Islington

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Islington grew as a sprawling Middlesex village along the line of the Great North Road, and has provided the name of the modern borough.

The exterior of the Agricultural Hall in Islington (1861).
Some roads on the edge of the area, including Essex Road, were known as streets by the medieval period, possibly indicating a Roman origin, but little physical evidence remains. What is known is that the Great North Road from Aldersgate came into use in the 14th century, connecting with a new turnpike up Highgate Hill. This was along the line of modern Upper Street, with a toll gate at The Angel defining the extent of the village. The Back Road - modern Liverpool Road - was primarily a drovers’ road where cattle would be rested before the final leg of their journey to Smithfield. Pens and sheds were erected along this road to accommodate the animals.

The first recorded church, St Mary’s, was erected in the twelfth century and was replaced in the fifteenth century. Islington lay on the estates of the Bishop of London and the Dean and Chapter of St Pauls. There were substantial medieval moated manor houses in the area, principally at Canonbury and Highbury. In 1548, there were 440 communicants listed and the rural atmosphere, with access to the City and Westminster, made it a popular residence for the rich and eminent. The local inns, however, harboured many fugitives and recusants.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the availability of water made Islington a good place for growing vegetables to feed London. The manor became a popular excursion destination for Londoners, attracted to the area by its rural feel. Many public houses were therefore built to serve the needs of both the excursionists and travellers on the turnpike. By 1716, there were 56 ale-house keepers in Upper Street, also offering pleasure and tea gardens, and activities such as archery, skittle alleys and bowling. By the 18th century, music and dancing were offered, together with billiards, firework displays and balloon ascents. The King’s Head Tavern, now a Victorian building with a theatre, has remained on the same site, opposite the parish church, since 1543. The founder of the theatre, Dan Crawford, who died in 2005, disagreed with the introduction of decimal coinage. For twenty-plus years after decimalisation (on 15 February 1971), the bar continued to show prices and charge for drinks in ’old money’.

By the 19th century many music halls and theatres were established around Islington Green. One such was Collins’ Music Hall, the remains of which are now partly incorporated into a bookshop. The remainder of the Hall has been redeveloped into a new theatre, with its entrance at the bottom of Essex Road. It stood on the site of the Landsdowne Tavern, where the landlord had built an entertainment room for customers who wanted to sing (and later for professional entertainers). It was founded in 1862 by Samuel Thomas Collins Vagg and by 1897 had become a 1800-seat theatre with 10 bars. The theatre suffered damage in a fire in 1958 and has not reopened.

The Islington Literary and Scientific Society was established in 1833 and first met in Mr Edgeworth’s Academy on Upper Street. Its goal was to spread knowledge through lectures, discussions, and experiments - politics and theology being forbidden. A building, the Literary and Scientific Institution, was erected in 1837 in Wellington (later Almeida) Street, designed by Roumieu and Gough in a stuccoed Grecian style. It included a library (containing 3,300 volumes in 1839), reading room, museum, laboratory, and lecture theatre seating 500.

The Royal Agricultural Hall was built in 1862 on the Liverpool Road site of William Dixon’s Cattle Layers. It was built for the annual Smithfield Show in December of that year but was popular for other purposes, including recitals and the Royal Tournament. It was the primary exhibition site for London until the 20th century and the largest building of its kind, holding up to 50,000 people. It was requisitioned for use by the Mount Pleasant sorting office during World War II and never re-opened. The main hall has now been incorporated into the Business Design Centre.

The aerial bombing of World War II caused much damage to Islington’s housing stock, with 3,200 dwellings destroyed. Before the war a number of 1930s council housing blocks had been added to the stock. After the war, partly as a result of bomb site redevelopment, the council housing boom got into its stride, reaching its peak in the 1960s: several extensive estates were constructed, by both the Metropolitan Borough of Islington and the London County Council. Clearance of the worst terraced housing was undertaken, but Islington continued to be very densely populated, with a high level of overcrowding. The district has many council blocks, and the local authority has begun to replace some of them.

