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Inventory Site Record

Newington Green (Islington)

Brief Description

Newington Green was the centre of the old hamlet on the edge of Stoke Newington and Islington, and the area attracted wealthy residents in the C16th / early C17th. The village green had been enclosed to form a square in 1742 and from C18th illustrations it appears to have been a simple grassed area surrounded by palings. By the early C19th paths crossed the Green. In 1874 it was acquired by Islington Borough Council and the layout became more elaborate, with benches installed and a picturesque central kiosk, later shaded by trees. The garden was re-landscaped in 2004/5 with a Greenspace Rangers' office, new seating, lighting and bicycle stands as well as road improvements to the surrounding streets. A sculpture by artist Maggi Hambling commemorating Mary Wollstonecraft, who had run a school nearby in the 1780s, was installed in November 2020 following a 10-year fund-raising campaign.

Practical Information
Site location:
Newington Green
Postcode:
N16 9PX
What 3 Words:
total.boil.really
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Borough:
Islington
Open to public?
Yes
Opening times:
8am - dusk
Took part in Open Garden Squares Weekend in 2007.
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Children's playground, accessible play equipment, café, toilet
Events:
Summer children’s activities. Plus larger events throughout year include International Jazz Festival, Winter Market and a Festival of Light.
Public transport:
London Overground: Canonbury, Dalston Kingsland, Dalston Junction. Rail/London Overground/Tube (Victoria): Highbury & Islington. Bus: 21, 73, 141, 236, 476.
Research updated:
11/01/2021
Last minor changes:
19/07/2023

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.islington.gov.uk/sports-parks-and-trees/parks-and-green-space/; www.newingto

Full Site Description

In Tudor times the area was a favourite royal hunting place and Henry VIII had a house to the south of the Green where he reputedly kept his mistresses. A brick terrace dating from 1658 that still overlooks the Green is among the oldest terraces in London. In the 1660s the area was a centre of Non-conformism. The hymn-writer Revd Isaac Watts lived on the corner of Albion Road and was a frequent visitor of Abney House, now the site of Abney Park Cemetery (q.v.). Dissenters' academies were set up in the area, and included that of Charles Morton where Samuel Wesley and Daniel Defoe were educated. Mary Wollstonecraft, the feminist writer, ran a girls' boarding school here with her sister Eliza from 1784-86. In 1792 she published 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' promoting equal rights for women, based on their equal power of reason, and advocating that girls and boys be educated together at state expense, and that women should have representation in Parliament. There are early C19th houses on the west side of the green and on the north is the Unitarian Chapel built in 1708. Robert Brett, who lived on Newington Green, was a leading member of the Haggerston Church Scheme and paid for the church of St Matthias to be built for the growing population as the area was developed from the 1830s. St Matthias was designed by William Butterfield in 1849-53, described by Nikolaus Pevsner as 'one of his most remarkable designs', and it became well known as one of London's foremost High Churches. The Mildmay Estate to the south-east of the green was developed in 1850-65.

The village green had been enclosed to form a square in 1742 and from C18th illustrations it appears to have been a simple grassed area surrounded by wooden palings, although until c.1745 there were a number of large elm trees. An early map of the wider area c.1805 shows the Green with cruciform paths and the 1st edition OS map surveyed in 1868 indicates not only this cruciform arrangement but additional paths crossing the corners. In 1874 the ground was acquired by Islington Borough Council and the layout became more elaborate. Photographs, possibly taken before the gardens were open to the public, show Newington Green with young trees, shrubs, embryonic flower-beds, grass and curving footpaths, surrounded by paling. A photograph of c.1878 shows benches installed and a picturesque central kiosk, later shaded by trees. In 1928 the gardens were described as 'enclosed by palings and laid out as an attractive ornamental garden with well-kept lawns and flower beds. . . and some well-grown trees'.

The gardens today retain the notable plane trees although the layout changed when they were re-landscaped in 2004/5. Prior to this there were formal rose beds and shrubs, with two circular beds. The bed in the north had a single central tree and that in the south was laid out as a rose garden, in the centre of which was a plaque to Arnold and Verna Rosen 'Good citizens and Good Fabians'. The Rosens were long term residents at Cromwell Lodge, 30 Newington Green (near the north-east corner) who attended Newington Green School, later becoming school governors. Arnold was an Islington Alderman and keen local historian. The Rosens were associated with the school for over 60 years, and the library is dedicated to them. 

