Hackney Central

infobox UK place
official_name= Hackney (central area)
map_type= Greater London
region= London
country= England
london_borough= Hackney
constituency_westminster= Hackney South and Shoreditch
post_town= LONDON
postcode_area= E
postcode_district= E8
dial_code= 020
os_grid_reference= TQ345845
latitude= 51.543307
longitude= -0.059486
Hackney Central is the central district of the London Borough of Hackney in East London. It comprises the area roughly surrounding, and extending north from Mare Street. It is situated convert|4|mi|km|1 north east of Charing Cross. It is also the name of a council ward.

"Hackney Central" is the area that once would have been known as "Hackney Village". This was a place that flourished from the Tudor period, when principal members of the Court had their houses in the surrounding area, and Henry VIII had a palace (located near the modern Lee Bridge Road roundabout). Hackney Central remained a popular resort for Londoners until the end of the Georgian period, when this suburb of London began to be completely built up. Railways, trams and factories brought an end to Hackney's rural atmosphere during the Victorian era, and its fortunes declined.

The industries of nearby Homerton and the Lee Valley have largely disappeared, leaving the NHS and local council as the largest employers. Successive waves of immigrants, both from abroad and within the UK, make modern Hackney a vibrant inner city area of London, with both the benefits and problems that this brings.

Extensive post-war redevelopment has replaced much of the housing stock, but the Georgian housing and Victorian terraces that remain have become popular again [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00198/Bricks_and_Mortar_198879a.jpg"Focus on Hackney"] "The Times" property section (August 2007)] .

Definition of Hackney

This district is the historical core of Hackney, and in fact, before the 1899 London County Council reorganisation, it was what many would have understood to "be" Hackney, although the term "Hackney Proper" was often used to distinguish it from other local settlements such as South Hackney, West Hackney and Hackney Wick [ [http://homepages.gold.ac.uk/genuki/MDX/Hackney/HackneyHistory.html The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)] accessed 20 February 2007] .

However, in terms of parish boundaries, up until 1835 the areas of "Hackney Proper", Homerton, Upper and Lower Clapton, Dalston, De Beauvoir Town, Stamford Hill, and Kingsland all constituted the Parish of Hackney.

Since then, the term has been vastly extended to mean, firstly the 1899 Metropolitan Borough, then, after 1965, the current London Borough.

Cultural quarter

South of Hackney Central railway station Mare Street slices through Hackney's 'cultural quarter' of Town Hall Square. Its north side is dominated by Frank Matcham's Grade II* listed 1901 Hackney Empire music hall, on whose stage appeared Charles Chaplin and Marie Lloyd - who lived in nearby Graham Road.

On the west side of Town Hall Square is the 1934-7 Grade II Hackney Town Hall in Portland Stone, fronted by an open space created when its predecessor, the Hackney Vestry Hall of 1860 was demolished. A new town hall complex is being constructed behind the existing building. Opposite on the East side, is the 2001 refurbishment of the Central Library and Methodist Hall, combined to form the Ocean Music Venue.

The square is completed by the 2002 Learning and Technology Centre. This houses the new Hackney Central Library, the Hackney Archive, the local museum and the offices of the Hackney Learning Trust.

The Clowns' archive used to be housed behind the Town Hall. It has now moved, elsewhere in Hackney, to the All Saints Centre, Haggerston (see link below).

Historical Hackney

In 1727, Daniel Defoe said of the villages of Hackney cquote|"All these, except the Wyck-house, are within a few years so encreas'd in buildings, and so fully inhabited, that there is no comparison to be made between their present and past state: Every separate hamlet is encreas'd, and some of them more than treble as big as formerly; Indeed as this whole town is included in the bills of mortality, tho' no where joining to London, it is in some respects to be call'd a part of it."

"This town is so remarkable for the retreat of wealthy citizens, that there is at this time near a hundred coaches kept in it; tho' I will not join with a certain satyrical author, who said of Hackney, that there were more coaches than Christians in it." [ [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/text/chap_page.jsp?t_id=Defoe&c_id=21 Daniel Defoe, Letter 6: Middx, Herts & Bucks] A Vision of Britain]

Early origins

Central Hackney was largely unchanged by Roman times, with Ermine Street passing to the west. The land was covered with open oak and hazel woodlands, with marshland around the rivers and streams that crossed the area. Hackney lay in the Catevallauni tribal territory.

The name Hackney derives from a 5th or 6th century Saxon settlement known as "Haca's ey" - or raised ground in marshland [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=22694 'Hackney: Settlement and Building to c.1800', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney (1995), pp. 10-4] Date accessed: 02 October 2006.] . This was due to the proximity of Hackney Brook, and was probably located on the higher ground around the later St Augustine's Tower. Hackney is not specifically mentioned in the Norman Domesday Book, as at that time it formed a part of the manor of Stepney.

The medieval village was centred on the 13th century Templar church of St Augustine, which gave Church Street its name - the modern Narrow Way - where it crossed Hackney Brook and met with the north end of Mare Street (originally near the site of the modern town hall). In common with much of Hackney, it developed along a single street - meeting Homerton and Clapton in the north; and along the line of Mare Street in the south. Where it crossed Cambridge Heath towards Bethnal Green.

Tudor village

Little remains of early Hackney, except the Tudor St Augustine's Tower, which survives as Hackney's oldest building; and the positively medieval road network. The churchyard, Hackney Brook, and the surrounding villages prevented Hackney's expansion, and by 1605 the village had a lower rateable value than the other divisions of the parish. In Tudor times, there were a number of fine houses along Church Street, but many Tudor courtiers lived in nearby Homerton [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=22696 'Hackney: Hackney Village', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney (1995), pp. 18-22] Date accessed: 20 February 2007] . On the site of Brooke House college, in Clopton was sited one of Henry VIII's palaces, infamously where his daughter Mary took the Oath of Supremacy. Her guardian was a Bryck Place Homerton resident, Ralph Sadleir who was also Henry's Principal Secretary of State.

