Dalston began as a hamlet on either side of Dalston Lane. As the area urbanised, the term came to apply to surrounding areas including Kingsland and Shacklewell. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who lived in Mapledene Road from 1980–86, described Dalston as being on "the wrong side of Kingsland Road", contrasting the area with more fashionable districts.
Gentrification has led to a rapid increase in the price of property, with current prices 8% above the London average. The process of change was accelerated by the East London line extension, now part of London Overground, and the reopening of Dalston Junction railway station, part of London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics.
Dalston has never been an administrative unit, and partly for this reason the boundaries are not fully defined. There are popularly understood boundaries in the south and west, but its northern and especially eastern extent is not delineated. This is a common situation in London’s neighbourhoods which often merge, overlap and change over time. There is an electoral Ward of the same name which covers a part of the north–west of Dalston.
Dalston’s boundaries are described with more or less precision below:
- South: Dalston takes Hackney’s southern border with Shoreditch. Albion Drive forms much of this boundary.
- West: The originally Roman A10 road (under the names, south to north: Kingsland Road, Kingsland High St, Stoke Newington Road) marks most of Dalston’s western margin. The exception is that both sides of Kingsland High St. are included - here Dalston takes Hackney’s western boundary as it crosses the A10 to take in a small area bounded by Boleyn Road and the Crossway. This area includes Dalston Kingsland Railway Station. The western boundary closely corresponds with the western side of the E8 postal area with which Dalston is strongly associated – though the postal area also takes in parts of central Hackney and Haggerston that are not ever described as belonging to Dalston.
- North: There is not a tradition of a clear northern boundary with West Hackney. Dalston’s close association with the E8 postal area means that its ‘sphere of self-identification’ does not extend far, if at all, beyond the postcode boundary, and no further north than Farleigh Road.
- East: Between Downos Road and Amhurst Road, the physical barrier of the railway embankment marks the postcode boundary with Lower Clapton. There is little tradition of a boundary with the central Hackney area except that it is sometimes said that Dalston extends as far as the park at London Fields.
The name Dalston is thought to have derived from Deorlaf's tun (farm) in much the same way as nearby Hoxton was named after the farm of "Hoch". The first written record available is from 1294 when the name was written as Derleston.
The village was one of four small villages within the Parish of Hackney (along with Newington, Shacklewell, and Kingsland) that were grouped for assessment purposes, together having only as many houses as the village of Hackney.
John Rocque's map of 1746 shows the village of Kingsland centred on the crossroads at what is now Dalston Junction and the small village of Dalston further east along Dalston Lane. Another clear feature is Roman Ermine Street which now forms most of the western boundary of this area. Ermine Street now has the road number A10 and goes by a number of names, including Kingsland Road as it travels through London.
Around AD 1280 a leper hospital was founded in Dalston by the citizens of London and in AD 1549 it was attached to the chapel of St Bartholomew as an outhouse.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the area changed from an agricultural and rural landscape to an urban one. By 1849, it was described as a recently increased suburban village, with some handsome old houses, and by 1859 the village had exceeded its neighbour and, with the railways and continuous building, the village of Kingsland disappeared.
During the 1930s, 40's and 60's the area's large Jewish and other minority populations made it a target for provocative rallies by Oswald Mosley and the various organisations he founded. These were actively opposed by many local people, together with organisations such as the 43 Group and this led to a number of violent confrontations, notably in the Ridley Road area.
In July 2017 a violent riot broke out on Dalston road, which had originally started as a manifestation against police violence. Protesters barricaded the spot where a man, who later died at the Royal London Hospital, had been arrested. The rioters threw fire bombs at police and caused property damage.
- St. Mark's Church: St. Mark’s is a large Victorian church primarily built in the period 1864–66 to a design by Chester Cheston. It is reputedly the largest parish church in London, larger than Southwark Cathedral, capable of hosting congregations of 1800-2000 people and its great size has earned it the nickname, the “Cathedral of the East End””. The residential area around the church is also of high architectural quality and has accordingly been designated the “St. Mark’s Conservation Area”.
