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Coordinates: 51°34′13″N 0°03′30″W / 51.5702°N 0.0583°W / 51.5702; -0.0583

Upper Clapton
Upper Clapton is located in Greater London
Upper Clapton

 Upper Clapton shown within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ345875
    - Charing Cross 5.6 mi (9.0 km)  SW
London borough Hackney
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district E5
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Hackney North and Stoke Newington
London Assembly North East
List of places: UK • England • London

Upper Clapton is a district in the London Borough of Hackney. It is bounded by the Hackney districts of Stamford Hill to the west, Lower Clapton and Lea Bridge to the south and the Haringey district of South Tottenham to the north. To the east is the River Lea (spelt Lea or Lee), on the other side of which is the expanse of the Walthamstow Marshes, part of which is in the Lee Valley Park.

As is frequently the case with London districts, these boundaries have become uncertain because of the meeting of the developing expansion of the original settlements. Western parts of the area are often considered part of a wider Stamford Hill, understandable perhaps because of the public transport junction and shopping area at Stamford Broadway, and that the Hassidic Jewish community identified as being located in Stamford Hill extends into Upper Clapton. The area, along with Lower Clapton, is known for drug and gun related crimes, and was featured in the film Bullet Boy.


Local features

On the waterfront

Springfield Park from the High (pedestrian) bridge over the Lea. (October 2005)
The Anchor and Hope, a war survivor overshadowed by postwar High Hill Ferry Estate. (October 2005)

One of the most pleasant amenities in Upper Clapton is Springfield Park, running down the hill eastwards to the Lea. This park was created in 1905 out of the extensive grounds of three mansions, of which only Springfield House survives, now known as the White House, housing a Café and the municipal rangers station. The park's sports facilities include five tennis courts, and a cricket pitch while to the north just across Springhill road in the recreation ground there are rugby fields (home of the Hackney Rugby Club), more newly resurfaced tennis courts and football pitches. It received a Green Flag award in July 2008.[1] Across the Lea, on the ancient Essex and modern London Borough of Waltham Forest border is Springfield Marina, a packed mooring for narrowboats and other waterway craft, while back on this side is the Lea Rowing Club.

Aside from the mansion, another — and very popular — survivor is the Anchor and Hope pub at the southeast corner of the park. The area along the Lea was heavily bombed in the Second World War, and the pub is one of the few survivors of the terraced housing that once dominated the area. It is now quite overshadowed by pre- and post-war blocks of flats.

Besides Springfield Park, Upper Clapton is delineated to the west by the long leafy strip of Clapton Common, distinguished by the recently regenerated Clapton Pond (not to be confused with Clapton Ponds, two much smaller ex-reservoirs in Lower Clapton). The pond is a favourite with bird watchers — besides the usual variety of ducks, geese and swans, such shy birds as grebes and other waders may often be seen feeding in the reed beds.

The Abode of Love

The Good Shepherd's steeple dominates the Upper Clapton skyline. (October 2005)

Upper Clapton is home to one of London's more unusual churches, the Church of the Good Shepherd, now used as a place of worship by the Ancient Catholic Church. However, the church was originally built by the Agapemonite cult in 1892 as the Church of the Ark of the Covenant.

The Agapemonites, who held decidedly unconventional views on marriage and the role of women, relocated to Upper Clapton from their spiritual community in Spaxton, Somerset, and had clearly prospered by this time. Although it is fairly conventional in floor plan, the outside of the church is a riot of statuary and symbolism. The main doorways sport large carvings of angels and the four evangelists symbolised by a man, an eagle, a bull and a lion. The same four figures, cast in bronze, look out over the four quarters of the Earth from the base of the steeple. The two flanking weather vanes show a certain symbolic debt to William Blake's Jerusalem depicting, as they do, a fiery chariot and a sheaf of arrows (presumably of desire), while the main steeple is clearly surmounted by a spear. The stained glass windows betray the unconventional nature of the sect as they illustrate the 'true station of womankind'.

