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.

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
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: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick