London Fields

London Fields, Hackney

A 31-acre park located west of Mare Street in south-central Hackney and, by extension, the surrounding residential and commercial locality – which “has become a chi-chi area”, according to one observer

London Fields wildflower meadow

The fields for­mer­ly lay just out­side Hack­ney, on the Lon­don side, hence the name. A smat­ter­ing of hous­es bor­dered the fields from the mid-17th cen­tu­ry and the area was dense­ly built up by the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry, with bet­ter-off res­i­dents tend­ing to live on the north side.

Broad­way Mar­ket devel­oped around a row of two-storeyed shops in the 1820s. At this time the fields belonged to a hand­ful of farm­ers, who were oblig­ed to allow local peo­ple to graze ani­mals here after the har­vest had been gath­ered.

Prop­er­ty devel­op­ers almost got their hands on the fields in the ear­ly 1860s but the ben­e­fits of pre­serv­ing such a use­ful space per­suad­ed the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Board of Works to acquire the land as a pub­lic park in 1872. Lon­don Fields sta­tion opened in the same year, on the Great East­ern Railway’s new branch line from Beth­nal Green. Small-scale indus­tries like boot­mak­ing flour­ished in the streets to the south, which became increas­ing­ly poor and over­crowd­ed.

Coun­cil flats began to replace the slums from the ear­ly 1930s and Lon­don Fields Lido was opened. The church of St Michael and All Angels was rebuilt after its pre­de­ces­sor was bombed in 1945 and has become very active in com­mu­ni­ty work.

Lon­don Fields lido entrance

Prop­er­ties on Broad­way Mar­ket were reha­bil­i­tat­ed in the late 1970s and the street now has bou­tiques, art gal­leries and a Sat­ur­day mar­ket with farm pro­duce, flow­ers, arts and crafts and cloth­ing. Hack­ney council’s sales of its prop­er­ties on Broad­way Mar­ket to the high­est bid­ders sparked a cam­paign against the ‘social cleans­ing’ of the local­i­ty.

Lon­don Fields Lido closed in 1988 but pres­sure from the local com­mu­ni­ty, which organ­ised a clean-up of the neglect­ed site, prompt­ed Hack­ney coun­cil to restore and reopen it as London’s only 50-metre heat­ed out­door pool.

The park itself is not one of London’s most beau­ti­ful but has been enhanced by the cre­ation of ‘Hackney’s biggest urban mead­ow’, part of which is shown in the pho­to­graph at the top of the page.

Lon­don Fields’ Vic­to­ri­an prop­er­ties have been under­go­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion over the past decade and devel­op­ers have added pri­vate flats in projects such as Arti­san Court, which was built around a gat­ed court­yard on Lans­downe Dri­ve and sold with the slo­gan ‘con­tem­po­rary, cul­tur­al, con­nect­ed’.

The eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties of Lon­don Fields include those of Turk­ish, Caribbean, African and Ben­gali descent.

London Fields is the title of Martin Amis’s sweeping examination of metropolitan mores in the late 20th century, but the story is set in and around Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill.

Postal district: E8
Station: London Overground (zone 2)
Website: Hackney council – London Fields