- Rio Cinema: The Rio Cinema is a Grade II listed independent Art Deco cinema. It is a popular single-screen cinema located on Kingsland High Street, with a history stretching back over 100 years.
- German Hospital: The German Hospital, locally known as 'The German', is a group of attractive Victorian red brick buildings that were home to a hospital from 1845-1987. The hospital was initially founded to cater primarily for London's then large German-speaking community. It eventually became an ordinary NHS facility before its facilities were merged and moved to Homerton University Hospital.
Dalston is known for music, events and its nightlife. Its biggest festival to date began in 2015, Dalston Music Festival. Centred on Gillett Square and 8 clubs in the surrounding area, it was founded by Andrew Bunsell of Dalston Studios.
Dalston has always been an important transport and shopping centre. It was also, at one time, an important entertainment centre, with four or five cinemas within a radius of a ⅓ of a mile, and the Dalston Theatre, a former hippodrome and music hall that later became the Four Aces blues club and the Labyrinth nightclub. The Dalston Theatre was demolished in February 2007, despite an active local campaign to save it.
Dalston was a hub for 1970s and 1980s pub rock venues but these are largely defunct. However, the new Dalston Culture House, the first wing of which has opened on Gillett Square, hosts the Vortex Jazz Club, moved from Stoke Newington in 2005.
- Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister lived at 59 Mapledene Road 1980-86.
- Diane Morgan, interviewer from Bolton
- Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie shared a house on St Mark's Rise in Dalston in the early 1980s
- Emily Lloyd, actress
- Sir Charles James Martin, FRS, FRCS, director of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine
- Alan Spenner - Bass player with the Grease Band and Roxy Music
Established in the 1880s, Ridley Road Market is opposite Dalston Kingsland railway station. Fruit and vegetables, some fairly exotic, are available. Halal butchers cluster around the high street end of the market.
Ridley Road market is reputedly the basis for the one found in the BBC's EastEnders. The Kingsland Shopping Centre (formerly Dalston Cross) is just south of Ridley Road Market. Kingsland Road and the surrounding streets are home to an ever-growing number of boutiques, bars and cafés.
Contemporary Dalston is a lively neighbourhood with an ethnically varied population. Architecturally it is a mixture of 18th and 19th century terraced houses and 20th century council estates. It is currently undergoing rapid gentrification, partly because of the redevelopment of the railway station at Dalston Junction and partly due to the revitalisation of large parts of east London in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics. (Hackney was one of the four host boroughs of the Games.)
Dalston has attracted immigrants for over 100 years; at the turn of the century it was a popular area for newly arrived Jewish people from central Europe. In the 1950s and '60s, as the Jewish community became more affluent and moved out, they were replaced by a large Caribbean community, which accounts for the wide choice of Caribbean food available in Ridley Road. As the Caribbean community slowly drifted out of Dalston it then became popular with the Turkish, as well as the Vietnamese. Recent arrivals include Poles, judging by the numbers of Polish delicatessens now appearing and other stores catering to Polish tastes.
Fassett Square was the inspiration for the BBC soap EastEnders. Originally, there were plans to film the series there, on location. However, Fassett Square (Albert Square) and Ridley Road Market (Walford Market) were rebuilt on the set in Elstree, near Borehamwood, to have a more controlled filming environment. The idea of Walford stems from Walford Road, and many of the houses on the show use the same exterior design. Coincidentally both Barbara Windsor and Tony Holland, one of the original creators of the show, lived at different times on the street.
The Hackney Peace Carnival Mural created in 1985, depicts a group of people marching for peace against "the bomb" and has become an important cultural statement from that era. It can be found opposite Dalston Junction Overground station on Dalston Lane. It has also been used on the cover of an album by local group Rudimental.
In April 2009 The Guardian published an article on Dalston claiming that it was the "coolest" place to live in Britain. In the same year however, sculpture park The Towers of Hackney was torn down to give way to new buildings.
