Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
being a favourite resort for holidaying Londoners - an example set by Queen Elizabeth I
- Islington was a place of small dairy farms that supplied London with milk and butter. Its
rural situation and closeness to town made the development of Islington inevitable through
the eighteenth century. With the nineteenth century, the process quickened. It is not easy to
fix a date when Islington degenerated (a tendency that has been reversed in recent years),
but the dates of the various Victorian blocks of industrial dwellings give a clue. These are
from 1865 onwards. Incidentally, I regret that the L.C.C. has decided to drop the names
'Buildings' and 'Dwellings' from its older type blocks of flats. 'Dwelling' is a word which
came into our language at a very early period, but I presume it is not considered smart
enough for the touchiness of contemporary taste which is ever ready to disguise anything
under a pasteurised euphemism.
Many of Islington's squares and terraces are extremely handsome and often very com-
plete. Duncan Terrace, with the New River flowing below the square, has a distinct
Bloomsbury appearance, especially those houses with the stuccoed ground floors.
Cloudesley Square and many others are all of merit. The end of this graceful period comes
in the mid-1840s with Milner Square, grey and forbidding and of harsh proportions. The
grimness of Milner Square ought to be experienced by all in search of the more unusu-
al aspects of London, though it is only fair to record the fact that the square had once a
pleasant garden and had a pump from which the inhabitants drew their water as late as the
It is to Canonbury, however, that we must turn for architectural quality. The manor
passed through several hands into the possession of the Compton family, and great care has
been taken by the administrators - the Marquis of Northampton's Trust - to preserve the
architecture and the amenities of the area. To walk from Upper Street into the nineteenth-
century Canonbury Square and so on to Canonbury Tower is to move into an entirely dif-
ferent world, one of those transformations with which London abounds. Canonbury Tower
was originally a monastic foundation, and a cloistered seclusion can still be enjoyed in its
garden where fantailed pigeons walk on a terrace, stained in the autumn by the fruit of an
old mulberry tree, and the goldfish flash in the pool where the fountain plays. Elegance
is the word to describe Canonbury, and the same feeling is carried into the smaller cot-
tage villas and the connecting streets. This quality is only approached, as far as Islington is
concerned, by a small area near Richmond Avenue, near that delightful pub, The Albion,
and also by Duncan Terrace, and only rivalled by the little squares of Hampstead. Before
leaving Canonbury, the Canonbury Tavern, opposite the tower, is worth seeing; it is one of
the few remaining London pubs with a tea garden still intact.
* Only the fa├žade of Collins's now remains (1965). Even this has been altered in the lower portion,
and the interior of the music-hall entirely rebuilt.
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