Postcode from the edge: Hackney expressions

Never ventured east of Liverpool St? The rich cultural and historical life of London Fields may surprise you

"London Fields, its pastoral title savagely inappropriate to its inner- city setting," proclaimed the Sunday Times of Martin Amis's novel set in west London. To an extent, the same may be said of the area of east London which presumably provided inspiration for the title. But, this being Hackney, it's not quite that simple. There are areas in which Keith Talent, the Amis anti-hero, would be at home - the station entrance lurks in a railway arch between a second- hand car lot and a security grill/burglar bar manufacturer - but it is also fertile ground for literary and social historians.

London Fields is a 26.5 acre park south-west of the town hall on Mare Street, bordered by Richmond Road in the north, down to the now down-at- heel Cat and Shoulder of Mutton on Broadway Market to the south. The pub (formerly the Shoulder of Mutton) takes its name from the triangular shape of the fields and the fact that it was once Lammas Land, an area where landowners permitted tenants to graze sheep over the winter. In the 16th century, London Fields was a resort for botanists searching for wild flowers and herbs, but later it performed a more grisly function as one of the burial grounds for victims of the plague of 1665.

Cricket has been played on the fields since 1789 and matches are still played there today, against a backdrop of rustling trees and tower blocks. The raised wooden terrace at the Pub on the Park on Martello Street is a good vantage point for spectators and, while not the bustling music venue it was a few years ago, the pub still has an easy-going charm, and even boasts a gravelled pitch for pitching boules. This area, previously known as Tower Street, was once occupied by the aristocracy. Tower House was the home of Captain Woodcock, whose daughter, Catherine, was the poet Milton's second wife, and Daniel Defoe took time off from writing Robinson Crusoe to stroll across the fields from Stoke Newington to court his future bride, who was resident in the same street.

Broadway Market (formerly Mutton Lane) was once on the market porters' route linking the nurseries of Hackney to the produce markets of the city. A bridge at the bottom of the market crossed a stream at the current site of the Regent's Canal, and porters carried goods in large packs on their back south via Shoreditch. A branch of F Cooke & Son, the eel and pie shop, could be a lunching spot for the adventurous, while the ivy-clad Dove pub, also in the market, provides more conventional refreshment. Sunday is perhaps the best day to visit as a small craft fair enlivens what is sadly a dying area, and a car boot sale takes place on Mentmore Street.

The only blue heritage plaque in the immediate area is for Marie Lloyd (left), music-hall artiste, who lived at 55 Graham Road (on the 38 bus route) to the north of London Fields, while Hackney's former world light- middleweight boxing champion, Maurice Hope, is celebrated with a cycle path across London Fields.

Hackney may be in "turmoil", according to Ofsted inspectors, but this sedate and melancholy corner seems strangely oblivious.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Medical & Economic Writer / Consultant

    £23000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for a Me...

    Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

    £250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

    Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

    £230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower