Islington: Social and cultural activities

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: Social and cultural activities', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985) pp. 45-51. British History Online [accessed 20 May 2024].

A P Baggs. Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot. "Islington: Social and cultural activities", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985) 45-51. British History Online, accessed May 20, 2024,

Baggs, A P. Bolton, Diane K. Croot, Patricia E C. "Islington: Social and cultural activities", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London, 1985). 45-51. British History Online. Web. 20 May 2024,

Social and cultural activities

Fifteen victuallers were licensed for Islington (excluding the Clerkenwell side of High Street) in 1553 and three for Holloway. (fn. 38) Many inns were copyholds and probably existed before the earliest records in the 16th century. The Red Lion, on the east side of High Street in Highbury manor, was mentioned in the 1540s and 1583, (fn. 39) and the George, on the west side in the manor of St. John's, Clerkenwell, in 1539. (fn. 40) The Fleur de Lis existed c. 1588, renamed the Cockatrice by 1618, on the east side of High Street. (fn. 41) The Talbot existed in 1570, the King's Head in 1594, and the Bear in 1599. (fn. 42) In the late 16th century High Street was lined with inns from the junction of Goswell Road and the St. John's Street road almost to the green, with six on the Clerkenwell side, one at the corner of the Back Road and Upper Street, and two on the east side. (fn. 43) The first building on the west side of High Street, on the site of the Angel, was shown as an inn in the late 16th century, although the first known reference was in 1614; it was formerly a messuage called Sheepcote and let by St. John's, Clerkenwell. Additional building was done c. 1638. (fn. 44) The freehold Horse's Head or Nag's Head stood near the southern end of Upper Street in 1601 and 1704. (fn. 45) The Bull's Head, renamed the Griffen by 1602 and the King's Arms by 1612, stood on the east side of High Street, together with the Rose and Crown, mentioned in 1602, 1612, and 1648. (fn. 46) The Castle stood on the south side of Cross Street, near Upper Street, by 1610 and in 1683, but was demolished by 1788. (fn. 47) The Swan lay on the east side of High Street near another George by 1618 and in 1693. (fn. 48) The Saracen's Head also stood on that side by 1617, and was rebuilt or altered in 1618. (fn. 49) Other 17th-century inns included the Cock in 1614, (fn. 50) the Blue Boar in 1619 and again in 1632, (fn. 51) the Black Horse near the Nag's Head in 1630, (fn. 52) the Prince's Arms, the Bull, and the George on the east side of High Street in 1628 and 1632, (fn. 53) the latter forming part of the site of Rufford's Buildings by 1682, (fn. 54) the Maidenhead in 1638, (fn. 55) the Falcon, formerly the Dolphin, in 1651 and 1667, the Spread Eagle in 1651, (fn. 56) the Red Lion in 1653 and the White Lion in 1673, both on the west side of High Street, (fn. 57) the Crown in 1659, (fn. 58) the Holy Lamb in 1665, (fn. 59) the Bluebell, the Queen's Arms, and the Black Bear in 1668 and 1674, (fn. 60) the Three Cups in 1678, (fn. 61) the White Horse in Canonbury manor in 1691, (fn. 62) the White Horse, Lower Holloway, in 1700, (fn. 63) and the Eagle and Child, formerly the Green Dragon, in 1709. (fn. 64) The inn at Holloway mentioned by Samuel Pepys in 1661 as the Sign of the Woman with cakes in one hand and a pot of ale in the other was the Mother Red Cap, Upper Holloway, (fn. 65) which existed in the 1630s. (fn. 66)

Identification of later inns with those mentioned above is uncertain. In 1716 there were 56 alehouse keepers (fn. 67) and in 1721 inns included the Rosemary Branch, the King's Head, Upper Street, the Coach and Horses, Newington Green, and the Devil's or Duval's House, Tollington Lane. (fn. 68) In 1725 there were c. 100 inns and beershops in the parish selling spirits, especially gin. In addition to the many inns in Upper and Lower streets, there were the Rosemary Branch, three inns in Frog Lane, four near Newington Green, one at Kingsland, three near Stroud Green, one at the end of Hornsey Lane, two in Tollington Lane, two on Highgate Hill, three at Upper Holloway, two at Holloway, one at Ring Cross, five in Lower Holloway, and White Conduit house. (fn. 69) In 1765 there were 60 licensed victuallers, which excluded keepers of beer-shops. (fn. 70)

By the 18th century many inns had become resorts for Londoners, with tea-gardens in addition to earlier bowling greens and skittle gardens, and, in the 19th century, music and dancing. A few of them are described below.