The church was completed in 1895, by J. Morris, in a Gothic style; and was designated a Grade II listed building on 12 September 1969 — for its "curiosity value".[2]

The Good Shepherd's extravagant main entrance. (October 2005)

The cult had always been surrounded by scandal during its sojourn in Somerset and, after the move to Clapton, this degenerated into sheer farce. The original leader, Henry James Prince, who claimed to be immortal, died in 1899 and was succeeded by the charming but philandering John Hugh Smyth-Pigott, who wasted no time before declaring himself as The Messiah. Challenged by a jeering mob to prove his godhood by walking across Clapton Pond, Smyth-Pigott declined and retired to Somerset, where he was said to enjoy the favours of as many as seven 'spiritual brides' a week. Smyth-Pigott who, of course, also claimed immortality, died in 1927, after which the cult went into decline. The Clapton church had already been abandoned by the cult, and was acquired by the Ancient Catholic Church in 1956.

The New Synagogue

The New Synagogue. Spire of the Good Shepherd in the background. (October 2005)

Close by the Good Shepherd is the stately New Synagogue, on the eastern side of Clapton Common. This Grade II listed building[3] is a little deceptive, appearing much older than it actually is. In spite of its handsome Georgian-style exterior, this is actually post-Edwardian, built in 1915. It is, however, a faithful replica of an earlier building, the Great St Helen's Synagogue in the City of London, which was designed by John Davies in 1838. The current building contains a number of original fixtures from its predecessor. Endangered for a while, the synagogue was restored in 2005.

Brooke House

Maccaroni's were 18th century dandies. This example 1792 is from Sutton House

A large house known as the King's House stood on the site now occupied by BSix Sixth Form College, as early 1476. The house was within a 200-acre (0.81 km2) estate, which was described as the Manor of Hackney from about 1532 to the early 17th century — although there were two other manors in the south of the Parish.[4]

In 1532, Henry Algernon Percy, Earl of Northumberland, acquired the estate from Sir Richard Neville. However, in January 1535 the land was taken by Henry VIII; in settlement of a debt. The King visited the house in April 1535 and on 24 September 1535 he granted his "manor or principal messuage of Hackney" to Thomas Cromwell, his chief minister. Cromwell refurbished the house, and on 1 May 1536, returned the house to the King. In July 1536, Ralph Sadleir[5] brought Mary I of England to the house to swear the Oath of Supremacy before her father, and Jane Seymour, the Queen. Henry continued to own the house until his death in January 1547.[4]

The name of the house derives from its purchase by Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke in 1621 — which led to ownership by the family for over 200 years. The house became tenanted after 1724, but in 1758–9 the house was modified by a leasee, William Clarke who converted it to a lunatic asylum. The site remained in this use until 1940.[4]

The remains of the house were destroyed by enemy action in October 1940. 5.5 acres (0.02 km2) of Brooke House were purchased by the London County Council in 1944, and further bomb damage occurred that year. The house was finally demolished in 1954, and archaeological investigations of the Tudor palace took place in 1955–6. New school buildings were erected in 1960, designed by Armstrong and MacManus.[4]


BSix Sixth Form College is a sixth form college on a site near the Lea Bridge roundabout in Clapton.


  1. ^ Hackney Today 188 21 July 2008
  2. ^ Images of England — details from listed building database (425966) accessed 22 January 2009
  3. ^ Images of England — details from listed building database (426739) accessed 22 January 2009
  4. ^ a b c d Documentary evidence, Survey of London: volume 28: Brooke House, Hackney (1960), pp. 52-66. Date accessed: 22 January 2009
  5. ^ Sadleir had been a member of Cromwell's household, and was appointed Henry's Secretary of State for Scotland

Transport and locale

Districts within the London Borough of Hackney.

About 2 miles by bus, the nearest London Underground stations are Tottenham Hale, Manor House and Seven Sisters.

Nearest railway stations

External links

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