The parish is lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water: the houses are irregularly built; many of them in detached situations are handsome. On the site of an ancient building in the old churchyard, used as a school-house, a spacious edifice has been erected, and gradually enlarged, containing commodious apartments for the meetings of members of different local trusts, and for other purposes of parochial business. The environs are in many directions pleasant; and there are several nursery-grounds, of which those belonging to Messrs. Loddige and Sons are noted for a great variety of scarce and curious exotic plants. A considerable quantity of land in the neighbourhood is cultivated by market-gardeners for the supply of the London market, and a much larger portion is appropriated to the pasturage of cattle. The old bridge over the river Lea was taken down in 1820, and a good iron bridge of one arch erected at an expense of £4500. A silk manufactory at Hackney-Wick was discontinued a few years since; and the adjoining dwelling-house, which is a handsome building, has since been commodiously fitted up in a superior style for the reception of insane persons. The principal branches of manufacture at present carried on are the making of optical glasses of every description, the preparation of colours, dyeing, calico-printing, and calendering: there is an extensive flour-mill; and a water-mill of very great antiquity is now used for supplying the inhabitants of Clapton with water. A vast number of bricks and tiles are made in the neighbourhood, and several of the fields in which the clay has been exhausted, have been cultivated or built upon. The Regent's canal passes through the western part of the parish, and the Lea river navigation through the eastern.
Hackney formerly constituted one parish, under the designation of St. John's, consisting of a vicarage and a sinecure rectory, valued in the king's books at £20; and for all civil purposes it still continues so. But by an order of the king in council, dated March 1825, it was divided into three districts, called respectively Hackney, South Hackney, and West Hackney, each of which constitutes a distinct rectory, and of which each rector has an exclusive right to such tithes and dues as arise within the limits of his benefice. The livings are in the patronage of D. Tyssen, Esq.; net income of Hackney, £1082; of South Hackney, £399; and of West Hackney, £464. The church of St. John the Baptist, now the church of the central district, or Hackney proper, was erected under an act of parliament obtained in 1791, at a short distance northward of a more ancient one, the tower of which is still standing, the new building not being considered of sufficient strength to receive the bells. It is handsomely built of brick, with a cupola and dome of stone subsequently added: the roof is a singularly fine piece of mechanism, and the arches are of a bolder and wider span than those in almost any other edifice of similar design; the windows in the chancel, and one at the font, are enriched with painted glass. Among the monuments removed from the old church into the vestibules of the present edifice, is that of Christopher Urswick, almoner of Henry VII., and incumbent of the parish, who died in 1521. Dr. Richard Sampson, Bishop of Chichester, and afterwards of Lichfield and Coventry; David Daulben, Bishop of Bangor; and Gilbert Sheldon, Bishop of London, and subsequently Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of the University of Oxford, were incumbents of the parish. The parsonage-house was rebuilt by the late incumbent. A sub-district has been apportioned from the district of Hackney proper, to Stamford-Hill chapel, formerly proprietary, but purchased by the present trustees, and considerably enlarged; an endowment has been assigned to the minister, and a transfer made by the rector of all dues for occasional services performed in the chapel. The living is a perpetual curacy; patron, the Rector. At Homerton is an episcopal chapel built by Mr. Ram, and now in the patronage of Trustees, who appoint the minister, subject to the approval of the Bishop of London; it contains 600 sittings. An ecclesiastical district or parish, named St. Barnabas', Homerton, was constituted in 1846, under the act 6th and 7th Victoria, cap. 37; embracing an extent of 470 acres. The church, erected in the same year, is a structure of stone in the early English style, consisting of a chancel and nave, with a south aisle, and a tower at the west end, and having some beautiful stained-glass windows: owing to the taste and munificence of the family of the late rector, Archdeacon Watson, it is admirably adapted to the purposes of divine worship. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Bishop of London; net income, £150. A church has been erected at Dalston, and another at Clapton, both of which are in the parish of St. John.
