A little-known former church burial ground could be rechristened “Fairchild’s Garden” to celebrate the work of a “notable Hackney citizen” – if councillors vote to approve this idea this week.
Hackney Road Recreation Ground, a somewhat unloved-looking green space, is the old burial ground of nearby St Leonard’s Church.
It is the final resting place of Thomas Fairchild (1666-1729), the celebrated London botanist who was an expert in the city’s flora.
Councillor Jonathan McShane, who will propose a motion about the renaming at Wednesday’s council meeting, describes Fairchild as “a notable horticulturalist who discovered that plants have a sex”.
He said Fairchild was also the first person to scientifically create an artificial hybrid plant.
In the wording of the motion, Cllr McShane adds: “The local community is keen to reflect the site’s unique history by renaming it ‘Fairchild’s Garden’.
“The proposed new name for the park was selected through a consultation exercise with park users and the wider community, and is supported by St Leonard’s Church, the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association and by the local community.”
The motion calls on Hackney Council to approve the proposal to “rename the space ‘Fairchild’s Garden’, to celebrate this notable Hackney citizen.”
Hackney Road Recreation Ground is situated close to London’s flower capital, Columbia Road.
Despite its inner city location, Hackney has a surprisingly rich horticultural heritage. Part of Hackney Central close to the Town Hall was once a nursery for exotic plants run by Joachim Conrad Loddiges, and Abney Park famously featured interesting botanic specimens on its opening.
St Leonard’s Church itself seems keen to make more of its history. Last week the National Churches Trust announced it was awarding St Leonard’s a £2,600 grant to allow it to research how best to carry out repairs and refurbishment to its interior and community rooms and to open up the crypt for community uses.
The Grade I-listed building was the first church to be illuminated by gaslight and its churchyard is the last resting place for many of Shakespeare’s acting company. It also recently starred in the BBC show Rev.