Albion Square was laid out on part of an estate that was inherited in 1838 by Sir William Middleton, who commissioned the building of the square in 1844 as Hackney was being developed. In 1898 the central garden was saved from dereliction when it was acquired by Lady de Saumarez. A new garden was laid out by the MPGA, who gave it to the Hackney Vestry on condition it was properly maintained, and it was opened by MPGA Chairman Lord Meath in 1899. It remains an ornamental garden with symmetrical beds, grass and trees; the central drinking fountain was erected by the MPGT in 1910.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2011
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Albion Square is situated on land owned in 1598 by Sir Roger Lee, and which was inherited in 1838 by the Middleton family who had property in Suffolk and later Guernsey. Sir William Middleton commissioned the building of the square in 1844, the work carried out by a local builder Islip Odell, and probably supervised by Middleton's surveyor, George Pownell; the architect is unknown. Middleton Street recalls the family name. There were houses built on three sides of Albion Square. Albion Hall on the west side was used by a number of organisations over the years, the Kingsland, Dalston and De Beauvoir Town Scientific Institution in 1850, Dalston Amateur Dramatic Club in 1860 and 1870; it was leased to the London County Council from 1906, but it is now demolished. Pevsner has described the design of the square as 'clearly influenced by the work of the celebrated landscape designer and writer, John Claudius Loudon'.
In 1898 the central garden was acquired from Lady de Saumarez and saved from dereliction through grants from the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, the Metropolitan Board of Works and the LCC. The new garden was laid out by Fanny Wilkinson, landscape gardener to the MPGA for some 19 years, during which period she laid out for them some 75 public gardens in London. Her design for Albion Square garden included four London plane trees planted in a square, each having a circular seat around the trunk, with a fountain to be placed centrally. Albion Square Garden was given to the Hackney Vestry in 1899 on the condition that Hackney Board of Works would maintain it in an a proper manner. It was opened on 12th July 1899 by Lord Meath, Chairman of the MPGA; the ceremony featured an LCC band and cost under £10. According to The Hackney and Kingsland Gazette in July 1899 the new garden would 'vie in beauty with some of the prettiest gardens in the West End' and the 1928 Royal Commission Report described it as 'well-kept and attractive'.
In 1910 the MPGA erected the drinking fountain in the centre, which was paid for by the philanthropist Passmore Edwards (1823-1911) who had in 1901 similarly provided for a drinking fountain in Hoxton Square (q.v.). A grant was obtained through Groundwork Hackney in 2002, which led to a project to repair the fountain, upgrade footpaths and undertake various elements of soft and hard landscaping.
In 1999 Albion Square gardens celebrated its centenary and won first prize in the Small Publicly Maintained Garden section of the London Garden Squares Competition. It is a rectangular garden with symmetrical planting of ornamental beds and trees, the drinking fountain surrounded by four plane trees with circular seating around their trunks. Perimeter shrubs and trees are planted inside the railings; a diminutive and picturesque garden pavilion stands at the west entrance, a wooden structure with pitched tiled roof, somewhat reminiscent of railway architecture.
Local history leaflet; Edward Jones & Christopher Woodward, A Guide to the Architecture of London, London 1983; A Taylor/M Hunter, Parks and Open Spaces in Hackney, Hackney Society, 1980; MPGA reports; Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928; Victoria County History; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); cuttings; Elizabeth Crawford, 'Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle' (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2nd ed. 2009)