From the 1960s, the remaining Georgian terraces were rediscovered by middle-class families. Many of the houses were rehabilitated, and the area became newly fashionable. This displacement of the poor by the aspirational has become known as gentrification. Among the new residents were a number of figures who became central in the New Labour movement, including Tony Blair before his victory in the 1997 general election. According to The Guardian in 2006, "Islington is widely regarded as the spiritual home of Britain’s left-wing intelligentsia." The Granita Pact between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair is said to have been made at a now defunct restaurant on Upper Street.

The completion of the Victoria line and redevelopment of Angel tube station created the conditions for developers to renovate many of the early Victorian and Georgian townhouses. They also built new developments. Islington remains a district with diverse inhabitants, with its private houses and apartments not far from social housing in immediately neighbouring wards such as Finsbury and Clerkenwell to the south, Bloomsbury and King’s Cross to the west, and Highbury to the north west, and also the Hackney districts of De Beauvoir and Old Street to the north east.

xxx

The exterior of the Agricultural Hall in Islington (1861).
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Citations and sources

Gillian Bebbington's 1972 work on street name derivations
The free encyclopedia

Links and further reading

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Histor­ically inclined look at the capital’s obscure attractions
A wander through London, street by street

THE STREETS OF ISLINGTON
96, N16 A street within the N1 postcode
Allingham Street, N1 Allingham Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Baron Street, N1 Baron Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Bishop Street, N1 Bishop Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Bradleys Close, N1 Bradleys Close is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Britannia Row, N1 Britannia Row is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Burgh Street, N1 This is a street in the N1 postcode area
Camden Passage, N1 Camden Passage is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Chapel Market, N1 Chapel Market is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Chapel Place, N1 Chapel Place is a road in the N1 postcode area
Charlton Place, N1 Charlton Place is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
City Garden Row, EC1V City Garden Row is a road in the EC1V postcode area
City Garden Row, N1 City Garden Row is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Colebrooke Place, N1 Colebrooke Place is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Colebrooke Row, N1 Colebrooke Row is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Collins Yard, N1 Collins Yard is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Copenhagen Tunnel, N7 Copenhagen Tunnel is a road in the N7 postcode area
Copford Walk, N1 Copford Walk is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Cruden Street, N1 Cruden Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Danbury Street, N1 Danbury Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Devonia Road, N1 Devonia Road is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Dibden Street, N1 Dibden Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Draper Place, N1 Draper Place is a road in the N1 postcode area
Duncan Street, N1 Duncan Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Duncan Terrace, N1 Duncan Terrace is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Eckford Street, N1 Eckford Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Elia Mews, N1 Elia Mews is a road in the N1 postcode area
Elia Street, N1 Elia Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Frome Street, N1 Frome Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Gaskin Street, N1 Gaskin Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Georgian Village Camden Passage, N1 Georgian Village Camden Passage is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Gerrard Road, N1 Gerrard Road is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Graham Street, N1 Graham Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Grantbridge Street, N1 Grantbridge Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Greenman Street, N1 Greenman Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Hanover Yard, N1 Hanover Yard is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Haverstock Street, N1 Haverstock Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
London Loop, CR6 London Loop is a road in the CR6 postcode area
Melville Place, N1 Melville Place is a road in the N1 postcode area
Noel Road, N1 Noel Road is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Oakley Crescent, EC1V Oakley Crescent is one of the streets of London in the EC1V postal area.
Packington Street, N1 Packington Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Peabody Square, N1 Peabody Square is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Penton Street, N1 Penton Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Pierrepoint Arcade, N1 Pierrepoint Arcade is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Pierrepoint Row, N1 Pierrepoint Row is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Popham Road, N1 Popham Road is a street in London
Popham Street, N1 Popham Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Prebend Street, N1 Prebend Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Pride Court, N1 Pride Court is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Provence Street, N1 Provence Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Providence Court, N1 Providence Court is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Queens Head Street, N1 Queens Head Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Quick Street, N1 Quick Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Raleigh Street, N1 Raleigh Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Remington Street, N1 Remington Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Rheidol Mews, N1 Rheidol Mews is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Rheidol Terrace, N1 Rheidol Terrace is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Rocliffe Street, N1 Rocliffe Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Saint Peter’s Street, N1 This is a street in the N1 postcode area
Shalford Court, N1 Shalford Court is a road in the N1 postcode area
Spellbrook Walk, N1 Spellbrook Walk is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
St Peters Street, N1 St Peters Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
St. Mary’s Path, N1 St. Mary’s Path is a road in the N1 postcode area
St. Peter’s Street, N1 St. Peter’s Street is a road in the N1 postcode area
Sudeley Street, N1 Sudeley Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
The Mall Camden Passage, N1 The Mall Camden Passage is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
The Mall, N1 The Mall is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
The Mews, N12 A street within the N1 postcode
Theseus Walk, N1 Theseus Walk is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Tolpuddle Street, N1 Tolpuddle Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
White Conduit Street, N1 White Conduit Street was laid out and built up with houses and tenements from the mid-1790s.
White Lion Street, N1 White Lion Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.
Windsor Street, N1 Windsor Street is one of the streets of London in the N1 postal area.



