Inventory Site Record

West Hackney Recreation Ground (Hackney)

Brief Description

West Hackney Recreation Ground was laid out as a public garden in 1885 on the site of the churchyard of West Hackney Church, after it had closed for burials. The parish had been formed in 1825 when the large Hackney parish of St John was divided into three to serve the growing population. The church was later rebuilt after damage in WWII. The oblong public garden has a number of gravestones in situ with others placed along the rear wall of the site. It is largely laid to grass with paths around a central lawn area, with shrubs, trees and perimeter beds, and a number of seats. In 2014 the garden was restored and re-landscaped; an area of the former churchyard between the church and the public garden, previously inaccessible, is now publicly accessible.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
West Hackney Churchyard and Recreation Ground
Site location:
Manse Road/Evering Road
N16 7QA
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - dusk (summer 9.30pm, winter 4pm).
Special conditions:
Weekly Farmers' Market at St Paul's Forecourt; check church website for activities and volunteering opportunities
Public transport:
Rail: Rectory Road. Bus 67, 76, 149, 276, 243, 243A.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.hackney.gov.uk/west-hackney-recreation-ground.htm; https://www.stpaulswesthackney.org/community

Full Site Description

In 1825, the parish of St John-at-Hackney was divided into three parishes at the instigation of the influential High Anglican group, the Hackney Phalanx, who deemed St John's to be insufficient for the needs of the parish. One of the three new parish churches was West Hackney Church built at the junction of Amhurst Road and Stoke Newington Road to the designs of Robert Smirke; behind it was its churchyard, which was consecrated in 1824 (according to Mrs Basil Holmes) and rectory, hence the street-name, Rectory Road. The land was donated by William George Daniel Tyssen, then Lord of Hackney Manor. Following the Metropolitan Open Spaces Act of 1881, which enabled disused churchyards to be turned into public gardens, the Bishop of London agreed that West Hackney's burial ground could be laid out as a public garden. This was carried out in 1885 with grants from the MPGA, Metropolitan Board of Works and the LCC and it was subsequently maintained by the Hackney District Board of Works. The layout of the garden was designed by the MPGA's landscape gardener, Fanny Wilkinson, who created over 75 public gardens in London, many of them former burial grounds. A number of gravestones remained in situ with others placed along the back wall at the rear of the site; railings surmounted on a brick wall separated the garden from the road. West Hackney Church was badly bombed in World War II and was replaced by a new church of St Paul, built 1958-60, which faces Kingsland Road. 

West Hackney Recreation Ground is an oblong site. It was largely laid to grass surrounded by tarmac paths, with a central oval lawn having rose beds and trees planted at each end, and a number of seats. The perimeter retains some notable plane trees, with other trees and shrubs. Headstones from the former burial ground were stacked up around the edge of the site, with a few graves remaining flush with the ground along the edge abutting the road. At the rear of the site is a brick wall, and at one time there was a small pavilion at one end, since removed. 

In 2014, after much campaigning by local people to restore this neglected public garden, an HLF grant of £700,000 together with funding from West Hackney Parochial Charity, the Marathon Trust and St Paul's Church, enabled renovation works to be undertaken. This had led on from a report by Groundworks East London in 2009, followed by West Hackney Recreation Ground Activity Plan in 2013, the latter undertaken with considerable community consultation. The works were managed jointly by the church and LB Hackney's Parks Department and commenced in March 2014. On 6th September the same year the gardens were re-opened by the Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, with the Bishop of Stepney, Rt Rev Adrian Newman in attendance. The improvements included new pathways, restoration of original routes, new woodland and play features, conservation of the tombstones and headstones, as well as improvements to the front of the church. An important achievement was improving the connection between the church and the former recreation ground: an area of the former burial ground containing numerous gravestones located behind the church had previously been fenced off and inaccessible, and this is now a contemplative garden space. The site is maintained by LB Hackney in partnership with the church, which has appointed a garden manager and volunteer co-ordinator to provide activities for the local community, including an extensive planting programme across the site. 

Sources consulted:

Parks and Open Spaces in Hackney, A Report by the Hackney Society, London 1980; Victoria County History; David Mander, Strength in the Tower, An Illustrated History of Hackney (1998); Benjamin Clarke, 'Glimpses of Ancient Hackney and Stoke Newington' (first published 1892/93, new edition published by LB Hackney/Hackney Society, 1986); J J Sexby, The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London (1898); Mrs Basil Holmes 'The London Burial Grounds', London 1896; Elizabeth Crawford, 'Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle' (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2nd ed. 2009); Barker Langham 'West Hackney Recreation Ground Activity Plan', 2013

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ337859 (533735,185997)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Hackney
Site management:
Parks Service; St Pauls Church
1825; 1885
1885: MPGA (Fanny Wilkinson)
Listed structures:
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:
Open Space

West Hackney Recreation Ground

West Hackney Recreation Ground, June 2016. Photograph Sally Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

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