White Conduit House tavern may have existed by the 1650s, when there was a bowling green near the Charterhouse conduit head. (fn. 71) Tea-gardens opened there in 1730, and had a circular fishpond, several tree-lined walks with boxes cut into the hedge, two large tea-rooms, and several smaller ones. It attracted respectable Londoners rather than fashionable society. Cricket was played in an adjoining field and in 1824 a bandstand was set up and bowls and archery were introduced. Balloon ascents took place from 1824 to 1844, and firework displays and fêtes were held there in what was advertised as the New Vauxhall. In 1828 the old house was replaced by the Apollo Room, for dancing, tea, and billiards. An outdoor orchestra and small theatre were added. The resort gradually declined in appeal and respectability, although variety acts continued to be presented until the building was demolished in 1849 and the site built over. A public house called the White Conduit House was built on part of the site. (fn. 72)

In 1704 the occupier of the sign of the Last near the Nag's Head, Upper Street, put out tables in an adjoining field and permitted archery and other pastimes, which drew a large clientele. By 1748 the Star and Garter, possibly the same inn, rented a skittle ground in the field. (fn. 73)

The King's Head tavern, Upper Street, opposite the parish church, was said to have been built c. 1543 and had a Dutch pin ground. The inn was replaced c. 1864 by one standing farther back. (fn. 74) In the late 1970s and 1980s it was widely known for theatrical performances at the back of the ground floor bar, some of which later transferred to West End theatres.

Highbury Barn tavern and tea-gardens originated as a small house selling cakes and ale c. 1740, becoming a tavern with tea-gardens under a Mr. Willoughby, who laid out a bowling green and trap and ball ground. The barn was used for assemblies and for large trade and society dinners in the 19th century. It developed into a dancing resort from 1856 and the proprietor Edward Giovannelli in 1865 built the Royal Alexandra theatre with a capacity of 1,900 on part of his grounds, together with a dining hall and dancing platform. Residents' opposition led to the licence being refused and its popularity quickly declined. The theatre closed in 1871 and the gardens were built over by 1883. (fn. 75)

Copenhagen House had become a tavern and tea-gardens by 1753, with skittles, Dutch pins, a fives court, and a cricket field. Set on a hillside with extensive views towards London, it was a popular place for Sunday strollers. It acquired a rougher reputation c. 1816, with bulldog fights and bull-baiting, but tea drinking revived from 1816 to 1830. It closed in 1853 to make way for the Metropolitan market. (fn. 76)

Other taverns noted for their tea-gardens in the 18th century included the Devil's House, Tollington Lane; the Mother Red Cap, Upper Holloway, with bowling green, quoits, and skittle ground; the Horse and Groom, Upper Holloway; the Crown, formerly the Angel and then Wilkes's Head, Holloway, with a skittle ground; Canonbury House tavern; Spring Gardens, Newington Green; and the Castle inn tea-gardens, Colebrooke Row. (fn. 77) The Rosemary Branch tavern, built 1783, had besides its concert room and teagardens a pond of nearly 1 a., where boats could be hired. The gardens were used for balloon ascents, rope dancing, and fireworks, and there was an equestrian theatre which burned down in 1853. The tavern was licensed for music and dancing until 1887, when it was closed because of safety requirements. (fn. 78)

In the mid 19th century many public houses were licensed for music and dancing, often with a small music hall on the first floor, but many had to close under safety regulations introduced in 1878. (fn. 79) Among the longest surviving were the Alma, 29 Alma Street, New North Road, licensed from 1856 to c. 1922, with two concert rooms holding 300, reduced to 100 after safety alterations; (fn. 80) the Offord Arms, no. 388 Caledonian Road, licensed 1854-90; (fn. 81) the Baxter Arms, no. 30 Baxter Road, licensed 1868-89; (fn. 82) the Island Queen, Noel Road, licensed 1857-89 (fn. 83) and noteworthy in the 1970s for its Victorian interior adorned with two gigantic papier-maché representations of topical figures suspended from the ceiling. In all about 20 public houses and halls had music licenses in 1863, 24 in 1888. (fn. 84)

The best known of the music halls, evolving into a variety theatre, was the one usually known as Collins's music hall. It began as the Lansdowne tavern, in Paradise Row, Islington Green, where by 1846 the landlord put customers who wanted to sing, and later paid performers, in a separate room. The inn was bought in 1862 by Samuel Thomas Collins Vagg, a well known music hall artist, who opened it as the Lansdowne music hall with a capacity of 600 behind the public house. In 1897 the whole building was rebuilt as a theatre with a capacity of 1,800, an interior in the style of Louis XIV, and 10 bars. Called Islington Hippodrome during the First World War, it was a repertory theatre until 1932, a variety theatre following music-hall traditions from 1932 to 1937, and then a repertory theatre again. After the Second World War attendances dwindled and the quality of the shows declined. After a fire in 1958 the building was sold to Andersons, timber merchants, and demolished in 1963. At the music hall's height 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. (fn. 85)

The Grand theatre on the east side of High Street opened in 1860 as the Philharmonic hall designed by Finch, Hill & Paraire with a capacity of 1,500. Alterations were made in 1870 with a new stage and promenade and the seating reduced to 758. From 1871 light French operas and cancan girls attracted a fashionable male audience. The hall burned down in 1882 and reopened in 1883 as the Grand theatre, designed by Frank Matcham. That burned down in 1887, was rebuilt in 1888 with a capacity of c. 3,000, and again burned in 1900, whereupon a fourth building was erected, also designed by Matcham. From 1908 it was called the Empire, Islington, from 1912 the Islington Palace, and from 1918 the Islington Empire. It was an ABC cinema from 1933, called the Empire with 1,029 seats, and closed in 1962. (fn. 86) The Victorian classical façade was finally demolished in 1981.

