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Brickfields Victorian Hackney
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People in Victorian times did not have television or radio so found other ways to entertain themselves. Tea Gardens and Pleasure Gardens were popular in the 1830’s and 40’s. Here they would put on sporting events such as races, archery or boxing matches, and other entertainment such as fireworks. There was a pleasure garden at the Mermaid Inn on Mare Street.

Later in the period Music Halls and theatres became very popular, although the upper classes thought these places to be a bit rough and bawdy. They were certainly a bit different to nowadays; if customers did not like the acts they would boo them and throw fruit at the stage!

One of the most popular was the Britannia Theatre on Hoxton St where the writer Charles Dickens used to go a lot. There was also a music hall on the same street, Hoxton Hall, which is still there today.

Other leisure activities included rowing on the river Lea, playing football on the marshes and skating on them in winter when they had flooded and frozen. There were also lots of clubs, many of them reflecting the Victorians interest in science and nature such as the Hackney Scientific Association.

It was during this time that many of the parks in Hackney were created. This was because there was great concern about the number of houses being built and people wanted to conserve some of the green space and trees. Victoria Park, named after the Queen, was opened in 1845 and was a great success. In those days it had a boating lake, sports pitches and an aviary as well as flowerbeds and walkways. It also had a bathing pool which was very popular with young boys from the east end who didn’t have baths.

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Brittannia Theatre Poster
This Victorian poster is advertising a play at the Britannia Theatre on Hoxton Street, Hackney.

Hoxton hall as it is  today
This photograph shows Hoxton hall as it looks today. This is very similar to how it would have looked in its Victorian heyday.

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