Essex Road

Essex Road, Islington

A commercial street running north-eastwards from Islington Green in the direction of Stoke Newington

geograph-4887555-by-Bill-Boaden - Essex Road station - 664

Essex Road’s route may be of Roman ori­gin and was cer­tain­ly well-estab­lished by the Mid­dle Ages. The road has gone by a vari­ety of names for part or all of its length, includ­ing Sev­eney Street, Low­er Street and Low­er Road. There were some sub­stan­tial prop­er­ties here by about 1600 but at the end of the 17th cen­tu­ry sev­er­al of these homes had been let as inns.

Rows of cot­tages were built from the 1760s and over suc­ces­sive decades the pat­tern of con­struc­tion became increas­ing­ly dense, urban and poor, spread­ing into a net­work of side streets in the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry. Over­crowd­ing became a seri­ous prob­lem. Phil­an­thropic hous­ing asso­ci­a­tions planned the first slum clear­ance pro­grammes from the late 1870s and had almost total­ly rebuilt the area by the end of the cen­tu­ry.

The Great North­ern and City Rail­way opened in 1904 with a sta­tion at Essex Road, at the cor­ner of Canon­bury Road, shown in the pho­to­graph above.*

Carlton cinema façade
Carl­ton cin­e­ma façade

One block south-west of the sta­tion, the Carl­ton cin­e­ma was built in 1930. Its Egypt­ian-style façade is said to have been influ­enced by the dis­cov­ery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. Lat­er a bin­go hall, the Carl­ton was acquired by Res­ur­rec­tion Man­i­fes­ta­tions, an evan­gel­i­cal church of Ghana­ian ori­gin that has restored the build­ing and con­vert­ed it into a place of wor­ship. It is also avail­able to hire as an events venue.

After the Sec­ond World War much of the Essex Road area was rebuilt again by the bor­ough and coun­ty coun­cils, notably in the form of the Mar­quess estate of the 1960s and ear­ly 1970s.

Pri­vate devel­op­ers have been adding town­hous­es and com­pact apart­ment blocks since the 1980s. Essex Road nowa­days pos­sess­es a diverse set of com­mer­cial premis­es, from dirt-cheap dis­count stores to exclu­sive lit­tle French bistros and quirky antique empo­ri­ums. Many shops occu­py sin­gle-storey exten­sions built over the for­mer front gar­dens of ter­raced hous­es. The more inter­est­ing estab­lish­ments tend to lie near Isling­ton Green but these are spread­ing north-east­ward with Islington’s ever-grow­ing desir­abil­i­ty.

In 1807 the poet Thomas Hood moved to 50 Lower Street with his parents, remaining here for 20 years.

The composer Benjamin Britten had a studio in Halliford Street from 1970 to 1976. His opera Death in Venice was partly composed here.

Postal district: N1
Station: Great Northern (zone 2)
* The picture of Essex Road station at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Bill Boaden, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.