Opportunity for ice cream and mobile café concessions in parks

Tower Hamlets has many beautiful parks and open spaces used by both residents and visitors to the borough.

We have a great opportunity for local businesses to trade in our parks for the summer season in 2024.

We are seeking to license:

- ice cream vans and

- mobile café operators at fixed pitches. 

We have opportunities in parks across the borough for vendors who have Public Liability Insurance and Food Hygiene Certificate.

If you are interested in applying, please email parks@towerhamlets.gov.uk

History of parks and open spaces

Parks and open spaces in Tower Hamlets came into being in different ways. Some were the result of deliberate policy. Others the result of accident or expedience. Our parks were created to benefit residents and give them access to outdoor space.

There were three main periods in which public open space was created in the borough. The first was the creation of Victoria Park in the middle of the 19th century. The late 19th century saw the conversion of churchyards to public gardens. Most recently was the development of parks and open spaces after World War II.

Several of our parks are the result of late 18th and 19th century urban design. The fashion for formal gardens in London Squares led to the creation of Trinity Square Gardens, Arbour Square, Albert Gardens and the Oval. The Squares are protected by the London Squares Preservation Act, 1931.

Several churchyards became public open spaces managed by the council. The churchyards had closed for burials because they were full.  They were converted into public gardens in the second half of the 19th century. This led to the creation of Christchurch Gardens, Altab Ali Park (previously St Mary’s Churchyard) and St George’s Gardens.

The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery opened 1841 to increase local burial space. By 1889 over a quarter of a million burials had taken place there. By the late 19th Century it had become neglected. In 1966 an Act of Parliament was passed to close it and turn it into open space. It is now managed by the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. It is a wooded park and local nature reserve, hosting a variety of events and activities.

Victoria Park Pagoda

Victoria Park opened in 145 for the benefit of the East End's working class.  There were fears that disease would spread amid the stinking industries and slum population. The government bought poor quality land.  It had been used for market gardens, grazing and gravel digging. The park was an instant success. The Metropolitan Board of Works took over the management of the park in 1887.  London County Council (LCC) took over in 1888, followed by the Greater London Council in 1965 and by Tower Hamlets Council in 1986 (with Hackney Council  (until 1994 ). 

Other parks and open spaces are all that remains of historic commons and greens. Stepney Green Gardens and Stepney Clock Tower are the last fragments of Mile End Green. The Metropolitan Gardens Association created the Gardens in 1872.  The land had been enclosed sometime after 1669.  Mile End Waste, the open spaces to the north of Mile End Road, was also part of Mile End common.

Bethnal Green Gardens, Paradise Row Gardens and Museum Gardens are all that remain of the medieval Green or Poor’s Land. The LCC created Bethnal Green Gardens as a recreation ground in 1895.  The government purchased the land for Museum Gardens for the Bethnal Green Museum in 1868. The Gardens opened in 1875. They were “laid out and for ever to be maintained as an ornamental garden” as required by the Act to permit the purchase,

The Greenwich Royal Hospital Commissioners bought the site of Island Gardens in 1850.  They wanted to protect the view from the rapid industrialisation of the Isle of Dogs in the second half of the 19th century. The LCC laid the site out as a park in 1895. Mudchute Park and City Farm was created in 1977 from a landscape of low mounds and former World War II gun emplacements. Between 1875 and 1910 the site was used to dump mud dredged from the Millwall Docks.

Millwall Park was marsh land until 1919 when it was became playing fields and a recreation ground. It was the home of the original Millwall Football Club from 1889-1910.

After World War II parks of various sizes were created.  These include Mile End Park, Langdon Park, Jolly’s Green, Bartlett Park, Allen Gardens, Weavers Fields and Ravenscroft Park. Pieces of land to create these parks were still being laid out with grass for the first time in 2005.

Gardens and squares including Canada Square Park, Jubilee Park and Crossrail Place Roof Garden are a main feature of Canary Wharf .  They are managed by Canary Wharf Estate.



