Parks and Gardens in Spitalfields
Allen Gardens form a substantial strip of open communal garden along Buxton Street behind Brick Lane which was laid out between 1958 and 1970.
In medieval times and up until the 18th Century this park covered part of a much larger open area known as Haresmarsh. Later, in Georgian times, the land was built on and became part of a new urban development called Mile End New Town. Apart from numerous small houses, a church and two schools were also built here in the early 19th Century. The streets cleared to make way for the park were Pedley Street, Weaver Street, Shuttle Street, Eckersley Street, North Place and Fleet Street Hill.
The initial park plot was much smaller than the current park and was first laid out in 1958 on land made available when post-war temporary housing was demolished. London County Council opted to name this smaller plot in honour of William Allen; a nineteenth century philanthropist who in 1811 sponsored the opening of a non-sectarian school on the site for the poor children of the area. Allen had also been a leading member of the 'Spitalfields Soup Society' formed in 1797 in an attempt to provide relief to unemployed weavers. The park was gradually expanded during the 1960s as the derelict All Saints' Church was demolished and some remaining slums at the north end of Mile End New Town cleared. It was proposed that this additional larger area be called "Allen Fields" but this name appears not to have caught on and the whole place was soon called Allen Gardens.
Until 2006 Shoreditch Underground Station (East London Line) also operated at the north of the park, but this old station has now closed and a new Overground route has been created.
Some of the buildings of the former St. Patrick's School survived the demolition of the adjacent All Saints' Church church and are now residential apartments.
Christ Church Gardens (alias "Itchy Park")
The church yard, known locally as 'Itchy Park' was made a public garden in 1891 and was cleared of most of its monuments and gravestones in 1950.
- The Forum recognises the principal that this church yard is a Public Open Space, and in particular that the western part (including the tennis court) is public open space protected by the 1949 Trust under s.10 of the Open Spaces Act (1906).
The Friends of Christ Church have estimated these consecrated grounds to contain the mortal remains of upwards of 67,000 people buried there between 1729 and 1891.
Spitalfields City Farm
Although not technically an open space, this thriving local city farm which was established by volunteers on a patch of waste ground in 1978 is a place much loved by local families.
The farm has a wide variety of green spaces that visitors and volunteers can enjoy. Parts of the farm have become a haven for wild flowers and herbs; evening primrose, musk mallow, bedstraw, yarrow, vervain, knapweed and ox-eye daisy to name only very few of the wild flowers which are encouraged. These herbs and flowers also attract a wide range of insects, butterflies and bees which pollinate the plants and attract more birds and wildlife to the area. Spring time along the butterfly garden, which runs along the perimeter of the farm, was particularly colourful this year. There is also a "grass road" (since 2008) which has three raised flower beds with a colourful mixture of flowers, wildflowers and vegetables - such as kale and brassicas
When the re-development of Spitalfields Market was completed this attractive square was created and is maintained by Spitalfields Estate Management. There is a herb garden as well as attractive, shady portions of grass and a pond. Public spectacles (usually of the musical variety) are seen here frequently during the summer months.
Elder Gardens is a small but verdant strip of public garden located along the north side of Lamb Street near Old Spitalfields Market.
Chicksand Street Open Space (alias "The Ghat")
This popular playground and local amenity on Chicksand Street is enjoyed by local residents and roaming sporting groups.
Wheler House Basketball Court
Although officially for the use of Wheler House residents only, this small open space is of great value to local young people.
These gardens are located in the court yard of Toynbee Hall on the south-eastern end of Commercial Street. Further information about these gardens (which are likely to change in the near future) can be found here.