1 year ago

July 2016

History hangout

History hangout Sculptures giving a nod to London Fields' history – and the only sheep you'll find there now Stephen Selby guides us along the legendary Porters' Path Back in1800 Hackney was a country village surrounded by fields and abundant apple orchards. Cricket was first played on London Fields in 1802, making it one of the oldest surviving pitches in London. But before the cricketers came, London Fields was probably the most significant point, and only resting place, for the livestock traversing the ancient Porters' Path. Once rested, the herds would reassemble by the Cat & Mutton pub (The "Shoulder of Mutton and Cat"), which is the beginning of today’s resurrected Broadway Market*. Here, the spirit of the long gone livestock is now represented by its abundance of restaurants and food shops. Perhaps as far back as the Romans, or even earlier, animals had tramped along the Porters' Path to their destiny along the three or so mile route, stretching from the Lea Valley to the London dockside. It was a ceaseless procession of sheep, cows and heavily-laden supply wagons, leading south from the fertile Lea Valley. The docile animals waded through the open ford at Hackney Brook by St Augustine’s Church. Then diverting from Church (Mare) Street, their trail passed along through Sylvester Row and Tower (Martello) Street, to their last grazing on London Fields. 38 LOVEEAST

History hangout There must have been never-ending agricultural traffic passing along the Porters’ Path. Imagine the clattering of grain wagons pulled by oxen, interspersed by herds of livestock on the hoof. Picture the drovers whose high-pitched whistling would have been heard above the incessant lowing and bleating. And no one could have avoided the smell of fresh manure and swarms of flies. Deep wheel ruts in the seemingly unending path would turn into quagmires after rain. The animals were probably diverted along Sheep Lane back into Goldsmiths Row, at about the same time the new Regents Canal was being laid (see yellow line on map, right). The crossing here is still known as The Cat & Mutton Bridge. Across Hackney Road at the Nag’s Head to Ion Square, the trail turned into Birdcage Walk, Virginia Row (Columbia Road), down to Brick Lane. Perhaps the first stop would have been at Sclater (Slaughter) Street to satisfy Shoreditch demand. Then over Whitechapel Road more unsuspecting animals would be held at Butcher Row at East Smithfield. The final stop was at St. Katherine’s multitudinous reaches where the live animals would board the sea-going ships to their final destination. *(First named Duncan Street 200 years ago when its first buildings and shop fronts arrived, marking the beginning of urban development). Clockwise from bottom left: The Cat & Mutton, 1900; London Fields today; Laurie and Whittle's Map, 1819; cricket in London Fields by Joseph O'Kelly, 2007; Cat & Mutton c1700. LOVEEAST JULY 2016 39

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