This is a large pocket park in Hoxton surrounded by old trees, with two-thirds of the site given over to sports, and owes its origins to philanthropy.
It’s named after Robert Aske, the son of an affluent draper and later a merchant trader who however also had a small involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade as an investor in the Royal African Company. He became wealthy, and when he died in 1689, he left the bulk of his wealth to the Haberdashers’ Company for charitable purposes. In his will, he directed that £20,000 was to be used to buy land at Hoxton upon which was to be built a “hospital” (almshouses) for 20 poor members of the Company and a school for 20 sons of poor Freemen of the Company.
The school opened in 1690 as Haberdashers’ Boys’ School and had strict entry requirements. Students already had to be able to read, but also of proven poverty and were kicked out if they inherited more than £100.
The original school and almshouses were rebuilt in 1825-27 with the grand-looking school that’s on the site today. The school moved out in 1898 as the school wasn’t suitable anymore. The building was taken over by the LCC Technical College for the Furnishing Trades, later the London College of Furniture, moving out in 1992. The old college building is now private flats.
In front of the grand school building was a school playground, but when the Haberdashers moved out, the area became a public park. It’s always been laid out as it is today, namely with a small park in the centre and two tennis courts on either side.
Surrounded by high metal fencing and stone flanked gates, it retained the air of a private space that’s open to the public. A number of large trees dominate the central park in front of the old college’s entrance, and there’s a run of bedding plants and smaller trees around the edges. There is an odd dead-end of a path on one side, and an old storage shed on the other. The dominant feature apart from the tennis courts though are the trees which tower over most of the site and give it a pleasing shaded appearance.
The gardens were refurbished in 2012 and in 2014.
On my visit, both tennis courts were in use, although one for a sport involving balls somewhat larger than the average tennis ball.
This article was published on ianVisits
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