Abney Park - Fleetwood House

Fleetwood House

The neighbour to Abney House was Fleetwood House, which was built in the 1630s for Sir Edward Hartopp. By marriage the estate passed to Charles Fleetwood, one of Oliver Cromwell's generals, from whom it got its name, and then through various parties. It served as a meeting place for Dissenters.

In the grounds was a third building, called the Summerhouse, but it must have been a proper dwelling, because it was taken from 1774 for summer residence by the family of the young James Stephen (1758-1832). Although not a Quaker, he grew up to be closely involved in a cause associated with them, the abolition of the slave trade. In 1800 he married a sister of his friend William Wilberforce, who visited Stoke Newington regularly. Between them, the two men drafted the Slave Trade Act 1807.

In 1824, Fleetwood House became the home of a new Quaker school known as Newington Academy for Girls (also Newington College for Girls). In a time when girls' educational opportunities were limited, it offered a wide range of subjects (including sciences) "on a plan in degree differing from any hitherto adopted", according to the prospectus. It was also innovative in commissioning the world's first school bus, designed by George Shillibeer. One of the school's founders was William Allen, active with the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. His marriage to Grizell Hoare was the subject of a satirical cartoon, in which the school is referred to as the Newington Nunnery. It was also the subject of a doggerel verse in its praise by Joseph Pease, a railway pioneer and later the first Quaker MP.

Fleetwood House itself was demolished in 1872. A fire station now stands on its site.

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