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Buildings on Islington High Street
Greater London UK location map 2.svg
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Location within Greater London
Area14.86 km2 (5.74 sq mi) (whole Borough)
Population206,125 (2011 census) (whole borough) [1]
  Density 13,871/km2 (35,930/sq mi)
OS grid reference TQ315844
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district N1,EC1
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°32′38″N0°06′10″W / 51.5440°N 0.1027°W / 51.5440; -0.1027

Islington ( /ˈɪzlɪŋtən/ ) is a district in the north of Greater London, England, and part of the London Borough of Islington. It is a mainly residential district of Inner London, extending from Islington's High Street to Highbury Fields, encompassing the area around the busy High Street, Upper Street, Essex Road (former "Lower Street"), and Southgate Road to the east.



The Metropolitan Borough of Islington in 1916. The borough inherited the much older boundaries of the ancient parish of Islington. Islington Met. B Ward Map 1916.svg
The Metropolitan Borough of Islington in 1916. The borough inherited the much older boundaries of the ancient parish of Islington.


The manor (estate) of Islington was named by the Saxons Giseldone (1005), then Gislandune (1062). The name means "Gīsla's hill" from the Old English personal name Gīsla and dun ("hill", "down"). The name later mutated to Isledon, which remained in use well into the 17th century when the modern form arose. [2] [3] The manor, which was served by the ancient parish of Islington, later sub-divided, with new estates such as Bernersbury, Neweton Berewe or Hey-bury and Canonesbury (Barnsbury, Highbury and Canonbury – names first recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries) co-existing with the rump of the manor of Islington. The ancient parish of Islington continued to serve the rump manor of Islington and also the various manors that had broken away from it.


1861 Royal Agricultural Hall, view from Liverpool Road. Now the rear entrance to the Business Design Centre Agricultural Hall Islington ILN 1861.jpg
1861 Royal Agricultural Hall, view from Liverpool Road. Now the rear entrance to the Business Design Centre
1861 Cattle show at the Royal Agricultural Hall Agricultural Hall Cattle Show ILN 1861.jpg
1861 Cattle show at the Royal Agricultural Hall

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 (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. The 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. [4]

The first recorded church, St Mary's, was erected in the twelfth century and was replaced in the fifteenth century. [5] 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. [2] The local inns harboured many fugitives and sheltered recusants.

Water sources

A statue of Hugh Myddelton, creator of the New River, surmounts a drinking fountain at Islington Green. (November 2005) Hugh myddleton islington green 1.jpg
A statue of Hugh Myddelton, creator of the New River, surmounts a drinking fountain at Islington Green. (November 2005)

The hill 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.

By the 17th century these traditional sources were inadequate to supply the growing population and plans were laid to construct a waterway, the New River, to bring fresh water from the source of the River Lea, in Hertfordshire to New River Head, below Islington in Finsbury. The river was opened on 29 September 1613 by Sir Hugh Myddelton, the 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 linear park through the area. [6]

The Regent's Canal passes through Islington, for much of which in an 886-metre (2,907 ft) tunnel that runs from Colebrook Row east of the Angel, to emerge at Muriel Street near Caledonian Road. The stretch is marked above with a series of pavement plaques so walkers may find their way from one entrance to the other. 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 creative work units. This stretch has an old double-fronted pub The Narrowboat, one side accessed from the towpath.

The canal was constructed in 1820 to carry cargo from Limehouse into the canal system. There is no tow-path in the tunnel so bargees had to walk their barges through, braced against the roof. [7] 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 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. [8] 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.

