An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 2, West London. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1925.
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(O.S. 6 in. London, Sheet K.)
The borough of Islington is conterminous with the civil parish of Islington. The principal monument is Canonbury House.
(1). Parish Church of St. Mary, Islington, on the E. side of Upper Street, was entirely rebuilt in 1751–54. It contains from the old church the following:—
Fittings—Brasses: In chancel—(1) of [Robert Fowler, and Alice, his wife, 1540], plate with figures of man in armour and woman in pedimental head-dress, etc., palimpsest on back, part of a large 15th-century French brass with rich canopy-work and censing-angel; above, shield-of-arms a cheveron between three herons with three crosses paty on the cheveron, for Fowler, impaling a defaced coat, palimpsest on back, another shield lozengy on a fesse three birds; 15th-century single cinquefoiled and crocketed canopy re-used; indents of inscription-plate and four other shields; (2) of Henry Savill and Margaret (Fowler), his wife, 1546, figures of man in armour and woman in French cap, etc., two shields (a) on a bend three owls a molet for difference for Savill quartering a quartered coat with a crescent for difference 1 and 4 parted fessewise a horse-barnacle for Wyatt, 2 a fesse charged with three lions and 3 a bend charged with two cinqfoils within a border engrailed charged with roundels, all impaling Fowler; (b) as the first half of (a); all palimpsest, on back of male figure large part of priest in cope, c. 1370, on back of female figure, large part of an ecclesiastic in cassock, surplice and mantle fastened with a cord which terminates in an elaborate corded device, c. 1520, on back of inscription, inscription to Clement Byrd, John Skyper, 1519, and Agnes, their wife; on back of shield (a) part of a lady in mantle and with dog at feet, c. 1520; at back of shield (b) fragment of English inscription, same date; indents of figure of child and two roundels. Glass: Set in back of quire-stalls on S. side of chancel—lozenge made up of a shield—gules a cheveron or between three combs argent for Robert Botyll, Prior of St. John of Jerusalem, 15th-century, a 17th-century crest and motto and other fragments, formerly in the S. aisle of the old church. Monuments and Floorslabs. Monuments: In S. chapel—on E. wall, (1) to Alice (Wilkes), wife successively of Henry Robinson, William Elkin and Thomas Owen, 1613, two inscriptions on slate and two shields-of-arms, incorporated in a monument erected in 1754 by the Brewers' Company. In N. gallery—(2) to William Cave, S.T.P., 1713, Vicar of the parish and Canon of Windsor, and Ann (Stonehouse), his wife, 1691, white marble oval tablet with cherubheads, scrolls and cartouche-of-arms. In S. gallery —(3) to Mary, wife of David Woodrofe, 1705, white marble tablet with cherub-heads, drapery and cartouche-of-arms. Floor-slabs: In nave—(1) to Elizabeth, wife of Abraham Spooner, 1690; (2) to Richard Meredith, 1705, and George, his son, 1714; (3) to Robert Gery, 1707, vicar of the parish, with achievement-of-arms. Plate: includes large silver flagon of 1637, a stand-paten of 1636 with the achievement of Fowler, and a similar paten with the arms of Weld and the date-mark defaced.
(2). Canonbury House, tower, houses, walls and garden-houses, stands on the S. side of Canonbury Place, 700 yards N.N.E. of St. Mary's Church. The walls are generally of brick and timber-framing and the roofs are covered with tiles, slates and lead. The manor of Canonbury formerly belonged to the Priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield, and Prior William Bolton (1509–32) built or rebuilt a house here. Of this structure some re-used details survive, but there would not appear to be now any structural remains in situ. The property was granted to Thomas, Lord Wentworth, in 1556, and he evidently did some building here, as a stone dated 1562 still survives; it is possible that the N.E. portion of the E. range (7) is of this date. The next owner, Sir John Spencer (1570–1609), however, practically rebuilt the house, no doubt on a very much larger scale. The new building probably formed three sides of a large courtyard open towards the N. and with a walled garden with summer-houses on the S. Spencer's work is of various dates, the tower with the adjoining S. wing being perhaps the earliest portion. The Long Gallery with the wing projecting to the E. is dated, by the ceilings, 1599. In the first half of the 17th century short wings were added to the E. and W. of the tower and rather later the staircase-block in the wing (9) was added or rebuilt. The main S. range, possibly containing the hall, no longer exists, but its eastern extension was refronted early in the 18th century. The remainder of the range was practically rebuilt in 1780 as a row of houses. The buildings are now in various occupations and are much obscured by modern additions and alterations.
