Spa Fields: playground and bone house

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.

Spa Fields, a green and pleasant spot
Spa Fields, a green and pleasant spot

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.

Rather strange high chairs
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.

Curious things
Curious things

I was attracted to this tree that was full of red berries though I have no idea what sort of tree it is.

Tree with red berries
Tree with red berries

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.

Abandoned adventure playground?
Abandoned adventure playground?

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.

Quiet corners for reading or daydreaming
Quiet corners for reading or daydreaming

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.

Tombs or air-raid shelters?
Tombs or air-raid shelters?

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.

A community building (apparently)
A community building (apparently)

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.

Gruesome goings-on in Spa Fields
Gruesome goings-on in Spa Fields

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?

Art or grafitti or both?
Art or 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.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Spa Fields: playground and bone house

  1. Reluctant Blogger says:

    That park is a collection of very odd things. It looks like somewhere my boys would have a lot of fun exploring as they like to ponder what things are or were. The curious thing is perhaps just a shelter where people can hide from the rain – or perhaps where youths are meant to hang out? There is something similar in Prospect Park in Reading next to the teenage section of the play area where the basket ball nets and things are. I’ve seen youths hanging out, girls sitting underneath and lads lurking on top!

  2. Ed says:

    Graffiti ARE art. But of course as in every kind of art, some aren’t born artists, but think they are. And as we say in French “Les goûts et les couleurs, ça ne se discute pas.”

    • SilverTiger says:

      Opinions on art – as on everything else – range from the liberal to the conservative. I will allow anyone to think something is art if they wish but will accept as art only that which meets my own (largely intuitive) standards. By those standards, much of what is thrown at us these days under the tag of art is nothing of the kind.

      Some graffiti show artistic talent; most do not. Most are ugly, unaesthetic eyesores degrading the environment. The concept of struggling artists touring the streets and back alleys of the city desperately seeking a canvas for their deathless works of art was, is and ever will be an empty myth. The painting of graffiti is a social phenomenon it its own right, and responds to imperatives quite other than those of art. Anyone with genuine artistic talent eventually finds a way to practise it properly. They don’t need to pollute our living space.

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