By the 19th century many music halls and theatres were established around Islington Green. One such was Collins's 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 1,800-seat theatre with 10 bars. The theatre suffered damage in a fire in 1958 and has not reopened. [8] 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 Islington E Baker 1805.jpg
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 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 subscription was two guineas a year. After the library was sold off in 1872, the building was sold or leased in 1874 to the Wellington Club, which occupied it until 1886. In 1885 the hall was used for concerts, balls, and public meetings. The Salvation Army 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, after which it stood empty. In 1978 a campaign began with the goal to redevelop the building as a theatre. A public appeal was launched in 1981, and a festival of avant-garde theatre and music was held there and at other Islington venues in 1982. What has become the successful Almeida Theatre was founded. [8]

Royal Agricultural Hall

The 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 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. [9] 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. [8]


Some early development took place to accommodate the popularity of the 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, but by 1891 this had increased to 319,143. This rapid expansion was partly due to the introduction of horse-drawn omnibuses in 1830. Large well-built houses and fashionable squares drew clerks, artisans and professionals to the district. However, from the middle of the 19th century the poor were being displaced by clearances in inner London to build the new railway stations and goods yards. Many of the displaced 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". [10] The area fell into a long decline; and by the mid-20th century, it was largely run-down and a byword for urban poverty. [2]

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." [11] The Granita Pact between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair is said to have been made at a now defunct restaurant on Upper Street. [12]

The African National Congress's headquarters in exile was based on Penton Street. It was the target of a bomb attack in 1982.

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.

Islington is the most densely populated borough in the UK according to the 2011 census, with a population density of 138.7 people per hectare, compared to an average of 52.0 for London.

Great North Road

The urbanisation of Islington began with ribbon development along the Great North Road (the modern A1). which is known (south to north) as Islington High Street, Upper Street, Holloway Road and Archway Road as it passes through the district. In 1716 the Great North Road came under the control of the newly formed Islington Turnpike Trust. The Trust grew rapidly, and soon had control of most major roads in the area, building a number of major road arteries through the expanding residential areas, including Caledonian Road, Euston Road, City Road and New North Road. [13]

Islington High Street

Islington High Street runs approximately 500 metres (0.31 mi) from the intersection of Pentonville Road and City Road at the south end to Islington Green at the north end, where it branches into Upper Street and Essex Road (former Lower Street). The earliest reference to Islington High Street is its appearance on a 1590 map of the area. At this time, nine inns (including the famous Angel, which has subsequently given its name to the area around High Street), as well as housing and a public pond were shown lining the street. [14]

The Peacock Inn [15] at 11 Islington High Street dates from 1564, although the current façade dates from 1857. It featured in Tom Brown's Schooldays as the inn at which Tom stays prior to travelling to Rugby School. It closed in 1962, although the building still stands. [16]

Angel tube station on Islington High Street has the longest escalator on the London Underground system, at 318 steps. [17] In 2006 a Norwegian man made headlines after skiing down the escalator at the station. [18]

Upper Street

Islington Town Hall in Upper Street IslingtonTownHall.jpg
Islington Town Hall in Upper Street

Upper Street is Islington's main shopping street. The parish church, St Mary's, is located on Upper Street.

Business and employment

The Angel business improvement district (BID), is an area centred on the Angel tube station, and which includes parts of southern Islington and neighbouring Clerkenwell. [19]

In culture

Islington features extensively in modern English literature and culture:





There are over 60 sports and other types of physical activity on offer to the public in Islington, at more than approximately one hundred clubs, leisure centres, parks, community centres, and other venues. [24] The Islington Boxing Club, on Hazellville Road, was founded in January 1974 and was originally based in the community hall of York Way Court, close to Kings Cross Station. [25]

The borough is home to top-flight professional football club Arsenal, whose sixty-thousand capacity stadium is in Holloway.


The area is served by numerous bus routes, with a major bus interchange located near the Angel tube station. Red route and residents' parking restrictions apply throughout the area.


According to latest figures published by the Department for Education, there are 47 primary and 10 state-funded secondary schools in Islington.

Listed buildings

Grade II listed Arlington Square Arlington Square.jpg
Grade II listed Arlington Square
The Grade II* listed St Paul's Church seen from Essex Road. This was built in 1866 to a design by Sir Charles Barry, who went on to build the current Houses of Parliament. (March 2007) Islington st pauls 1.jpg
The Grade II* listed St Paul's Church seen from Essex Road. This was built in 1866 to a design by Sir Charles Barry, who went on to build the current Houses of Parliament. (March 2007)
The Egyptianate former Carlton Cinema, Essex Road is Grade II listed, and has now closed. (November 2005) Essex road carlton 1.jpg
The Egyptianate former Carlton Cinema, Essex Road is Grade II listed, and has now closed. (November 2005)