The staircase-tower, the fittings of the rooms in the wing adjoining on the S., and the ceilings in the main E. wing are all noteworthy.
The Tower (Plate 101) (1) is of four storeys and of red brick with buttresses on the N. face. It was built c. 1580, or perhaps a little earlier, and contains only a staircase. The top storey appears to be a later 16th-century heightening. The windows have solid frames which have all been renewed except the lowest on the N. face, which has an original moulded frame. The staircase is carried round a square timber-framed enclosure forming a series of cupboards; these cupboards have moulded frames and square heads and are fitted with original doors with round ventilation holes; a moulded handrail is carried round the enclosure and returned down on either side of the cupboard-doors. The doorways communicating between the staircase and the adjoining S. wing have moulded frames uniform with those of the cupboards, indicating that the two buildings are contemporary. There are two old doorways communicating with the W. wing, but the frames are differently moulded, and one is set in a splayed opening, probably a former window. One doorway into the E. wing has an old chamfered frame, but this is not in situ and the roof of this wing blocks a former window-opening of the tower. Both these wings, therefore, are of later date. The top part of the staircase has open balustrading instead of the framed enclosure; the symmetrically-turned balusters are of late 16th-century date, but some of them have been renewed. On the wall of the top landing are two 17th-century painted inscriptions, one giving a list of the sovereigns of England from William I to Charles I, the other has the maxim "Mors tua, mors Christi, fraus mundi, gloria coeli. Et dolor inferni sint meditanda tibi."
The wing E. of the tower (2) is of three storeys, with brick walls and a tiled roof. It was added probably early in the 17th century and has a door of that date in the N. wall; the door has a moulded and nail-studded frame, styles and rails dividing it into twenty panels. In the S. wall is an original window with solid moulded frame and square head. The wing W. of the tower (3) is of three storeys and of early 17th-century date. The ground-storey is of brick and the upper storeys are timber-framed and plastered.
The wing S. of the tower (4) and contemporary with it is of three storeys with attics and basement; the upper storeys are of plastered timber-framing. On the first floor the Spencer Oak Room (Plate 102) is lined with elaborate mitred panelling divided into bays by fluted Ionic pilasters on panelled pedestals and finished with a frieze of carved foliage and a cornice; above the doorway is a fluted frieze. The fireplace in the N. wall has moulded jambs, head and frieze, all of stone and carved with conventional foliage; it is flanked by oak pilasters with guilloche ornament, supporting an enriched entablature with similar guilloche on the frieze; the overmantel is of two bays divided and flanked by rusticated terminal pilasters supporting an enriched entablature; the bays have each mitred panelling in the lower part, a band of carving above and a shell-ornament at the top. The Compton Oak Room (Plate 102) on the second floor is lined with mitred panelling divided into bays by Corinthian columns with arabesque ornament and finished with an enriched entablature; the frieze is variously carved with conventional foliage, swags of fruit, running foliage and a length on the S. wall has four shields of the arms of Spencer and two crests of the same family. The fireplace is flanked by pilasters and has on the overmantel two richly carved panels each with a figure of a woman in high relief with the following inscriptions on the pedestals—(a) "Fides via deus meta," and (b) "Spes certa supra." Above the doorway is some strapwork cresting. The panelling on the E. side of the room has been moved forward to form a narrow apartment between it and the outer wall; embedded in the panelling on this side are two lead bullets. The room has original moulded ceiling-beams. One room on the attic-floor has some simple late 16th-century panelling. This range evidently continued further to the S. as the foundations of the W. wall have been traced for some distance and the lower part of the E. wall still forms the boundary of a garden; it retains the base of an original buttress.
