Clapton Park

Clapton Park, Hackney

An amalgam of Victorian terraces and 20th-century council flats, located on the eastern side of Lower Clapton and separated from Hackney Marsh by the River Lee Navigation

geograph-4944665-by-Bill-Boaden - Kingsmead housing estate

The Lee Nav­i­ga­tion’s Hack­ney Cut was made in 1769, leav­ing a marshy wilder­ness to its east and an almost equal­ly emp­ty area to its west as far as New­come’s school, which lat­er became the site of the Lon­don orphan asy­lum and is now the loca­tion of Clap­ton Girls’ Acad­e­my.

Much of the land here formed part of the estate of Hack­ney House, which had been built in 1728–32 for Stamp Brooks­bank, who was lat­er to become gov­er­nor of the Bank of Eng­land. The grand­est res­i­dence of its kind in the area, Hack­ney House stood rough­ly where the north-west cor­ner of Home­r­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal is now.

The Lon­don & Sub­ur­ban Land & Build­ing Com­pa­ny invent­ed the Clap­ton Park name for an estate that it laid out in two phas­es from the late 1860s onwards, most­ly on land that had been part of the Hack­ney House estate, hith­er­to occu­pied by mar­ket gar­dens and water­cress beds.

Lon­don & Sub­ur­ban began by lay­ing out Chatsworth Road along a field path from Brooks­by’s Walk to Pond Lane (now Mill­fields Road) and then filled the space between that and Low­er Clap­ton Road with the west­ern ends of Clif­den, Gle­n­arm, and neigh­bour­ing roads. From the out­set Chatsworth Road pro­vid­ed the main shop­ping facil­i­ties. Oth­er ameni­ties and busi­ness­es fol­lowed, includ­ing the short-lived Clap­ton Park The­atre, which opened on Gle­n­arm Road in 1875, and the Tow­er brew­ery on Ashen­den Road, which lat­er became a sack fac­to­ry.

Ter­raced Vic­to­ri­an hous­es on Glyn Road*

By the late 1880s Clap­ton Park’s dense net­work of ter­raced streets stretched all the way across to the Hack­ney Cut. South-east of Blin­co Road (now the north­ern part of Daubeney Road) a rem­nant of Hack­ney Marsh was pre­served as a recre­ation ground, which has since been reduced to an eleven-acre park called Daubeney Fields (or Green).

The area south of Red­wald Road was the last to be devel­oped, around the turn of the cen­tu­ry, when Mee­son Street was named.

Rush­more Road school (now Rush­more pri­ma­ry) opened in 1877, Daubeney Road school (now Daubeney pri­ma­ry) opened in 1886 and Man­dev­ille Street school (now Man­dev­ille pri­ma­ry) opened in 1902.

Sev­er­al places of wor­ship were built too, includ­ing the Angli­can church­es of All Saints on Blur­ton Road and All Souls on Pedro Street, nei­ther of which has sur­vived. The lat­ter was suc­ceed­ed by the Risen Christ and All Souls church on Over­bury Street.

Shown in the pho­to­graph at the top of this arti­cle,* the low-rise Kingsmead estate was built by the Lon­don Coun­ty Coun­cil in 1936–8 on 20 acres of Hack­ney Marsh, much of which had pre­vi­ous­ly been occu­pied by the Nation­al Pro­jec­tile Fac­to­ry. A prime objec­tive of the scheme was to pro­vide new homes for peo­ple dis­placed by a slum clear­ance pro­gramme in Beth­nal Green. Kingsmead infants’ school (now Kingsmead pri­ma­ry) opened in 1953.

Clap­ton Park Methodist church opened on Chatsworth Road in 1958, replac­ing the Methodist chapel on Blur­ton Road, which became the Roman Catholic church of St Jude in 1965.

In the 1950s and 60s row after row of Vic­to­ri­an hous­es in the east­ern half of Clap­ton Park were pulled down and replaced by ever larg­er estates of coun­cil flats, begin­ning with the mod­est Chatsworth estate, mov­ing up a gear at the LCC’s Nye Bevan estate south of Mill­fields Road, which includ­ed a 12-storey tow­er, and cul­mi­nat­ing in Hack­ney coun­cil’s sys­tem-built, high-rise Clap­ton Park estate. Clap­ton Park school (as it was then called) and the Glyn Arms were the only Vic­to­ri­an struc­tures in the Man­dev­ille Street area to escape the munic­i­pal wreck­ing ball.

Land­mark Heights, Daubeney Road*

Three decades after they had been built, all but one of the Clap­ton Park estate’s tow­ers were demol­ished and replaced by less mono­lith­ic blocks and more tra­di­tion­al street pat­terns. The remain­ing tow­er, Sud­bury Court, was sold to a pri­vate devel­op­er, renamed Land­mark Heights and giv­en a (some­what super­fi­cial) makeover.

Con­di­tions dete­ri­o­rat­ed on the Kingsmead estate and in 1994 the Guardian chill­ing­ly described it as “a blight­ed labyrinth of five-storey con­crete blocks that hits the head­lines with depress­ing reg­u­lar­i­ty. Remem­ber the pae­dophile ring that led to the abuse and mur­der of teenage run­away, Jason Swift? The coun­cil gar­den­er who held satan­ic mass­es and mur­dered his girlfriend’s five-year-old son? The des­per­ate legal mea­sures adopt­ed by the coun­cil in the face of a crime wave police seemed unable or unwill­ing to curb? That was Kingsmead.”

Much has been done since then to improve liv­ing con­di­tions and life chances at Kingsmead, which is now man­aged by Sanc­tu­ary Hous­ing, with com­mu­ni­ty sup­port pro­vid­ed by Hack­ney Marsh Part­ner­ship.

In the ear­ly years of the 21st cen­tu­ry the ter­raced streets of the orig­i­nal Clap­ton Park estate began to under­go gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and some upscale shops and cafés opened on Chatsworth Road (though not as many as a 2012 Observ­er arti­cle implies).

How­ev­er, for the most part, Clap­ton Park remains a dis­ad­van­taged local­i­ty. Res­i­dents of the King’s Park ward, which cov­ers the major­i­ty of the area east of Chatsworth Road, tend to have few­er edu­ca­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tions, be less like­ly to have a job and more like­ly to suf­fer long-term health prob­lems than res­i­dents of oth­er parts of Hack­ney, which as a whole is more deprived than most Lon­don bor­oughs. Six­teen per cent of homes in the ward are lone-par­ent house­holds – twice the nation­al aver­age.

At the 2011 cen­sus, 23 per cent of King’s Park’s res­i­dents were white British, 20 per cent were of black African ori­gin or descent, 13 per cent Caribbean, 12 per cent ‘oth­er white’ (half of whom are of Turk­ish her­itage) and 10 per cent Asian.

Julian Perry’s painting The Enchanted Castle (1991), in the Museum of London, depicts one of the Clapton Park towers surrounded by unfeasibly tall trees. In 1996 Rachel Whiteread created duotone screenprints of photographs “capturing the moment the tower blocks cease to be habitable”, as part of a portfolio entitled Demolished.

Postal districts: E5 and E9
Population: 11,098 (King’s Park ward, 2011 census)
* The picture of Kingsmead housing estate at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Bill Boaden, the picture of the terraced houses on Glyn Road is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Julian Osley, and the picture of Landmark Heights is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David Anstiss, all at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.