  • Philip Mernick and Doreen Kendall, “A pictorial history of Victoria Park, London E3” 1996,
  • East London History Society
  • Bridget Cherry, Charles O’Brien and Nicholas Pevsner, “The Buildings of England: London 5: East” 2005, Yale University Press
  • Sally Williams, “The Inventory of Green Spaces – Tower Hamlets”, London Parks and Gardens Trust in association with English Heritage, 2003

Heritage significance of parks and open spaces 

London Squares in Tower Hamlets: (Information taken from adopted borough plan 1986)

  • Albert Gardens (formerly Albert Square)
  • Arbour Square 
  • Beaumont  Square
  • Carlton Square    
  • Ford Square
  • Ion Square
  • Mile End Green (Mile End Waste)
  • Swedenborg Gardens (formerly Prince’s Square)
  • Rectory Square     
  • Sidney Square  
  • Stepney Green Gardens
  • The Oval    
  • Trafalgar Gardens (formerly Trafalgar Square)
  • Tredegar Square
  • Trinity Square Gardens
  • York Square.

English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Interest in England and Wales

English Heritage has entered four Tower Hamlets’ parks and gardens on this register

Listed structures in Tower Hamlets parks and open spaces:

Many sites have listed buildings, structures, and war memorials. These include parks such as Victoria Park and Boundary Gardens. The Commonwealth War Memorials to the Merchant Navy war dead of both world wars are in Trinity Square Gardens. There is also a memorial to those executed at the Tower Hill scaffold, where over 125 people met their fate. Those executed there include St Thomas More, St John Fisher and Thomas Cromwell.

The London Inventory of Historic Green Spaces - Tower Hamlets

This  inventory was published in 2003 by the London  Parks  and  Gardens  Trust  and supported  by  English  Heritage. It lists 52 publicly accessible open spaces of historic interest in the borough.

Our historic parks
Park and open space Brief history note

Albert Gardens

Built 1840s; opened to public by the LCC 1906

All Saints Churchyard

All Saints' Church was built for the parish of Poplar.  The churchyard was re-ordered as a public garden by the Metropolitan Public Garden Association (MPGA) in 1893 and completed in 1905.

Altab Ali Park

Formerly the churchyard of  St  Mary’s Church,  Whitechapel.

Arbour Square

Built 1820s; opened to the public by LCC 1904

Arnold Circus and Boundary Gardens

Laid out as centrepiece of Boundary Estate by LCC in early 1900s; English. Heritage Register grade II

Bartlett Park

Laid out in the 1950s as part of the Lansbury Estate, featured in the Festival of Britain 1951

Beaumont Square Gardens

Laid out c.1840; opened to public late 19th century

Bethnal Green Gardens 

Part of  Bethnal Green “Poor’s  Land” trust. LCC opened to the public 1895. English Heritage Register Grade II

Bow Churchyard

Opened to the public as a garden by MPGA in the late 19th century.

Brickfield Gardens

Former brickfield purchased compulsorily in 1899 and opened to the public in 1904.

Carlton Square Gardens

Laid out mid 19th century, opened to public by MPGA in1885.

Christ Church Gardens

Church built 1714-1729;  small part opened to the public as garden in late 19th century.

Ford Square Gardens 

Laid out 1820s; opened to the public in 1904

Globe Road Open Space 

Remnant of former burial ground of 19th century chapel; opened as garden late 19th century by borough council.

Grove Hall Park

Site of former asylum  established  c.1820;  opened to public 1909 and extended in 1930  with  a convent garden.

Ion Square Gardens

Original square  c.1845;  opened to public 1895 by MPGA; extension agreed with LCC 1953

Island Gardens


Opened in 1895 on land that the Admiralty saved from development to preserve the view of Greenwich; English Heritage Register Grade II

Jesus Green

Opened in 20th century on site of cleared dwellings

King Edward Memorial Park

Opened 1922 on land bought by public subscription.

Meath Gardens

Former burial ground laid out 1842 and opened as garden in 1894 by MPGA and LCC

Mercers Burial Ground 

Also known as Stepney Meeting House Burial Ground, laid out 1779 and opened to the public as a garden in 1976

Mile End Park

First planned 1943 and included in 1944 Abercrombie Plan for Greater London.

Parts laid out as King George’s Fields in 1952 on cleared bomb sites; The LCC and then GLC continued to clear and lay out sites as open space until 1985. Millenium Commission landscape and building works 1995 - date

Mile End Waste/Green

Remnant of former medieval green

Museum Gardens

In 1872 a parcel of land in the northern section of Bethnal Green Poors Land was purchased to erect the Bethnal Green Museum, with the proviso that land not needed for building would become a public recreation ground. 