The Tavistock Repertory Co., which started as an amateur company in Tavistock Place, Bloomsbury, part of the Mary Ward Settlement, moved to Canonbury in 1952, converting King Edward's Hall into a theatre and using Canonbury tower as box office and rehearsal rooms. The professional company put on a full season of plays in 1983. (fn. 87)

The Little Angel theatre, Dagmar Passage, behind the parish church, was run by John Wright as a permanent puppet theatre from 1961, in the former temperance hall of Henry Ansell. (fn. 88)

Anna Scher's children's theatre, nos. 70-2 Barnsbury Road, began as a school drama club in 1968, expanded and in 1970 moved into a community hall, and in 1976 acquired its own theatre and office in Barnsbury Road. The theatre's aim was to develop children's artistic abilities through mime, dance, stage technique, and backstage work. Membership was limited to c. 500, with a waiting list of over 1,000 in 1978, divided into three groups for those aged 6 to 22 years, and a young professional group. The theatre also ran courses in drama. (fn. 89)

St. George's Elizabethan theatre, Tufnell Park Road, was founded in the former St. George's church in 1970 after a four-year campaign by George Murcell and others. The church's plan allowed Shakespeare's plays to be presented in an Elizabethan-style playhouse. It was also intended to give young actors a classical training and to serve local needs, producing plays on the schools' syllabus. (fn. 90)

The Royal Agricultural Hall was built by a company formed by the Smithfield Club, which needed a better site for its annual show. The Agricultural Hall Co., formed in 1860, chose William Dixon's cattle layers in Liverpool Road, where the first hall, designed by Frederick Peck and covering nearly 2 a., was opened in 1862. The hall was 75 ft. high and its arched glass roof had a span of 125 ft., with wide galleries all round it. The Minor hall, behind it at the Upper Street end, was renamed St. Mary's hall in 1867. The pig hall was added on the south side of the entrance in 1867, land was bought at the corner of Upper and Berners streets in 1880 and used for further enlargements in 1881-2, and more room was made for implement manufacturers from 1883. Permission was granted in 1884 for 'Royal' to be used in the title. In 1895 the company bought land on the north side of St. Mary's hall and built a new Minor hall, for more pigs and sheep, and introduced slaughter classes. In 1907 the new Minor hall was extended and renamed Gilbey hall, in the early 1920s the main hall gallery was extended, and in 1925 a new entrance hall was built. The Methodist chapel in Barford Street was bought c. 1930 and made way for a new annexe in 1932, called New hall. Although the building was primarily for the annual Smithfield show, held in December, it was popular for many other purposes: dog shows, dairy shows, circuses, musical recitals, the North London Working Classes Industrial Exhibition (1864), grand balls, military tournaments, revivalist meetings, a bullfight (stopped by the R.S.P.C.A.), six-day marathon walking, and cycling races. By the beginning of the 20th century it was the principal exhibition centre for London. St. Mary's hall was licensed as a music hall, as were Berner's hall and Prince's Saloon until 1888, also within the complex. St. Mary's hall was renamed the Empire music hall and refurbished internally in 1895. It was licensed as a cinema in 1908, was renamed Islington Palace in 1912, and was entirely rebuilt in 1914. By 1918 it was the Blue Hall cinema and in 1946 it became the Gaumont, seating 1,303, which closed in 1963 and was used for bingo until 1975. The rest of the Royal Agricultural Hall had been requisitioned during the Second World War and the G.P.O.'s Mount Pleasant sorting office moved there in 1943. The Smithfield show did not return there after the war and the overseas parcels office remained until 1971. Demolition was prevented because of the building's architectural importance, and Islington L.B. bought the site in 1976. Schemes for its use were under consideration in 1983. (fn. 91)

The Parkhurst theatre, no. 401 Holloway Road, was opened 1890 as a hall for 400 and was rebuilt in 1898. It closed as a theatre in 1909 and was used as a cinema about that time. Fights at whistdrives in the early 1930s led to its closure. The Holloway Empire, no. 564 Holloway Road, was opened in 1899 by Moss Empires as the Empire Theatre of Varieties, designed by W. G. R. Sprague, with a capacity of 1,210. It was licensed as a cinema in 1923, closed in 1938, and remained empty until sold for demolition in 1953. The Marlborough theatre, no. 383 Holloway Road, was designed by Frank Matcham to hold 2,612 and opened in 1903. Plays and operettas were presented until 1916, when it was used for variety shows. It was a cinema by 1919, closed in 1957, and was demolished in 1962 to make way for Marlborough House, used by the Polytechnic of North London in 1983. (fn. 92) The Finsbury Park Empire, between St. Thomas's and Prah roads, was opened in 1910 by Moss Empires, with a capacity of c. 2,000. It closed in 1960 and was demolished. (fn. 93)

