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Description and History from 1868 Gazetteer

HACKNEY, a parish and an extensive suburb of the metropolis, in the N.E. division of the Tower Hamlets, hundred of Ossulstone, county Middlesex, 2 miles N. by E. of London, commencing about a mile from Shoreditch church.

It is intersected by the North London railway, which-has a station in Church-street and one in Kingsland. The town lies in the vale of Hackney Brook, near the banks of the river Lea, and, according to the census of 1861, contains 76,687 inhabitants. Previous to 1835 it formed one parish, but is now divided into Hackney St. John, South Hackney, and West Hackney, together comprising the hamlets of Hackney Proper, Homerton, Clapton, Dalston, De Beauvoir Town, Stamford Hill, and Kingsland. The streets are in general straight, well-paved, clean, and lighted with gas, being under the superintendence of a local board of works. The houses are substantial and commodious, and are well supplied with water. The extensive silk mills formerly existing here have long been removed, and the place is now chiefly inhabited by city merchants and gentlemen engaged in business in London. At Hackney Wick are various factories for waterproofing, bone-crushing, chemical works, and rope-walks. It contains a townhall, situated in Church-street, where the parish offices are; a literary and scientific institution, mechanics' institute, theological seminary, London Orphan Asylum, erected in 1813, at Clapton, by Dr. Andrew Reed, and affording maintenance and education to 430 orphan children between 7 and 15 years of age; a penitentiary, eight private lunatic asylums, and the Children's Friend Institution at Hackney Wick. In the manor of Hackney the old Saxon custom of gavelkind prevails, so that the lands are divided between all the sons or daughters as co-heirs in the event of the father dying intestate. In the 13th century it formed part of the possessions of the Knights Templars of St. John of Jerusalem, who are supposed to have had a mansion in Church-street. The workhouse is situated in Homerton, and answers for this and the adjoining parish of Stoke Newington, together forming a Poor-law Union. For other purposes Hackney is governed by a board of trustees of the poor, appointed under a local Act of Parliament, and by a vestry of 120, appointed under the Metropolitan Local Management Act. The poor-rate valuation of the parish in 1852 was 200,000, but had increased in 1862 to 300,000. Hackney is within the Shoreditch County Court district and Metropolitan Police district. The soil is generally gravel resting upon clay, and is chiefly the property of William Amhurst Tyssen Amburst, Esq., who is lord of the manor and chief landowner. The Victoria Park, which comprises nearly 290 acres, extends between the parishes of Bow and Hackney. It was commenced in 1841, and is chiefly intended for the use of the large and crowded districts of Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, and Shoreditch. Hackney is severed into two parts by a public road, and skirted by the North London railway, on the W. by the Regent's canal, and on the S. by Sir George Duckett's canal. In the park there are two lakes, one for boating and the other for bathing; but that which attracts the visitor most is the drinking fountain presented by Miss Burdett Coutts in 1862, situated in the eastern part of the Victoria Park, near the Hackney gate. The livings of the three parishes of Hackney St. John's, South Hackney, and West Hackney, are all rectories* in the archdeaconry and diocese of London, value respectively, 1,082, 520, and 464, all in the gift of W. A. Tyssen Amhurst, Esq. In addition to the above parish churches, there are seven district churches-viz: St. Thomas at Stamford Hill, St. Philip's, Dalston, St. Mark's, Dalston, St. James at Clapton, St. Barnabas at Homerton, Ram's Chapel at Homerton, St. Peter's, De Beauvoir Town, and St. Michael's. The first six of these district churches are within the parish of Hackney St. John, and the last two within that of West Hackney. There is also a free English church about to be erected on the Mansion House estate. The fine old tower of the original church of St. Augustine, at Hackney, is still standing, but the rest of the building was taken down in 1798, when the new church of St. John was erected in the same churchyard, but the steeple and porches were not finished till 1812. It is a square brick building with tower and spire, and has a peal of eight bells, which are placed in St. Augustine's tower, the tower of St. John's church not being reckoned sufficiently firm to sustain their weight. The register commences in the year 1555. In the churchyard are many ancient and interesting monuments; amongst others one to Sir John Rowe, Lord Mayor of London, 1570, with very fine carving and inscriptions; one to John Nevill, Lord Latimer, 1577; one to Christopher Urswick, almoner of Henry VII., who is supposed to have been portrayed by Shakspeare in his play of "Richard III.;" and one to Henry Earl of Northumberland, who died in 1537. Some of the monuments belonging to the old church were transferred to the vestibule of the new church of St. John. The church of St. John the Baptist, South Hackney, is a stone structure, erected in 1848, with a tower surmounted by a spire, and containing a peal of eight bells. All the windows are of painted glass. The register dates from 1826. The church of West Hackney is also a fine modern structure. There are chapels for Independents, Baptists, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. The meeting-house, called the Gravel Pit Meeting, was originally founded about 1620. The charities and endowments are very considerable, producing about 3,000 per annum, part of which is the endowment of the almshouses situated in Hackney Proper and South Hackney. The charity called "The Retreat" is for widows of Independent or Baptist ministers. There are numerous schools and academies, including the Church of England grammar-school, situated in Clarence-road; National, British, and infant schools, with denominational schools and Sunday-schools attached to most of the places of worship. Hackney has produced several men of eminence, as John Howard the philanthropist, who was born here; Daniel De Foe, who was educated and resided here; Richard Cromwell, the grandson of the Protector, who had a house here; Colonel Okey, one of those who sat on the trial of Charles I., and resided at the old house called Barbour Barns; and Major Andre, who was hanged by order of Washington, and has a monument in Westminster Abbey, erected by order of George III.

[Description(s) from "The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland" (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson 2003]
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[Last updated on 9 Oct 2003 by David Hawgood. 2003]