Islington Green

Islington Green, Islington

A small park located at the apex of Upper Street and Essex Road, generally thought of as the centre of Islington

Hidden London: Islington Green by Stephen McKay

Upper Street and Low­er Street (as it was) were Islington’s prin­ci­pal thor­ough­fares from medieval times and the tri­an­gle of land at their junc­tion formed an ear­ly focus. Archae­o­log­i­cal exca­va­tions have revealed evi­dence of 15th-cen­tu­ry ten­e­ments, demol­ished in the 17th cen­tu­ry. By this time the tri­an­gle had become waste ground, espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar for dump­ing dung.

The Mar­quess of Northamp­ton, lord of the manor of Canon­bury, grant­ed the land to the vestry in 1777 and the green was cleared and enclosed with posts and rails. A watch house was built soon after­wards and trees were plant­ed in 1808.

Sev­er­al pub­lic hous­es had long stood around the green, notably the Fox at the north-west cor­ner. Sam Collins estab­lished the Lans­downe Arms in 1851 and sub­se­quent­ly con­vert­ed it into a music hall that gained the pop­u­lar nick­name ‘the chapel on the green’.

William Glad­stone, then chan­cel­lor of the exche­quer, unveiled a stat­ue of Sir Hugh Myd­del­ton on the green in 1862, com­mem­o­rat­ing his entre­pre­neur­ial feat in bring­ing fresh water to Lon­don via the New Riv­er.

Collins’s music hall was rebuilt in 1897. Lat­er called the Isling­ton Hip­po­drome, the build­ing was irrepara­bly dam­aged by fire in 1958. In 2009 a mixed-use devel­op­ment was built on the site with a the­atre in the base­ment. Ten years lat­er the the­atre has yet to open and plans for it to do so were report­ed as being “under threat” in August 2019.

Fun­fairs are reg­u­lar­ly set up on the green. The Screen on the Green is a well-estab­lished inde­pen­dent cin­e­ma, pro­gram­ming a mix of art-house and main­stream films.

Pupils from the fourth-form music class at Islington Green school sang the chorus to Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ in 1979.

Postal district: N1


* The picture of Islington Green on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Stephen McKay, 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.