North London Railway - Highbury Corner
The railway continues south westwards
Post to the east Canonbury
Post to the west Arundel Square
Post to the north Highbury
This post covers only the north east corner of the square
Main square to the east
Post to the quarter square to the south Barnsbury
Post to the quarter square to the south west Ladykillers
Post to the quarter square to the north east Caledonian Road
This appears to be on the site of the North Metropolitan Tramway Horse Depot built in
1896 and entered from Corsica Street. This corner however was destroyed by the V1 in June 1944.
The building of Calabria Road was approved in 1887, as part of a small estate laid out by a builder, H. Baylis. It had a Roman name because of the supposed Roman camp at Highbury. It cut through Highbury Place, thus destroying the symmetry of the original scheme, and allowing for the demolition of two villas.
1 1890 house is attached to 13 Highbury Place
In 1767 Spencer Compton, the 8th Earl, leased Canonbury House, outbuildings, and adjoining grounds plus a the large pond to John Dawes, He demolished the south range of the house and on its site built five houses forming Canonbury Place, which in 1771 he leased from Lord Northampton,
Canonbury Tower. A brick structure over sixty feet high, said to have been built by Prior Bolton of St Bartholomew's about 1520. It was at the corner of Canonbury House, a manor house belonging to the St. Bartholomew. The tower was originally in its garden, but is now separate. At the reformation in 1539 Prior Robert Fuller, surrendered the manor and it was given to Thomas Cromwell, but later reverted to the Crown. After 1570 it was leased to John Spencer, later Lord Mayor who rebuilt it. There is some story about his daughter, Elizabeth, lowered in a basket from the tower window disguised as a boy to run off with Lord Crompton. He became the first Earl of Northampton and they inherited this property and it remains in their family. In 1616 it was leased by Sir Francis Bacon and it continued to be let out. From the 18th it has been tenanted by important figures in the world of literature, politics and the press, including dramatist Oliver Goldsmith. In 1907 it became a social centre for the Northampton Estate. In the 1960s Canonbury Tower was leased to the Tower Theatre, part of the Tavistock Repertory Company, but when the lease expired in 2003 the company moved. The Canonbury Tower Charitable Trust was established in 1985. It is now a centre for Masonic research.
The garden of the Tower has an old mulberry tree, said to be planted in when Francis Bacon's lived there,
Canonbury House was built in the 1790s by John Dawes on the west side of the older manor house. It was later used as St.Stephen’s Vicarage
1-5 villas on the site of the demolished southern range of the original Canonbury House built 1770 – 80.
1 this was the home of architect Basil Spence
5 this was the home of Gilbert and Sullivan star George Grossmith who also wrote Diary of a Nobody.
King Edward Hall community hall was built in the garden of Canonbury House in 1907. Used by the Tower The4atre for a while.
6-9 this is the gabled east range of Canonbury House and most recently used as a conference centre, the Canonbury Academy. Currently planned to turn it into a private school.
6 was a private girls' school and latterly Highbury and Islington High School for Girl’s. It later became the Head Quarters of the North London District Nursing Association, and then Harcourt House Medical Missionary Association.
8-9 was at one time Canonbury Children’s Centre
10-14 terraced houses which are now shops built in the mid 19th with some art nouveau features.
22-26 terrace built in 1963 by Raymond Erith,
27-30 said to include at the western end a portico from Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill
Built as part of New North Road, in 1812 as an early through-route which by- passed Islington village to link the foot of Holloway Road at Highbury Corner with Shoreditch, Hoxton and the eastern parts of the City.
Canonbury Community Primary School. This originated as the Union Chapel British School; opened for girls in 1807, and extended for boys in 1814. A new school was built in Compton Mews in 1836 and the school also used a room under the vestry behind the chapel from 1868. This British School building was slightly to the north of the current school. In 1871 the building in Compton Mews was transferred to the School Board for London and in 1875 the school moved to an iron bldg. in Canonbury Road in 1876. The present Board School building was opened 1877 and there have been many additions and eventual transfer to London Borough of Islington,
School keeper’s cottage. Arts and crafts style house. Built in 1910 and demolished 2012.
85 Gymboree. Branch of American child care group. The site was until the 1950s terraced housing. It has more recently been a car showroom and car wash plus a warehouse, and a furniture showroom, with a college for students of business and accounting above.