The church of West Hackney, containing 1828 sittings, whereof 1192 are free, is situated in Kingsland-road, and was erected by the Parliamentary Commissioners in 1823, at an expense of £15,302; it is a handsome edifice in the Grecian style, with a portico of the Doric order, designed by Mr. Smirke. The site of the church, and an ample allotment of ground for a cemetery, together with an adjoining piece of land for a parsonage-house, were given by the patron: the house was built by subscription, at a cost of about £2000. A church, dedicated to St. Peter, was lately erected and endowed in the parish, at the expense of Richard Benyon de Beauvoir, Esq.; and a district is attached to it, co-extensive with the estate of the founder at Beauvoir-Town. The structure is in the later English style; the altar window is of fine stained glass, and contains a representation of Our Saviour giving the Keys to St. Peter: the building will accommodate about 1000 persons, and the basement is fitted up as schoolrooms. An excellent house for the minister has also been erected. The church of South Hackney (formerly a chapel of ease), situated in Well-street, was built in 1810, on a site given by John Dekewer, Esq.; the erection and subsequent alterations cost nearly £8000, raised by subscription. It is in the Grecian style, with a receding portico of two Ionic columns, and a circular campanile turret surrounded with pillars of the Corinthian order. In this parish is a second church, erected at a cost of about £10,000: the first stone was laid in May, 1845.
There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Unitarians. Among the ministers of the Independent congregation in St. Thomas's square have been Dr. William Bates, an eminent theological writer, and Matthew Henry, author of a Commentary on the Holy Scriptures; and among those of the Unitarian congregration have been Dr. Price, Dr. Priestley, and the late Rev. Thomas Belsham. Spurstowe's Almshouses, founded in the year 1666, by Dr. William Spurstowe, incumbent of Hackney, who endowed them for six aged widows, were rebuilt in 1819, at an expense of £1352, which sum had accumulated from savings of the original endowment, augmented by subsequent benefactions. Six almshouses were built in Well-street for aged men, by Henry Monger, Esq., who endowed them with an annuity of £12, to which additional bequests have been made. The almshouses at Clapton were founded by Dr. Thomas Wood, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, who endowed them for ten aged widows, with a rent-charge of £55. The Retreat, for eight widows of Independent, and four widows of Baptist, ministers, is a handsome range of buildings near Paradise-fields, comprising six dwelling-houses, and a chapel in the centre, in the ancient English style, erected at the expense of Samuel Robinson, Esq., who supports it. Near St. Thomas's square are twelve almshouses, built in 1828 by the Bakers' Company, for decayed members and their wives; adjoining which are eight additional tenements, erected by the late Mr. Thorne. The Hackney Church of England Grammar school, in union with King's College, London, was formed by a proprietary of shareholders: the building, situated near the old churchyard, is in the English style, and cost upwards of £1300. Another institution, designated the Hackney Grammar school, admits pupils of every religious denomination: the building, situated in the Back-lane, Clapton, is of brick, in the Grecian style, with a portico of four fluted Doric columns, which, with the entablatures and principal front, are finished in Roman cement; the expense was about £1750. The Society for Educating Young Men for the Ministry, instituted in 1730, and entertaining the doctrines expressed in the catechisms of the Westminster Assembly, have a college at Homerton, for the instruction of 20 young men; the present building of brick, which is neat and very commodious, was completed in 1823, on the site of a former one, at an expense of nearly £10,000, defrayed by subscription. The poor-law union of Hackney contains a population of 42,371, and is under the direction of 18 guardians.
Among the Distinguished Persons interred here may be mentioned Henry, Lord Percy, Earl of Northumberland, who died at his house in the parish, June 29th, 1537, being the nobleman who, according to the assertion of Henry VIII., was contracted to Anna Boleyn, under which pretext the sentence of divorce was pronounced between that monarch and her; Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, a statesman, poet, and dramatist, who flourished in the reign of Elizabeth, and died in 1604; Dr. John Worthington, an eminent divine; and Sir Francis D'Oliveira, a Portuguese emigrant, who wrote against the Inquisition, and died in 1783. Sir Ralph Sadleir, the distinguished statesman in the reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth, was born here; and Howard, the great philanthropist, is supposed to have been a native of Clapton.See Clapton and Dalston.
Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.