This was a community project where Hackney Council, St Paul’s Church and local people who were looking to restore a large and underused public space, comprising West Hackney Recreation Ground and the associated spaces around St Paul’s Church, as a focus for:
• The recognition, conservation and celebration of local heritage – a 19th century burial ground turned recreation ground, and modernist church.
• The enhancement of local social, educational, economic and environmental well-being
• The coming together of this diverse yet cohesive local community
The original church was built in 1823 and, following the bombing of the Second World War, was rebuilt in 1960. The West Hackney Recreation Ground evolved as a result of the Disused Burial Grounds Act of 1884 and the Open Spaces act of 1906. Handed over to the council in 1885 and following the approval from local people, the graveyard was closed and the headstones moved to the periphery of the new recreation ground.
The main heritage value of the Recreation Ground and surroundings is that it is typical of former London burial grounds, and its unique heritage tracks the history of the community of which it is central, from its development to the present day. The landscape proposals, which were financed in part from The Heritage Lottery Fund scheme, looked to celebrate and integrate the unique heritage and architectural qualities of the site and create a balance between conservation, ecology and increased visitor activity.
idverde was appointed as principal contractor and undertook a programme of works including:-
• Enhancing site boundaries by refurbishing gateways, railings and stonework
• Retaining and enhancing mature trees
• Enhancing herbaceous and low level planting
• Creating a setting for community activities
• Improving access to the Church entrance area and the Site generally by installing a new pedestrian gate from Amhurst Road into the grounds.
• Formalising the existing community gardening space
• Reconnecting all areas on the Site by reinstating the original internal gateways and footpaths
• Providing historical interpretation material
• Organising existing car parking
• Providing cycle parking spaces
• Creating a safe vehicular route in and out of the site, by widening the entrances onto the High Street
• Creating managed woodland and glade areas within the burial ground
• Selectively felling self-seeded sycamore saplings
• Repairing and stabilising existing tombstones
• Removing existing chain link fencing
• Reinstating gated access points and paths within the recreation ground
• Refurbishing the main entrance
• Reinstating the historical path layout (reducing tarmac)
• Providing new seating and restoring vandalised benches
• Retaining mature and recently planted specimen trees and supplementing these with additional specimens
• Removing aggressive self-seeded specimens
• Planting new shrubs and a herbaceous layer
• Refurbishing grass areas, incorporating bulb planting and reinstating horticulture into planting beds
• Refurbishing tombstones and headstones
Careful programming and planning was required to ensure that the site remained useable by all local stakeholders throughout the works. Access to St Pauls Church had to be maintained throughout the works and a weekly farmers market was also accommodated throughout the works programme, with safe access for all visitors maintained.
BALI National Landscape Award Winner 2015 – Restoration and Regeneration Scheme