Grade II*

English Heritage [26] list three Grade II* listed buildings within Central Islington (and many more in surrounding districts):

Grade II (selected):

The area contains numerous Georgian townhouses, shops and pubs. Many whole terraces are listed including much of Liverpool Road (one side of which is in Barnsbury) and Islington High Street/Upper Street. Other multiply listed streets include Arlington Square (one of the UK's top 10 garden squares) [27] Camden Passage, Compton Terrace, Colebrooke Row, Cross Street, Duncan Terrace, Essex Road, Gibson Square and Milner Square.

Other Grade II listed structures include:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">London Borough of Islington</span> London borough in United Kingdom

The London Borough of Islington is a London borough which forms part of Inner London, England. Islington has an estimated population of 215,667. It was formed in 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, by the amalgamation of the metropolitan boroughs of Islington and Finsbury.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canonbury</span> Residential area of Islington, North London

Canonbury is a residential area in London, forming part of the London Borough of Islington. It is roughly in the area between Essex Road, Upper Street and Cross Street and either side of St Paul's Road in North London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dalston</span> Area of East London, England

Dalston is an area in London, England and is located in the London Borough of Hackney. It lies in North East London and is four miles northeast of Charing Cross. Dalston began as a hamlet on either side of Dalston Lane, and as the area urbanised the term also came to apply to surrounding areas including Kingsland and Shacklewell, all three of which being part of the Ancient Parish of Hackney.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Finsbury</span> District of Central London

Finsbury is a district of Central London, forming the southeastern part of the London Borough of Islington. It borders the City of London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Highbury</span> Human settlement in England

Highbury is an area in North London and located in the London Borough of Islington. Highbury was owned by Ranulf, brother of Ilger, and included all the areas north and east of Canonbury and Holloway Roads.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metropolitan Borough of Islington</span> Former local authority of London, England

Islington was a civil parish and metropolitan borough in London, England. It was an ancient parish within the county of Middlesex, and formed part of The Metropolis from 1855. The parish was transferred to the County of London in 1889 and became a metropolitan borough in 1900. It was amalgamated with the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury to form the London Borough of Islington in Greater London in 1965.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Holloway Road</span> North London shopping street

Holloway Road is a road in London, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) in length. It is one of the main shopping streets in North London, and carries the A1 road as it passes through Holloway, in the London Borough of Islington. The road starts in Archway, near Archway Underground station, then heads south-east, past Upper Holloway railway station, Whittington Park, past the North London campus of London Metropolitan University near Nag's Head, past Holloway Road Underground station, and the main campus of the university, and then becomes Highbury Corner, near Highbury & Islington station.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New North Road, Islington</span> Street in the London boroughs of Islington and Hackney

The New North Road is a road in northern central London, forming part of a link road from the A1 at Highbury into the City of London at Moorgate. It is 0.8 miles (1.3 km) in length and is part of the A1200. This link road consists of Canonbury Road and New North Road, before several smaller sections to the south leading into the city.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Angel, Islington</span> Historic landmark in Islington, London, England

The Angel, Islington, is a historic landmark and a series of buildings that have stood on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road in Islington, London, England. The land originally belonged to the Clerkenwell Priory and has had various properties built on it since the 16th century. An inn on the site was called the "Angel Inn" by 1614, and the crossing became generally known as "the Angel". The site was bisected by the New Road, which opened in 1756, and properties on the site have been rebuilt several times up to the 20th century. The corner site gave its name to Angel tube station, opened in 1901, and the surrounding Angel area of London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liverpool Road</span>

Liverpool Road is a street in Islington, North London. It covers a distance of 1+14 miles (2.0 km) between Islington High Street and Holloway Road, running roughly parallel to Upper Street through the area of Barnsbury. It contains several attractive terraces of Georgian houses and Victorian villas, many of which are listed buildings. There are a number of pubs, small businesses and restaurants along its route, as well as some secluded garden squares. The vast majority of the street is residential, with a bustling shopping and business area at the southern, Angel, end.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">De Beauvoir Town</span> Human settlement in England

