Inventory Site Record

De Beauvoir Square (Hackney)

Brief Description

De Beauvoir Square is at the centre of the de Beauvoir Town Estate, which was developed on land owned by the de Beauvoir family since 1687. Plans for building date from 1818, particularly after the Regent's Canal was cut, and the east side of De Beauvoir Square was built in 1823. The main period of development took place in the 1830s/40s after Richard Benyon inherited the family estate. In the 1890s the circular central garden in De Beauvoir Square was leased by the owner to Hackney Borough Council, allowing some public access. The garden is surrounded by C19th iron railings and has raised lawns around its perimeter, a number of fine trees and extensive rose beds.

Practical Information
Site location:
De Beauvoir Square
N1 4LG
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Garden Square;, Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - dusk (summer 9.30pm, winter 4pm).
Special conditions:
Children's play area
Various neighbourhood events, including annual Party in the Park
Public transport:
London Overground: Haggerston, Dalston Kingsland, Dalston Junction then bus. Tube:Old Street. Rail/Tube (Northern): Old Street then bus. Bus: 67, 76, 141, 149, 242 [243, 243A]
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.hackney.gov.uk/de-beauvoir-square.htm; www.debeauvoir.org.uk

Full Site Description

De Beauvoir Square is at the centre of the mid C19th de Beauvoir Town Estate, which has been described as the 'first large-scale building enterprise in Hackney'. The land used to be part of the Balmes estate, named after two Spanish merchants who built a moated house here in the 1540s. In 1687 the estate was acquired by the de Beauvoir family whose land extended into Shoreditch. Balmes House was rebuilt in c.1635 for Sir George Whitmore and used to stand midway between what is now de Beauvoir Road and Downham Road, north of Regent's Canal. By 1756 it had become a lunatic asylum at times (?in the 1830s) attended by Mary Lamb, sister of the poet and essayist Charles Lamb. Originally leased to Meyer Schomberg, it later was one of a network of asylums for wealthy patients run by Thomas Warburton; it closed in 1851 and the house was demolished in 1852. Plans for development of the area had begun in c.1818, in part due to the cutting of the Regent's Canal, when brick-maker and speculator William Rhodes acquired the building lease for housing development here on a site of 150 acres, which in 1834 was said to be the largest single amount conveyed to a speculative builder in London. A layout by James Burton shows four squares and a central octagon marking the position of de Beauvoir Square, but little of his plan was built at that time apart from the east side of de Beauvoir Square in 1823.

Richard Benyon then inherited the family estate and wished to regain control of the property; ten years of lawsuits ensued that he finally won in 1834. The 1830s and '40s then saw the main period of development carried out by Benyon, who, having changed his name to Benyon de Beauvoir, gave his name to the new scheme. His 130-acre de Beauvoir Town estate was laid out by Robert Lewis Roumieu and Alexander Dick Gough and has been praised for its 'conspicuous consistency in the housing stock'. The other three sides of De Beauvoir Square were built in 1839 and by the C20th the area was densely developed. However, Benyon's houses were built on a grander scale than the area proved able to support and from the 1840s it began to decline, a process that was not arrested until the 1970s.

In the 1890s, the then owner, Mr J H Benyon, had leased the garden to Hackney Borough Council on an annual basis at a nominal rent allowing public access 'at all reasonable times'. In 1928 de Beauvoir Square was described as 'a circular area surrounded by a thick hedge on a low bank laid out as an attractive ornamental garden' containing 'some well-grown trees'. The circular garden retains its mid C19th cast iron railings, which have spearhead standards and pine-cone finials at intervals, around which is an external path and then grass verges to the road around De Beauvoir Square. The garden is laid out with raised lawns around its perimeter and has a number of fine trees. In the centre is a circular area of extensive rose beds with a central paved area and seating surrounded by low walls. To one side is a modern brick pavilion and children's play area.

Sources consulted:

The Buildings of Hackney; Benjamin Clarke, 'Glimpses of Ancient Hackney and Stoke Newington' (first published 1892/93; new edition published by LB Hackney/Hackney Society, 1986); Edward Jones & Christopher Woodward, A Guide to the Architecture of London, (London 1983); Parks and Open Spaces in Hackney, A Report by the Hackney Society, London 1980; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; 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); Victoria County History; David Mander, Strength in the Tower, an Illustrated History of Hackney (Sutton, 1998)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ333842 (533331,184232)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Hackney
Site management:
Hackney Parks Service; The De Beauvoir Association
Robert Lewis Roumieu & Alexander Dick Gough
Listed structures:
LBII: railings round De Beauvoir Square; houses surrounding - 1-10 (north side), 13-20 (west side), 21-30 (south side)
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:
De Beauvoir
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Open Space; London Square

De Beauvoir Square

De Beauvoir Square - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 21/08/06 13:27

Click a photo to enlarge.

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