What exactly is it? This slender and arguably least-known (and least picturesque) of E11’s green spaces was created back in the 1990s, when the construction of the A12 meant that rows of historic houses were demolished.
That must have been pretty controversial. Yep, major demonstrations took place, with Claremont Road a focal point for protesters, many of whom lived alongside 92-year-old Dolly Watson, a resident of #32 all her life. The final house to be demolished was 135 Fillebrook Road, with the section (and park) opening in 1999.
So what goes on there now? In short, a snapshot of Leytonstone’s recent (and more distant) past. It’s told in a dozen or so plaques by artist Lucy Harrison that profile some of the inhabitants and businesses who occupied this stretch over a hundred years. The houses were built between 1890 and 1930; rows of lavender planted in 2019 show their boundary lines. Meanwhile the stories of people who lived here can be found in amongst the foliage. All quietly fascinating; and perfect to ponder during your lockdown #dailywalk.
Who was behind it? Research was carried out by Harrison and Matter Architecture, the Vestry House Museum and Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society, along with local volunteers.
Which plaques shouldn’t we miss? They’re all a must for fans of social history, and the park will only take 15 mins to walk through and absorb each story. There’s the one dedicated to the doctor (above) at 159 who, pre-NHS, would offer a cheaper rate for local patients; the 1980s resident at 181 who talks of the ‘visual artists, musicians, felt-makers and creative people living and working in the area’; ‘the sing-songs and BBQs’ at 183; the former women’s refuge; and the sweet shop that, quite impressively, lasted from 1896 until the 1960s.
And most fascinating? The sheer amount of former shops, in fact: this was once a vibrant-sounding parade of fruiterers, greengrocers, wine retailers, tobacconists and confectioners (more on this at the plaque for 217). In its own understated way, this rather slight bucolic strip shows the transience – and resilience – of the city we live in.