The First London House Hit In An Air Raid

By M@ Last edited 92 months ago

Last Updated 17 October 2016

The First London House Hit In An Air Raid
Image from Google Street View.

This house — a seemingly anonymous and everyday part of Hackney's housing stock — played a remarkable role in London's history. Number 16 Alkham Road (map) in Stoke Newington was the first place in London to be attacked by a foreign military power in almost 1,000 years.

It happened around 11pm on the evening of 31 May 1915. German forces mounted the first successful air raid on the capital, dropping dozens of explosives and incendiaries from a zeppelin. The very first, an incendiary, landed on 16 Alkham Road, setting fire to the upstairs rooms. Resident Albert Lovell, his wife, children and two guests escaped without harm, and the blaze was soon extinguished by the fire brigade. The Lovells thus became the first of many Londoners to suffer an aerial attack. You can still see the mismatched brickwork on the upper storey of their former home, presumably a relic from rebuilding following this incident.

The zeppelin moved off to the south, unloading further horrors on the capital. Seven people were killed and 35 injured on that first air raid, which targeted Dalston, Shoreditch, Whitechapel and Stepney. In the coming months, many more raids would terrorise London.

The attack marked the first time London had come under military attack by a foreign power since the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066. The future king is said to have torched Southwark while attempting to enter London. If this attack is discounted, as Southwark wasn't technically part of London in those days, then the unbroken record stretches back a generation further to the Viking attacks of the Anglo-Saxon town.

Something to ponder next time you're sipping a flat white in peaceful Stoke Newington: the neighbourhood not only endured London's first air raid, but also marks the spot where a millennium-long absence of warfare came to an end.

A plaque commemorating the attack was unveiled on 29 May 2015.

More information on the Zeppelin raids on London, including maps, can be found in Ian Castle's excellent book London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace.

See also: