Housing Development in the Early 19th Century

From the mid-1820s through to the mid-1850s there was an explosion of speculative housing development in Islington.  In a relatively short time what was previously a predominantly rural environment of mainly green fields for grazing cattle was transformed into a dense urban neighbourhood.  The Cloudesley Estate was one of the first such developments c1830.  Thereafter building spread rapidly, mainly to the North and West, to create the characteristic late Georgian and early Victorian terraces and squares which define what we know today as the Barnsbury Conservation Area.  This section of the website is an attempt to make sense of and visualise this development.

The image below is a map of present day Barnsbury (more or less) with the dates when house building began on various streets.  The dates have been taken almost exclusively from the invaluable "Streets With a Story" by Eric A Willats, downloadable for free here.


Barnsbury Street Dates PNG


Clearly, these dates are only approximate.  For example the building of the Cloudesley Estate proceeded in fits and starts from the mid-1820s through to the mid-1830s (see here).  Moreover, isolated housing developments did already exist - all along Upper Street and Lower Street (now Essex Road), on Thornhill Road around what is now the Albion pub and to the East of there, near the workhouse, in Felix Terrace, Place and Steet (now Liverpool Road).  And not shown, to the South of the Cloudesley Estate, Pentonville was already largely built up.  But the map does give a sense of how major housing developments from the mid-1820s onwards spread mainly North and West thereafter.

Another way to visualise these developments is through maps of the time, which show actual streets and in some cases individual buildings at the time of publication.  Five extracts from such maps are shown below from 1817, 1835, 1843, 1850 and 1868.


1817 Map, E&B Baker

Map 1817, E&B Baker, Extract


1835 Map, C&J Greenwood (Harvard)Map 1830, C&J Greenwood (Harvard), Extract


1843 Map, D Rumsey

1843, D Rumsey, Extract


1850 Map, Cross, Extract (two panes stitched together)

Cross Map 1850 WestCross Map 1850 East


1868 Map, Weller, Extract

Weller Map 1868 WestWeller Map 1868 East



Finally, these maps have been jiggled about and superimposed in sequence on a Powerpoint slide to give an animated illustration of the development of Barnsbury during the first half of the 19th century.  You can download the Powerpoint animation here (then click on the slideshow icon at the bottom right) or better, just click on the YouTube video here:


It's a bit clunky, but hopefully you'll get a real sense of this remarkable real estate development phenomenon.  Try doing it a few times and focusing on different areas, freezing the animation if necessary.  


Architectural Features

Interestingly, the Barnsbury development period takes place right at the cusp of the transition from Georgian to Victorian architectural styles.  These styles are summarised below (courtesy Daisy Mason and Melanie Backe-Hansen, Foxtons).  The Georgian period is usually defined as running from 1714 to 1837 with the last 7 years sometimes referred to as late-Georgian or Regency.  The Victorian period runs from Queen Victoria's accession in 1837 to her death in 1901.  Obviously, there was no dramatic change in styles overnight from 1836 to 1838!  In fact the majority of houses in Barnsbury's terraces and squares look distinctly "Georgian" to me  But have a close look the next time you're wandering our local streets and see if you can spot the differences in the light of the development history above!


 Typical Georgian Features


  • Townhouses were arranged over three or four storeys
  • Sash windows with smaller panes – tall windows on the first two floors and smaller windows on the top storeys
  • Symmetrical flat exterior and balanced interior layout
  • Stucco-fronted exterior, meaning it is rendered in a plaster material that covers the construction material beneath. In earlier Georgian designs, the ground floor was rendered and the rest of the exterior was exposed brickwork, while in the later Regency style, houses were rendered from top to bottom.
  • Render painted white or cream
  • Built around garden squares, as the houses did not have their own garden

Example Late Georgian House: Cloudesley Square c1830


16 Cloudesley Square 2019


Typical Victorian Features


  • Coloured brickwork
  • High pitched roof
  • Ornate gable trim
  • Geometric tiled hallways
  • A brickwork porch
  • Front door to the side of the façade
  • Narrow hallway
  • Stained glass windows
  • Bay windows to sit in, for reading and writing
  • Dark furniture and wood floors
  • Fireplace in every room
  • Patterned wallpaper – typically heavy floral designs
  • Elaborate design details that reflect the wealth of the owner and those coming into ‘new’ money

Example Early Victorian House: Malvern Terrace c1840


Malvern Terrace 1840





#2 Nick 2020-07-16 12:23
Hi Andrew. Jenny who has contributed extensively to this website, also lives in Cloudesley Road and has done a marvelous piece on it - "Hunting Ghosts" which you can find here: https://www.cloudesleyassociation.org/cloudesley-history/places/227-cloudesley-road-past-and-present-hunting-ghosts. I think she decided the reason for it being so wide is because it was used for driving herds of cattle down to Smithfields. You should also check out the various detailed census data analysis which Jenny and I have done. This shows that our houses were mostly single-occupancy for fairly well-to-do families originally but rapidly became multi-occupancy as the area went downmarket - see https://www.cloudesleyassociation.org/cloudesley-history/base-data-and-introduction and throughout.
#1 Andrew Morris 2020-07-16 12:22
Very interesting historical information. I'd often wondered that the houses seemed so elegant as originally built, yet had ended up in multiple occupation. Interesting that there was a mix of tenants and leaseholders from the beginning.

I live in Cloudesley Road and have often wondered why it's so wide with one side bowing out in the middle. Any ideas?