Mile End Park to London Fields: Exploring Parks of the 19th & 21st Century

Hello there! Thanks for joining me for another walking adventure across the city of London! This week I’m going to be exploring East London, where my journey begins at Mile End Park. From there I’ll take the beautiful Regent’s Canal walk to the amazing Victoria Park, before finishing in the very peaceful London Fields.

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Mile End Park to London Fields

Based in East London, Mile End Park is a relatively new addition to London having been opened in 2004 as part of the Millennium Commission, who called for suitable projects to be created as a way to mark the millennium.

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However, plans for a park in Mile End date back to 1943 when Sir Patrick Abercrombie mooted them in his 1944 ‘Greater London Plan’. The site has had development done to it before the park we see today, including trees being planted, a playing field opened in 1952 as well as the East London Stadium being built and opened in 1966.

In 1985 the land became the responsibility of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. By 1995 the Tower Hamlets Environment Trust, the East London Partnership, and the London Borough of Tower successful got Millennium funding worth £12.33m.

The aim of the new park was to make it a sustainable area which was built and would benefit the local community and act as a catalyst for regional regeneration. The area includes many green spaces, a playground, Ecology Park, Art Pavilion, cafe, and outdoor gallery space. I only discovered this gem a few years back when I was walking a long The Regent’s Canal, and it’s totally worth the visit!

And speaking of The Regent’s Canal, it’s time to join it, as we make our way along our journey. The Regent’s Canal was opened in 1801 to connect the Grand Junction Canal’s Paddington Arm with the Thames at Limehouse. For more information on the history of The Regent’s Canal, check out my previous walk, King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath!

My pleasant walk along the Regent’s Canal takes me under numerous bridges, and its beauty demonstrates why this is my favourite stretch of walking!

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A short walk past Mile End lock which is upstream.

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Mile End Lock

My route takes me to one of the aforementioned developments within the Mile End project, The Art Pavilion.

This pavilion provides a stunning gallery space with grass and the small lake overlooking the area. It’s a popular place for exhibitions and installations, and there aren’t many places in London which have this cute feel and unique view.

From culture to a canal, as I rejoin the Regent’s Canal once again passing through the tranquil riverside.

This takes me to the Old Fort Lock where the Regent’s Canal meets the Hertford Union Canal.

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Old Fort Lock

I’ll now take a detour off the Regent’s Canal to make my way to the truly wonderful Victoria Park.

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Lakeside view at Victoria Park

Opened in 1845, Victoria Park is located in the East of London bordering Bethnal Green, South Hackney, and Cambridge Heath. The park has 86.18 hectares of open space with a riverside cafe and many marvellous lakes.

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Bridge to enter one of the Park’s islands

Back in 1839, the Annual Report of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages noted that the East End of London had a higher mortality rate than the rest of the city due to overcrowding, insanitary conditions, and polluted air. One way to reduce the amount of deaths and extend people’s lives was to create a park. Over 30,000 residents signed a petition, and in 1841 London’s first public park to be built specifically for people had begun! Hence, Victoria Park is also known as the ‘People’s Park’.

The Government bought land that had formally been used for market gardens, grazing, and gravel digging. The man behind the design for Victoria Park was James Pennethorne who was an architect to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests.

A boating lake with three islands was also created with The Chinese Pagoda sitting within one of these. It was originally the entrance at Hyde Park Corner to the Chinese Exhibition between 1842 and 1843, however, this summerhouse later moved to its current position in Victoria Park.

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The Chinese Pagoda

A walk along the vast area of Victoria Park takes you to many open green spaces, and a nice little seating area!

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Nothing like a peaceful park!
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Lovely seating area in the park

One of the distinct monuments within the park is that of the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking-Fountain which was designed by H.A. Darbishire and has been in the park since 1862.

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The Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking Fountain

The fountain made from pink marble, granite, and stone, has a distinctive cupola, ornamental slate roof, four clock-faces, Gothic arches, and inscriptions.

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It was gift by wealthy philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts to the people who visited Victoria Park and gave residents clean drinking water too.

In 1872 the park was extended on land that was originally going to be used for residential developments. A well-loved and valuable institution to the people in London, especially those in the East, the park has Grade II listed status. In 2011 the park had major restorations and improvements done to it with £12m being spent by Tower Hamlets Council, and I think it’s well worth it!

The park today hosts numerous events including the Lovebox Music Festival, and is a popular attraction for many who live in the East End.

After taking in the splendour of Victoria Park I’m now going to rejoin the Regent’s Canal as I make my way to the final destination, London Fields.

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On the edge of Victoria Park sits the Regent’s Canal

As you walk along the Regent’s Canal you come across these distinctive gasometers near Bethnal Green which have been there since the 1850s. There aren’t many of these around in London these days, so it’s great to see these iconic ones still going strong along the river.

