Hackney Central is the central district of the London Borough of Hackney in London, England. It comprises the area roughly surrounding, and extending north from Mare Street. It is situated 4 miles (6.4 km) north east of Charing Cross.
Hackney Central is the area that once would have been known as Hackney Village. This was a place that flourished from the Tudor period, when principal members of the Court had their houses in the surrounding area, and King Henry VIII of England had a palace (located near the modern Lee Bridge Road roundabout). Hackney Central remained a popular resort for Londoners until the end of the Georgian era, when this suburb of London began to be completely built up. Railways, trams and factories brought an end to Hackney’s rural atmosphere during the Victorian era, and its fortunes declined. Extensive post-World War II redevelopment replaced much of the housing stock, but the Georgian housing and Victorian terraces that remain have become popular once again.
The name Hackney derives from a 5th or 6th century Saxon settlement known as Haca’s ey – or raised ground in marshland. The settlement was near Hackney Brook, and was probably on the higher ground around the later St Augustine’s Tower. Hackney is not mentioned by name in the Norman Domesday Book; at that time it formed a part of the manor of Stepney.
In Tudor times there were a number of fine houses along Church Street, but many Tudor courtiers lived in nearby Homerton. On the site of Brooke House College, in Clapton was sited one of Henry VIII’s palaces, where his daughter Mary took the Oath of Supremacy. Her guardian was Henry’s Principal Secretary of State Ralph Sadleir, a resident of Bryck Place, Homerton. A further cluster of houses existed in medieval times, where Well Street enters Mare Street. By 1724, while still consisting of a single street, there is an unbroken line of buildings, except by the churchyard and by the brook, with large gardens behind for the finer houses and inns. The 16th-century church became too small for the needs of the parish, and parliament was petitioned in 1790 for a modern larger church to be built. This began in 1791 on a field to the north east of the old church, but was bedeviled by builders’ bankruptcies and not finally completed until 1812–13 when the tower and porches were added.
The change from rural suburb to firmly urban, was marked by the arrival of the railway in 1850, with a great iron rail bridge crossing Mare Street. Trams began to make their appearance on the streets in the 1870s, and a tram depot opened in 1882 on Bohemia Place.