This is a large municipal park surrounded by tower blocks that was once a middle-class Georgian housing development and later gained fame for some marching hammers.
The area was still outside London and mainly fields owned by St Bartholomew’s Hospital when in 1822 it was bought by the Church Building Commission to build a large church. As a large church in the middle of fields would be odd, they also planned to develop the fields into middle-class housing to provide the necessary parishoners.
The development saw a classic garden square, surrounded on three sides by decent housing and the church on the fourth.
This was the origins of King’s Square.
Their plan worked, and Booth’s Poverty Maps in the 1880s showed a lack of poverty, with the area surrounding the square showing up as middle-class. The garden was laid out as a classic of its time, seeming to be lined with trees and large lawns in the centre, a rain shelter in the centre and a playground in one corner.
By the turn of the 20th century, it had somehow lost its possessive King’s Square and become simply King Square.
However, WW2 was to change everything. The area was badly affected by bombs, with most of the houses surrounding it suffering damage, especially to the southeastern corner. There are photos of the area during the war suggesting a bomb shelter was built in the gardens.
The houses were not rebuilt but cleared, and on three sides large council housing blocks constructed. The old roads around the square were removed and the square enlarged. It also got bigger to the south, where the row of houses was also demolished and replaced with parkland.
The church was damaged, but repaired in the 1950s, and renamed. It had always been St Barnabas, but after the war, several local parishes were merged, and the church renamed St Clement with St Barnabas and St Matthew, although it’s known as St Clement’s Finsbury for short.
The park is now designated as a Site of Local Importance to Nature Conservation.
People with a good memory might think the park and church look familiar – was the opening sequence in Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 from 1979. If visiting, watch out for marching hammers.