The Screen-on-the-Green cinema, no. 83 Upper Street, opened as the Picture Theatre in 1911 and closed in 1914. It reopened in 1915 as the Empress and closed in 1950, but opened again as the Rex in 1951, when it seated 514. It closed in 1970 and was reopened as the Screen-on-theGreen with 293 seats, an independent club cinema, with showings of new and old films. The Carlton, no. 161 Essex Road, opened in 1930 with an unusual neo-Egyptian front and seated 2,248. It was called the ABC cinema in 1962 and closed in 1972, becoming a Mecca Bingo theatre. (fn. 94) The Odeon cinema, Upper Street, seating 1, 138, occupied the former vestry hall in 1946 until it closed in 1961. The site became a petrol station. (fn. 95) The Angel cinema, no. 7 High Street, seated 1,457 and was renamed the Odeon in 1963. It was derelict in 1980. The Victoria, an independent cinema at nos. 272-80 New North Road, seated 731 and closed in 1957. (fn. 96) The Imperial Picture Theatre was built at no. 2 Holloway Road in 1913, renamed Highbury Imperial Picture Theatre by 1924, and Highbury Picture Theatre by 1931. It closed in 1959 and was replaced by a petrol station. (fn. 97) The Coronet cinema, at the corner of Holloway and Loraine roads, was called the Savoy in 1947 and became the ABC between 1964 and 1975. It closed in 1983. (fn. 98) The Gaumont cinema, at the corner of Holloway and Tufnell Park roads, became the Odeon between 1959 and 1964, (fn. 99) and was still presenting general release films in 1983.

The Islington Literary and Scientific Society was established in 1833 and first met in Mr. Edgeworth's academy, Upper Street. Its object was to spread knowledge through lectures, discussions, and experiments, politics and theology being forbidden. A building was erected in 1837 in Wellington (later Almeida) Street, designed by Roumieu & Gough in a Grecian style and faced in Roman cement. It included a library, with 3,300 volumes in 1839, reading room, museum, laboratory, and lecture theatre seating 500. Membership was 430 in 1839 and 561 in 1841, and the subscription was 2 guineas a year. The library was sold off in 1872 and the building sold or leased in 1874 to the Wellington Club, which occupied it until 1886. (fn. 1) In 1885 the hall was used for concerts, balls, and public meetings. (fn. 2) The Salvation Army bought the building in 1890, renamed it Wellington Castle barracks, and remained there until 1955. (fn. 3) After serving as a factory and showroom for Beck's British Carnival Novelties for a few years from 1956, it remained empty until in 1978 a campaign began to turn it into 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. The aim was ultimately to present a full nine-month season of experimental theatre, including productions from abroad. (fn. 4)

The Athenaeum, Camden Road, was built in 1871 at the junction of Camden and Parkhurst roads, after appeals for a literary and scientific institution for the area. The building of brick and terracotta was designed by F. R. Meeson in an Italianate style. It contained meeting halls, libraries, and a hall for theatrical and musical performances, seating 600. It was later taken over by Beale's, the caterers, as the Athenaeum hall. In 1912 and 1915 it housed an orchestral society and music teachers, and was used for concerts, and after the Second World War rehearsals were held there by Donald Wolfit's Advance Players Association. In 1955 the building was demolished and the site used for a petrol station. (fn. 5)

The Highbury Athenaeum, no. 96A Highbury New Park, was opened in 1882 as a literary or scientific club, and the building was also licensed for music 1882-9, having a concert hall on the ground floor holding 1,060, and a music hall above. (fn. 6) It closed c. 1920, and the building was acquired by the Rank film company in the late 1930s to make second features to train young directors and actors. Associated with it was a charm school for young actresses. The studio closed c. 1950, (fn. 7) and the building was taken over to make I.T.V. programmes for a few years. It was demolished in 1963 and replaced by flats.

The Islington Athenaeum was opened at no. 107 Upper Street in 1847 to provide weekly winter lectures on religion, history, and natural sciences. (fn. 8) It failed after c. 6 years and the property was sold in 1854. The building was licensed 1852-60 for music as Baker's Rooms. (fn. 9)

Myddelton hall, at the corner of Upper and Wellington streets, was founded in 1875 and used for bazaars and other local functions. (fn. 10)

The Bishop Wilson Memorial hall was opened on the site of Islington chapel in Church Street by 1886. It was replaced by a new memorial hall on the north side of the churchyard in 1890, (fn. 11) which in turn was replaced by a new hall and community centre nearby in 1975-7. (fn. 12)

The fields around Copenhagen House were used for meetings of the London Corresponding Society from 1795 when Robert Orchard, a member of the society, was the inn's landlord. Meetings were said to draw as many as 40,000, and one held in November 1795 attended by John Gale Jones, democratic politician and surgeon, was caricatured by Gillray. (fn. 13) The fields were used again in 1834, for a mass rally of trades unionists in support of the Tolpuddle martyrs. (fn. 14)