124 Inca C-Gil. This is the Italian Trade Union and Advice Centre. The house was once called Compton Cottage
Dixon Clark Court, built 1964 as the Goldsmiths Place Project
Built on part of old manor of Canons Burh which came from St.Bartholomew's in the City. In 1803 it was leased to Leroux who developed it bit was bankrupt by 1809. This stretch was disposed of in 1811 after New North Road had cut through the site. Laycock then proceeded with development. It became a poverty stricken area from the 1920s and In the Second World War some of the area was destroyed by bombing. The estate was sold in 1951 and the purchasers. Western Ground Rents, allowed gaps caused by bombing to be rebuilt, the north side of the Square by their architect-surveyor Nash. From then it has became a middle class area,
39 Northampton Lodge. The house was built before 1811 and is a gentleman's villa with a large garden, and wings containing conservatories. Converted for the Estorick Collection of Modem Italian Art, 1988.
Terraced housing built by Dry, Halass, Dixon Partnership in 1977. It is set around a garden and stepped back along footpaths.
Mews to Compton Terrace. The Union Chapel’s actual address is here.
A long, four-storey at the end, three-storey at the other and set back from Upper Street. Planned in 18th by Henry Leroux, who wanted a row of linked villas like The Paragon in Blackheath flanking a smaller Union Chapel. After building two pairs he went bankrupt in 1809 and it was finished in 1819 by Henry Flower, builder, and Samuel Kell, carpenter. The V2 in August 1944 meant that the terrace now ends at 25 – it landed on the house next to the top at the north end.
7 Dr. Ballard lived – Islington Medical Officer of Health who inspected and reported on industrial nuisances in 1871. Cast-iron Victorian porch;
Union Chapel. The original small chapel of 1806 was replaced in 1876 by this 'Gothic tornado’. An evangelical group of Anglican and Non-conformist worshippers had had a chapel in Highbury Grove, and adopted the Union Chapel to symbolise catholicity of services and preachers for the Congregational movement. From 1804 successful ministers expanded the congregation and the chapel became so famous that it was enlarged, and by the 1870s a new building was necessary. The new building was by James Cubitt with the tower completed in 1889. The red brick tower contrasts with the Georgian restraint of the terrace. The interior is outstanding, red brick and stone decorated with marble and tile and seating for 1,650. There are Art Nouveau lights with 19th gasoliers turned upside down, there is a rose window with musical angels by Frederick Drake of Exeter. There is a large hot-air heating system. It was built by L. H. & R. Roberts, cost £50,000, and formally opened in 1877, with Gladstone in the congregation. In its first fortnight of existence Rev. C. H. Spurgeon preached to a congregation of 3,365. The then Minister was a music-lover, and built up a performance reputation while organists visited from far away to play here. After the Second World War and bomb damage it was threatened with demolition, but, in 1982 a group of Friends of Union chapel became a registered charity and alternative uses discussed. It is let to recording companies, and music festivals and small theatre companies for its excellent acoustics. Above the vestry door, is a fragment of the 'Plymouth rock' on which the Pilgrim Fathers landed in Massachusetts in December, 1620. The great organ by Father Willis was installed behind the triple ironwork screen. It still has the two hydraulic pumps by which it was originally worked, though since 1926 it has had an electric motor. Apart from one stop replaced in 1909, it is as Henry Willis left it.
Hall and Sunday School. The school has wooden partitions within its gallery to divide individual classes. Library bay with rolling shutter to the bookshelves.
Plaque. This is at the north end of the terrace and says:’In memory of the 26 people who lost their lives, the 150 injured, and the many bereaved when a Vergeltungswaffe Eins V1 Flying Bomb destroyed Highbury Corner at 12.46pm, 27th June, 1944’,
Public gardens. The Terrace is cut off from the main street by a strip of garden. An engraving of 1819 shows a low wall with railings and planting behind - clothes drying was not permitted nor was storage of 'timber, stone, bricks, lime or any other material whatsoever'. ' By 1928 there were two long narrow enclosures enclosed by a low wall with railings above and lawns, flower beds and trees' but railings were removed in 1939/40 for the war effort. By 1962 a line of young trees had been planted and an island flowerbed cut into the grass. Now a privet hedge lines the path and there are two anchor-shaped flowerbeds planted seasonally with bedding plants. They were possibly the creation of Peter Bonsall, former Head of Islington's Parks and Gardens, who liked floral displays. The gardens are now surrounded by reproduction railings.
Highbury Gardens, This is at the north end of Compton Terrace and was created in 2008/09 and is administered separately.
1-7 Circle 33 Housing Trust HQ. Designed by Jestico & Whiles with, executive architects Pollard Thomas & Edwards in 1993-4.
