Since 1893 Hackney Marshes have been a public area for recreation and protected from urban development. However, in the years leading up to this, the area had been under threat from increasing demand for land in the area both for housing and for local industry. Following a period of serious dispute between landowners and groups lobbying for the areas preservation, it took London County Council to pay the hefty sum of £70000 for the rights and landowner’s interests. The Marshes were formally dedicated in 1894.
Hackney Marshes have undergone many changes throughout London’s history. For the majority of its lifetime the area was most significantly a flood plain for the River Lea and a grazing area for the local farmers. It was only until the threat of encroaching residential and industrial buildings was its importance as a green space realised. Today it is an integral part of East London’s recent regeneration linking Stratford and the Olympic Park to Clapton and Dalston and the Lea Valley trail, a series of interlinked canal ways and cycle paths, leads all the way up to Essex. Whatever time of day you might find yourself wandering along one of the marshes reedbed walkways, canalside paths, or railway underpasses you will always encounter the people who use the area as part of their daily routine. Runners, dog walkers, fishermen and birdwatchers are just a handful of the cross-section of people that utilise this rare and valuable London space.
In 1880 the men from Clapton Community College used the nearest green space to play football in order to keep fit over the winter. This was the beginnings of Clapton Orient FC or, as it is now called, Leyton Orient FC. Leyton Orient have since moved on from these fields to a more suitable residence for a professional football team. But on most Sundays, you can find the same early morning air above these muddy marshes filled with the condensed breath of 100 or more football teams running, kicking, sliding and shouting. Home to the Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League, the Marshes have been getting churned up by the studs of East London football boots since 1946 and have 88 full size football pitches covering almost every inch of green grass. Against the backdrop of London’s hyper-developed Olympic east end, it is starkly obvious that Hackney Marshes are only becoming more and more precious.