In 1792 Alexander Aubert was chairman of a society to suppress sedition, and in 1797 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel commandant of the new Loyal Islington Volunteers. The force, one regiment of infantry and one of cavalry commanded by Capt. J. P. Anderdon, attracted gentlemen from surrounding parishes and soon had over 300 members. A dispute between some officers and Aubert led to its being disbanded in 1801. (fn. 15) In 1803 fresh threats of invasion led to the formation of a volunteer corps of c. 300, led by Mr. Wheelwright of Highbury and drilled by Mr. Dickson in Cooks field, Upper Street. It was disbanded in 1806 because of insufficient funds. (fn. 16)

The 1st City of London Volunteer Engineers, formed in 1861, had drill rooms at Bird's Buildings, Islington Green (3rd Company), a house in Copenhagen Street in 1869 for the 4th Company, no. 68 Colebrooke Row for the 5th Company, and rooms in Theberton Street for the 6th Com-pany, also in 1869. In 1877 their headquarters moved from the Barbican to no. 68 Colebrooke Row. In 1881 the corps numbered 761, and no. 2 Barnsbury Park, with a large garden, was rented as headquarters and drill rooms for all the companies. In 1897 no. 1 Barnsbury Road, formerly Barnsbury Park Collegiate School, was also rented. The corps became part of the Territorial Association in 1908. In 1913 nos. 1 and 2 Barnsbury Park were demolished and a new headquarters built at the Offord Road end of the site. The units moved to Finchley in 1961. (fn. 17)

Residents formed the Islington Soup Society in 1799 to sell cheap food and coal to the poor. A committee of 65 was to manage a shop and solicit subscriptions, a shed in Cadds Row was offered as a soup kitchen, and £350 was collected in three days. At the end of 1801 further collection was thought unnecessary and in 1805 the society was wound up. (fn. 18) The Islington Friendly Clothing Society was formed in 1816 to enable the poor to buy clothes at half the cost of the materials. Subscribers increased rapidly in 1818, a depository was formed at no. 8 Barnsbury Street, and the society may still have been running in 1854. (fn. 19) The Female Association was instituted in 1816 for visiting and relieving sick poor in their homes, in association with Islington chapel. In 1819 relief was recommended for 51 cases, consisting of 178 individuals. (fn. 20) The Charity Organisation Society, Islington committee, was formed c. 1868 to help the sick poor, and provide bedding and clothes for large families. The office was at no. 17 Compton Terrace, and a second was opened at no. 365 Camden Road. In 1946 it became known as the Family Welfare Organisation, to help those whose family life was endangered by hardship. In the 1960s the organization was running local Citizens' Advice Bureaux. (fn. 21)

A Working Man's Institute savings bank was started in 1858 and continued to 1873 or later. (fn. 22)

Henry Ansell purchased a hall in Church Passage, Cross Street, before 1910 and founded the first temperance society in Islington, called the Islington Working Men's Total Abstinence Society. (fn. 23) The hall became the Little Angel puppet theatre in 1961. (fn. 24)

The Caxton House settlement was started in 1944 to relieve the poverty of the Pooles Park area. The Presbyterian mission hall at no. 59 Andover Road was rented as club rooms, youth clubs were started, and a settlement house was opened at no. 112 Fonthill Road. (fn. 25) The Caxton House community centre was built in St. John's Way in 1976. (fn. 26)

The Islington Bus Co. was started in 1972 in Manor Gardens as a charity funded through the council and the I.L.E.A. to help local groups. It came to support c. 300 groups, giving regular help with matters such as printing, and in 1976-7 moved to Palmer Place. The organization ran a brightly painted double-decker bus that was used during weekdays as a play-school and could be booked in the evenings by any Islington group for transport, or for a meeting, crèche, or exhibition. Toys and equipment were also provided on loan. (fn. 27)

The 'Angel of Islington', a canal boat based at City Road basin, was financed by Islington L.B., the I.L.E.A., and local fund-raising, and was operated by Islington Narrow Boat Association as a charity. Schools and local groups could hire it for day or week-end cruises. (fn. 28)

Londoners' rights to use Finsbury fields for archery and other sports appear to have extended to fields in the south-east of Islington, where the Artillery Company of London re-established its archery marks in the 1780s. (fn. 29) The Royal Toxophilite Society, established 1780, was at Highbury 1820-5. (fn. 30) Fields around Canonbury were popular for dog-fighting and duck-hunting in the 1820s. (fn. 31)

The first Islington cricket club held matches in a field near White Conduit House c. 1780. In the early 19th century the Albion cricket field was well known and the Albion club played there until 1834, when it moved to Copenhagen House. (fn. 32) The Middlesex County cricket team had its first permanent ground at Islington in 1863 but moved to Lillie Bridge in 1869. (fn. 33)

Woolwich Arsenal F.C. moved to Highbury in 1913, renting part of the grounds of St. John's Theological College. The east side of the ground had covered seats, but the rest was uncovered and for standing only, with a huge bank on the west, terraced to the top and called Spion Kop, until a new west stand with an imposing entrance was built in the 1930s. The team was voted into the First Division for the 1919-20 season and, under Herbert Chapman as manager, achieved national standing between 1925 and 1934. It came top of the league three times and won the F.A. Cup in 1929-30, and Chapman succeeded in having the name of the nearby Underground station changed from Gillespie Road to Arsenal. In the 45 seasons between 1919 and 1971 Arsenal won the League eight times and the F.A. Cup four times. Although their most successful period was the 1930s, their outstanding achievement was in 1970-1 when they became only the second team in the 20th century to win both the League and the F.A. Cup, and in 1972 they received the freedom of Islington. (fn. 34)