- The 2007 film Run Fat Boy Run (directed by David Schwimmer) was filmed in Dalston (St. Mark's Conservation Area). Dennis (Simon Pegg) stays in a flat on Sandringham Road across the road from St. Mark's Church.
- The second and third series of popular television show The Mighty Boosh takes place in Dalston.
- Dalston Songs is a staged song cycle with seven singers created and composed by Helen Chadwick and choreographed by Steven Hoggett. It was based on interviews with people in East London about home and was performed in 2008 at the Royal Opera House.
- Dalston is the second of 12 placenames associated with London mentioned in an overdubbed choral series on the Lily Allen song "LDN": "Angel, Dalston, Stockwell, Clapton, Soho, Ladbroke Grove...".
- Britney Spears recorded the pop video for the song Criminal in Dalston in September 2011.
- British indie rock band Razorlight recorded a song called "Don't go back to Dalston", featured on their debut album Up All Night.
- Connan Mockasin's song "Forever Dolphin Love" mentions Dalston.
- Dalston was featured in an episode of the 1990s Channel 4 comedy series Drop the Dead Donkey, in which the reconstruction of a fictitious post office robbery is staged, in a 'Crime Watch' type parody.
Dalston has two main stations, Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction, both served by London Overground and linking with west and south London. Haggerston railway station straddles the boundary between Haggerston and Dalston. Dalston has no direct rail link to central London; passengers often change at Highbury & Islington station for the London Underground.
A new station in Dalston is proposed for the Crossrail 2 line.
From 4 June 2011, bus route 488 was extended to Dalston from its previous terminus at Clapton.
Dalston Bus Garage on Shrubland Road has been demolished.
- Blair, Tony (2010-08-02). "Tony Blair: 'To be religiously illiterate is foolish'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- "London Overground's East London route doubles passenger numbers in one year". Tfl.gov.uk. 7 June 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "Dalston Junction Environmental Report" (PDF). Origin.tfl.gov.uk. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
- "Hackney: Dalston and Kingsland Road - British History Online". British-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- Editor, Anita Singh, Showbusiness (2008-04-13). "Vidal Sassoon: Anti-fascist warrior-hairdresser". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- "Today in London's radical history: fascist rally in Ridley Road market, smashed by Jewish 43 Group, 1947". past tense. 2016-06-01. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- "Last reunion for war heroes who came home to fight the fascists". The Independent. 2009-02-22. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- "1962: Violence flares at Mosley rally". News.bbc.co.uk. 1962-07-31. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- Pathé, British. "Mosley Tries Again". Britishpathe.com. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- Pathé, British. "Mosley Gets Rough House". Britishpathe.com. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
- "Våldsamma upplopp i London - DN.SE". DN.SE (in Swedish). 2017-07-29. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
- Wyatt, Timothy (2017-07-28). "Demonstrators block Dalston road in violent protest at Rashan Charles death". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
- "Dalston Junction to Hoxton" (PDF). Ltmuseum.co.uk. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- "Conservation Area Appraisal : St Marks" (PDF). Hackney.gov.uk. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- "OPEN Dalston". Opendalston.net. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- "Who we are, what we do - Vortex Jazz Club". Vortexjazz.co.uk. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- "'Playing an idiot is easy': Diane Morgan on the joy of Philomena Cunk". Inews.co.uk. 28 December 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- Fry, Stephen (2010). The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography. London: Penguin Books. p. 365. ISBN 978-0-718-15483-7.
- "Alan Spenner - New Songs, Playlists & Latest News - BBC Music". BBC. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- "Ridley Road Market". Hackney Council. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- Benjamin Hewitt, "Ridley Road Market: The real EastEnders", Hackney Post, 19 March 2009.
- Flynn, Paul (27 April 2009). "Welcome to Dalston, now the coolest place in Britain". The Guardian. London.
- Staff, Capital FM (16 September 2011). "Britney Spears pulls the 'I love GB' tea trump card". The Sun. London: News International. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
- "Route 488 extended to Dalston". Tfl.gov.uk. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
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