A further cluster of houses existed in medieval times, where Well Street enters Mare Street. It was on open ground, to the north-east of here that the Loddiges family founded their extensive nursery business in the 18th century [ [http://users.bathspa.ac.uk/greenwood/map_a9h.html Greenwood's Map of London 1827] ] .

Georgian period

By 1724, while still consisting of a single street, there is an unbroken line of buildings, except by the churchyard and by the brook, with large gardens behind for the finer houses and inns. The 16th century church, despite galleries being installed, became too small for the needs of the parish, and parliament was petitioned in 1790 for a modern larger church to be built. This began in 1791 on a field to the north east of the old church, but was bedeviled by builders' bankruptcies and not finally completed until 1812–13 when the tower and porches were added. Further disaster struck in a fire of 1955.In the churchyard stands the tomb of Francis Beaufort, devisor of the Beaufort scale; and that of John Hunter, the second governor of New South Wales. The Loddiges family also has a tomb in the churchyard, and memorials within the church. The parish burial register records the death of "Anthony, a poore old negro, aged 105" in 1630. This is all that is known of Anthony, but he is the first recorded Black resident of Hackney.The villages of Hackney, Lower Clapton and Homerton remained separated by fields into the 19th century. The fine houses remained, with large gardens behind. Artisans and labourers lived in cottages established in these gardens. There was not the room, or the will, for major rebuilding in the village. By 1800, St Thomas' Square, a Georgian square was laid out on the southern end of Mare Street. By the 20th century, these buildings had declined and were replaced with public housing [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=22695 "Hackney: Building after c.1800", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney (1995), pp. 14-8] Date accessed: 20 February 2007] . An early 18th century mansion, now the "New Landsdown Club", but once the headquarters of Elizabeth Fry's "British Ladies' Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners" remains at 195 Mare Street. It is Grade II* listed, but in poor condition and on the English Heritage register of buildings at risk [ [http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/search/details.aspx?pid=1&id=424431 English Heritage listing details for 195 Mare Street] accessed 27 Mar 2007] . In neighbouring Homerton, (to the east of the churchyard) Sutton Place was built by 1806, near to Sutton House.

The rebuilding of the Church, on a field to the north of the village altered the course of the road and allowed the establishment of Clapton Square in 1816, in nearby Lower Clapton. Much of the area to the north and east of the churchyard now forms the "Clapton Square Conservation Area", designated in 1969.

Victorian Hackney

During the Victorian era, many of the old buildings were swept away and the estates broken up to form streets of terraced housing. The change from rural suburb to firmly urban, was marked by the arrival of the railway in 1850, with a great iron rail bridge crossing Mare Street. Trams began to make their appearance on the streets in the 1870s, and a tram depot opened in 1882 on Bohemia Place [The North Metropolitan Tramways Co. from Bishopsgate ran through Mare Street, and thence to Clapton, opened in 1872, and was extended to Clapton Common in 1875, reaching Stamford Hill in 1902] .

Increased access and the culverting of Hackney Brook in 1859-60, brought about the present road layout. Many older buildings were pulled down to intensify development and to make room for street widening and the railway. In 1802, The Old Town Hall was built on the site of the vestry house, by the tower. This was re-fronted in a "baroque" style in 1900. In turn, this building was replaced as being too small for the needs of the borough, the political centre moving to the front of today's Town Hall (1937). Only St Johns Gardens, and Clapton Square, the areas around the 1791 church, remained as public open space.


The Narrow Way ("Church Street") remains a vibrant shopping area, and there is a large Tesco supermarket in nearby Morning Lane ("Money Lane"). This international store group was founded in Hackney, from a market stall in Well Street market in 1919. The Hackney Tesco site is currently subject to planning consultation that will see a multi-storey shopping centre (with parking beneath, and housing above) erected on the site, planned to open in 2011. A Burberry factory is also located off Morning Lane, with a 'factory outlet' that is considered to be Hackney's most visited tourist attraction. This site is currently being redeveloped, in two phases, that will see the retention of the showroom, but add housing above.


Nearest stations

The area is close to the City with frequent trains from Hackney Downs railway station to Liverpool Street. Hackney Central railway station is a part of London Overground with westbound trains to Richmond, via Dalston Kingsland railway station and eastbound trains to Stratford, via Homerton railway station.

The existing connection to the Victoria line at Highbury and Islington tube station and Stratford railway station will be supplemented by a link to the extended East London line at Dalston.

Nearest places

* Homerton
* London Fields
* Dalston
* Haggerston
* Bethnal Green
* Lower Clapton
* Hackney Downs


:"For details of education in Hackney Central see the Hackney article"


Further reading

* [http://www.learningcurve.gov.uk/tudorhackney/localhistory/loch.asp Tudor Hackney (from the National Archives)]

ee also

*Metropolitan Borough of Hackney (1900-1965)
*Hackney carriage
*Hackney Central Parliamentary constituency (1885–1950, 1955–1983)
*Hackney Central (ward)

External links

* [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/6308.aspx London Overground Investment Plans] .
* [http://www.hackneyempire.co.uk/frameset.htm Hackney Empire]
* [http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-suttonhouse/ Sutton House (National Trust)]
* [http://www.stjohn-at-hackneychurch.org.uk/ St John at Hackney]
* [http://www.theroundchapel.org.uk/ The Round Chapel]
* [http://hoop.ground-level.org/hackneyCentral/info Hackney Walks]
* [http://www.clownsinternational.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8&Itemid=17 The Clowns' Gallery, Museum and Archive]

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