Sports facilities were greatly improved in 1973 with the building of the Michael Sobell Sports Centre, Hornsey Road, using £1,100,000 given by Sir Michael Sobell, a retired industrialist and member of the Variety Club, for a sports and social centre in a deprived area of London. Designed by W. D. Laming of R. Seifert & Partners, the several halls cater for about 30 activities, including archery, ski practice, and smallbore rifle and pistol shooting. The main arena has retractable seating for 1,800 spectators and there is also a hall for health classes, ballet practice, and drama, besides a discothéque, ice rink, restaurant, bar, and meeting rooms. (fn. 35)

Highbury Terrace had its own residents' association between 1812 and 1834. (fn. 36) The Islington and North London Art Union was formed in 1842, the subscribers drawing lots for works of art which had been displayed at the Royal Academy, British Institute, or Society of British Artists during the year. The committee decided on the number and value of the paintings when the number of 1/2-guinea subscriptions were known. In the first year there were 20 prizes valued from 3 guineas to £50. (fn. 37)

Freemasons set up an Islington Lodge, no. 1471, in Florence Street school rooms in 1874, and later that year at the Cock tavern, Highbury. The lodge had 85 members during its first decade. In 1905 the meetings were moved to the Abercorn Rooms, Bishopsgate. (fn. 38a)

The Highbury Microscopical and Scientific Society met from 1880 until 1887. (fn. 39a) The Holly Park Protection Association existed from 1878 to 1890. (fn. 40a) The Highbury Quadrant Literary Association was founded by the 1870s and survived in 1910-11, presenting varied lectures, preceded by organ recitals, twice or thrice a month in winter. (fn. 41a) The Islington Camera Club was founded in 1947, meeting at Manor Gardens branch library, and gathered 100 members in its early years. It declined from 1961 but survived in 1969. (fn. 42a)

Among periodicals produced in the parish were the Islington Popular Library of Religious Knowledge, published weekly in 1832; the Islington Magazine or Holloway, Highgate, Highbury and Canonbury Journal of Literature, Science and Fine Arts, published monthly in 1838; the Islington Athenaeum, a weekly literary periodical in 1853; the North London Magazine, published monthly in 1866; Momus or The Islington Journal of Wit, Humour, and Sentiment, published monthly in 1858; the Islington, a monthly journal published 1876-9; and the Canonbury Amateur Magazine, published monthly in 1884. The Islington, Highbury, and Holloway General Advertiser was published monthly by F.A. Ford 1850-4 and offered free of charge. (fn. 43a)

Of the local newspapers that survived for 12 months or more, the earliest was also the longest lived. The Islington Gazette first appeared on 20 September 1856, founded by William Trounce who also founded the Islington Directory in 1852. It appeared twice a week from 1865, but was published five days a week in 1881 owing to demand. (fn. 44a) In 1901 it was renamed the Islington Daily Gazette & North London Tribune and in 1918 the Daily Gazette, reverting to the Islington Gazette in 1926. The Islington Times was started in 1857, renamed the Islington Times and Finchley, Highgate, Hornsey and Holloway Herald in 1871, and continued as the Islington Times and Finsbury Advertiser 1872-4. The North London News was published weekly from 1860 to 1865 and continued as the North London News & Borough of Finsbury Gazette until 1895. The Canonbury & Highbury Advertizer was published from c. 1872 until 1888, when it was continued as the Weekly Recorder, published from Hackney. The Holloway Press began in 1872, was renamed the North Metropolitan and Holloway Press in 1875, and became the Holloway Press in 1880, the Islington & Holloway Press in 1923, and the North London Press from 1942. Separate editions for Islington and Camden were published 1948-9 and 1964-71, after which the paper was continued as both the Holloway & Islington Journal and the Camden Journal, the former being discontinued in 1974. The Islington News started in 1877 and was renamed the Islington News and Hornsey Gazette in 1897, continuing until 1919. The Holloway Advertizer was published 1822-87. The Arrow was published monthly from 1887, being renamed the Northern Arrow in 1888; it was discontinued in 1890. The Northern Light and Islington Star was published from 1889, renamed the Northern Light from 1891 and ceasing in 1893. The Londoner (North Islington Edition) was published from 1894 and continued in 1896 as the (Islington) Londoner until 1897, when it was renamed the Londoner- Edition for Islington, but it ceased publication that year. The Islington Post was started in 1899 and continued at least to 1908. The Islington Guardian & North London Observer was started a few years before 1914, and in 1919 was renamed the Islington Guardian, North London Observer and Weekly News and Chronicle until 1924 when it became the Islington Guardian & Hackney News, North London Observer and Weekly News and Chronicle. In 1975 it was incorporated with Islington Chronicle and Finsbury Weekly News. The North London Advertizer was published from 1908 at least to 1910. (fn. 45a)


