London Fields

London Fields is not an ancient settlement within Hackney, unlike Hoxton or Dalston. For most of history the area was woodland, then pasture or cultivated land. Taking its name, recorded first in 1540, from being on the way from Hackney to London, the Fields was common land.

Local people did not own it, but had rights to it: to graze their livestock or collect firewood between the end of harvest, around 1 August, until Lady’s Day, 25 March. There had been settlement along Mare Street since the 1590s, with coaching inns and some large houses; a few became asylums for the mentally ill. The Lansdowne Club, at No. 195, survives (just) from 1699. Gradually, from the early 1800s bricks and mortar covered the south and west of the Fields, laying out the grid of streets which we recognise today.

In 1860 when bids went out for builders to fill in the remaining empty space of London Fields, there was public outcry which led to the local authority of the time, the Metropolitan Board of Works, taking over the Fields as a public open space in 1872

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