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North & South Millfields

'Millfields' as a name can be traced back to the 15th and in the 16th as ‘north’ and ‘south’.

The two fields are now separated by Lea Bridge Road, constructed as a new 'turnpike' or toll road in 1757. However, the land across which the road travels may once have constituted a part of South Millfields.

North Millfield was a brick field, providing clay to make bricks.

In the 19thfour fossil woolly rhino and elephant bones were found in the brick fields adjoining North Millfields (now Casimir Road).

Hackney Commons

North and South Millifields, with Hackney Marsh, Clapton, Stoke Newington and Well Street Common, London Fields and Hackney Downs, is collectively referred to at the "Hackney Commons'. Of the seven Hackney Commons, only Clapton and Stoke Newington were conventional commons; the remainder were 'lammas land'.

Lammas Lands

The fields are the remains of what was originally Saxon common land available to local residents for grazing cattle and sheep from 'Lammas day', 1st August, until 'Lady day', 25th March, when they were closed for growing a hay crop.

The fields were made up of strips held by tenants until at least the mid 18th.

The Mill fields, lay in narrow strips in the mid 18th century, when F. J. Tyssen, Lord Brooke, William Parker, and St. Thomas's hospital held parcels.

The status as lammas lands pre-dated and the fore preceded the rights of the landowner,the Lord of the Manor of Hackney.

The status of lammas lands prevented or limited encroachment by development as London expanded in the nineteenth century.

Acquisition of the Hackney Commons

The acquisition of the Hackney commons, including Millfields, required three Acts of Parliament, beginning with the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1866. This first Act established a process for schemes to be brought forward for thelocal management of any metropolitan common.

TheMetropolitan Commons Supplemental Act of 1872 approved the scheme for the Hackney Commons (excluding Hackney Marsh) and the Metropolitan Board of Works took charge. However, the Lord of the Manorsuccessfully contested the limits of the Board's new powers and it wa snot until the passing of the MetropolitanBoard of Works (Various Powers) Act of 1884 that the Board was able to purchase the remaining rights.

History & myth

Millfields is reputedly the site of the Battle of Hackney between Octa, King of Kent and Erchewin, Founder of Essex in 527. Erchewin had revolted from the King of Kent and Octa wished to bring this under control. A meeting in Rochester failed and Octa went to Hackney intending to march south onto the rebels in London. But the Londoners came out to meet them and won in the ensuing battle.


Sport gradually began to replace agriculture as Clapton developed into an early London suburb. Bull baiting took place in 1791, cricket and footbal in the nineteenth century.

There was gradual pressure from mission halls, seminaries and others providing sports for young men who needed pitches. They were saved from development following a petition to preserve 180 acres of common land in Hackney for public use and work by the Commons Preservation Society in 1872. The Millfields Recreation Grounds were laid out in 1884 by the London County Council.

Boundary markers

There are London County Council boundary markers along the backs of buildings in both North and South Millfields marking the previous limits of London. There are 'Lea Conservancy markers bounding the canal on South Millfields.


Further Reading

Hackney Council's'Millfields Park' site.


'Hackney: Economic History', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney (1995), pp. 92-101

leabridge.org.uk December 2012