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Allens Gardens Hackney

Allens Gardens

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Allens Gardens forms a strip of communal garden behind a development of 10 blocks of 3-storey flats on Bethune Road built in 1874 by Matthew Allen, from whom the site takes its name. He was in partnership with the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company. The garden was for the use of residents, with greenhouses and wash houses as well as recreational facilities. The Bethune Lawn Tennis and Bowling Club was based here until 1929. The gardens were later publicly accessible, a series of garden 'rooms'. Since 2004 a compartment in the south has become an urban market garden run by Growing Communities, with raised beds, fruit trees, and an eco-building.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Bethune Road/Manor Road
Postcode: N16 5BD
Type of site: Public Gardens 
Date(s): 1873-75
Designer(s): M Allen
Listed structures: LBII: 2-32 and 34-56 Bethune Road and forecourt walls
Borough: Hackney
Site ownership: LB Hackney
Site management: LBH - Grounds Maintenance / Growing Communities
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: 7.30am - dusk (summer 9.30pm, winter 4pm). Market Garden: Mondays 10am-4pm
Special conditions:
Facilities: Play area. Growing Communities market garden: Eco-building available for hire. Adventure Playground
Events: Self-guided tours of market garden
Public transport: Rail: Stoke Newington. Bus 106
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.;

Fuller information:

Allens Gardens run along the back of housing on the east side of Bethune Road, which was built in 1874 by Matthew Allen of Finsbury, who was from a Stoke Newington Quaker family. He had connections with Sydney Waterlow and was in partnership with the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company. His Bethune Road development consisted of ten blocks of 3-storey self-contained 'middle-class flats in a generously leafy setting' in grey brick and an artificial stone patented by Allen. Eight of the blocks backed onto communal gardens, which were laid out with greenhouses and wash houses, and included a croquet lawn, bowling green, rooms for billiards and dancing, and looked after by a gardener. The development attracted the admiration of architects of the time (coverage in Building News, 31/12/1875; The Builder, 24/6/1876; Architects Journal 18/10/1972; The Times 21/2/1875). Until 1929, Bethune Lawn Tennis and Bowling Club was in existence here.

The site has the atmosphere of a secret garden, and is an elongated strip of land behind the east side of Bethune Road bordered at the back by the railway line. Close to the southern entrance near the corner of Manor Road the driveway leads to an area of lawn, with the remains of a small wooden pavilion. Immediately behind the houses, the layout resembles a series of garden 'rooms' of different characters, including a playground, areas of ornamental planting, a woodland area. A path runs north/south through the site between the two entrances with a strip of lawn, trees and shrubberies, in some places wooded. The east side of the path has a wilder area separated in some places by remains of old brick walling, and in others with new walling. At the north is an area of hummocky grass perhaps created as a cycle or play area, while near the southern end is another remnant of a brick building.

In February 2004 this part of the garden became the site of one of Growing Communities' urban market gardens, joining those at Springfield Park (q.v.) and Clissold Park (q.v.), where the project began in 1996. Growing Communities, a community-led organisation based in Hackney, had established a market garden further up Bethune Road, which it had to vacate when the land was sold, so moved raised beds, fruit trees, herbs and over 7 tonnes of organic topsoil to Allens Gardens. The garden now has raised beds full of salad leaves, organic fruit trees along one wall, a pond, wildlife area, greenhouse, shed and an eco building with an operational compost toilet and a living Sedum roof. The market gardens at Allens Gardens and Springfield Park are the project's main growing sites. All three are certified by the Soil Association and were the first organically certified food growing land in London. The project specialises in salad leaves and is the only London box scheme to include organic salad grown in Hackney in its vegetable bags. They employ a part-time Grower and an Assistant Grower, who are assisted by two Apprentice Growers and a volunteer work team, and work at Allens Gardens on Mondays between 10am and 4pm.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998). Growing Communities website
Grid ref: TQ332872
Size in hectares:
On EH National Register : No
EH grade :
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: No
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order: Not known
Nature Conservation Area: Yes
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: No
Other LA designation: Open Space

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