Islington: Growth, Canonbury

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.

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A P Baggs. Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot, 'Islington: Growth, Canonbury', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985), pp. 19-20. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

A P Baggs. Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot. "Islington: Growth, Canonbury", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985) 19-20. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Bolton, Diane K. Croot, Patricia E C. "Islington: Growth, Canonbury", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985). 19-20. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,


covered the area from behind Cross Street north to St. Paul's Road. Until the 18th century the only buildings were at Canonbury House, which existed in 1373. (fn. 90) By 1730 Canonbury tavern had been built (fn. 91) to the north-east of the house, where its tea-gardens shared in Islington's popularity as a resort.

In 1763 2 a. given to Hornsey parish for the Draper charity (fn. 92) were leased for 99 years and assigned to Thomas Bird, who by 1768 had built 10 houses fronting Upper Street, known later as Hornsey Row, and 8 on the south side of Canonbury Lane. (fn. 93) From c. 1770 John Dawes replaced the south range of Canonbury House with new houses and the west range with a villa; the east range was divided into three dwellings. More houses were built on the south side in the late 18th century. (fn. 94) In Upper Street just south of Hornsey Row another small group of houses called Tyndale Place was built c. 1792. (fn. 95)

In 1803 Lord Northampton made a building agreement with Henry Leroux of Stoke Newington for a large area fronting Upper Street, Canonbury Lane, and Hopping Lane. (fn. 96) Compton Terrace, on the east side of Upper Street, was started by 1806 when the first Union chapel, a two-storeyed building with a central pediment, and two houses had been completed and leased to Leroux, (fn. 97) but only the chapel and four houses existed in 1817. (fn. 98) An agreement was made in 1805 for Canonbury Square, (fn. 99) where Leroux let plots on the north side in 1808. (fn. 1) He went bankrupt in 1809 and was living in the square in 1810, (fn. 2) but no further work was apparently done to complete it. By 1817 the north side had been finished with the houses on the north side of Canonbury Lane. (fn. 3) In 1819 and 1822 Henry Flower and Samuel Kell agreed to complete Compton Terrace, and leases were granted on the houses in 1821 and 1827-31. (fn. 4)

New North Road, cut from Highbury Corner across Canonbury Square to Lower Road c. 1820, (fn. 5) had a small mews at the northern end by 1829. (fn. 6) In 1821 agreements were made with Richard Laycock for the houses on the south and east sides of the square, together with the ground south of it between Sebbon Street and Alwyne Villas and from New North Road to Canonbury Street south-east of the New River. Leases were granted for the south side of the square in 1821, and for houses in the other streets between 1821 and 1826, but none of the streets was apparently completed in 1829, and no houses stood west of New North Road or in Sebbon Street. Large three-and four-storeyed terraces were built in the square and along New North Road, where Albion and Union terraces stood in 1829. Houses in the other streets were smaller and many were in a cottage style. Canonbury Terrace, on the west side of the street later called Alwyne Villas, had a datestone of 1824, but only a few houses were recorded in 1829. Willow Terrace (later Canonbury Grove) and Northampton and Canonbury streets were also incomplete, but land between them fronting Lower Road had been built up. (fn. 7)

In 1837 Charles Havor Hill agreed to build on Canonbury Park North and South and in Grange Road, (fn. 8) but only a very few pairs stood at the south-west end of Canonbury Park South by 1841. West of New North Road, however, Halton Street had been extended northward by 1841 to join the main road, and terraces built on either side at the north end and on the east side farther south. Canonbury Grove and the adjoining streets had been completed by 1841, and north of the square the few houses of Compton Place had been built. A small terrace was built in Lower Road opposite John Perkin's market, far from other houses in Canonbury. (fn. 9)

During the 1840s Canonbury Park North and South were laid out with semi-detached villas, whose gardens on the south side stretched to the New River, and by 1849 a few had also been completed in Grange Road; most of the leases were granted by 1850. Canonbury tavern was demolished in 1846 and the site with adjoining land was built over with St. Mary's Grove by 1849 and Compton Road, started soon afterwards; leases were granted between 1847 and 1853. Several small local builders were involved, including E. Conquest, William Aspland, King & Co., William Timewell, P. Donnelly, J. Rashbrook, and George Frasi. (fn. 10)

In 1847 James Wagstaff made a building agreement for the land between Alwyne Villas and the gardens of Canonbury Park South, which included the 16th-century garden and summer-houses of Canonbury House. There he built the villas on the east side of Alwyne Villas, in Alwyne Road and Place, and Willow Bridge Road. The earliest houses were nos. 2 and 4 Alwyne Villas, described as 'cottage villas', and nos. 1-4 Alwyne Road, all leased to him in 1848. Nos. 6-16 Alwyne Villas followed in 1849 and leases of the remaining houses gradually up to 1860. (fn. 11)

