Islington (/ˈɪzlɪŋtən/) is a district in 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
Highbury Fields, encompassing the area around the busy High
Street, Upper Street,
Essex Road (former "Lower Street"), and
Southgate Road to the east.
1 Modern definition
2.3 Water sources
2.4 Market gardens and entertainments
3 Upper Street
Islington High Street
5 In literature
6.1 Nearby places
6.2 Nearby stations
8 Government and infrastructure
9 Listed buildings
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Islington grew as a sprawling
Middlesex 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
City Road and
Southgate Road to the south-east. Its
northernmost point is in the area of Canonbury. The main north-south
Upper Street splits at
Highbury Corner to Holloway Road
to the west and St. Paul's Road to the east.
The Angel business improvement district (BID), an area centered around
the Angel tube station, exists within southern
Islington district and
northern portions of two other districts in the London Borough of
Finsbury and Pentonville.
A map showing the wards of
Islington Metropolitan Borough as they
appeared in 1916.
Islington was originally 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. In medieval times,
Islington was just one of
many small manors thereabouts, along with Bernersbury, Neweton Berewe
or Hey-bury and Canonesbury (Barnsbury,
names first recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries).
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
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.
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
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 harboured many fugitives and sheltered
Royal Agricultural Hall
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
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
Mount Pleasant sorting office during
World War II and never re-opened. The main hall has now been
incorporated into the Business Design Centre.
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
Finsbury. The river was opened on 29 September 1613 by Sir Hugh
Myddelton, the constructor of the project. His statue still stands
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.
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
The canal was constructed in 1820 to carry cargo from
the canal system. There is no tow-path in the tunnel so bargees had to
walk their barges through, braced against the roof. 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. 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
By the 19th century many music halls and theatres were established
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 1,800-seat theatre with 10 bars. The 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
An 1805 map of Islington
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.
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". The
area fell into a long decline; and by the mid-20th century, it was
largely run-down and a byword for urban poverty.
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
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, "
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
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
Islington remains a district with diverse inhabitants,
with its private houses and apartments not far from social housing in
immediately neighbouring wards such as
Clerkenwell to the
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.
Upper Street is the main shopping street of central Islington, and
carries the A1 road.
See also: Upper Street
Islington High Street
High Street is the former
High Street of the original
village of 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
Upper Street and
Essex Road (former Lower Street) –
though some maps may simply show
High Street as the southern portion
of Upper Street. The earliest reference to
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. Then as now,
Islington was and is
unusual in that the village church, St Mary's, does not stand on the
high street but is some way off on Upper Street.
High Street came under the control of the newly
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.
The Peacock Inn at 11
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
Angel tube station
Angel tube station on
High Street has the longest escalator
London Underground system, at 318 steps. In 2006 a
Norwegian man made headlines after skiing down the escalator at the
Islington features extensively in modern English literature and
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, the Order of the Phoenix is
headquartered at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, a fictitious street in
Islington. The house belonged to
Sirius Black and Harry, Ron, and
Hermione used it as a hideout in
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Douglas Adams lived in Arlington Avenue,. The phone number of his
house was 226 7709. In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when
Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect are rescued in ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the
probability of that happening was 2 to the power of 267,709 to one
against. Douglas also used
Islington as a setting in his novels, and
named a character in his famous Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy
(1978) series after a well known local estate agent – Hotblack
Islington was also the place in which Arthur Dent (
Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy.) meets Trillian during a party in a
In the Dirk Gently series, Dirk's Holistic Detective Agency, Richard
MacDuff's flat, and Susan Way's flat are all in Islingdon (thoug
Dirk's office is on a made up street).
The Wilfers of Holloway feature in Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend
Emma Evans, protagonist of Margaret Drabble's novel The Garrick Year
(1964), lives, after she has married her husband David, in "an
ordinary nineteenth-century terrace house in Islington, and on either
side of the front door stood a small stone lion . . . the back garden
was up to the standard of the lions".
In Neil Gaiman's best selling novel
Islington is a fallen
angel that lives under London, named after the Angel tube station.
Simon Gray's play
Otherwise Engaged (1975) is set in Islington.
Martha Grimes' fictional detective, Richard Jury, lives in a flat in
The Diary of a Nobody
The Diary of a Nobody (first serialized in Punch magazine in 1888–89
and first printed in book form, in 1892), an English comic novel
written by George Grossmith and his brother Weedon Grossmith. The main
character lives off the Holloway Road in Brickfield Terrace.
Zoë Heller's novel
Notes on a Scandal (2003) is set in Islington.
Islington features throughout Charlie Higson's post-apocalyptic, young
adult horror series, The Enemy, set in and around London. For example,
in The Dead (2010),
Islington is the destination of the group
traveling on Greg's bus. Greg tells everyone but his son, Liam: "Get
some sleep. We'll push on in the morning. I'll take you all as far as
Islington. After that you're on your own."
Nick Hornby's novel, About a Boy (1998) and the 2002 film version are
set in Islington.
Nick Hornby's novel SLAM is set in Islington.
Joan Smith's female detective, Loretta Lawson, lives in
Islington is referred to in the
M. R. James short ghost story "Two
Doctors" published in
A Thin Ghost and Others
A Thin Ghost and Others in 1919.
Arthur Sullivan and B. C. Stephenson's comic opera,
The Zoo (1875),
two of the main characters are the Duke of
Islington and his beloved,
whom he asks to become the Duchess of Islington.
Abraham Cowley's poem "Of Solitude" (1668) mentions this area in the
conclusion of the poem (but not the essay of the same name, which is
more common).
