2/10 At No 1. Clapton Square lived in her youth the Jewish poet and author, Grace Aguilar (1816-1847), a member of Hackney’s Sephardic community. She wrote poetry, novels and books about her faith, eg. ‘The Women of Israel’. She is better remembered in the USA, where a library is named after her in New York City.
3/10 On the west side of the square at No 6. lived Russian emigré and Marxist Theodore Rothstein from the 1890s. He was probably visited there by Lenin. At No 5. lived a banker, Thomas Briggs. On Saturday evening, 9 July 1864, he was attacked and murdered on today’s North London Line: the first person murdered on a British railway.
4/10 Lower Clapton Road was once called Bob’s Hall Lane. No 4 is to be a Muslim school in the former Hackney Police Station. It was built in 1904 on the site of a pair of semi-detached late Georgian villas, similar to those further down the road. The police station replaced an earlier station on the other side of the churchyard. The building is one of many stations and court houses designed by Metropolitan Police architect J. D. Butler.
5/10 At No 21. is Clapton Beauty Salon. Vidal Sassoon worked here when bombed out of his premises in WW2. For a time Barbara Windsor was part of the clientele. Further down Lower Clapton Road is the Strand Building completed in 1925 as an electricity showrooms showing and selling electrical goods. Opposite, the King’s Hall Baths, built in 1897, is where WWI recruits were enlisted and trained.
6/10 Turn right down Urswick Road to Tresham Walk, the site of Hackney House built about 1720 by Stamp Brooksbank M.P. and Governor of the Bank of England. His house had 18 acres of walled grounds. It was sold on and in 1790 it became Hackney New College. Scientist and radical Joseph Priestley was briefly the principal there. The college was spied on by the government as a centre of sedition
7/10 Retrace your steps to the junction. The area from here to the Round Chapel, further up Lower Clapton Road, was called Five Houses: five mansions were built on the estate of Hackney House, using material form the big house when it was demolished in 1800. One of these houses was the home of the Berger family, whose paint works were in Morning Lane (on the site of today’s Cardinal Pole School).
8/10 Walk on to the Round Chapel. This was built on the site of one of the five houses when this area west being developed as ‘Clapton Park.’ The church was completed in 1871 for Congregationalists who had moved from the Old Gravel Pit Chapel in Chatham Place. The building was designed by Nonconformists’ architect Henry Fuller with an unusual horseshoe shape.
9/10 Cross over the road to Clapton Passage. This was where scientist and theologian Joseph Priestley lived when he came to Hackney after being hounded out of Birmingham by a ‘patriotic’ mob for his radical politics. In a cottage here in the c18th lived Huguenot widow Louisa Courtauld. In 1765 she registered her own mark as a silversmith; one of her pieces is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Her son founded Courtaulds.
10/10 Back to the Square. It was noted in 1899 by Charles Booth that many houses here were rented and past their prime. The mansion blocks in the north-east corner replaced older houses. The east side was bombed and built again in the 1990s. The square’s garden was private until a campaign in 1926 succeeded in opening it to the public. To celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1950 Hackney Council planned an open air theatre here. The plan was vetoed by central government.