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Gasometers near Bethnal Green

The walk up the streets takes me to London Fields, a 31-acre park located in south-central Hackney. It was first recorded by its name London Field in 1540, though there has been pasture land adjoining nearby Cambridge Heath since 1275.

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London Fields

The land was used by drovers to pasture their livestock before taking them to market in London. By the late 19th century, its name was pluralised to ‘London Fields’.

Council flats began to be built in the surrounding area to replace the slums in the early 1930s. Today, the park has a playground, cricket pitch, a lido, and a tennis court, and if you want a nice, quiet area to enjoy your lunch, it’s perfect!

My journey has taken me from two parks, one opened in the 21st century and the other in the 19th century, taking in one of London’s most popular walks along the Regent’s Canal. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking in some of the capital’s great green spaces! Don’t forget to follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and to sign up to my blog too 🙂

Stay tuned for another walk through London next week! 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger unless credit given. © Copyright 2017

About Mile End Park – London Gardens Online

About The Art Pavilion and images of the inside – Tower Hamlets Gov

The Old Fort Lock – Canal and River Trust

History of Victoria Park – Tower Hamlets Gov

Information about the Chinese Pogoda – London Gardens Trust

History of Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking-Fountain – The Victorian Web

Bethnal Green Gasworks – The Guardian 

History of London Fields – British History Online

History of London Fields – Hidden London

91 thoughts on “Mile End Park to London Fields: Exploring Parks of the 19th & 21st Century

  1. There is not very much I can add to this wonderful return for me to the East End. I left Bethnal Green in 196 at the age of 20, but grew up in that area and have only made a few day trips since. I remember London Fields. My mum would take me there in the school holidays. Warm Summer days, and going for a swim in the paddling pool is one memory I have. I remember there was a row of shops near and there was a pet shop. How often had I seen that “doggy in the window”. I almost grew up in Victoria Park, just a short bus ride from Behnal Green, Old Ford being the end station of the No. 8 bus route from my place. My aunt and uncle with their twin boys had a three room flat near Victoria Park, a housing solution after the soldiers returned from the send world war. I was impressed, but they were soon moved onto to Romford in better conditions. Mile End Park was a newer project and so I never visited. Thanks again for a great tour, which I knew from my childhood days, perhaps a little different to toda, but great memories.

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      1. Unfortunately I wil probably never return to London again. My father passed away last year at the age of 100 7 months, and I made my last journey to London for the last goodbye. I am now a golden oldie, and no longer make such journeys for health reasons, Your wonderful walks keep me in touch with London how it is today.

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    1. Thanks Brian, it’s certainly a hidden walk and not one you normally see advertised! A walk that you only discover by just walking around with no route planned 😊 The Canal walks are up there as my favourite!

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      1. I certainly will enjoy them and keep them in reference for when I get back to London. The last time we visited London was in Aug 2014 and we did lots of walks in off the beaten track places. Though now that we are living back in Montreal, we can’t get to London very often so I do walks in Montreal instead after doing walks in Paris for 2 1/2 years…

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  2. What happy memories your walks bring back of my growing up in Hackney. We used to walk across London Fields to get the bus to take us to the nearest underground station, Bethnal Green. Then later, after she married, my sister lived close to Victoria Park. Thanks fo sharing your walks with us.

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  3. Sooo disappointed I missed Regent’s Canal when I was there in October. It was on my list but London’s just too big to cover everything you want to do. Now I’ll have to come back again. I just wish it wasn’t so far from Melbourne.

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  4. Marvelous walk! I loved the bridges and canals. The drinking fountain was a bit larger than I expected. I thought a small thing for taking a quick sip would be scrolling up. That was a fountain with pomp and circumstance!

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  5. You had a beautiful day for this walk. I was watching the movie “Shirley Valentine” with a friend the other day and I noticed several gasometers in the background in a street scene. If I hadn’t seen them in one of your posts, I wouldn’t have known what they were.

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  6. Thank you for showing interest in my blog, via my Japan trip photos. We had a great trip. Your “walks” are wonderful. I’ve never been to England, but now I truly want to get there. Your blog is grand! I look forward to more walks.

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  7. I’d like to share this on my next Monday walk, if that’s alright with you? Mile End was part of my old stomping ground when I lived in London, many years ago, and long before the development you speak of. 🙂 I found it very interesting.

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  8. Thank you for recently following my blog. I have come to yours, to see this marvellous post! What a great idea–dedicating a blog to London walks… I’ve been to London twice and surely would like to visit again, but now I can do so through your blog. I look forward to future posts and your photographs. Cheers from Osaka.

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  9. Thanks for taking me along on this great walk. Victoria Park was a favourite for my partner and I when we were staying in Mile End last November. You included some spots that we missed during out three weeks there (I guess we’ll just have to return!).

    Just yesterday, I was trying to convince a man who originally came from East London that Mild End is absolutely worth visiting! Things have changed much over the decades. Thanks for sharing this. I really enjoyed it.

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