The area is well served by bus routes, with a major bus interchange
located near Angel tube station. Red route and residents' parking
restrictions apply throughout the area.
De Beauvoir Town
Angel tube station
Essex Road railway station
King's Cross railway station
King's Cross St Pancras tube station
St Pancras International
For education in the area, see the
London Borough of Islington
London Borough of Islington and
City of London
City of London articles.
Government and infrastructure
The Civil Aviation Authority has its head office in the CAA House in
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)
The Egyptianate former Carlton cinema on
Essex Road is Grade II
listed, and has now closed. (November 2005)
English Heritage list three Grade II* listed buildings within
Islington (and many more in surrounding districts):
The Union Chapel
3 Terrett's Place (an 18th-century house on Upper Street)
St Paul's Church, St Paul's Road (designed by Sir Charles Barry, now
the St Paul's Steiner Project)
Grade II (selected):
The area is perhaps most notable for its Georgian townhouses, shops
and pubs. Many whole terraces are listed including much of Liverpool
Road (one side of which is in Barnsbury) and
Street/Upper Street. Other multiply listed streets include Arlington
Square (one of the UK’s top 10 garden squares) Camden 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
Islington High Street.
Business Design Centre
Business Design Centre (part of which is the former Royal
Agricultural Hall), Upper Street.
The Camden Head public house, Camden Passage.
The Hope and 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.
London Art House
List of people from Islington
Islington Local History Centre
Little Angel Theatre
Business Design Centre
The Union Chapel
St James' Church, Islington
^ 2011 Census Nomis Web, UK Government Official Statistics Provider
^ a b c "Islington: Growth", A History of the County of Middlesex:
Stoke Newington parishes (1985), pp. 9–19.
Retrieved 13 March 2007
^ Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives;
entry number 6; the place where the second defendant lived: Iseldon;
^ 'Islington: Communications', A History of the County of Middlesex:
Stoke Newington parishes (1985), pp. 3–8.
Retrieved 9 March 2007
^ John Richardson,
Islington Past, Revised Edition, Historical
Publications Limited, 2000;pp 59–60.
^ A Vision of Britain – Islington. Retrieved 26 April 2007
^ a b c d 'Islington: Social and cultural activities', A History of
the County of Middlesex: Volume 8:
Islington and Stoke Newington
parishes (1985), pp. 45–51. Retrieved 8 March 2007
^ The Story of the New River (Thames Water) Archived 11 February 2008
at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 12 December 2007
^ Alan Faulkner "The Regent's Canal: London's Hidden Waterway" (2005)
^ Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett.
^ David Clark, "Accusations of anti-Semitic chic are poisonous
intellectual thuggery"; The Guardian, 6 March 2006, Retrieved 9 March
^ Happold, Tom and Maguire, Kevin. "Revealed: Brown and Blair's pact",
The Guardian, 6 June 2003. Retrieved 25 December 2005.
^ Croot, Patricia (1985). "
Islington Growth". A History of the County
of Middlesex. British History Online. 8: 9–19. Retrieved
^ Croot, Patricia (1985). "
Islington Communications". A History of the
County of Middlesex. British History Online. 8: 3–8. Retrieved
^ "Peacock Inn, Islington". londonremembers.com.
^ "Places of Note". London Borough of Islington. Archived from the
original on 20 April 2010. Retrieved 2007-05-11.
London Underground Statistics". Tube Prune. 21 April 2003.
^ "Tube Ski Stunt Blasted by Police". BBC. 28 March 2007. Retrieved
^ Higson, Charlie (2010). The Dead. p. 6 of 6, Chapter 25.
^ "In the spotlight: the London Borough of Islington". Gay Star News.
2015-07-07. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
^ "London Head Office Archived 19 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine.."
Civil Aviation Authority. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
^ Images of
England Archived 13 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine..
Retrieved 10 March 2007
^ "Nation's 10 Popular Parks".
Islington Gazette (9 July 2008). "Bingo hall gets all-clear to
become church". Retrieved 2008-07-17.
Daniel Lysons (1792), "Islington", Environs of London, 3: County of
Middlesex, London: T. Cadell
John Timbs (1867), "Islington", Curiosities of London (2nd ed.),
London: J.C. Hotten, OCLC 12878129
A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8 (Note that even this
largely refers to the old parish, considerably larger than the modern
Islington travel guide from Wikivoyage
Media related to
Islington district at Wikimedia Commons
Islington Archaeology & History Society
Islington Literary & Historical Strolls
St Mary's Church
London Landscape TV episode (5 mins) about Islington
London Borough of Islington
Business Design Centre
House of Detention museum
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Islington Local History Centre
The King's Head Theatre
London Canal Museum
Museum of the Order of St John
Sadler's Wells Theatre
St. Luke's LSO
Nag's Head Market
Whitecross Street Market
Parks and open spaces
King Square Gardens
Spa Fields Gardens
Islington South and Finsbury
Tube and rail stations
Highbury and Islington
Grade I and II* listed buildings
Areas of London
Central activities zone
City of London
City of London wards
Holloway Nags Head
Kensington High Street
King's Road East
Elephant and Castle
Isle of Dogs
Lists of areas
Barking and Dagenham
Hammersmith and Fulham
Kensington and Chelsea
Kingston upon Thames
Richmond upon Thames
Canley (borough) (The Bill: TV soap)
Charnham (suburb) (Family Affairs: TV soap)
Gasforth (town) (The Thin Blue Line: TV series)
London Below (magical realm) (Neverwhere: TV series, novel)
Walford (borough) (EastEnders: TV soap)
The London Plan 2011, Annex Two: London's Town Centre Network –
Greater London Authority