  • 38. G.L.R.O., MR/LV1, mm. 7-7d., 11.
  • 39. P.R.O., C 1/1242/23; ibid. REQ 2/65/95.
  • 40. Ibid. SC 6/Hen. VIII/2402, m. 4.
  • 41. Ibid. REQ 2/100/32; B.L. Add. MS. 15556, f. 173.
  • 42. P.R.O., C 3/105/66; C 3/243/99; C 2/Eliz. I/P 8/38.
  • 43. B.L. Maps 186.h.2. (12).
  • 44. Ibid.; P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/2402, m. 4; ibid. C 142/ 343, no. 136; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1638-9, 262.
  • 45. Guildhall MSS. 12958/3, 4.
  • 46. Islington libr., MS. vol. of Abstract of deeds, p. 65; Guildhall MS. 3460/1; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1648-9, 174.
  • 47. P.R.O., C 2/Jas. I/N 2/62; C 8/282/7; G.L.R.O., P83/ MRY 1/157/1, 158/15.
  • 48. B.L. Add. MS. 15556, f. 173.
  • 49. Guildhall MS. 3460/2; P.R.O., C 3/326/47.
  • 50. G.L.R.O., P83/MRY 1/133, f. 4.
  • 51. P.R.O., C 3/299/34; C 8/74/4.
  • 52. Guildhall MS. 12958/3.
  • 53. P.R.O., C 8/74/4.
  • 54. M.L.R. 1725/5/100; above, growth (Islington town).
  • 55. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1637-8, 324.
  • 56. P.R.O., C 8/185/102.
  • 57. Ibid. C 8/349/161.
  • 58. Ibid. C 7/452/94.
  • 59. Guildhall MS. 12958/3.
  • 60. P.R.O., C 7/492/44; C 5/575/102.
  • 61. Ibid. C 5/535/86.
  • 62. Ibid. C 7/329/59.
  • 63. Ibid. C 6/319/24.
  • 64. Ibid. C 10/518/2.
  • 65. Diary of Sam. Pepys, ed. Latham and Matthews, ii. 184.
  • 66. Above, growth, Upper Holloway.
  • 67. G.L.R.O., MR/LV 3/3.
  • 68. Ibid. MR/LV 3/90.
  • 69. Ibid. MR/LV 4/40-62.
  • 70. Ibid. MR/LV 8/40.
  • 71. Shown on Wenceslas Hollar's View of the New River Head.
  • 72. Guildhall MS. 474A; M. Cosh, Barnsbury, 2, 4; E. Beresford Chancellor, Pleasure Haunts of Lond. (1925), 375-8.
  • 73. Guildhall MSS. 12958/1, 4.
  • 74. Guildhall MS. 474A.
  • 75. Ibid.; D. Howard, Lond. Theatres (1970), 7; Chancellor, Pleasure Haunts, 380; below, plate 6.
  • 76. Guildhall MS. 474A; Chancellor, Pleasure Haunts, 378-80.
  • 77. Guildhall MS. 474A; Chancellor, Pleasure Haunts, 374, 378; P.R.O., MAF 20/111; W. Wroth, Lond. Pleasure Gdns. (1896), 172.
  • 78. Guildhall MS. 474A; Howard, Lond. Theatres, 199; Rep. of M.B.W. 1885, H.C. 170, p. 437 (1886), lvii.
  • 79. Howard, Lond. Theatres, passim.
  • 80. Ibid. 11; Rep. of M.B.W. 1885, p. 434.
  • 81. Howard, Lond. Theatres, 161.
  • 82. Ibid. 20.
  • 83. Ibid. 121.
  • 84. G.L.R.O., MR/LMD/25/4; LMD 29/5A.
  • 85. Howard, Lond. Theatres, 49; TS. notes on Collins's Music Hall (1959, in Islington libr.); Rep. of M.B.W. 1885, p. 435; Zwart, Islington: Hist. and Guide, 104.
  • 86. Howard, Lond. Theatres, 121-2; Rep. of M.B.W. 1883, H.C. 186, pp. 357-8 (1884), lxviii; 1887, H.C. 159, p. 629 (1888), lxxxvii; M. A. F. Webb, Lond. Suburban Cinemas 1946-80 (priv. printed).
  • 87. Zwart, Islington: Hist. and Guide, 95; inf. from theatre co.
  • 88. Zwart, Islington: Hist. and Guide, 101, 103; below.
  • 89. Anna Scher Chldn.'s Theatre Ltd. Ann. Rep. (1978, 1979).
  • 90. St. George's Elizabethan Theatre Ltd. Manifesto (TS. 1970, in Islington libr.); Consecration of St. Geo.'s Ch. (booklet 1975).
  • 91. E. Powell, Hist. of Smithfield Club (1902), 10-12, 17-18, 21, 24, 45; Ind. Mons. Gtr. Lond. (1969), 36; E. Ledster, Royal Agric. Hall ([c. 1976.] in Islington libr.); Webb, Lond. Sub. Cinemas; Howard, Lond. Theatres, 123; Rep. of M.B.W. 1888, H.C. 326, p. 820 (1889), lxvi; inf. from Islington L.B. and Mr. J. C. Connell.