Paradise Gardens

A small strip of land that once formed part of the Bethnal Green commonland within the Manor of

Poplar Recreation Ground

Former burial ground opened as garden 1867 by MGPA

Shandy Park

Former burial ground opened as garden in 1885 by MPGA

Sidney Square Gardens

Laid out 1820s; opened to the public by LCC 1904

St Anne's Churchyard

Laid out 1730; opened as a garden in 1887 by MPGA

St Bartholomew's Gardens

Former burial ground opened as garden in 1885 by MPGA

St Dunstan's Churchyard

Church built by 1232, probably dating from the 7th century; former burial ground opened as garden

St George's Gardens

Church opened 1729; opened to public as gardens in 1875 via Vestry and Metropolitan Board of Works.

St James' Gardens

Former burial ground; laid out partly on land left over following construction of Rotherhithe Tunnel.

St John’s Churchyard

Chapel of ease 1617; site bombed during WWII

St Leonard’s Playground

Church built 12th century, rebuilt 1842 and bombed in WWII; much of churchyard cleared for road.

St Matthew’s Churchyard

Church consecrated 1746, churchyard closed mid 1850s; opened as garden 1896

St Matthias Old Church

Former church of the East India Company built 1776; churchyard open to public; about Poplar Recreation Ground

St Paul’s Churchyard

Established 1656 as chapel of ease, parish created 1669, church rebuilt 1820; laid out as garden 1886 by MPGA; churchyard accessible only to school.

Stepney Green Gardens

Remnants of Stepney Green, enclosed between 1669-1684; used for public hustings  mid 19th century; opened to the public in 1872 by Metropolitan Board of Works.

Stepney Green Park

Formerly part of Mile End Green where Stepney Fair held late 17th to 19th century; enclosed 1694; built over as part of Clare Hall estate; site cleared of housing by GLC following WWII.

Tower Gardens 

Part of  the Tower Liberties, governed by Tower until 1855; taken into care of local authority as gardens, managed by Historic Royal Palaces since the 1990s.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Open fields until land consecrated for commercial burial ground 1841; was noted as containing 247,000 graves and neglected by 1889; many common public graves; bombed WWII;  closed  to  burials  by  special  Act  of Parliament  for  GLC as public open space.  Transferred to Tower Hamlets 1986 and became Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park 1990.

Trafalgar Gardens

Created as a square in the late 18th century, renamed Trafalgar Square 1809; central garden bought by Vestry of Mile End Old Town and opened to public 1885.

Tredegar Square Gardens

Laid out 1828; original simple rectilinear layout replaced, by the former Bow Neighbourhood, with circular forms in the late 1980s.

Trinity Square Gardens

Laid out to designs by Samuel Wyatt for Trinity House at the top of Tower Hill by private enclosure act in 1795. Contains Commonwealth War Graves Commission War Memorials to Merchant Navy war dead of both world wars and memorial to Falklands Merchant Navy war dead (2005). Also contains commemoration of executions at Tower Hill  scaffold;  restored in 2002 with funding from Heritage Lottery Fund and Tower Hill Improvement Trust

Vallance Gardens

Part of a former Society of Friends burial ground; laid out 1880 as a public garden;  gardens reconstructed in 2003

Victoria Park

Designed by James Pennethorne; opened 1845; site extended 1872; managed by Metropolitan Board of Works in 1887, transferred to LCC in 1889, then GLC in 1965 then Tower Hamlets in 1986; site much bombed in WWII and not restored. English Heritage Register Grade II

Wakefield Gardens

Laid out 1992 over new London Underground station entrance; land originally donated as public open space for benefit of local people by the Wakefield Trust in the 1930's

Wapping Gardens

Opened in 1891 by Metropolitan Board of Works from cleared slum dwellings under “Artisans’ and  Labourers’ Dwelling  Improvement Act 1875; refurbished late 1980s.

Weavers Fields

Laid out in 1960s on land acquired and cleared of housing by GLC following bomb damage;  site intended to be much larger; extensive works to turn grassland into park during 1890s and early years of 20th century.

York Square Gardens

Site developed by Mercers Company in early 19th Century; garden opened to public in LCC 1904; GLC bought site 1969