Inventory Site Record

Spa Fields Gardens (Islington)

Brief Description

Once open fields whose hollows were filled with springs and ponds, the area became known as Spa Fields, a place of recreation and entertainment until the 1770s. The land was then purchased by the Countess of Huntingdon who built a Nonconformist Chapel here, now the site of the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer, with adjacent burial ground. This closed in 1853, following which it was gravelled over and used partly as drill ground and partly as playground until 1886 when it was converted to a public garden, becoming the responsibility of the LCC.

Practical Information
Site location:
Northampton Road/Skinner Street
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Children's playground, tarmac ball court with football goal posts, tennis nets and basketball hoops
Public transport:
Rail: Farringdon. Tube: Farringdon (Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, Circle), Angel (Northern). Bus: 19, 38, 341
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.islington.gov.uk/services/parks-environment/parks/your_parks/greenspace_az

Full Site Description

This is the remains of the open fields whose hollows were filled with springs and ponds. Spa Fields were a place of recreation such as duck-hunting, and various entertainment until the 1770s. Ducking Pond House tavern with tea gardens was here until 1770 on which site The Pantheon was built, a 'place of amusement' which closed in 1776 when Spa Fields was purchased by the Countess of Huntingdon for Spa Fields Nonconformist Chapel, built in 1779; she also built herself a house on part of the old Pantheon gardens and lived here until her death. The chapel was taken over by the established church and the site later was built over by the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer which overlooks the gardens today. The gardens are on the site of the former Nonconformist burial ground, which was formed in the 1780s on land leased from the Northampton Estate. Purportedly there were over 8000 burials here, 4 times its capacity and it closed for burials in 1853. The area was then gravelled and used partly as a drill ground for Territorials and partly as a playground for children. In 1886 it was converted to a public garden, and became the responsibility of the London County Council. Spa Fields had also been the scene of popular protest meetings during the depression and unemployment following Waterloo.

Near the gardens is the Finsbury Health Centre built by Lubetkin & Tecton in 1938, a revolutionary building at the time.

The gardens have some notable trees, rose gardens, shrubberies and meandering paths. In 2004 urban designers Parklife were commissioned to redesign and improve the gardens by Islington Council funded through the EC1 New Deal for Communities. The works included new landscaping, planting and seating, new areas for ball games and play, drinking fountains, picnic areas, new lighting and buildings. The park now has a lavender garden, herbaceous and shrub beds and an annual cornfield meadow. The park redesign received a London Planning Award in 2009.

Sources consulted:

Lt Col J J Sexby 'The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London', 1898; Charles Harris 'Islington', (Hamish Hamilton, 1974) John Wittich, 'London Villages', (Shire, 3rd ed. 1987); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Mary Cosh 'An Historical Walk Through Clerkenwell'; 'The London County Council and what it does for London: London Parks and Open Spaces' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924).

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ314824 (531320,182420)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Islington
Site management:
Greenspace; Friends of Spa Fields
1770s; 1886
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:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Local/strategic view corridor

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.