Islington is the central
district of the London Borough of Islington.
It is an inner-city district in London,
spanning from Islington High Street to Highbury Fields,
encompassing the area around the busy Upper Street
. The name is now also
often applied to the areas of the borough close to Upper Street
such as Barnsbury and Canonbury, developed in the Georgian
Islington grew as a sprawling village along the line of the Great
North Road and has provided the name of the modern borough. This
gave rise to some confusion, as neighbouring districts may also be
said to be in Islington. This district is bounded by Liverpool Road to the west and New North
Road to the south-east. Its northernmost point is in the area of
main north-south high street, Upper Street
Highbury Corner to Holloway Road to the west and St. Paul's Road to
round Angel tube
station is sometimes considered a district in its own
right, The Angel,
Islington. The northern part of this area (from the
Road junction northwards) is within the district of
Islington, while the southern half is in neighbouring Finsbury.
below Penton Steet and east of Pentonville Road is the adjoining
district of Pentonville.
Islington was originally named by the Saxons Giseldone
(1005), then Gislandune
(1062). The name means 'Gīsla's
hill' from the Old English personal
Gīsla and dun
'. The name then later mutated to
, which remained in use well into the 17th century
when the modern form arose. 'Islington: Growth', A History of the County of Middlesex:
Volume 8: Islington and Stoke Newington parishes (1985), pp.
9-19 accessed: 13 March 2007 In medieval times, Islington was
just one of many small manors hereabouts, along with
Bernersbury, Neweton Berewe or Hey-bury
and Canonesbury (Barnsbury, Highbury and Canonbury - names
first recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries).
1861 Cattle show at the Royal
Some roads on the edge of the area, including Essex Road were known
by the medieval period, possibly indicating a
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 (toll road) 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.
Back Road, the 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. 'Islington: Communications', A History of the County of
Middlesex: Volume 8: Islington and Stoke Newington parishes (1985),
pp. 3-8 accessed: 9 March 2007
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
Royal Agricultural Hall was
built in 1862, on the Liverpool Road site of William Dixon's Cattle Layers. The
hall was 75 ft high, and the arched glass roof spanned 125 ft. It
was built for the annual Smithfield Show in December, 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. 'Islington: Social and cultural activities', A History of
the County of Middlesex: Volume 8: Islington and Stoke Newington
parishes (1985), pp. 45-51
accessed: 8 March 2007
on which Islington stands has long supplied the City of
London with water, the first projects drawing water
through wooden pipes from the many springs that lay at its foot, in
Finsbury. These included Sadler's Wells, London Spa and Clerkenwell.
17th century these traditional sources were inadequate to supply
the growing population and plans were laid to construct a waterway,
River, to bring fresh water from the source of the
River Lee, in Hertfordshire to New River Head, below Islington in Finsbury.
The river was opened on September 29, 1613
by Sir Hugh Myddleton
constructor of the project. His statue still stands where Upper
Street meets Essex Road. The course of the river ran to the east of
Upper Street, and much of its course is now covered and forms a
through the area.
The Regents Canal
Islington. For much of its length, it travels through an tunnel
that runs from Colebrook Row, just east of the Angel, to emerge at
Muriel Street, not far from Caledonian Road. The subterranean
stretch is marked with a series of pavement plaques, so that canal
walkers may find their way from one entrance to the other above
ground. The area of the canal east of the tunnel and north of the
City Road was once dominated by much warehousing and industry
surrounding the large City Road Basin and Wenlock Basin. Those old
buildings that survive here are now largely residential or small
work units. This stretch boasts one of the few old canal pubs with
an entrance actually on the tow-path, The Narrowboat.
was constructed in 1820, to carry cargo from Limehouse into the canal system.
There is no tow-path
in the tunnel, and bargees had to walk
through, braced against the roof.Alan Faulkner "The Regent's
Canal: London's Hidden Waterway" (2005) ISBN 1-870002-59-8
Commercial use of the canal has declined since the 1960s.
Market gardens and entertainments
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the availability of water
made Islington a place for growing vegetables to feed London. The
manor became a popular resort for Londoners, due to this rural
aspect, and many public houses were founded to serve the needs of
both visitors 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.
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 pre-decimalisation currency.