2a The Junction. Pub and bar in what claims to be the old tram depot. Called the junction – after Canonbury Junction to the rear of it,
10 St Mary's Islington Relief Station and Dispensary. This building appears to have been used by a variety of charities and voluntary sector bodies but has now been replaced by flats.
Garden and Site of Nature Conservation Importance leased and maintained by the Highbury Railway Gardens and Allotments Society from Network Rail.
Islington Electricity Department. Built in 1934 this is a brick art deco building with the lettering and decorative features. Islington Borough generated their own electricity from1896 until nationalisation in the late 1940s
Channel Tunnel Ventilation shaft. Large circular structure. One of five ventilation shafts for the London Tunnels of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Constructed between 2001 and 2005, the shaft is 17m wide and 35m deep with an access road onto the street
The Old Road north, and the Great North Road. Now the A1 here. It reaches Highbury Corner from Upper Street and turns left into Holloway Road. It also meets St.Pauls Road from Hackney and in the 19th the New North Road to the City was added. There are other major through routes in the area some historic and some modern which can be accessed from this point. The corner thus acts not just as a roundabout but as a distributor for traffic coming and going northwards and to various parts of east London and the City. The current roundabout however, is shaped as a result of the V1 attack in 1944 - making space around the corner.
Highbury Island – this is the park space in the centre of the roundabout and almost totally inaccessible.
Designed in the 1840s by James Wagstaffe as a row of villas forming the boundary of the fields. In 1844 Wagstaffe had secured 99-year building leases from the freeholder, Henry Dawes the shape of the road dictated by the site. Covenants had previously restricted building.
2 Wagstaffe built this for himself but the house was demolished in 1906 for extensions to Highbury Station.
3 London Training and Employment Network. The building includes a Sandemanian/Glassite meeting house which moved here in 1901 and was possibly the last remaining Sandemanian church in England. It closed in 1984. To create the chapel a large meeting room was created by turning the top floor into one room, and raising the ceiling to replace it with one of vaulted timber. The building also at one time housed the Invalid Children’s Aid Association. It was later owned by Murphy & Sons, builders who allowed it to become in a run-down state.
5 Highbury House. Islington social services were in this building but have now moved. This is a 20th brick office block with ‘insistent verticals’.
4 Council office blocks. The site was taken up previously with the rear extension of the Highbury Imperial Picture Theatre built in Holloway Road
Acquired in 1885 by Met Board of Works and Islington Vestry and opened the same year.
Angel of Peace. South African War Memorial unveiled in 1905. Bronze figure of Glory by Bertrand McKennal and the model for the figure was his wife. The inscription says "HOW SLEEP THE BRAVE WHO SINK TO REST BY ALL THEIR COUNTRY'S WISHES BLESS'D." IN HONOUR OF NINETY-EIGHT ISLINGTONIANS WHO DIED FOR THEIR COUNTRY IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN WAR, 1899 – 1903 ERECTED BY THEIR FELLOW-TOWNSMEN JULY 1905. The memorial is flanked by two cast-iron cannon which may not form part of the original memorial
Highbury Pool. From 1921 there was an open air swimming pool with a paddling pool added after the Great War. This was one of several early 1920s LCC lidos designed by C A Smith. In 1984 a new £1.5m swimming pool was opened here. This is now Highbury Pool & Fitness Centre run by Aquaterra with two swimming pools, a gym and two exercise studios
1-3 Canonbury Telephone Exchange. This dates from 1930, and serves Canonbury and Highbury – this was CANonbury and DICkens until the late 1960s, and is now has 0207-226, 288, 354 and 359 codes. Garden in the front planted in memory of “BT colleagues whom are no longer with us”
The building here was initiated by John Dawes, who owned the land in Highbury fields and designed by John Spiller as a ‘rural suburb’ with the close involvement of his sons. It was built from 1774. Originally the south end had a gated entrance and Dawes guaranteed that the space opposite the terrace would remain open land.
1 a large house with front extension. From 1927-31 it was home of artist Walter Sickert, and adapted as a studio and artists' school including the porch and an extension beyond. There is a plaque to Sickert on the building.
9/10 Coach House. The coach-houses originally separated the terraces and remain in varying states. Some were converted into workshops.
11a a replacement for villas lost to railway building. This is a workshop style building from around 1890. Other villas adjacent were lost to the railway. The successor to the central pair is simply an open space hidden behind hoardings
12/13, these are replacement buildings for villas destroyed by the building of Calabria Road
14 was the home of John Nichols, 1826, author of a History of Highbury in 1788, and co-editor of The Gentleman's Magazine. An arched conduit head covered a spring in front this house, in Conduit Field, designed to send water to the City at Cripplegate having been built by local people on 1483. In 1858 the cistern was surrounded with brick and available for cattle going to Smithfield.