  • 92. Howard, Lond. Theatres, 116, 149, 171; notes on exhibi- tion 'Holloway in Pictures', Islington libr.; Pevsner, Lond. ii. 238; inf. from Mr. J. C. Connell.
  • 93. Howard, Lond. Theatres, 84.
  • 94. Webb, Lond. Sub. Cinemas; inf. from Mr. J. C. Connell.
  • 95. Ibid.; Islington M.B. Illus. Guide to Hsg. and Local Govt. Exhib. (1946), 7.
  • 96. Webb, Lond. Sub. Cinemas.
  • 97. Inf. from Mr. J. C. Connell.
  • 98. Ibid.; P.O. Dir. Lond. (1947 and later edns.).
  • 99. P.O. Dir. Lond. (1959 and later edns.).
  • 1. Islington Antiquarian and Historical Soc. paper read 1933 (in Islington libr.); T. Claxton, Hints to Mechanics (1839), 223; G.L.R.O., Historic Bldgs. Div., ISL 1.
  • 2. Rep. of M.B.W. 1885, H.C. 170, p. 438 (1886), lvii.
  • 3. G.L.R.O., Historic Bldgs. Div., ISL 1.
  • 4. New Standard, 13 May 1981; Observer, 23 May 1982.
  • 5. Pevsner, Lond. ii. 239; docs. found in fndn. stone of Athenaeum, and Note on its Hist., in Islington libr.; Howard, Lond. Theatres, 16.
  • 6. Para. based on notes by K. Sugden in Islington Archaeology & Hist. Soc. newsletter (Nov. 1981); Rep. of M.B.W. 1882, H.C. 169, p. 535 (1883), lix; Howard, Lond. Theatres, 16.
  • 7. A. Wood, Mr. Rank (1952), 172, 263.
  • 8. Athenaeum, 1st Ann. Rep. 1848, in Islington libr.
  • 9. Howard, Lond. Theatres, 17.
  • 10. Holloway and Islington £nl. 15 Dec. 1972.
  • 11. Bacon, Atlas of Lond. (1886); G.L.R.O., P83/MRY 1/ 110; D.N.B. s.v. D. Wilson.
  • 12. Inf. on St. Mary's ch., in Islington libr.
  • 13. Chancellor, Pleasure Haunts, 378-80; D.N.B. s.v. J. G. Jones.
  • 14. Islington M.B. Illus. Guide to Hsg. and Local Govt. Exhib. (1946), 6.
  • 15. Nelson, Islington (1829), 142-4.
  • 16. Ibid. 113, 144-5.
  • 17. Hist. of 353 (Lond.) Medium Regt. R.A. (T.A.) 1861- 1961 (in Islington libr.).
  • 18. Islington libr., Islington Soup Soc. min. bk.
  • 19. Lewis, Islington As It Was, 85; Rep. and Reg. of Islington Friendly Clothing Soc. (1819, in Islington libr.).
  • 20. Third Rep. of the Female Assoc. (in Islington libr.).
  • 21. Charity Organisation Soc. Ann. Rep. (1943-4 and later edns., in Islington libr.).
  • 22. G.L.R.O., P83/MRY 1/364, 368.
  • 23. Life and Hist. of Hen. Ansell [pamphlet c. 1910], in Islington libr.
  • 24. Above.
  • 25. Caxton Ho. Ann. Rep. (1944, 1945).
  • 26. C. McKean and T. Jestico, Guide to Mod. Bldgs. in Lond. (1976), 79.
  • 27. Islington Bus Co. Ann. Rep. (1976-7, 1979-80).
  • 28. 'Angel of Islington', notes in Islington libr.
  • 29. Nelson, Islington (1829), 20-8; P.R.O., C 8/86/255.
  • 30. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 286.
  • 31. Islington libr., Lamp and Watch min. bk. 1806-24.
  • 32. Guildhall MS. 474A.
  • 33. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 270.
  • 34. D. Brown, Arsenal Story (1972), 24, 29, 31, 33, 130-3; Islington L.B. Official Guide 1977-8, 36.
  • 35. Islington L.B. Official Guide 1977-8, 36; McKean and Jestico, Guide to Mod. Bldgs. in Lond. 80.
  • 36. Min. bk. in Islington libr.
  • 37. Rep. in Islington libr.
  • 38a. A.E. Hunt and W.N. Edwards, Short Hist. of Islington Lodge No. 1471 [1974], 5, 12, 20, 31.
  • 39a. Min. bk. in Islington libr.
  • 40a. Min. bk. in Islington libr.
  • 41a. Programme of lectures in Islington libr.
  • 42a. R. Whyte, 'Islington Camera Club: First Twenty-One Yrs.' (TS. 1969, in Islington libr.).
  • 43a. Issues in Islington libr.
  • 44a. Islington Gaz. 21 Sept. 1956.
  • 45a. B.L. newspaper index.