19th century, many music halls and
theatres were established around Islington Green. One such was Collins' Music Hall, the
remains of which are now incorporated into a bookshop. 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, by 1897 this had become a 1,800 seat theatre with 10
bars. This theatre suffered damage in a fire in 1958, and has not
reopened. Between 92 and 162 acts were put on each evening and
performers who started there included Marie
Lloyd, George Robey, Harry Lauder, Harry
Tate, George Formby, Vesta Tilley, Tommy
Trinder, Gracie Fields, Tommy Handley and Norman Wisdom.
An 1805 map of Islington
The Islington Literary and Scientific Society was established in
1833 and first met in Mr. Edgeworth's academy, on Upper Street. Its
object 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, with 3,300 volumes
in 1839, reading room, museum, laboratory, and lecture theatre
seating 500. The subscription was two guineas a year. The library
was sold off in 1872 and the building sold or leased in 1874 to the
, which occupied it until 1886. In 1885 the
hall was used for concerts, balls, and public meetings. The
bought the building in
1890, renamed it the Wellington Castle barracks, and remained there
until 1955. The building became a factory and showroom for Beck's
British Carnival Novelties for a few years from 1956, then remained
empty until in 1978 a campaign began to turn it into a theatre.
appeal was launched in 1981 and a festival of avant-garde theatre
and music was held there and at other Islington venues in 1982, and
the successful Almeida
Some development took place to accommodate the popularity of nearby
Sadler's Wells , which became a resort in the 16th century, but the
19th century saw the greatest expansion in housing, soon to cover
the whole parish. In 1801, the population was 10,212; by 1891 there
were 319,143 inhabitants in the borough. This rapid expansion was
partly due to the introduction of horse-drawn omnibuses in 1830.
With large well-built houses and fashionable squares, clerks,
artisans and professionals were drawn to the district. However,
from the middle of the 1800s, the poor were being displaced by
clearances in inner London to build the new railway stations and
goods yards. They settled in Islington, with the houses becoming
occupied by many families. This, combined with the railways pushing
into outer Middlesex, reduced Islington's attraction for the better
off as it became "unfashionable". The area fell into a long
decline; and by the mid-20th century, the area was largely run down
and a byword for urban poverty.
World War II
caused much damage to
Islington's housing stock, with 3,200 dwellings destroyed.
before the war, municipal housing had
not had much impact, after the war many bomb sites were
redeveloped, both by the Metropolitan
Borough of Islington and the London
Clearance of the worst terraced housing
was still undertaken, but Islington continued to be both the most
dense (least open space), and the borough with the highest level of
From the 1960s, the Georgian terraces were rediscovered by middle
class families, and many of the houses were rehabilitated, with the
area becoming newly fashionable. This displacement of the poor by
the aspirational has become known as gentrification
these new residents were a number of the central figures in the
movement, including Tony Blair
before his victory in the 1997 general election
"Islington is widely regarded as the spiritual home of
Britain's left-wing intelligentsia" (The Guardian)
. David Clark - "Accusations of anti-Semitic chic are
poisonous intellectual thuggery"; Monday March 6, 2006. The Guardian accessed: 9 March 2007
The Granita Pact, between
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, is said to
have been made at a, now defunct, restaurant on Upper Street.
completion of the Victoria line and
redevelopment of Angel tube station has created the conditions for developers to build
blocks of small flats, popular with young professionals,
intensifying use of the area. The inns of the 17th century
are now replaced with busy public houses and trendy wine bars.
Small shops selling bijou items are increasingly priced
out of the area, and replaced by national (and international)
chains. Islington remains a place in constant flux.
area is also well-known due to its inclusion in the British version
of Monopoly which features The Angel,
Islington. However, in the game the Angel is the third
cheapest property on the board. 'The Angel, Islington' was included
as the licensees considered the names of places they were to use
over tea in the Lyon's Corner
House, built on the site of the original Angel Inn.
Monopoly locations are Pentonville
Road (mostly in Islington) which runs from King's Cross
station to The Angel.
The final insult
Excerpt from The Royal
Tribes of Wales
, p.74-5 by Philip Yorke Esq (1799)
Islington may have played its own small part in the destruction and
conquest by England of north Wales. In December 1277 the last
native prince of Wales, Llywelyn the
, while staying in Islington in preparation of his ritual
act of homage to the English king, was so heinously offended by the
display put on by the locals that he and his lords resolved never
to return and thenceforth to fight England to the death.
