1 of our shortest trips to the various London Boroughs was that to Islington, as we had a quick wander on the way back towards the hotel 1 evening…
Status: London Borough of Islington, Greater London (historically Middlesex), District, England
Travel: London Underground (Various)
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Angel Tube Station, Lexicon Tower, The Angel Islington, Islington Clock Tower, Former Angel Cinema, St Mark’s Church etc
Our excursion around Islington began at Angel Tube Station, when we arrived on a train on the Northern Line from King’s Cross St Pancras in Camden. The Station is notable for having the largest escalators on the tube network, (4th largest in Europe) at 89 ft tall, and it really does feel like you are ascending from some deep underground world as you wait the few minutes it takes to get to the top.
Angel opened in 1901 as part of an extension to the City & South London Railway (CSLR), which had originally begun services in 1890. The 1st section of line had run from Stockwell in the present Borough of Lambeth, to King William Street, although this station closed when the extension was dug, bypassing it and heading towards Bank, and from there on to London Euston via Angel and King’s Cross/St Pancras stations.
The line would eventually become part of the Northern Line, although not all trains pass through Angel, as there are 2 branches which diverge at Euston. 1 runs towards King’s Cross St Pancras/Angel/Bank/London Bridge etc, and the other towards Warren Street/Leicester Square/Charing Cross/Embankment etc. The 2 lines then meet up again at Kennington in Lambeth, and the line terminates in Brixton.
We emerged onto Islington high street, and headed South along St John Street. As we walked, we happened to glance West up Chadwell Street into Myddelton Square Gardens, the central feature of which is St Mark’s Church.
St Mark’s, like many other Churches in London, was born out of necessity, to cater for an ever expanding congregation across the main boroughs and parishes in the capital. The New River Company donated the land the building stands on, and the company’s surveyor, William Chadwell Mylne (1781 – 1863), was commissioned to design the Church, which was completed by 1828.
The London Blitz in 1941 saw the Church partially damaged, with the roof left in a severe condition, and the windows as empty frames. The congregation however stood defiant, and continued to worship inside the building, which would eventually be fully restored by the early 1960’s, and it continues today as an important part of the local community.
The area just outside Angel Station consists of a number of notable buildings, starting with a building which is famous globally due to its position on the British Monopoly Board as “The Angel Islington”, 1 of the cheapest squares you can buy in the game. The building in question is shown above, as the terracotta coloured granite building on the corner.
The history of the site itself began in the 16th Century, when a pub called the “Angel Inn” opened here, later being rebuilt around 1638, and again at the start of the 19th century. The present building was designed by Frederick James Eedle and Sydney Herbert during the 1890’s, opening for business in 1903. All this time, centuries after the original Inn opened, it remained the Angel Pub, which continued to trade until 1921, when it became the Angel Cafe Restaurant under the new management of J. Lyons & Co (British Restaurant Chain). It would eventually pass into the hands of the New River Company which I mentioned earlier regarding St Mark’s Church, who converted the building into Office Space, and today it is occupied by the Co-Operative Bank, whose name is visible above the main entrance on the ground floor.
The building is located at the intersection of Pentonville Road (also on the Monopoly Board) and the A1 (trunk road between London & Edinburgh). If you follow Pentonville Road for around a mile West, you will arrive at London King’s Cross and London St Pancras International train stations.
Behind The Angel Islington you can see the 100 ft campanile tower of the former “Angel Cinema” completed in 1913, and designed by H Courtenay Constantine. The building of course took its name from the adjacent Angel Islington. Sadly only the impressive facade/tower survive from this once majestic building, as the Cinema closed in 1972, and the majority of the building was demolished to allow an office block to be built.
The last landmark we saw in Islington before making our way back towards the hotel was the Islington Clock Tower, located where Goswell Road meets the A1, to the East of The Angel Islington. The plaque on the side of the Clock shows that it was built by J. Smith & Sons, a Clock Making company established in 1780. The Clock was a donation by the company to the public, and of course gave the company some free advertisement in 1 of London’s busiest areas.
In the background you can see a building under construction close to the City Road Canal Basin. It’s part of the new Lexicon complex which lines the Canal, and when completed with stand 393 ft tall, housing 144 flats across its 36 floors, all of which will conspire to help the building take the crown of the tallest building in the Borough of Islington. It has already been nicknamed the Lexicon Tower, and has been quite divisive in the community, with many believing it isn’t in keeping with the rest of Islington, whilst others hail its modern architectural style.
We will have to wait to pass judgement, as the building isn’t complete yet, so maybe on our next trip we shall come to see how it looks. Islington is a lovely area of London, and towards St Mark’s Church we could see rows of beautiful Georgian terraced houses, a common site around London. Transport is well organised across the Borough, with 10 Tube Stations across the Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly & Victoria Lines, with Farringdon Station being a major interchange between them.
For now though, it was time to leave, and the next Borough we would visit the following day was the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea…