The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 8 Commons and Open Spaces

Hackney Downs

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Hackney Downs now form a large open area for recreation, but they were fruitful fields sixty years ago. An engraving, from a drawing by W. Walker, dated 1814, represents a "Harvest Scene, Hackney Downs, with a View of the Old Tower, and Part of the Town of Hackney," and gives a delightful picture of harvesters reaping with sickles, and binding up sheaves of the tall, thick-growing corn. That some of the Downs were arable land was a grievance to those who had grazing rights, and there was a considerable agitation to get the freeholders to lay it all down in grass, after the incident of looting the corn in 1837, already referred to. The Downs continued rural within the memory of many still living. The Lord of the Manor remembers that an inhabitant stated that she had, whilst walking across the Downs, startled a wild hare from her form. This would be about the year 1845, and for ten or twelve years later there were partridges in the larger fields of turnip and mangold-wurzel which adjoined the Downs. The rural character has quite changed, and now the Downs are a large open space, with young trees growing up to supply shade along the roads which encircle the wide grassy area.