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VIEW THE ISLINGTON AREA IN THE 1750s
The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1750 map does not display.

VIEW THE ISLINGTON AREA IN THE 1800s
The 1800 mapping is bounded by Stanmore (NW), Woodford (NE), Bromley (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1800 map does not display.

VIEW THE ISLINGTON AREA IN THE 1830s
The 1830 mapping is bounded by West Hampstead (NW), Hackney (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Chelsea (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1830 map does not display.

VIEW THE ISLINGTON AREA IN THE 1860s
The 1860 mapping is bounded by Brent Cross (NW), Stratford (NE), Greenwich (SE) and Hammermith (SW).
Outside these bounds, the 1860 map does not display.

VIEW THE ISLINGTON AREA IN THE 1900s
The 1900 mapping covers all of the London area.

 

Islington

Islington grew as a sprawling Middlesex village along the line of the Great North Road, and has provided the name of the modern borough.

Some roads on the edge of the area, including Essex Road, were known as streets by the medieval period, possibly indicating a Roman origin, but little physical evidence remains. What is known is that the Great North Road from Aldersgate came into use in the 14th century, connecting with a new turnpike up Highgate Hill. This was along the line of modern Upper Street, with a toll gate at The Angel defining the extent of the village. The Back Road - modern Liverpool Road - was primarily a drovers’ road where cattle would be rested before the final leg of their journey to Smithfield. Pens and sheds were erected along this road to accommodate the animals.

The first recorded church, St Mary’s, was erected in the twelfth century and was replaced in the fifteenth century. Islington lay on the estates of the Bishop of London and the Dean and Chapter of St Pauls. There were substantial medieval moated manor houses in the area, principally at Canonbury and Highbury. In 1548, there were 440 communicants listed and the rural atmosphere, with access to the City and Westminster, made it a popular residence for the rich and eminent. The local inns, however, harboured many fugitives and recusants.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the availability of water made Islington a good place for growing vegetables to feed London. The manor became a popular excursion destination for Londoners, attracted to the area by its rural feel. Many public houses were therefore built to serve the needs of both the excursionists and travellers on the turnpike. By 1716, there were 56 ale-house keepers in Upper Street, also offering pleasure and tea gardens, and activities such as archery, skittle alleys and bowling. By the 18th century, music and dancing were offered, together with billiards, firework displays and balloon ascents. The King’s Head Tavern, now a Victorian building with a theatre, has remained on the same site, opposite the parish church, since 1543. The founder of the theatre, Dan Crawford, who died in 2005, disagreed with the introduction of decimal coinage. For twenty-plus years after decimalisation (on 15 February 1971), the bar continued to show prices and charge for drinks in ’old money’.

By the 19th century many music halls and theatres were established around Islington Green. One such was Collins’ Music Hall, the remains of which are now partly incorporated into a bookshop. The remainder of the Hall has been redeveloped into a new theatre, with its entrance at the bottom of Essex Road. It stood on the site of the Landsdowne Tavern, where the landlord had built an entertainment room for customers who wanted to sing (and later for professional entertainers). It was founded in 1862 by Samuel Thomas Collins Vagg and by 1897 had become a 1800-seat theatre with 10 bars. The theatre suffered damage in a fire in 1958 and has not reopened.

The Islington Literary and Scientific Society was established in 1833 and first met in Mr Edgeworth’s Academy on Upper Street. Its goal was to spread knowledge through lectures, discussions, and experiments - politics and theology being forbidden. A building, the Literary and Scientific Institution, was erected in 1837 in Wellington (later Almeida) Street, designed by Roumieu and Gough in a stuccoed Grecian style. It included a library (containing 3,300 volumes in 1839), reading room, museum, laboratory, and lecture theatre seating 500.

