Hackney Downs from the centre of the Downs looking northeast. (October 2005)
Hackney Downs is an open space and a broader area in Lower Clapton, in the London Borough of Hackney; it is also the name of a local council ward. It borders on Stoke Newington to the west and Shacklewell to the south. Although part of Clapton, as a distinct area, it can be said to be bounded by Amhurst Road to the south, Kenninghall Road to the north, Cricketfield Road to the east and the railway to the west, thus occupying most of the western half of Lower Clapton and some of the shrinking district of Shacklewell. The streets north and south of the park are dominated by social housing – these areas were largely rebuilt during the 1930s and 1960s.
The Downs open space was originally common land, preserved from the 1860s as parkland as a result of pressure by the Commons Preservation Society. At 16 hectares (40 acres), the park is one of the larger open spaces wholly within the London Borough of Hackney. It has a play area, basketball courts, football pitches and a bowling green.
Occupying, as it does, a fairly central place in Hackney, the park used to be the yearly venue for the popular Hackney Show, but this event — which helped to give a sense of community and identity to an often-troubled borough — has been discontinued in recent times as a cost-cutting measure, as have the regular Fireworks Night shows. The park was given a Green Flag award in July 2008.