Joseph Beck – the man who saved Clissold Park – is given a plaque in Stoke Newington
PUBLISHED: 12:07 06 December 2018
The man who saved Clissold Park 130 years ago has been honoured with a plaque thanks to the Stoke Newington historian who unearthed the dramatic details of his campaign.
Throughout the 1880s the park was under threat from building work. But the Clissold Park Preservation Committee – chaired by Joseph Beck, a local manufacturing optician – fought for four years to secure its purchase “for the recreation of the public forever”.
They felt preserving the park would improve people’s health and well-being and make the area more desirable. But the long campaign, which consisted of three petitions, heated meetings and numerous press articles, had usually been described in a paragraph at best.
That was until Stoke Newington historian Amir Dotan uncovered the details through documents passed down through Beck’s family. It turned out the campaign was hanging by a thread throughout. Money had to be raised from local parishes to buy the park, and the committee’s view was that while it was in Stoke Newington and South Hornsey, it would also benefit people in Hackney and Islington. But there was fierce opposition in the two areas, where locals felt the park was a “swamp” and Finsbury Park was close enough.
After finally winning his battle, Beck said: “It will be from the narrow streets of Shoreditch, from the pent-up alleys of Clerkenwell and Islington, that thousands and tens of thousands of our fellow beings will issue to enjoy the sweet breezes and lie under the shade of the old and handsome trees of Clissold Park.
“It will be on the soft grass that the little ones will romp and play and learn the charm of getting for a short time under the benignant of bright sunshine and fresh air.”
Eighteen months ago, Amir had the idea of honouring Beck’s work, as he knew that his old home was what is now Barton House GP practice, which is named after Beck’s grandfather. And last month it was unveiled in front of Beck’s family.
Amir said: “A councillor put me in touch with a heritage officer who put me in touch with a company that made another local heritage plaque not too long ago.
“I got in touch with the practice to get the manager’s consent to install the plaque. From there it was raising money to get it made. The money was donated by Beck’s family and the Clissold Park User Group. A local retired builder – Jeff Manning – was kind enough to install it.”