It turned out to be another remarkably warm and sunny autumn day today and, having some business in Amwell Street, I afterwards walked on through the streets at random until I found myself near the old Finsbury Town Hall and Exmouth Market. Here I discovered a small park that I had not so far known. It is not a new park and was made famous in 1816 by the Spa Fields Riots. I think, reading between the lines, that it fell into disrepute more recently as the haunt of yobs and drinkers but has now been refurbished by Islington Council and turned into a green and pleasant spot to walk or sit on a sunny day.
At one end, there is a quite elaborate play area for children, not fenced off from the rest of the park as is so often the case these days. There are swings and mounds and other structures to climb on or crawl through and these rather strange high chairs.
Further down, away from the play area, are these curious things. I am not at all sure what there purpose is.
I was attracted to this tree that was full of red berries though I have no idea what sort of tree it is.
Looking over the fence, I could see what seems to be an abandoned adventure playground that is now derelict. Why it was left to rot, I don’t know, unless it is because the Council was afraid of getting sued whenever a child fell down and broke a finger nail. I must say, though, that it looks like an amateur construction rather than something built by the Council.
The park is in two parts, separated by a broad walkway. Where the first has open space and a play area, the second has some quiet corners where you could sit and read or daydream.
There are a couple of odd things in this part of the park. The first is a set of long hummocks with concrete fronts on them. What are they? Ancient tombs? Or perhaps air-raid shelters from the Second World War, still present but rendered inaccessible? Whatever they are, they lend a slightly surrealist air to the park.
The second odd thing is this building in the middle of this part of the park. The chairs and tables outside at first lent credence to the thought that it was a cafe but it isn’t. Apparently, it is a “community building” of some kind as is explained here.
The scene here today is light and airy and full of the joys of life but it was not always so, as this site has a rather sinister past. Rather than a park, it was once a privately run graveyard with a bone house in it (probably where the pointy building now stands). I can do no better than display for your viewing pleasure the historical notice attached to the park railings.
There is now no sign of graves or surreptitious cremations and the whole place is pleasant and cheerful. There is even some art… or is it grafitti… or both?
So that is Spa Fields, a small London park but one with a history behind it as is usually the case in this old and turbulent city.