De Beauvoir Town is a neighbourhood in the London Borough of Hackney, 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the City of London. The area was a part of Hackney, the Ancient Parish and subsequent Metropolitan Borough that was incorporated into the larger modern borough. It is sometimes described as a part of Dalston, which is in turn also a part of the former parish and borough of Hackney.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Upper Street</span>

Upper Street is the main street of the Islington district of inner north London, and carries the A1 road. It begins at the junction of the A1 and Liverpool Road, continuing on from Islington High Street which runs from the crossroads at Pentonville Road and City Road and runs roughly northwards from outside the main entrance to Angel Underground station, then past the Business Design Centre, then splits at Islington Green, then past The Screen On The Green cinema, past Islington Town Hall, ending at Highbury & Islington tube station on Highbury Corner, where the A1 carries on as Holloway Road, part of the Great North Road.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parks and open spaces in the London Borough of Islington</span>

The London Borough of Islington is short of large parks and open spaces, given its status in recent decades as a desirable place of residence. In fact, Islington has the lowest ratio of open space to built-up areas of any London borough. The largest continuous open space in the borough, at 11.75 hectares, is Highbury Fields.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">A1 in London</span> The section of A1 road in Greater London

The A1 in London is the southern part of the A1 road. It starts at Aldersgate in the City of London, passing through the capital to Borehamwood on the northern fringe of Greater London, before continuing to Edinburgh. The road travels through the City and three London boroughs: Islington, Haringey and Barnet, which include the districts of Islington, Holloway, Highgate, Hendon and Mill Hill, and travels along Upper Street and Holloway Road, crossing the North Circular Road in Hendon, a district in the London Borough of Barnet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">London Buses route 277</span> London bus route

London Buses route 277 is a Transport for London contracted bus route in London, England. Running between Cubitt Town and Dalston, it is operated by Stagecoach London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southgate Road</span> Human settlement in England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dalston Synagogue</span> Jewish synagogue in North London 1885-1970

The Dalston Synagogue was an Orthodox Jewish congregation and synagogue, located on Poet's Road, Canonbury, in the Borough of Islington, North London, England, in the United Kingdom. After formation in 1874, the congregation worshiped in the Poet's Road synagogue from 1885 until its closure in 1967. The congregation worshiped in the Ashkenazi rite.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Mary's Church, Islington</span> Church in London, England

The Church of St Mary the Virgin is the historic parish church of Islington, in the Church of England Diocese of London. The present parish is a compact area centered on Upper Street between Angel and Highbury Corner, bounded to the west by Liverpool Road, and to the east by Essex Road/Canonbury Road. The church is a Grade II listed building.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angel, London</span> Human settlement in England

The Angel is an area on the northern fringes of Central London within the London Borough of Islington. It is 2 miles (3.2 km) north-northeast of Charing Cross on the Inner Ring Road at a busy transport intersection. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in London. It is a significant commercial and retail centre, and a business improvement district. The Angel straddles the ancient boundary of the parishes of Clerkenwell and Islington that later became the metropolitan boroughs of Finsbury and Islington. It is named from the former Angel Inn which stood on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road. Since 1965 the whole area has formed part of the London Borough of Islington in Greater London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canonbury House and Canonbury Tower</span> Historical buildings in Islington, London, now partially demolished

Canonbury House is the name given to several buildings in the Canonbury area of Islington, North London which once formed the manor house of Canonbury, erected for the Canons of St Bartholomew's Priory between 1509 and 1532. The remains today consist of Canonbury Tower and several buildings from the 1790s, some of which incorporate parts of the late 16th-century manor house. Today, the Tower and the other buildings, including a 1790s building today also named "Canonbury House", are arranged around the road named Canonbury Place.


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  18. "Tube Ski Stunt Blasted by Police". BBC. 28 March 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2007.
  19. Angel BID official site
  20. Islington Local History Centre. "A Twist in the Tale: Charles Dickens and Islington" (PDF). Charles Dickens Exhibition 2012. London Borough of Islington. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 November 2021. Retrieved 3 November 2021.
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  22. "In the spotlight: the London Borough of Islington". Gay Star News. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
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Further reading