Inventory Site Record

Kit Crowley Gardens (Hackney)

Brief Description

Originally known as Cassland Road Gardens these gardens date from the 1850s when Cassland Crescent was laid out on the northern side of Cassland Road by the Trustees of the Sir John Cass Estate. In 1858 the Cass Estate asked tenants of the Crescent to contribute towards enclosing the garden and sought tenders for iron railings. It is thought that the lawns, lime and London plane trees date from that time. Post WWII, the Governors of Sir John Cass's Foundation leased the gardens to Hackney Borough Council, to be maintained as a public amenity. In July 2021 the gardens were renamed Kit Crowley Gardens as part of Hackney's Review, Rename, Reclaim project. Kit Crowley's name replaced that of Sir John Cass, who was director of the Royal African Company, an English slave trading company that trafficked enslaved Africans for profit in the late C17th. 

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Cassland Road Gardens; Cassland Gardens; Cassland Crescent
Site location:
Cassland Road/Cassland Crescent
E9 7AL
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Garden Square, Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - dusk (summer 9.30pm, winter 4pm).
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 5 times, most recently in 2008.
Special conditions:
Public transport:
London Overground: Homerton. Bus: 26, 30
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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

Full Site Description

Cassland Crescent's popular name was at one time 'the Bay' or Botany Bay, so nicknamed because of the many questionable characters who sought asylum in the Wick workhouses nearby. The garden of Cassland Crescent is across from Nos. 20-54 Cassland Road, formerly known as Hackney Terrace, a development built 1792 -1801 as the 'first erections on Sir John Cass's estate'. Cassland Road itself was built in the 1780s following development by William Gigney, a baker, who leased land from the Cass Estate to build houses on Well Street. When Gigney went bankrupt in 1790, his successor's under-tenants, John Shillitoe, Thomas Pickering and James Jackson, built the Hackney Terrace development. It was set up as a building society with subscribers, an early example of such an arrangement. The central pediment to the terrace of three-storey houses is decorated with a fine garland and the arms of the three developers in Coade stone, as well as that of architect William Fellowes. The Terrace is the earliest surviving housing in the area; originally the houses had private gardens in front with a stable block and communal walled pleasure garden behind opening onto Well Street Common (q.v.). Known as 'The Lawn', this pleasure garden was finally built over in the 1890s when Meynell Crescent was built. 'The road was its present width, but bordered on either side by garden plots, and here and then small shanties - the dwellings of gardeners themselves.'

Cassland Road Gardens date from the 1850s when Cassland Crescent was laid out on the northern side of Cassland Road by the Trustees of the Sir John Cass Estate, the western half built first. In 1858 the Cass Estate asked tenants of the Crescent to contribute towards enclosing the garden and sought tenders for iron railings and it is thought that the lawns, as well as the lime and London plane trees that remain were laid out at that time. In the 1928 Royal Commission on Squares Report the garden is described as 'laid out with lawns and flowerbeds, trees and shrubs around the border', considered to be a useful amenity in the 'densely developed neighbourhood'. Post World War II, the Governors of Sir John Cass's Foundation leased the Cassland Crescent gardens to Hackney Borough Council and while they agreed to it being maintained under the lease as a public amenity, they were not agreeable to an Act of Parliament whereby it would be designated as open space in perpetuity. The current railings date from after WWII, the originals probably removed for scrap metal as part of the war effort.

In 1999 local residents formed Cassland Road Gardens User Group to look after the garden and received an Urban Regeneration Grant for replanting the borders; it continues to have regular garden days. The crescent-shaped lawn has a central circular ornamental bed, with tarmac paths around the perimeter where shrubs and trees, including notable London planes and ash, are within the C20th replacement iron railings surrounding the garden.

The garden was renamed Kit Crowley Gardens in July 2021 as part of Hackney Council’s Review, Rename, Reclaim project, part of a wider review of the names of local landmarks, streets, buildings and public spaces in Hackney to ensure they reflect the borough’s diverse history. In 2023 Joe White Gardens (q.v.) in Shoreditch became the second public space to be renamed through suggestions by the Hackney Naming Hub, which was launched in November 2020 as part of Hackney Council's anti-racism programme. The former Cassland Road Gardens sign is now in Hackney Museum as an educational artefact. 

A community stalwart who spent six decades supporting her neighbours, Kit Crowley was chosen by a vote by local residents as the new name for these gardens. Kathleen ‘Kit’ Crowley was born in 1918 to an English mother and Barbadian father. She experienced poverty and racism and, growing up where survival often relied on the goodness of neighbours, this shaped her resilience and sense of community spirit. When interviewed in 2013, Kit said: 'You survived with each other… you shared, that's what it's all about, caring and sharing, no good keeping everything to yourself ‘cause you can’t eat it all…' Kit Crowley worked at the local Wentworth Nursery for 32 years and is described by those that nominated her as ‘a role model for children of the Windrush generation growing up in the area’. 


Sources consulted:

Benjamin Clarke, 'Glimpses of Ancient Hackney and Stoke Newington' (first published 1892/93; new edition published by LB Hackney/Hackney Society, 1986); Parks and Open Spaces in Hackney, A Report by the Hackney Society, London 1980; J J Sexby, The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London (1898); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; David Mander, Strength in the Tower, an Illustrated History of Hackney (Sutton) 1998; Cassland Garden Open Day leaflet, 2001. Review, Rename, Reclaim L.B.Hackney (November 2021)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ355844 (535585,184436)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Hackney
Site management:
Hackney Parks Service; Cassland Road Gardens User Group
(Trustees of the Sir John Cass Estate)
Listed structures:
LBII: 20-54 Cassland Road (Hackney Terrace)
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:
Conservation Area name:
Victoria Park
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
London Square, Green Link

Kit Crowley Gardens

Kit Crowley Gardens - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 29/09/09 13:06

Click a photo to enlarge.

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