Islington features extensively in modern English literature and
- Douglas Adams lived in Islington
and used it as a setting in his novels, and named a character in
his famous Hitchhikers' Guide to the
Galaxy series after a well known local estate agents -
- In Neil Gaiman's best selling novel
Neverwhere Islington is
an angel that lives under London, named after the Angel tube
- Martha Grimes' fictional
detective, Richard Jury, lives in a
flat in Islington.
- Simon Gray's play Otherwise Engaged is set in
Islington. It was written in the 1970s.
- In The Zoo, a comic opera by Arthur
Sullivan and B. C. Stephenson, two of the main characters are
the Duke of Islington and his beloved, whom he asks to become the
Duchess of Islington.
- Nick Hornby's book, and later film,
About a Boy are set in
- Nick Hornby's novel SLAM is set in Islington.
- The film, Notes on a
Scandal is set in Islington.
Notable residents, past and present
- This section is solely for residents
with a direct link to the area around Upper Street (the centre of
Islington); for residents of the London Borough
of Islington, or other districts, please see the relevant
article. If adding to this list please add a
citation explicitly showing the local connection
- Asa Butterfield, English
- Tony Blair, former
Prime Minister of the UK, lived on Richmond Crescent in Islington
before moving to Downing
- Leona Lewis, singer
- Cameron McKenna, Scottish
Television Announcer and Radio Broadcaster
- Nadia Almada, first transsexual
winner of Big Brother
- Douglas Adams, writer, lived on
Duncan Terrace later renting his house to comedian Angus Deayton.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje, actor was born here.
- Lily Allen, singer and daughter of
actor Keith Allen
- Neal Ascherson, journalist
- Tash Aw, Whitbread Book Award winning
- Nina Bawden, Author, has lived in
Islington for many years
- James Beck Actor was born here.
- Jay Bothroyd, footballer
- Gary Kemp and Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet born in Islington lived on
Elmore Street N1.
- Kathy Burke Actress, Director lives
- Alexandra Burke, Singer and
winner of The X Factor
- John Chapple,
One of the last Field Marshals of
Great Britain and Governor of Gibraltar
- Joe Cole, Footballer for Chelsea FC and
- Sorcha Cusack, Actress
- Phil Daniels, Actor.
- Alan Davies Actor, Comedian, Radio
Presenter, Star of Jonathon
Creek and Bob and Rose, etc.
lives in Highbury, Islington
- Dido, singer, was born in
Islington and owns a property there.
- Colin Firth, actor, is a
- Peaches Geldof, celebrity
socialite; daughter of Bob Geldof and
Greenaway, children's writer and book illustrator, lived on
Upper Street for 20 years before moving to Holloway.
- John Glascock, (1951-1979)
(musician), bassist of Carmen from
1971-1974 and Jethro Tull from
1975-1979 was born and raised in Islington
- Tony Hadley, lead singer of Spandau Ballet and solo artist, was born in
Islington in 1960.
- Edmund Halley, Astronomer Royal and discoverer of Halley's Comet lived in Islington (exact
location unknown) from 1665
- Isabel Hilton, journalist and
- Boris Johnson MP, Mayor of London
- Charlie G. Hawkins, actor of Darren Miller in EastEnders.
- William Hogarth, artist, was
born in Bartholomew Close in 1697 and spent his early years in
- Yusuf Islam, musician.
- Ian Jack, writer and journalist.
- Skandar Keynes, actor
Chronicles of Narnia
- Danny King , wrote The
Burglar Diaries and Thieves
- Charles Lamb, writer,
lived in Chapel Street from 1796 and later in Colebrook Row.
- Hugh Laurie, actor
- Edward Lear writer, poet, artist,
born in Islington
- Heath Ledger Lived in Roman way,
Islington while filming his final film in 2007 before his
- V.I. Lenin lived at 30 Holford Square from
1902 and later at 16, Percy Circus.
