Islington Green, N1

Islington Green lies at the convergence of Upper Street and Essex Road (which was once called Lower Street).

Historically it is not an old village green like others in London but a surviving patch of common land which was carved out of old manorial wasteland. It was where local farmers and tenants had free grazing rights. Before the mid-18th century this was also used as the village laystall, where rubbish and dung were dumped. The original green was far more extensive but was largely built over in the 19th century. Recent excavations revealed evidence of 15th-century tenements, demolished in the 17th century.

Though already named Islington Green by then, the Marquess of Northampton, lord of the manor of Canonbury, granted Islington Green to the vestry in 1777. It was cleared and enclosed with posts and rails. Trees were planted in 1808 and there was here a cage, a pair of stocks and a watch-house. This latter was originally in the middle of the green but in 1797 rebuilt and moved to the southern end, on the site of the present Myddelton Statue.

In 1868, Islington Vestry decided that ‘the line of thoroughfare on the south east and north east side of Islington Green’ be called Islington Green throughout ‘from the slate works to the Fox public house, the subsidiary names abolished and the houses renumbered accordingly.’

Old Paradise Row became part of the road called Islington Green. Rosoman Buildings dating from 1770 were by 1878 19-24 Islington Green. Meanwhile West Place became 331-342 Upper Street.

In the 1860s Islington Green was ’improved’ again. More trees and shrubs were planted, and Islington Green was transformed into the Victorian view of a city space.

In 1885, Henry Vigar-Harries described Islington Green “where the young love to skip in buoyant glee when the summer sun gladdens the air” and how “within a mile and a half from this spot there are 1030 public houses and beer shops”.

In 1938, in preparation for the expected war, air raid trenches, along with more substantial shelters being dug across the green.

The green contains a memorial to the dead of both world wars as well as a statue – by John Thomas and unveiled by William Gladstone – of Sir Hugh Myddleton, designer of the New River that was so important to London’s water supply from the 17th century onwards. The New River once terminated a little way to the south in Finsbury. The modern New River Walk, ends just to the north of the green off Essex Road.

The north side of the green also carries a plaque to the Collins’ Music Hall (also called the Islington Hippodrome) which burned down in 1958. Only the front and side walls survived. The remains of the building (apart from the front wall) was demolished in 1963.

In 1979, pupils from the music class at Islington Green school sang the chorus to Pink Floyd’s ’Another Brick in the Wall’.

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