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The Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury was a Metropolitan borough within the County of London from 1900 to 1965, when it was amalgamated with the Metropolitan Borough of Islingtonmarker to form the London Borough of Islingtonmarker.


It was created by the London Government Act 1899 from the parishes of Charterhouse, Clerkenwellmarker, Glasshouse Yard, St Lukemarker and St Sepulchremarker. The borough replaced local government structures created by the Metropolis Management Act 1855: Clerkenwell and St Luke's had previously been administered by separate parish vestries; the extra-parochial Liberty of Glasshouse Yard and St Sepulchre had formed part of the Holborn District Board of Works; Charterhouse, also extra-parochial, had no vestry.

The borough covered the areas of Finsburymarker, Moorfields, Clerkenwellmarker, and St Luke'smarker. It bordered Islingtonmarker, Shoreditchmarker, the City of Londonmarker, Holbornmarker and St Pancrasmarker.

Town hall

Finsbury Town Hall
The metropolitan borough was administered from the town hall on Rosebery Avenue. The building was built as the headquarters of Clerkenwell Vestry, and had been officially opened on 14 June 1895 by Lord Rosebery, the Prime Minister. The architect was C Evans Vaughan, and it was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as a "nice irregular brick building with Tudor windows and lantern".

Area and population

Although metropolitan boroughs only dated from 1900, the London County Council compiled statistics in 1901 that show the population growth in London over the preceding century.

The area of the borough in 1901 was . The populations recorded in National Censuses were:

Constituent parishes 1801-1899
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
Population 55,515 68,811 86,223 100,521 112,938 125,360 129,031 124,766 119,382 111,225
Metropolitan Borough 1900-1961
Year 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961
Population 101,463 87,923 75,995 69,888 35,370 32,887
By comparison, after amalgamation with Islingtonmarker, to form the modern London Borough of Islingtonmarker, the combined area became 14.86 km² - approximately ; in 2005, this had a population of 182,600, or a population density of 12,288/km². In 1901 Finsbury, the population density was 42,276/km².

Coat of arms

When the borough was incorporated in 1900, the corporation adopted a complicated seal bearing six shields for each of the constituent parishes and extra-parochial places from which it was formed.

At the top were shields depicting the old Cripplegatemarker of the City of Londonmarker and the arms of Charterhousemarker.

At the centre of the seal, on the left, is the shield of Clerkenwellmarker Vestry. The parish church was dedicated to Ss. James and John, and the shield showed St. James on the left and the cross of St. John on the right.

To the right of this was the emblem of St Luke'smarker parish: as patron saint of artists, Luke was shown seated at an easel.

At the left base of the seal was a depiction of the gate of St. Botolph, representing the Liberty of Glasshouse Yard.

The design was completed by the shield of the parish vestry of St. Sepulchre. This parish was originally partly in the City of Londonmarker, and partly in the county of Middlesexmarker, and the shield combined the arms used bt the city and county.

In 1931 the borough received a grant of arms from the College of Armsmarker. This also included references to Finsbury's constituent parts, but in a more unified design.The shield had the cross of St John, on which were placed a heraldic "fountain" for the New Rivermarker and roundels and rings from the arms of Charterhouse Schoolmarker. At the top of the shield was a representation of the city wall and its gates.

The crest on top of the helm was for St sepulchre's parish, the shield held by the hand again combining elements of the arms of the City of Londonmarker and Middlesexmarker.

The supporters were a winged bull, emblem of St. Luke; and an heraldic dolphin, symbol of St. James. The dolphin supporter was "charged" with a well in reference to Clerkenwellmarker.

The Latin motto chosen by the borough was Altiora Petimus or We seek higher things.


The first borough council was elected on November 1, 1900, when Conservative-supported Unionist and Moderate candidates took control. From 1903 to 1906 the Progressive Party held power. From 1906 to 1925 the Municipal Reform Party (allied to the Conservatives) controlled the borough. In 1925 a Ratepayer's Association stood in place of the Municipal Reformers, replacing them as majority party. From 1928 to 1931, the Labour Party held control, with the Ratepayers holding power from 1931 to 1934. In 1934 Labour regained power, which it held until the abolition of the borough in 1965.

The number of councillors returned at each election to the council was as follows:

Local elections
Year 1900 1903 1906 1909 1912 1919 1922 1925 1928 1931 1934 1937 1945
Unionists 14
Moderates 4
Progressives 10 32 14 8 5 17
Liberals 5
Independent 1 1
Pro-conservatives 22
Municipal Reform 34 46 48 32 47 6
Ratepayers Assoc 40 27 47 9 8
Labour 1 5 7 14 29 9 47 48 47
Unofficial Labour 2
Communist 1
No Municipal Reform candidates were nominated after 1946, and Conservative candidates were nominated at local elections for the first time.
Year 1949 1953 1956 1959 1962
Labour 24 37 29 32
Conservative 5 2 5 2
Vacancies 5
For elections to Parliamentmarker, the borough initially formed the two constituencies of Finsbury Central and Finsbury East. In 1918 a new constituency of Finsbury was formed which was identical with the metropolitan borough. By 1950 the population of the borough had declined to such an extent that the Finsbury constituency was merged with the neighbouring constituency of Shoreditch to became Shoreditch and Finsbury.

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