History of Aberdeen Park
Some key streets in Highbury, such as Highbury Place and Highbury Terrace, were developed in the late 18th century, with villas in Highbury Grove and Highbury Park following in the 1820s. But these were sparse buildings in a predominantly rural setting.
Building work accelerated in the second half of the 19th century, partly due to the failure of an imaginative project for a huge 500-acre public park (bigger than Hyde Park), bounded by Balls Pond Road, Stoke Newington Reservoirs, Seven Sisters Road and the Great Northern Railway. The project was abandoned in the 1850s, leaving only Finsbury Park (formed in 1869), Highbury Fields (1885) and Clissold Park (1889) as significant public spaces in the area.
The failed park plan opened up the area to general speculation and it became prey to developers. Henry Rydon developed the affluent Highbury New Park near New River in 1853-61; this was closely followed by the Grosvenor Avenue area in 1864. Initial development of Aberdeen Park took place at the same time.
Aberdeen Park as we know it now was laid out in the 1850s. It was gated when first built. One suggestion is that it was named after George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen (1784-1860), who was first Lord of the Treasury from 1852-1855. But it has aslo been argued that it took it's name from its first owner, George Morrice.
The main landowner before 1850 was George Morrice, who owned 6 Highbury Grove, a property with extensive grounds covering much of the current Park. He came from Aberdeenshire in Scotland. He appears on the 1841 census as a merchant living in Highbury. He and his descendants extended and consolidated the land to form the Aberdeen Park Estate.
George Morrice died around 1850 and left the estate to his nephew Rev. William David Morrice, vicar of Longbridge Deverill in Wiltshire. On his death in 1893 it passed to his son Rev. John David Morrice, who owned it until his death in 1938.
Maps from 1841 show no buildings on the land, but by 1869 an Ordnance Survey map shows houses along the south and east sides as far as opposite St Saviour’s. These early buildings were obviously not part of a unitary plan, because around 1865 some of the properties were re-numbered.
St Saviour’s Church itself, designed by William White, was built in 1866. John Betjeman , the poet, worshipped here as a boy when his family lived in Highbury New Park. Number 19 was originally the vicarage for St Saviour’s.
Charles Booth, writing in Survey Into Life And Labour In London (1886-1903) says of the area:
“Aberdeen Park with a church in the middle; private property, entrances to Park are barred. LCC has tried to remove them but unsuccessfully. A Canon in the heart of England is the ground landlord.”
By 1934 some 67 properties had been built, necessitating a second re-numbering exercise. In December of that year the Islington & Highbury Press mentions that the owner of Aberdeen Park, Canon Morrice, had offered it for sale to builders. This may have led to the building of the last batch of semi-detached houses in the inner ring, which went up in the 1930s.
On the death of Canon Morrice in 1938, the Aberdeen Park Estate was acquired by the London Investment and Mortgage Company (LIMC). They began to sell off the plots and properties, while maintaining ownership of the roadway and pavements. The first sales took place by auction in November 1938, organised by Warmans, the estate agents. Eventually LIMC was left owning only the roadway and walkways, although it is not clear when the last property was sold.
The Foreign Missions Club moved in to numbers 20-26 in 1954. It was formerly at 149-151 Highbury New Park.
In 1959, number 15 was founded as Norman House, a hostel for ex-offenders, by Merfyn Turner. (Safe Lodging: the Road to Norman House, by Merfyn Turner. Hutchinson, 1961.)
The various blocks of flats in the Park were mostly built in a relatively short period. The four blocks making up the Newcome Estate in the centre of the Park went up in the early 1950s; Escuan Lodge was constructed in 1960-61; and Mostyn Lodge and the Woodlands followed by 1964. The flats at numbers 6-10 were built by Islington Council as sheltered housing in the mid-1970s.
Although not strictly part of Aberdeen Park, it is worth mentioning that the award-winning housing development in Seaforth Crescent was built by Islington Council at the start of the 1980s.
In 1966 the London Investment and Mortgage Company went into voluntary liquidation. The liquidator offered the freehold of the road and walkways to the residents at a cost of £200. The APMC was rapidly formed in 1966 to take up this offer. The Residents Association which represented the residents before the APMC arrived did in fact continue alongside APMC into the 1980s, when it was finally disbanded.
In 1990 Islington Council designated Aberdeen Park as a Conservation Area (see Conservation page), which limits the number and type of developments which can be approved.