Inventory Site Record

Joe White Gardens (Hackney)

Brief Description

Aske's Hospital was one of the earliest and grandest almshouses in Shoreditch, taking its name from Robert Aske (1619-1689) who bequeathed money to the Haberdashers' Company in 1689. The original C17th almshouses designed by Robert Hooke in 1692 accommodated 20 single men and a school for 20 boys, but were rebuilt in the 1820s with additional facilities for education, forming three sides of a square. By 1882 there were no longer almshouses and the enlarged school buildings catered for 300 girls and 300 boys. In 1898 the two schools transferred elsewhere and the buildings became the LCC's Shoreditch Technical Institute, the open space in front renamed Aske Gardens and designated as public open space.  The public gardens remain today but in 2023 were renamed Joe White Gardens after an inspirational Hackney-raised sportsman, as part of Hackney Council's anti-racism programme. The buildings are no longer in educational use and were developed for private housing in the early C21st.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Aske Gardens; Aske Hospital
Site location:
Pitfield Street/Buttesland Street
N1 6LE
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - dusk (summer 9.30pm, winter 4pm).
Special conditions:
Tennis court; multi-use games area
Public transport:
Rail/Tube: Old Street (Northern). Bus: 55 [243]
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. https://hackney.gov.uk/joe-white-gardens

Full Site Description

Joe White Gardens are on the site of Aske's Hospital, one of the earliest and grandest almshouses to be built in Shoreditch.  The site took its original name from its benefactor Robert Aske, who also bequeathed money for Haberdasher Aske's School. Aske's will of January 1689 left £20,000 to the Haberdashers' Company for the establishment of almshouses for '20 poor single freemen and a school for 20 sons of freemen' and in 1690 a charity was set up by Act of Parliament to carry out the terms of the will, and a site was obtained. Aske was an investor in the Royal African Company, and as well as using some of his money for philanthropic purposes he was an active participant in the slave trade.  Between 1672 and 1731 he is known to have transported 187,697 enslaved people on company-owned ships to English colonies in the Americas. 20% of these enslaved people died on the journey.

The original almshouses were designed by Robert Hooke in 1692 and the building was completed by 1695, consisting of a block set back from the road behind a brick wall with a central gateway. A statue of Robert Aske was set in a niche over the central doorway. This building fell into disrepair and was pulled down in 1822 and rebuilt in 1825-27 by David Riddel Roper with increased educational provision, the new building taking the form of three sides of a square with Greek Doric pillars at the front. In 1873 the Charity Commissioners approved a new scheme whereby the educational element of the Aske's charity remit was to be extended and the almshouses element changed to pensions. By 1882 the almshouses portion of the building had been demolished; the school buildings were enlarged with new wings added and it was in use for the National Schools, providing for 300 girls and 300 boys. At this time the charity also established schools at Hatcham.

In 1898 the Girls School transferred to Acton and the Boys School to West Hampstead, and the Shoreditch buildings were taken over by the LCC for use as Shoreditch Technical Institute. The open space in front was then designated as public open space. The Institute later became City and East London College but is no longer in educational use. The buildings were developed for a private luxury housing scheme in the early C21st and named Hoffman Square, providing 40 residential apartments. The scheme was deemed a sensitive reformation for which it was granted the Britannia National Home Builder Design Award for restoration and conversion. The gardens in front remain a public amenity, laid out with recreational facilities and some gardens, with shrubs and a number of fine old plane trees. The boundary with Pitfield Street retains the C19th railings on stone coping and stone gate piers. The gardens have some shrub planting around the tennis courts and the perimeter, and an area of grass with seating between the two sports facilities. The gardens were refurbished in 2012 and  in 2014 were awarded a Green Flag.

In 2023, through suggestions by the Hackney Naming Hub, which was launched in November 2020 as part of Hackney Council's anti-racism programme, it was decided to bestow the gardens with the new name of Joe White Gardens. Joe White (1962-2002) was raised in Hackney and forged a successful career as a professional basketball player representing Team GB; he was later a youth coach and mentor to other Olympic basketball players, two of whom took part in the 2012 London Olympics. 

Joe White Gardens is the second public space to be renamed through suggestions by the Hackney Naming Hub. In November 2021, Kit Crowley Gardens was given as the new name for the former Cassland Road Gardens (q.v.).

Sources consulted:

Robinson, Lost Hackney; Parks and Open Spaces in Hackney, A Report by the Hackney Society, London 1980; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames except the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1972); 'The Geffrye Almshouses' (Geffrye Museum) 1979; https://news.hackney.gov.uk/renamed-garden-celebrates-legacy-of-local-sporting-hero/

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ330827 (533000,182770)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Hackney
Site management:
Parks Service
1690-1695; 1898
Listed structures:
LBII: Haberdashers Almshouses
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

Joe White Gardens

Joe White Gardens - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 29/03/05 16:37

Click a photo to enlarge.

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