- Keep to the 2 metre social distancing from people you pass by;
- Take care crossing roads – use controlled crossings where possible.
1/10 Start at St. Augustine’s Tower, E8 1HR, the surviving part of the first church in Hackney. It was built about 1275, probably by the Knights Templar. It is Hackney’s oldest building. Corner stones mark the footprint of the original building. The tower is open to visit free the last Sunday of each month 2-4.30pm.
2/10 Go through the graveyard then turn left to St John’s ‘New Church’. This was built in 1797 as the old church was too small for Hackney’s growing population. Short of money to give the new church a tower, the old church tower was saved from demolition to hold the church bells for another 60 years. Currently St John’s is undergoing renovation, halted by the virus lockdown 3 weeks from completion.
3/10 Retrace your steps and walk down Churchwell Path, named for the well that used to be beside it. This path takes you down a slope into the valley of the Hackney Brook. Pass under the bridge of the first railway which came to Hackney in 1850, today’s North London Line, which followed the course of the brook. Cross Morning Lane and go up into Chatham Place.
4/10 Aquascutum on the left is on the site of the Old Gravel Pit Chapel. A non-conformist congregation built a chapel here in 1714 next to a gravel pit. In the 1790s scientist and radical Joseph Priestley was minister here. He sought refuge in Hackney after his house and laboratory in Birmingham were burnt down by a ‘patriotic’ mob.
5/10 Turn left down Meeting Field Path to St Luke’s. This church was built in 1872 for the growing local population on the site of a plant nursery ground called Paradise Fields on land given by the local landowner St Thomas’s Hospital. The medical connection may be why the church was dedicated to St Luke, a doctor. The tower and spire were added ten years later.
6/10 Walk back to Chatham Place. Hackney continues to attract religious congregations outside the mainstream. No 27 is the premises of the more recently established Christ Royal Church. Chatham Place follows the route of a country path connecting Hackney village to the settlement of Grove Street (today the site of Laureston Road) in south Hackney, and beyond to Mile End.
7/10 Further down the road on the left is Barbrook House, the site of the New Gravel Pit Chapel. It was first built in 1810 when the congregation from the Old Gravel Pit Chapel moved here. It was demolished in the 1960s. Divert behind Barbrook House down Retreat and Mead Places to see the Chapel’s burial ground. Thomas Briggs of Clapton Square, the first murder victim on a British railway, was buried here 1864.
8/10 Continue up Chatham Place, once called Paradise Place. Turn right at Well Street; cross Cassland Road and take the first left down Laureston Road and then left into Church Crescent. On the left are almshouses originally built in 1669 with money left by Henry Monger as homes for six poor, civil, honest men of Hackney parish aged over 60.
9/10 Retrace your steps to Laureston Road and the closed Albion Pub, which opened in 1870, recently declared an Asset of Community Value so it has to stay as a pub. Next to it Hamden Chapel was built in 1847 for a non-conformist (non-Church of England, Protestant) congregation to seat 350 with schoolrooms underneath.
10/10 Carry on to St John of Jerusalem, completed just a few months after Hamden Chapel. Built as the church to serve the South Hackney parish which was carved out of the ancient Hackney parish, along with another serving West Hackney, in 1825. Roads were re-routed to create an island site for the building, designed by 26-year old Edward Charles Hakewill.