Inventory Site Record

Hackney Downs

Hackney Downs (Hackney)

Brief Description

Hackney Downs is former Lammas land, which was surrounded by fields until the mid C19th. Horse-racing was recorded in 1733, and cricket, football and rugby were known to have been played here. As housing development began to threaten the area's common land, the MBW acquired the Downs and other Hackney Commons by Act of Parliament in 1872 to preserve it as public open space. Hackney Downs opened as a public park in 1884, laid out with paths and surrounded by notable plane, lime and ash trees. Various facilities were provided over the years, including women's toilets in 1908, Hackney Downs Lodge in 1959, an extension to the bowling green in 1960 as well as the playground and sports courts.

Practical Information
Site location:
Downs Park Road/Downs Road/Queensdown Road
Postcode:
E5 8NP
Type of site:
Public Park
Borough:
Hackney
Open to public?
Yes
Opening times:
unrestricted
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Tennis and basketball courts, multi-use games area, football pitch, children's play area, athletics track (seasonal).
Events:
Used for variety of events, including borough's Fireworks Display
Public transport:
Rail: Hackney Downs. Bus: 56

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.hackney.gov.uk/hackney-downs.htm

Full Site Description

Hackney Downs is former Lammas land, which had complicated rights affecting seasonal crops grown there; it had been surrounded by fields until the mid C19th. There was horse-racing on the Downs recorded in 1733, and cricket, football and rugby clubs were known to have been played here. By 1865 Downs Road and Downs Park Road edged the common land and building development had begun in the area. The Metropolitan Board of Works acquired the Downs from the Lord of the Manor, Mr Tyssen Amherst, by Act of Parliament in 1872 and it was preserved as public open space. This followed a petition raised by local people in the 1860s following the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1866, who fought to enclose and conserve in all 180 acres of land in the borough for public use, collectively described as Hackney Commons, and which included Millfields Park (q.v.), Stoke Newington Common (q.v.), London Fields (q.v.), Clapton Common (q.v.), and Well Street Common (q.v.) as well as various strips of land such as in Dalston Lane and Grove Street (later Lauriston Road). All these lands were acquired under the Metropolitan Commons Supplemental Act 1872 and transferred to the MBW, although it was not until the 1880s that the Board finally purchased the rights from the Lord of the Manor, under an Act of 1881. The common rights were extinguished by a Special Act of Parliament 1884.

Hackney Downs was opened as a public park in 1884, and was laid out with a pattern of radiating paths and surrounded by notable plane, lime and ash trees. It became the responsibility of the London County Council until it was transferred to Hackney Council in 1965. Various facilities were provided over the years, including women's toilets in 1908, Hackney Downs Lodge in 1959, an extension to the bowling green in 1960 as well as the playground and sports courts, and in the park is a beacon. The park is largely grassland surrounded by trees, including a double avenue of plane trees along Queens Down Road. There is little ornamental planting aside from a number of rose beds near the centre, and a fenced-off garden with flowerbeds, shrubberies and seating.

Major works to the park commenced in January 2010, providing new facilities including new tennis courts, a multi-use games area, a new play area and various sports pitches, community room and ranger's office. A new meadow has been planted with the help of Hackney Downs User Group and local volunteers as part of the 'Mad About Meadows' project organised by London in Bloom and The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Inspired by the Olympic Park wildflower meadows, the project aims to increase the number of urban meadows across London. The Hackney Downs meadow, together with another new meadow at Stoke Newington Common, will contribute to Hackney Council's draft Biodiversity Action Plan, which seeks to create 1 hectare of new meadow over the next five years.

Sources consulted:

Parks and Open Spaces in Hackney, A Report by the Hackney Society, London 1980; Andrew Crowe 'The Parks and Woodlands of London' (Fourth Estate, 1987); 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, 1972); J J Sexby, The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London (1898); David Mander, 'Strength in the Tower, an Illustrated History of Hackney' (Sutton, 1998); Victoria County History

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ345857 (534508,185677)
Size in hectares:
16.48
Site ownership:
LB Hackney
Site management:
Hackney Parks Service; Hackney Downs User Group
Date(s):
1884
Designer(s):
Listed structures:
None
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

No
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Yes: Common (CL16)
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

No

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:
No
In Conservation Area:
No
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes
Green Belt:
No
Metropolitan Open Land:
No
Special Policy Area:
No
Other LA designation:
Open Space; Green Link

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