Newington Green Action Group was formed in 1997 to conserve and regenerate the Green, since when numerous projects have been undertaken. In 2001 Islington Council launched its 'Vision for Newington Green' for local consultation with the goal of 'improving access . . and making the Green a safer and more attractive place to be' with three alternative designs offered by Colin Buchanan and Partners. The selected design included re-landscaping, a Greenspace Rangers' office, new seating, lighting and bicycle stands as well as road improvements to the surrounding streets. The Rosen sundial, plaque and base went missing during the refurbishment, but later rediscovered, minus the base and initially reinstalled by Islington Council on the south border in the middle of a plant bed. More recently this border has been replanted and the dial and plaque are due to be installed in a sunnier and more accessible location on a better base. Hidden around the park are 11 bronze sculptured ‘Treasures’ depicting changes to Newington Green. In 2012 Newington Green Action Group planted an oak tree for the Diamond Jubilee, reputedly the first oak tree in a park for many years. The Woodland Trust has donated hazel, blackthorn and crab apple whips.

On 10 November 2020 a sculpture commemorating Mary Wollstonecraft, her vision and ideas, was installed in the gardens, the work of artist Maggi Hambling. It was commissioned following a 10-year fundraising effort by the 'Mary on the Green Campaign', with the support of Newington Green Action Group. The campaign was instigated to celebrate Wollstonecraft, describing her as 'one of history's most neglected icons [...] Yet as one of the key thinkers of the Enlightenment, she challenged society and changed the world. Her life sends a message of encouragement to young people in a world divided along gender and class lines. Wollstonecraft’s work is far from done.' The campaign's main aims were to commission the memorial in the form of a public statue, and also to establish the Wollstonecraft Society to promote ideas, run activities and an outreach programme. Hambling's sculpture in silvered bronze shows a dimunitive nude female figure at the pinnacle of swirling abstract forms. It has had a mixed response but has undoubtedly raised awareness of Wollstonecraft and also of this historic public garden.
,

Sources consulted:

English Heritage Files; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares 1928; 'The Changing Face of Newington Green' (London, The Factory, 1977); Sally Williams 'Newington Green' in The London Gardener, vol.8, 2002-03, pp71-78; www.newingtongreen.org/history; http://maryonthegreen.org/

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ328853 (532855,185362)
Size in hectares:
0.69
Site ownership:
LB Islington
Site management:
Greenspace; Newington Green Action Group
Date(s):
C17th; 2005
Designer(s):
2001/2: Colin Buchanan and Partners
Listed structures:
LBI: Nos. 52 - 55 Newington Green. LBII: Nos. 31, 32, 35 & 35a, 36 & 36a, 37, 38, Unitarian chapel (no 39) , forecourt wall and railings to chapel; gates & railings on north side of Newington Green.
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

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

No
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Yes

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:
Yes
Conservation Area name:
Newington Green
Tree Preservation Order:
No
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
No
Metropolitan Open Land:
No
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeology Priority Area
Other LA designation:
Newington Green: secondary road network
Photos

Newington Green

Newington Green, October 2005. Photograph Sally Williams

Mary Wollstonecraft commemorative sculpture by Maggi Hambling, Newington Green, November 2020. Photograph Shirley Read
2020
Newington Green, October 2006. Photograph Sally Williams
2006
Rose garden with Rosen memorial, Newington Green, July 2002. Photograph Sally Williams
2002
Newington Green, c.1955. Courtesy Islington Local History Centre.
1955
Newington Green, c.1900. Courtesy Islington Local History Centre.
1900
Newington Green, North Side, photograph 1874-76. Private Collection, reproduced in 'The London Gardener', vol VIII, 2002-03.
1874
Newington Green, East Side, photograph 1874-76. Private Collection, reproduced in 'The London Gardener', vol VIII, 2002-03.
1874
Newington Green, postcard, n.d. Courtesy Islington Local History Centre.

Click a photo to enlarge.

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