag.8).

The Elizabeth Fry Refuge

The unmarried Wilson's daughter died in 1860. The house was purchased by the trustees of the Elizabeth Fry refuge. Existing from 1846, it was one of the most charitable institutes so linked to the Victorian age. Like other substantial houses this building was adapted to an institutional use.

The trustee took the name of Elisabeth Fry (1780-1845). She was a Quaker, very famous for her contribution to the prison reform.

The refuge “for affording temporary food and shelter for destitute females on their discharge from the Metropolitan goals” (pag.8) moved to 195 Mare Street in 1860. The institution was supported by members and donors, but mostly by the laundry work of the girls themselves. The rooms laid on the north side of the house were used for this purpose.

We know that there were 11 bedrooms in the upper floors, a large drawing room, dining room, servants hall, cloak room, water closet and spacious entrance hall in the ground floor. “The stabling comprises a six stall stable and two houses with lofts over and adjoining a knife house, bottle house, wood house and other conveniences – in the rear is a Lawn – a large Garden beyond with a noble beech tree in the centre, a large Green house – kitchen garden – melon ground &c the whole occupyng an area of about 4200 sq yds”.

Lavatories and new spaces for the laundry work were built in the rear garden slight near the house. Part of the land in front of the house was leased for the construction of two shops. The carriage sweep was replaced by a pedestrian entrance. Two sets of gates and ironwork were removed.

30 girls at one time could be accommodated by the Elizabeth Fry Refuge. Girls under 16 years old (“young hopeful cases”) were preferred. They would live in the house for 4-5 months (the rules provided for a period of time from 3 to 12 months). Most of them were imprisoned for theft. The majority came from a job as maid servants and almost certainly they would be reintroduced in the same occupation with references of good conduct (Hackney Archives, London. D/S/58/1, Fry refuge Annual report, 1879).

In 1875 the T-shaped garden was sold. London at that time had a population of several million inhabitants. It was “hungry” for land to build new houses.

Hackney was at that time reachable by train and by tram. The new transport system needed new roads. In 1899 Mare street was widened by the London County Council. The shops in front of the house were demolished by this time.

The New Lansdowne Club

“The Lansdowne Liberal and Radical Club moved into the house in 1913, becoming by 1928 The New Lansdownwe Club. The club had previously been based in Twemlow Terrace on the south side of London Fields. The New Lansdowne Club was a working men's club, affiliated to the Club and Institute Union. The objects of the club were 'to afford to its members the means of social intercourse, mutual helpfulness, mental and moral improvement, and rational recreation'.” (pag.9)

As 195 Mare Street had became a recreational public house, the new tenants thought that the best use for the remaining rear garden was to build a freestanding concert hall. The first floor became a huge single room, used as a billiard room.

In 1938 the concert hall was linked to the house, crating a new spacious room in the ground floor. The rooms to the north side of the house (once the Fry Refuge's laundry) were pulled down and new toilets were built. In 1971 some walls were demolished and the ground floor plus the concert hall became a huge area for the club members.

During the war the local division of the Home Guard was based in the club. The building was damaged by a German bomb in 1940 and the upper part of the front wall was rebuild in 1943.

“The building was listed at Grade II in 1951” (pag.10).

“In 1984 the whole of the south wall was rebuild” (pag.10).

The future

The New Lansdowne Club stopped its activities in 2004, leaving the building deserted. In the recent years some settlers occupied the house, using it for living and organizing public events. The house had been purchased to create a centre for the local Vietnamese community. As the building became listed, the huge history of this house will be preserved. Future plans are to demolish all of the additional rooms to the rear of the house. It is hoped that the building will be restored like many other historical houses.

In spite of many and necessary changes that has been made, the house is still standing. It is a source of information about a piece of England's history, particulary about the wealthy merchant houses of the late 17th century. Floor structures and staircases are original. Timber panelling, joinery around windows and much more survive. “Future generations will be able to investigate and understand the complex history of this important building” (pag.11).