The main E. Wing of the house is of two storeys with attics; the walls are partly of brick and partly of timber-framing, but all are rendered in modern cement. The southern part (5), with the projecting wing (6) on the E., is of 1599, but the only surviving features of this date are the plaster ceilings. The largest of these, with a smaller one to the N., is on the first floor of the main block; both have enriched bands forming a geometrical design (Plate 103) with square panels down the middle; these and the smaller panels enclose a series of medallion busts with names and some of them repeated several times; they include— Tarquinius Priscus, Aegeria, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Titus Vespasianus, Jovinianus, Augustus, Hersilia Sabina, and Crispin a Augusta; there are also the Tudor royal arms and the date 1599 twice repeated. Some timbers in the attics at the S. end of this range have remains of a painted decoration of lines and circles. The projecting wing on the E. (6) has ceilings to the ground and first-floor rooms of similar character to those in the main wing; that on the ground-floor has moulded pendants at the intersections; the upper one has the date 1599 and a series of medallions of Alexander, Tarquin and Lucrece, etc.; there are also the Tudor royal arms, a ship within a wreath with a sea-horse pendant and the motto "Deo re[i]pub. amicis." The northern part of the main E. wing (7) is perhaps of rather earlier date and has a simple collar-beam roof with struts and wind-braces. It was apparently widened on the W. side (8) late in the 17th century, but possibly incorporated two earlier wings W. of (7). The middle part of this extension contains a contemporary staircase from the first floor, having heavy turned balusters, moulded rails and strings, square newels with turned pendants and a small well. The stair from the ground-floor to the first floor is modern. Below the lowest flight is a square-headed doorway, having a massive chamfered frame. Its sill was level with the ground-level of the courtyard.
The surviving part of the main S. Range (9) has an early 18th-century S. front of red brick; set in it is a much weathered oblong stone with the date 1562. The N. wall of this range is old only where it encloses the staircase; here it is of red brick and contains two windows of the first half of the 17th century with square heads and solid moulded frames; in the same wall is a reset early 16th-century doorway with moulded jambs and lintel of stone and four-centred arch apparently of wood; the spandrels are carved with foliage and a bolt in a tun, the rebus of Prior Bolton; the whole is thickly painted; the doorway is set in a 17th-century opening with a round head and plain imposts, the latter apparently of wood. Inside this range the main room on the first floor is lined with early 18th-century panelling with a dado and a deep wooden cornice; in the E. wall is a mid 17th-century overmantel supported on diminishing pilasters, flanking the fireplace; the overmantel has a large panel in the middle, with an oval frame now missing, and flanked by coupled Doric columns supporting a frieze with vertical enriched straps. The wall to the N. of the fireplace has contemporary panelling, seven panels in the height; there is similar panelling to the S. of the fireplace, but this appears to be an imitation. The room above has a fireplace with a moulded surround of early 18th-century date. The staircase on the N. side of this range has been much altered, but has some late 17th-century turned balusters with moulded rails and strings; at the top are some early 17th-century balusters of pilaster form.
There is a garden wall of old brickwork, on the N. side of the site, which may have formed part of the wall closing the N. side of the courtyard. Portions also remain of the late 16th-century wall bounding the rectangular garden to the S. of the house; the garden is now built over, but the two octagonal garden-houses at its southern angles still remain; they are of brick and of late 16th-century date. The S.E. garden-house has been rendered in cement, but that at the S.W. angle still has its brickwork exposed, though it has been considerably raised in height. Reset in the W. face is a cusped stone panel with the Bolton rebus.
Condition—Of tower, good; of E. wing, poor.
(3). Watch-house, on the S. bank of the New River, 200 yards S. of (2), is a small round building of brick with a pyramidal tiled roof. It is perhaps of late 17th-century date.
(See also Stoke Newington (5) p. 92b).