Grass Mounds, Taking Risks and Riots – Spa Fields, Exmouth Market

I’ve been to Exmouth Market several times, but never ventured down this uninviting passage to visit Spa Fields

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I’d thought it was a perfect place to take a plate of street food from the market, but then I read a little about its history.

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Turns out that its well-known for the Spa Fields riots of 1816, and later, between 1821 and 1824, as the base of a community led by a group of printers and based on the co-operative ideas of Robert Owen, the visionary founder of Scotland’s New Lanark.

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Ups and downs though, and after only several years, the community floundered. Perhaps because, apparently, ‘The community also set up a ‘monitor’ system whereby each monitor looked after one person and acted as his ‘confessor’.

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Before that though, in the 18th century, it was known for ‘the rude sports that were in vogue’ and thieves who knocked down passing pedestrians and ‘despoiled’ them of ‘hats, wigs, silver buckles, and money’.

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Luckily I was allowed to eat my lunch in peace.

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And when I visited, just round the corner, round three corners in fact, there’s an inspiring children’s playground – not a park though. And an adult-free zone to boot. It may not have ‘monitors and confessors’ but it does have some rules I loved!

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I say when I visited, because sadly I heard that the playground had a fire just after I’d been, and was seriously damaged. You can read about it here.

So I offer you this poem from Robert Louis Stevenson which reminds me so much of playing as a child, although we had nothing as exciting as this wooden structure which was destroyed by the fire. Heartbreaking.

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*

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,

   Up in the air so blue?

 Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

   Ever a child can do!

*

 Up in the air and over the wall,

   Till I can see so wide,

 Rivers and trees and cattle and all

   Over the countryside–

*

 Till I look down on the garden green,

   Down on the roof so brown–

 Up in the air I go flying again,

   Up in the air and down!

*

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And I invite you to write about being allowed to take a different view of the garden, as with these giant chairs. I’d have LOVED these as a child. In fact I’d love them now.  A real boost for young imaginations.

It seems that Islington Council are committed to repairing the playground. I hope the children can play again very soon. 

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