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A Guide To Islington London

Nov 1, 2007
The finest aspect of Islington is its rich residue of Georgian streets and squares, and this walk takes you through all the best. But it also has more than its share of local entertainment, a fascinating collection of antique shops and a market, as well as a range of restaurants, pubs and cafes. Islington was poor until it was rediscovered from the 1960s, and some parts still are, but rich and poor seem to co-habit here in reasonable harmony.

Islington was always seen as a convenient point for access to town, in the 18C as a place to ride out for Sunday afternoon tea, and later as a pleasant suburban residential area. It possessed gardens and fine views of London as well as the burlesque New River and the beneficial waters of Sadlers Wells. Only in the 19C, after the railways did it become slummy.

Start at Angel station, where you emerge into the noise and bustle of Upper Street. Opposite, across the traffic-ridden carriageways, you immediately see an Islington characteristic, a raised causeway brining the pavement or sidewalk an amenity created when the streets were badly churned up by live cattle being driven to London.

Turn right. You soon reach the beginning of the fashionable antique market confusingly called Camden Passage. It makes its way north along what was the
old High Street, in a mixture of permanent shops with a particularly rich collection in the Mall, a former tramway transformer station and street market stalls, especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Briefly turn off to the right at Duncan Street, down to Duncan Terrace and Colebrooke Row. These attractive, balanced 18C streets were developed to run either side of the New River, the aqueduct brought from Hertfordshire in the early 17C (see Chapter 29). There is no sign of the river here now its course converted under a pleasing garden.

Beyond, you see the Regents Canal emerging from its tunnel. To its left runs Noel Road, where playwright Joe Orton lived at no. 25 in the 1960s. Of more historic literary fame was Charles Lamb, who in 1823 moved into 64 Duncan Terrace with his sister Mary.

Lamb (1775-1834) was an essayist, letter writer and critic, and above all a Londoner. Born in the Inner Temple, he lived with his sister at various addresses in the centre of town and later at Islington, Enfield and Edmonton, where he died. He was a friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

William Haztitt, Leigh Hunt and others, and literature was his metier but he also endured a full working life as a clerk with the East India Company, taking, with delight, a pension in 1825. His writings can still be enjoyed in the Essays of Elia which in places, with his letters, can convey more powerfully even than Charles Dickens the essence of the city.

The next on the right off Upper Street after Duncan Street is Charlton Place, with a pleasing crescent down its right-hand side. The heavyweight building to be seen across Upper Street is the Business Design Centre.
About the Author
Archy Ash writes for Property Helper ltd. a property portal helping people service their Islington property needs at http://property-helper.co.uk
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