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Victoria Park (TQ362838) is sited at the NE corner of the Inner London sector (London Borough of Tower Hamlets), straddles the area where Tower Hamlets meets Hackney and is accessable from Bethnal Green underground plus a few bus routes.

The park was planned and constructed between 1842 and 1846 by noted London architect and planner Sir James Pennethorne and is/was considered by many to be the east-end's finest open space. To its west is Regent's Canal whilst a stretch once known as the Hertford Union Canal borders its southern edge.

At the main entrance on Sewardstone Road are the sadly vandalised remains of the Dogs of Alcibiades which have stood there since 1912. Two 'pedestrian alcoves', which were put in place in 1860, are located toward the east side of the park near the Hackney Wick War Memorial and are in fact the only extant remains of the old London Bridge (demolished in 1831). In the second half of the 1800's the park became a valued amenity site for the working people of the east-end who would often bathe in the lake; for scores of local children in the 1880's this may well have been the largest open green space they had ever encountered.

Victoria Park's reputation as the 'Peoples Park' was augmented as the site became a central focal point for political rallies and meetings of all colours over the years, possibly even exceeding the better known Hyde Park in this respect. During the second world war the park was mainly off limits to the general public and to all intents and purpose became one giant 'Ack-Ack' (anti-aircraft) station. It also incorporated a PoW camp within its perimeter whose first customers were Italian and later German prisoners. The park was of high strategic importance as the gun stations sat on the path that the Luftwaffe took as they moved NW having attacked the docks to the south.

In more recent times the site has become associated with open-air music festivals, often tied-in with a political issue.

Birdlife is probably best termed as 'limited' with the commoner woodland species represented, but there have been records of Common Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Firecrest. More recently some respectable counts of both Goldfinch and Siskin have been made. There is an ornamental lake with the usual asssembly of Mute Swan, Greylag and Canada Goose, Mallard, Shoveler (occasional), Pochard and Tufted Duck. Both Grey and Pied Wagtail may be occasionally noted and both Common Tern and, more rarely, Kingfisher may be seen on the nearby canal. As with any site however, regular watching would doubtless improve the species list.

The park is open daily between 06.00hrs and dusk.

DMc.

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