London Fields to De Beauvoir (1.2 miles)

1/17 This route follows a footway suggested by ‘Central London Footways’ – a mapped network of quiet and interesting streets for walking, available from local bookshops and online. Start at the entrance to London Fields on the east side by Martello (formerly Tower) Street.

2/17 You’re at a junction here with an ancient old path (earliest record 1616): going right would take you to Hackney and Clapton; left, via Broadway Market, Goldsmiths Row, Columbia Road, to London. Named as London Fields because this was on the way to London. The Fields were made into a park in 1872 when there was concern this open space might be swallowed up by encroaching housing development.

3/17 Until then the Fields had been common land, where local people had Lamas Rights, from August to March, to graze their livestock and collect wood. Take the path diagonally across the Fields, with the toilet block on your right, to Lansdowne Drive. Pass three oaks in a circle on the left where a bandstand used to be, where children from St Michael’s Church School in Lamb Lane gathered in September 1939 to be evacuated by train out of London from London Fields station.

4/17 Take care crossing Lansdowne Drive and go down Shrubland Road with the  Fields Estate on your right. To your left is the entrance to Grand Union Crescent, on the site of what was a local militia’s barracks and then a bus depot, before it was moved to Ada Grove on the other side of Broadway Market. On a windy day local kids played havoc releasing used bus tickets from the containers at the back of the buses parked along the street.

5/17 Down the left fork in the road you can see the prefabricated tin church put up in 1858. Continue down Albion Drive, the right fork on the road. 25 years ago many houses this end of the road looked very different with broken windows, peeling paint. As you walk down the street, note the slightly different styles of house: 2 or 3 storey; semi-detached or 4 in a row; door at the side or in front.

6/17 The left side of Albion Drive was built on land belonging to the Middleton family; the right side on the Rhodes family’s ‘Lamb Farm’ estate which stretched west to east from Dalston Junction to London Fields. This road was planned from 1845 and built up in the 1850s. The Albion Pub (now a private residence) was licensed in 1851 to its builder Henry Barlow. Pubs typically were erected on corner sites and were often built to be more distinctive in height and decoration than surrounding houses.

7/17 Note at the end of the road and on the other side of Queensbridge Road boundary markers. Albion Drive was the border between the parishes (then metropolitan boroughs) of Hackney (north-side) and Shoreditch (south-side). Take care crossing Queensbridge Rd, which was laid out in 1839 as Queen’s Road to give access to the development of the Middleton and Rhodes land. Continue to Albion Square.

8/17 A stream marking the Hackney/Shoreditch boundary ran at the back of the gardens on the south side of the square. In 1840 brickmaker Islip Odell, of Upper Clapton, made an agreement with the Middleton family to dig and make bricks and build the square on their land here. Many of the houses were built 1844-49.

 9/17 In 1995 the west end of the square was rebuilt. It had been originally built 1849-50 by Mr. Odell as the Albion Hall with a portico entrance. It was home to the Kingsland, Dalston and De Beauvoir Town Literary and Scientific Institutions, then a school, licensed as a theatre, a place of worship, a Conservative Club and then piano makers. Behind the hall were the Albion Baths, with a 100ft x 50ft pool.  All damaged by a WW2 V1 flying bomb. LCC ‘prefab’ homes were put up on the bombed site, some of which remained until 1977, when the site was cleared and became an informal play space for local children.

10/17 Is this the prettiest square in Hackney? Not always so. In 1899 the Hackney Gazette described the square’s neglected garden as for years the greatest eyesore in the Dalston District’. Leave the square along Albion Terrace, to the right of the west end of the square, towards Stonebridge Common. Turn right into Mayfield Road, which had started to be laid out by 1827 at Dalston Lane to run from north to south right across the Rhodes land.

11/17 Turn left into Middleton Road and go under the bridge of the 1865 North London Railway’s link to the City at Broad Street. On the left at the end of the road is The Fox, established by 1727 and named after the licensee Edward Fox. On the other side slightly down Kingsland Road to the left is Metropolitan House. It was a purpose-built hospital where the Metropolitan Hospital moved in 1885. The hospital closed in 1977.

12/17 Cross Kingsland Road (part of ‘Ermine Street,’ laid out by the Romans 2000 years ago) towards De Beauvoir Square passing on the left the former Metropolitan Hospital’s 1924 nurses’ accommodation. The square is the only part built of James Burton’s 1820 design for De Beauvoir Town. The area takes its name from Guernsey-born Richard de Beauvoir who bought land here in 1686. The square’s impressive Jacobean-style houses were built 1838-9.

13/17 Houses on the east side, built in a different style 4 years earlier, were demolished for the Lockner Estate in 1970. In 1968 local people formed the de Beauvoir Association to fight Council plans to demolish the rest of the area. They bought up 42 houses to rent out as flats, proving that the building stock could be renovated for homes and did not need pulling down

14/17 Take the south-west exit from the square down Northchurch Terrace, passing on the right different styled ‘half-houses’ or maisonettes from the late 19th or early 20th centuries, erected in the back garden of No.20 De Beauvoir Square.

15/17 On the left come to the Church of St Peter de Beauvoir, built 1840-1, named for Peter, last of the De Beauvoirs. Land for the church was given by his heir Richard Benyon, whose descendants still own and manage locally 10% of the estate their ancestor bought in 1686.

16/17 Continue down Northchurch Road, with the all-white stuccoed houses, unique to Hackney. Originally this was Church Road but renamed 1937 when many London streets sharing the same name were renamed (viz. Stoke Newington Church Street). In 2014 Sam Smith filmed here a music video for his No 1 hit ‘Stay with Me’; he can be seen coming out of a house and walking down Northchurch Road.

17/17 Walk to the end of the street and you get to Southgate Road, the western boundary of the de Beauvoir (now Benyon) estate and of Hackney. On the other side of Southgate Road is Islington. Maybe the road is called Southgate because, if you take a right up it and keep on walking, you will eventually get to Newington Green; from there Green Lanes will take you on a very, very long walk all the way to Southgate.



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