The Royal Agricultural Hall was built in 1862 on the Liverpool Road site of William Dixon’s Cattle Layers. It was built for the annual Smithfield Show in December of that year but was popular for other purposes, including recitals and the Royal Tournament. It was the primary exhibition site for London until the 20th century and the largest building of its kind, holding up to 50,000 people. It was requisitioned for use by the Mount Pleasant sorting office during World War II and never re-opened. The main hall has now been incorporated into the Business Design Centre.

The aerial bombing of World War II caused much damage to Islington’s housing stock, with 3,200 dwellings destroyed. Before the war a number of 1930s council housing blocks had been added to the stock. After the war, partly as a result of bomb site redevelopment, the council housing boom got into its stride, reaching its peak in the 1960s: several extensive estates were constructed, by both the Metropolitan Borough of Islington and the London County Council. Clearance of the worst terraced housing was undertaken, but Islington continued to be very densely populated, with a high level of overcrowding. The district has many council blocks, and the local authority has begun to replace some of them.

From the 1960s, the remaining Georgian terraces were rediscovered by middle-class families. Many of the houses were rehabilitated, and the area became newly fashionable. This displacement of the poor by the aspirational has become known as gentrification. Among the new residents were a number of figures who became central in the New Labour movement, including Tony Blair before his victory in the 1997 general election. According to The Guardian in 2006, "Islington is widely regarded as the spiritual home of Britain’s left-wing intelligentsia." The Granita Pact between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair is said to have been made at a now defunct restaurant on Upper Street.

The completion of the Victoria line and redevelopment of Angel tube station created the conditions for developers to renovate many of the early Victorian and Georgian townhouses. They also built new developments. Islington remains a district with diverse inhabitants, with its private houses and apartments not far from social housing in immediately neighbouring wards such as Finsbury and Clerkenwell to the south, Bloomsbury and King’s Cross to the west, and Highbury to the north west, and also the Hackney districts of De Beauvoir and Old Street to the north east.
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Central London, north east (1901) FREE DOWNLOAD
Central London, north east.
Stanford's Geographical Establishment. London : Edward Stanford, 26 & 27, Cockspur St., Charing Cross, S.W. (1901)

John Rocque Map of London (1762) FREE DOWNLOAD
John Rocque (c. 1709–1762) was a surveyor, cartographer, engraver, map-seller and the son of Huguenot émigrés. Roque is now mainly remembered for his maps of London. This map dates from the second edition produced in 1762. London and his other maps brought him an appointment as cartographer to the Prince of Wales in 1751. His widow continued the business after his death. The map covers central London at a reduced level of detail compared with his 1745-6 map.
John Rocque, The Strand, London

Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1843) FREE DOWNLOAD
Engraved map. Hand coloured.
Chapman and Hall, London

Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1836) FREE DOWNLOAD
Engraved map. Hand coloured. Insets: A view of the Tower from London Bridge -- A view of London from Copenhagen Fields. Includes views of facades of 25 structures "A comparison of the principal buildings of London."
Chapman and Hall, London

Environs of London (1832) FREE DOWNLOAD
Engraved map. Hand coloured. Relief shown by hachures. A circle shows "Extent of the twopenny post delivery."
Chapman and Hall, London

London Underground Map (1921).  FREE DOWNLOAD
London Underground map from 1921.
London Transport

The Environs of London (1865).  FREE DOWNLOAD
Prime meridian replaced with "Miles from the General Post Office." Relief shown by hachures. Map printed in black and white.
Published By J. H. Colton. No. 172 William St. New York

London Underground Map (1908).  FREE DOWNLOAD
London Underground map from 1908.
London Transport

Ordnance Survey of the London region (1939) FREE DOWNLOAD
Ordnance Survey colour map of the environs of London 1:10,560 scale
Ordnance Survey. Crown Copyright 1939.

Outer London (1901) FREE DOWNLOAD
Outer London shown in red, City of London in yellow. Relief shown by hachures.
Stanford's Geographical Establishment. London : Edward Stanford, 26 & 27, Cockspur St., Charing Cross, S.W. (1901)
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