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Finsbury Park is a 46 hectares (110 acres) public park in the London Borough of Haringey. Officially part of the London neighbourhood of Harringay, it is also adjacent to Stroud Green, the Finsbury Park district and Manor House. It was one of the first of the great London parks laid out in the Victorian era.
The park provides a large green space in central north London. It has a mix of open ground, formal gardens, avenues of mature trees and an arboretum area with a mix of more unusual trees. There is also a lake, a children's play areas, a cafe and an art exhibition space.
The Parkland Walk, a linear park, starts here, and provides a pleasant, traffic free, pedestrian and cycle route with much of the feel of a country walk, that links the park with Crouch Hill Park, Crouch End, and Highgate tube station.
Sports facilities in the park include football pitches, a bowling green, an athletics stadium, and tennis and basketball courts. Unusually for London, the park hosts two facilities for "American" sports: an American football field, home to the 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 national champions London Blitz, and diamonds for softball and baseball, home to the 2007 and 2008 national champions the London Mets.
A £5 million Heritage Lottery Fund Award, made in 2003, enabled significant renovations including cleaning the lake, building a new cafe and children's playground and resurfacing and repairing the tennis courts.
Before the park
The park was landscaped on the northeastern extremity of what was originally a woodland area in the Manor or Prebend of Brownswood. It was part of a large expanse of woodland called Hornsey Wood that was cut further and further back for use as grazing land during the Middle Ages. In the mid-18th century a tea room had opened on the knoll of land on which Finsbury Park is situated. Londoners would travel north to escape the smoke of the capital and enjoy the last remains of the old Hornsey Wood. Around 1800 the tea rooms were developed into a larger building which became known as the Hornsey Wood House/Tavern. A lake was also built on the top of the knoll with water pumped up from the nearby New River. There was boating, a shooting and archery range, and probably cock fighting and other blood sports. The Hornsey Wood Tavern was destroyed in the process of making the area into a park, but the lake was enlarged. Once the park had opened, a pub across the road from its eastern entrance along Seven Sisters Road called itself the Hornsey Wood Tavern after the original. This pub was later renamed the Alexandra Dining Room and closed for business in April 2007. It was subsequently demolished.
Creation of the park
During the early part of the second quarter of the 19th century, following developments in Paris, Londoners began to demand the creation of open spaces as an antidote to the ever-increasing urbanisation of London. In 1841 the people of Finsbury in the City of London petitioned for a park to alleviate conditions of the poor. The present-day site of Finsbury Park was one of four suggestions for the location of a park. Originally to be named Albert Park, the first plans were drawn up in 1850. Renamed Finsbury Park, plans for the park's creation were finally ratified by an Act of Parliament in 1857. Despite some considerable local opposition, the park was formally opened on Saturday 7 August 1869. Although the park's name was taken from the area where the 19th century benefactors who created it lived, Finsbury Park had earlier been part of an area that bore the name as part of the Finsbury division of the Ossultone Hundred.
20th century to present
Through the late 19th century and early 20th century the park was a respectable and beautifully manicured space for people to relax and exercise. By the early 20th century, it was also becoming a venue for political meetings including pacifist campaigns during the First World War. During World War II, it hosted anti-aircraft guns and was one of the gathering points for heavy armour prior to the D-Day invasions.
Despite decline during the 1970s, recent lottery funding has enabled something of a renaissance in the park's fortunes. It is now a very pleasant north London park, containing tennis courts, a running track, an occasional art gallery, a softball field and many open spaces for various leisure activities. It is also one of the most diverse places in London, with many different communities making use of the facilities.
The park and music
The park became an established music venue. Notable events have included:
- In 1967, Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar on stage for the first time ever.
- In 1992 at the Madstock concert, Morrissey was heckled off stage by the crowd after performing his song "National Front Disco". Many fans took exception to the song as they believed that it had a pro-racism message, and Morrissey himself was seen on stage flailing a Union Jack, which is often used by far-right groups.
- On June 12, 1993, Bob Dylan kicked off his 1993 European Tour, with a performance at the Park.
- The park hosted the Fleadh Festival on June 6 and 8, 1996, featuring performances by The Corrs and Sting.
- It was the site of a comeback concert by the Sex Pistols during their 1996 Filthy Lucre Tour.
- In 1997, KISS performed there for the last show of their hugely successful Alive/Worldwide Tour.
- In 2002, Oasis used the park for a gig during their 2002 world tour.
- Also in 2002, New Order played at the park, which features on a live DVD 511.
- In September 2003, rap-metal band Limp Bizkit played a huge free show in the park to make up for a cancelled UK date.
- In spring 2007, Groove Armada filmed their music video for the song Song 4 Mutya featuring Mutya Buena at the park.
- Following their Christmas Number One, Rage Against the Machine played a free gig on 6 June 2010 at the park.
- In June 2011 Bob Dylan again played in the park at the Feis festival.
- On the 7th and 8th June 2013, The Stone Roses performed here as part of their new UK reunion tour.
Friends of Finsbury Park
The Friends of Finsbury Park, founded in 1986, published a history of the park and organise a range of environmental and arts activities in the park. They have produced a Vision for Finsbury Park supported by many local people and community groups.
Nearest tube and railway stations
- Finsbury Park station
- Manor House tube station
- Harringay railway station
- Harringay Green Lanes railway station
- Finsbury Park Management Plan 2007 – 2011
- Ward boundaries classify the park as being within Harringay Ward - Haringey Council Map showing the ward boundaries.
- Finsbury Park Bowls Club
- Much of this section owes thanks to Hayes, Hugh (2001), A Park for Finsbury, Friends of Finsbury Park, ISBN 0-9540637-0-8
- The Gorge website
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Finsbury Park.|
- Finsbury Park Virtual Tour
- Harringay Online's Harringay Timeline
- Harringay Online - website for Harringay residents.
- A blog for Finsbury Park N4 - Aggregator of N4 community information, park activities and events.
- Harringay, Haringey Group on Flickr
- Haringey Council webpages on Finsbury Park
- Finsbury Park mentioned in John Betjeman's poem, 'The Cockney Amorist'
- Transition Finsbury Park
- finsbury_pk - a Twitter account for the Finsbury Park area