Why are there small parks in North Islington

Duck house in pond in Elthorne Park
The Duck House in Elthorne Park by Oonagh Gay

Islington Guided Walks host a variety of free Health and History walks in the borough’s parks. Oonagh Gay is leading the next one on Sunday 20 November in Wray Crescent Park. Here Oonagh explains how three of Islington’s small parks came to be.

There are several small parks in North Islington, in contrast to the large parks on its boundaries such as Finsbury Park and Waterlow Park. They were created in the post-war period when local authority planners adopted the principles of zoning in the Abercrombie Greater London Plan of 1945. The north of the borough was particularly overcrowded in the 1960s so Islington began to create a series of parks to replace terrace housing that was often in very poor condition. They weren’t always popular, as residents lost their homes, but today they are small oases for people living in the London borough that has the lowest ratio of open space to built-up area. The largest park wholly in Islington is Highbury Fields at 29.5 acres. Here are three smaller parks to explore by yourself or on an Islington Guided Walk!

Whittington Park

Archway, N19 4EG

Memorial Stone in Whittington Park by Oonagh Gay

The name of one of the streets that Whittington Park replaced in the 1970s is still visible in the First World War memorial for Cromwell Road that’s displayed at the park’s entrance on Holloway Road. Named after North Islington’s most famous medieval man, Dick Whittington, the park has a wildlife pond and impressive playgrounds.

Elthorne Park

23 Hazellville Rd, N19 3NF

This park was created when the Elthorne estate was built in the 1970s off St John’s Way. To this day, the Islington Boxing Club is housed in a prefabricated building left behind by the contractors for the estate. Local residents established Sunnyside Community Gardens next door. Today football charities sponsor courts for local kids and there is a peace garden in the name of Philip Noel Baker. Go and see the ducklings and their duckhouse shown in the picture at the top of the post, built by a Sunnyside volunteer!

Wray Crescent Park

Wray Crescent, N4 3BH

Wray Crescent Park by Oonagh Gay

A source for the underground Hackney Brook runs under this park, which is just over 5 acres. Plans to double its size were rejected by local residents in the 1980s. It houses Islington’s only public cricket ground and a community garden named in honour of local resident Yvonne Conolly, the first black female headteacher in the UK. 

Book free tickets for Oonagh’s tour of Wray Crescent Park on Sunday 20 November