London's first park built after rich feared disease spread from slums

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The Independent Online

The Capital's first public park opened in 1845 as a response to public health concerns.

Victoria Park, in Hackney, became popular with working-class families taking a break from the cramped living conditions in the East End.

William Farr, a sanitary reformer, believed there was something the area needed even more urgently than proper drainage, and that was fresh air. "A park would diminish the annual deaths by several thousands, and add several years to the lives of the entire population," he claimed.

London's middle classes were faced with a choice – either open a park for the working class, or run the risk of cholera, typhus and tuberculosis and other such diseases spreading outwards from the slums. This prompted 30,000 people to sign a petition to Queen Victoria calling for an open space and "Vicky Park" was developed.