Posted: 31 Jan 2018
Category: Area Guide
This East London neighbourhood has a rich & varied history
London Fields has a rich history of reinvention and development spanning multiple centuries. It’s also the name given to the local park, which itself boasts a long and distinguished background.
London Fields was first recorded as early as the 13th century. The name itself was registered in 1540, when the park was used to pasture livestock before taking them to market.
Before it became part of the East London urban landscape, London Fields was in fact rural countryside. Indeed, in the 16th century, it was a cluster of small villages sat within rolling meadows.
During Tudor times, the upper classes were drawn to London Fields as a place to spend their leisure time. They came to escape the city and enjoy country pursuits, such as riding and hunting.
By the mid-17th century, the aristocrats had been replaced by wealthy merchants and bankers. The area was also regularly frequented by Samuel Pepys who sought refuge in the clean, country air.
However, the area’s fortunes changed in the 19th century when it was encompassed by the expansion of London. Indeed, London Fields changed from a place of fresh air and bucolic countryside to one of factories and industrialisation.
Few traces of the area’s aristocratic past remain, as the Tudor mansions were pulled down to and replaced with neo-classical townhouses and 18th century terraces.
During WWII the neighbourhood was heavily bombed during the Blitz and the houses which flanked both the north and eastern parts of the park were completely destroyed. During the war the park also hosted an anti-aircraft battery, remnants of which are still visible to this day.
Present day London Fields is an amalgamation of the old and new. Neo-classical townhouses sit beside modern architecture, while hipster restaurants lie below railway arches that hint to the area’s industrial past.
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