16a Highbury Evangelical Fellowship. This was the Evangelical Brotherhood church.
Since the Middle Ages the main road out of London to the north followed St John Street and Upper Street to veer left at Highbury Corner into Holloway Road.
Highbury and Islington Station. Built in 1849 by the East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway. It now lies between Canonbury and Caledonian Road and Barnsbury on the London Overground, which was Silverlink, on the North and the East London Lines. It is also between Drayton Park and Essex Road on the Great Northern Railway, now first Capital Connect, and between Finsbury Park and Kings Cross on the Victoria Line. The current station is an amalgamation of two older stations and was built by the North London Railway. The second station was on the opposite side of the road and built by the Great Northern and City Railway on the line between Finsbury Park and Moorgate.
North London Line: In 1849 the first wooden station was erected at Highbury Corner and in 1850 the first commuter train to the City ran from this station on a new link into Fenchurch Street. The line was extended to Kew. In 1865 a branch from Dalston Junction allowed trains to go a new City terminus at Broad Street. In 1870 it was renamed Islington. And in 1872 the old wooden structure was rebuilt as a high Victorian hotel-cum-station with a steep roof with gables, chimneys, etc. It had a drive-in forecourt. The name changed to Highbury and Islington. In 1944 this station was badly damaged by the V1 attack here and was demolished in the 1960s. The original platform buildings on the westbound platform remains and there are some small remnants of the original entrance building to the left of the current station entrance.
Victoria Line. In 1968 the Victoria Line was opened here. The current single-storey building was for its opening and provides a combined entrance for all of the lines now serving the station.
Great Northern and City Station. This station was on the opposite side of the road and opened in 1904 by the Great Northern and City Railway on its underground line, between Finsbury Park and Moorgate. The line was operated by the Metropolitan Railway from 1913 until 1975 when the line, called the Northern City Line, was transferred to British Rail. It is now First Capital Connect. The station’s glazed tile entrance is now whitewashed and abandoned, and it too was damaged by the V1 in 1944. When the deep level platforms for the Victoria Line were opened this building was closed and in refurbished externally. It houses upgraded signalling equipment for the Victoria Line.
This is a small side street of post war housing, but the name is that of St.Paul’s Road.
John Spencer Square
This area was rebuilt after the Second World War, by Western Ground Rents. It is named after John Spencer who was Lord Mayor and had a retreat here in the 17th. The square has linked brick blocks of flat-roofed flats approached by staircase bridges. It is round a communal garden with trees. The architect was Western Ground Rents' surveyor, Nash.
Was once the yard of Henry’s Keen’s building business.
Roman colonial street-names presumably chosen by the Metropolitan Board of Works to commemorate the supposed Roman camp popularly supposed to have existed at Highbury
Prior Bolton Street
Prior Bolton was the last prior of St.Bartholomew and has a country house in this area. Like the surrounding streets this is post war housing.
Canonbury Junction. This is where the goods only line leaves the North London line approaching +. A signal box here was burnt down in the early 1970s, however some of the levers from it remain alongside the line,
Canonbury Curve. This is a line from the North London line which in 1873 tunnelled under Highbury Fields between Drayton Park and Canonbury stations, connecting the Great Northern Railway suburban system with Broad Street. This gave the Great Northern direct access to the City for the first time and relieved pressure on King's Cross.
Was Hopping Lane, renamed in 1862.
83 Alwyne Castle Pub. At times known solely as The Alwyne, and has a beer garden in the front by the road.
85 Police Station
109 Hen and Chickens. Pub with a theatre and stand up comedy bar,.`
235 The Library – it has previous names of The Cedar Room, Lush Bar, Independence, Angel and Crown
253-254 Clubs and Institute Union Headquarters and offices. Providing a focus for working men's clubs around the country.
251 White Swan. Wetherspoons pub
259 Cock Tavern. Now The Famous Cock
Aldous. London Villages,
Brutish History Online. Islington
British Listed Buildings. Website
Blue Plaque Guide
Canonbury Society. Web site
Canonbury School. Web site
Clunn. Face of London
Cosh. Squares of Islington,
Field. London place names
Lidos in London. Web site
London Borough of Islington. Web site
London Gardens Online. Web site
Nature Conservation in Islington
Pevsner and Cherry. London North
Robbins. North London Railway
Signal box, Web site
Summerson. Georgian London
Symonds. Behind Blue Plaques,
Webster. Great North Road
Willatts. Streets with a Story