By the early 1850s more villas had been built, on the south side of St.Paul's Road between Grange Road and Canonbury Park, and on the remaining fields south-east of the New River. (fn. 12) Behind Douglas Road, with its villas facing the river, Marquess, Clephane, Ashby, and Quadrant roads had been partially built up by the early 1850s and completed before 1865, with Marquess Grove as infilling behind the church. Villas were also built on the north-east side of Canonbury Street, with St. Matthew's church at the southern end. Building was also carried out fronting St. Paul's Road as far as the church, and along Lower Road (later Essex Road): Canonbury Villas between Canonbury Street and Ashby Road, Spencer Terrace between Ashby and Clephane roads, and more villas and terraces up to the church. In 1857 C. H. Hill agreed to build in Alwyne Square, filling the land between Canonbury Park North and St. Paul's Road, where the houses by 1865 were known as Canonbury Park Square. (fn. 13)

The remaining land of the Canonbury demesne, west of Halton Street, was also built over. Sebbon and Spencer streets adjoined Halton Street by the 1850s and Sable Street, just south of Canonbury Square, had been built up by 1865. (fn. 14)

Changes were slight until after the Second World War, the only extensive rebuilding being between Upper Street and Halton Road. (fn. 15) Most of the residential areas of Canonbury kept a high social status and in 1929 were in the lowest category of overcrowding with less than one person to a room. The block between New North Road and Compton Road north of Canonbury Square was in the middle category of 1.25 to 1.50 persons to a room, and both the terraced block between New North Road and Canonbury Street, near Essex Road, and the area between New North Road and Upper Street, south of Canonbury Square, had 1 to 1.25 persons. (fn. 16) The L.C.C. had completed 80 flats in Northampton Street near Essex Road, in the most overcrowded area, by 1937 and increased them to 116 flats by 1967. (fn. 17)

Canonbury Square and Place had several residents prominent in literary and artistic spheres between and after the World Wars, including Evelyn Waugh in 1928, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and Eric Blair (George Orwell) 1944-5. (fn. 18) The new owners of part of the estate from 1952, Oriel Property Trust, stopped reletting to local tenants and began to rehabilitate Canonbury Square and its neighbourhood hoping to attract middle-class tenants. By 1961 Canonbury, the first area in Islington to be gentrified, had a higher concentration of professional and managerial residents than the rest of the borough. (fn. 19)

The council built several estates in Canonbury after the Second World War. (fn. 20) Near St. Paul's Road, Dixon Clark Court, with 60 dwellings in 1967, was built in Compton Road, and Elizabeth Kenny House, with 36 dwellings, near Grange Road. Three new estates joined the L.C.C.'s estate in a badly overcrowded area: Eric Fletcher Court, with 75 dwellings in 1967, in Canonbury Street, Sickert Court, with 238 dwellings nearby on the site of Quadrant Road, and Ashby House, with 35 dwellings, a little farther along Essex Road. The area between those flats and Essex Road was planted with grass and trees. A little farther north-east the Douglas estate between Clephane and Douglas roads had 239 dwellings in 1959. Soon afterwards the council undertook one of its largest and most successful schemes, the Marquess estate, on 28 a. that included Douglas, Marquess, and Clephane roads, fronting St. Paul's Road and Essex Road as far south as Ashby Grove. Designed by Darbourne & Darke, it provided 1,200 flats and maisonettes of dark red brick, in a landscaped setting which included part of the New River Walk. The area was closed to through traffic, maisonettes at ground level had their own gardens, and upper levels were reached by a ramp. Completed in 1976, the estate has been praised as an example of municipal housing and planning. (fn. 21)


  • 90. Below, manors.
  • 91. G.L.R.O., MR/LV 5/21.
  • 92. V.C.H. Mdx. vi. 200.
  • 93. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 48.
  • 94. Below, manors.
  • 95. Nelson, Islington (1829), 255.
  • 96. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6.
  • 97. P.R.O., C 54/15980, no. 20.
  • 98. Nelson, Islington (1829), 254; Baker's plan (1817).
  • 99. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6.
  • 1. Islington libr., deed 255.
  • 2. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6.
  • 3. Baker's plan (1817).
  • 4. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6.
  • 5. Above, communications.
  • 6. Cruchley's New Plan (1829).
  • 7. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6; Cruchley's New Plan (1829).
  • 8. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6.
  • 9. Lewis, Islington, plan (1841).
  • 10. P.R.O., IR 30/21/33; G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6.
  • 11. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6, 13.
  • 12. Para. based on Plan of Islington [c. 1853]; Stanford, Libr. Map of Lond. (1862 edn. with additions to 1865).
  • 13. G.L.C., Hist. Bldgs. Div., ISL 6.
  • 14. Plan [c. 1853]; Stanford, Map (1865).
  • 15. Above, Islington town, for rebldg. in 20th cent. of area SW. of New North Rd.
  • 16. New Lond. Life and Labour, iv, maps.
  • 17. L.C.C. Lond. Housing (1937); Islington L.B. Homes for Islington (1967), map.
  • 18. P. Zwart, Islington: Hist. and Guide (1973), 97; C. Harris, Islington (1974), 192-3.
  • 19. J. Pitt, Gentrification in Islington [1977], 7-8.
  • 20. Para. based on Homes for Islington (1967), map; Islington L.B. 'Estate Properties in Permanent Management' (TS. list 1980 in Islington libr.).
  • 21. C. McKean and T. Jestico, Guide to Modern Bldgs. in Lond. 1965-75, 44; Islington L.B. Canonbury Marquess Rd. Housing Dev. Area (n.d.), in Islington libr.