Inventory Site Record

St Thomas's Square (Hackney)

Brief Description

St Thomas's Square was a development built by Robert Collins in 1771/2 on land leased from St Thomas's Hospital. The central area was essentially open space until 1892 when it was laid out as a public garden by Hackney District Board with grants form the MBW, MPGA and the LCC. Just outside the railings at the west end is a granite drinking fountain in memory of Esther Nelson, which was unveiled by the Mayor of Hackney in 1912. Hackney Borough Council purchased the garden in 1915.

Practical Information
Site location:
St Thomas's Square, Mare Street
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:
Public transport:
Rail: London Fields. Bus 26, 48, 55, 106, 236, 253, 277, D6
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.hackney.gov.uk

Full Site Description

St Thomas's Square was a development built by Robert Collins in 1771/2 on land leased from St Thomas's Hospital who owned much land in Hackney; some of this land had previously been owned by the Hospital of the Savoy who by 1517 owned 6 acres on London Fields (q.v.). The square was described in 1892 by Benjamin Clarke as 'anything but picturesque. The centre was a field with an old irregular fence around it, but a little interest attaches itself to some of the inhabitants of the Square.' In 1892 Hackney District Board leased the central land and laid it out as public gardens through grants from the Metropolitan Board of Works, Metropolitan Public Gardens Association and the LCC. Hackney Borough Council then purchased the gardens in 1915 for £50, and in 1928 it was described as 'laid out as an attractive ornamental garden. Contains some well-grown trees' (Royal Commission on London Squares).

On the south-east corner was St Thomas's Chapel, built in 1771, which later became the site of the Empress Cinema that opened in 1912, becoming the Essoldo in 1937 and then a bingo hall but this was demolished in 1996 to build a new residential block for Cordwainers College. The north-west corner of the square suffered bomb damage in World War II and the northern and eastern sides were compulsorily purchased by the LCC in 1952 and demolished and flats built as part of the Frampton Park estate. Just outside the railings at the west end of the square is a pink and grey granite drinking fountain dating from 1912; circular pedestal with moulded base and cornice supports a column with taps screened by grey granite columns with capitals carrying moulded circular cup with ball finial, inscription reads: 'presented to the Hackney Borough Council by Morris Nelson Esq in memory of his wife Esther. Unveiled by Councillor William Hammer Mayor of Hackney 31st October 1912'.

Enclosed by railings, the garden has lawns containing ornamental flower beds, small trees (flowering cherry) and towards the Mare Street boundary is a central pyramidal conifer reached by two tarmac paths; paths also circumnavigate the square, with shrub planting and mature trees along perimeter beds.

Sources consulted:

Robinson, Lost Hackney; 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; Victoria County History; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); David Mander, Strength in the Tower, an Illustrated History of Hackney (Sutton) 1998.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ350843 (535012,184370)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Hackney
Site management:
Hackney Parks Service
1772; 1892
Listed structures:
LBII: Drinking Fountain
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:
Mare Street
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Archaeological Priority
Other LA designation:
London Square; Open Space

St Thomas's Square

St Thomas's Square - Photo: London Gardens Trust
Date taken: 14/10/21 13:45

Click a photo to enlarge.

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