- Louise Lombard Actress
- Louisa Lytton, Actress
- Marianne Majerus,
- James McAvoy Actor, Last King of Scotland
- Scott Mills Radio 1 DJ lives
- Robert Muchamore, author of the
- Sheree Murphy, actress was born
- Joe Orton, playwright, lived and was
murdered in a flat in Noel Road, Islington.
- George Orwell, writer, lived at 50
Lawford Road and in a flat in Canonbury Square.
- Nicky Spesh, rapper, lives in
- Stephen Poliakoff, award
- Su Pollard Actress, Hi Di Hi
- Sir Walter Raleigh, writer,
poet, courtier and explorer lived in Upper Street between 1575 and
- Simon Rattle, conductor who lived
in Islington for a period
- Linda Robson, actress well known
for her role in the television series Birds of a Feather
- Ronnie Ronalde, music hall performer famous for his singing,
whistling, yodelling and imitations of
bird song was born and raised in Islington. As a young boy, he
performed informally in the streets of Islington on a number of
- Jon Ronson, author, columnist,
- Dana, winner of the
1970 Eurovision Song
- Martin Shaw, actor, who played
Ray Doyle and Judge John Deed, etc., lived in Noel Road,
including while starring in The Professionals.
- Salman Rushdie, writer who lived
in Islington for a period
- Ben Shephard TV Presenter, Lived in
- Sid Smith novelist,
journalist, lives in Islington
- Ann Taylor (1782-1866), poet,
writer, born in Islington
- Peter Vowell, Schoolteacher,
executed for High Treason.
- Charlie Watts, drummer of The Rolling Stones, was born and raised
- Frank Warren, boxing
promoter, was born in Islington
- Jimmy Carr,Comedian
- Samuel West, actor.
- Kenneth Williams (1926 - 1988),
Actor, Comedian, Radio and Television Entertainer. One of the
regulars on the popular Carry On
Team, was born in Islington.
- Kate Winslet, actress
- Hugo Young, journalist, lived in
Milner Square from the late 1960s until the mid 1980s
- John Foxx, electronic musician and
first Ultravox singer and frontman, lived
there in the 1970s.
- Jonas Grimås, film and
- Ed O'Brien, guitarist for the band
- Shana Swash and Joe Swash, actress and actor in Eastenders
- Omar Ahmed-Nur 1996-
- Scott Neal Actor in Beautiful Thing film with actor Glen Berry and also PC Luke Ashton in the Tv Series of The Bill
- Neve Campbell, American
The area is well served with bus routes, with a major bus
interchange located near Angel tube station. Red route and
residents' parking restrictions apply throughout the area.
education in the area, see the London Borough
of Islington article.
English Heritage Images of
England accessed: 10 March 2007
The Egyptianate former Carlton cinema
on Essex Road is Grade II listed, and has now closed.
lists three Grade II*
Islington (and many more in surrounding districts):
Grade II (selected):
The area is perhaps most notable for its houses, shops and pubs.
whole terraces are listed including much of Liverpool Road (one side of which is in Barnsbury) and Islington
Street. Other multiply listed streets include
Passage, Compton Terrace, Colebrooke Row, Cross Street,
Duncan Terrace, Essex
Road, Gibson Square and Milner Square).
Other Grade II listed structures include:
- The Almeida Theatre.
- The Angel Baptist Church, Cross Street.
- The Angel public house (the original one, now a Co-op bank -
not the newer Wetherspoon's), Islington High Street.
Design Centre (part of which is the former Royal Agricultural
Hall), Upper Street.
- The Camden Head public house, Camden Passage.
Anchor public house, Upper Street.
- Ironmonger Row Baths.
- Islington Town Hall.
- M Manze's Pie and Eel Shop, Chapel Market.
- Mecca Bingo Hall (now closed), Essex Road (once the Carlton
Cinema). This is due to become a church in the near future.
- The Old Queen's Head public house, Essex Road.
- St John's Church, Duncan Terrace.
- St Mary's Church, Upper Street (rebuilt after World War 2 -
only the spire remains from the original).
- South Library, Essex Road.
- The York public house.
- A Vision of Britain - Islington accessed 26
- The Story of the New River (Thames
Water) accessed 12 December 2007
- Happold, Tom and Maguire, Kevin. "Revealed: Brown and Blair's pact" -
6 June 2003. Accessed 25 December 2005.