White Conduit House started life in the late 17th century as a tea garden where city dwellers could escape for the grassy fields and relatively clean air of Islington.  According to Oliver Goldsmith it was a site where "the inhabitants of London often assemble to celebrate a feast of hot rolls and butter".  For over a century from  the 1750s to the 1850s the curved front of White Conduit House and its pleasure gardens hosted not just cricket matches but a wide range of entertainments of all kinds, as illustrated in the images below.

White Conduit House With BalloonWhite Conduit House Long RoomCricket Match White Conduit House 1788

 

 

Trinity school, now a building at 16A Cloudesley Street, on the corner with Cloudesley Square, has an interesting history, as the following extract from "Cloudesley: 500 Years in Islington" by Cathy Ross describes (see here for information on the schoolmasters at the school):

"... in December 1829 a new project was conceived - building an infant school. Following a search for a suitable site the feoffees agreed to lease a plot to the enterprise and a ‘neat edifice in the pointed style’ was erected, designed by local architect George Legg and built by William Webb of Clerkenwell. The feoffees granted an 81 year lease on the site at a ground rent of £15 and the building cost largely came from donations, including £52 raised by the sale of tickets to ‘an interesting lecture on pneumatic chemistry’.

The little school opened in 1830. This was a private school where donors or subscribers bought the right to nominate children – two children for every donation of 10 guineas. By 1835 240 children were enrolled in the infant school and 263 in the Sunday school which was held in the same building. In 1839 the building was enlarged to become a ‘National School’ accommodating 133 older boys as well as 224 infants."

The school was taken over by the London County Council (LCC) in 1905, closed down as "unfit for purpose", re-opened in 1908 as the "Cloudesley Street Temporary Council School" then closed down again in 1915 (at this time, the LCC also established the school on Dowry Street between Stonefield Street and Cloudesley Road, which remains to this day).  The building on Cloudesley Street was then let to the "Elizabeth Whitelaw Reid Club".  Cathy Ross again:

Jean Templeton Ward

"In 1910 the Elizabeth Whitelaw Reid Club had opened on the school premises, bringing an American connection to the Stonefield Estate. Elizabeth Whitelaw Reid was the wife of the American ambassador and an energetic philanthropist. The Holy Trinity club was one of a network she had established in American cities and were designed to provide improving activities for young people in deprived communities. Both Whitelaw Reid and her daughter Lady Jean Templeton Ward, a great beauty of her day [see image], took a personal interest in the Islington club. Lady Ward continued her connection into the 1950s, paying much of the rebuilding costs after a fire in 1958. The youth club continued to run, under the auspices of the Mary Ward Settlement, and in 1958 Cloudesley sold the fire-damaged building outright to the Elizabeth Whitelaw Reid Clubs for Young People Ltd, for £2,200110. The building was extensively renovated with grant support from Islington Metropolitan Borough and the City Parochial Foundation. When the Whitelaw Reid youth club closed in the 1960s the building was sold on to a related organisation, the Grubb Institute."

In Holy Trinity Church there is a plaque commemorating Elizabeth Whitelaw Reid and two others devoted to Kate Gallwey and Maud Alice Bartlett, respectively leader and deputy leader of the club for 30 years.

In the 1970s, 16A Cloudesley Street was redeveloped, retaining its quirky but rather attractive exterior, and was occupied by the Grubb Institute, which "builds on a history of more than 50-years at the intersection of organisational dynamics, systems thinking and integral psychology" (!).  Finally, in 2018, it became the home of the Barnsbury Housing Association, of which more here

Infant School Cloudesley Square 18 Grubb Institute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a school (“the South Islington and British Schools, later used as a cardboard manufacturer”) built in 1841 on Denmark Terrace, later renamed as 1-23 Copenhagen St, so presumably at the South-West corner of the Cloudesley Estate.  There is no trace of the building there today, and little information about the school is available, but we do have these charming images of schoolchildren there, in 1899.  

 

london board school denmark terrace islington 1

london board school denmark terrace islington waiting for soup at dinner time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The London Fever Hospital

As illustrated in the 19th Century Timeline, here, 19th century London was rife with infectious diseases.  As part of the fight against the waves of epidemics sweeping across the capital, especially in the 1830s and 1840s, the London Fever Hospital was opened on Liverpool Road opposite Cloudesley Square in 1848.  One hundred years later it joined the NHS as the Royal Free Hospital, closing down in 1975.  After staying empty for a few years it was re-opened as the handsome housing development we know today.  This major landmark next to the Cloudesley Estate has a fascinating history described in the attached article:

Download "London Fever Hospital, Liverpool Road"

For more details, including extensive descriptions of the redevelopment, see this LocalLocalHistory website.

Engraving 1848

 

 

 

“Belle Isle” (the name is ironic!) refers to an area to the east of York Way (previously known as Maiden Lane – see maps below) as it crosses Brewery Road, which throughout the 19th century was notorious for the noxious industries and trades which were carried on there. It is relevant to our history in two ways. Firstly, it seems reasonable to assume that a number of the residents of the Cloudesley Estate were employed there, and the Occupations revealed in the records tend to confirm this. Secondly, the toxic presence of Belle Isle has been cited as a major reason for the decline in the area, particularly west of Caledonian Road, as those who could afford it fled to more salubrious and sweeter-smelling localities further North.

Belle Isle Map LargeBelle Isle Map 1830

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following extracts from the highly entertaining “In Strange Company”, by James Greenwood, 1874gives a flavour of the place:


“The spot that holds the horse slaughter houses is modestly called "The Vale;" the first turning beyond is, with goblin like humour, designated "Pleasant Grove." It is hardly too much to say, that almost every trade banished from the haunts of men, on account of the villanous smells and the dangerous atmosphere which it engenders is represented in Pleasant Grove. There are bone boilers, fat-melters, "chemical works," firework makers, lucifer-match factories, and several most extensive and flourishing dust yards, where - at this delightful season so excellent for ripening corn - scores of women and young girls find employment in sifting the refuse of dust-bins, standing knee-high in what they sift.”

Greenwood also describes the "London Necropolis Company" where bodies were stored before being transported by rail to out of town cemeteries!  Just across York Way is Agar Town, known locally as "Ague Town" or "the worst slum in London", now the fairly pleasant looking Elm Village estate.

 

Agar TownLondon Necropolis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 According to British History Onlinethe enterprises located at Belle Isle include the following:

Tilekilns (Adams, later Tylor’s)
Coach and Cart Grease Factory (Warner’s)
Chemical Laboratory (Margett’s)
Varnish Factory (Wallis & Sons, also Schweizer’s, Turner’s and others
Soap-Boiling (Adams again)
Enamel Black and Japanning
Blood Manure (Fretwell’s)
Fat Melting
Gut-Scraping (Sausage Skins)
Condemned Meat Processing

Many of these trades were associated with the many slaughterhouses located in Belle Isle or nearby, of which the most important belonged to John Atchelor. According to one account:

Jack Atchelor

“The Granddaddy of London horse slaughterers was Jack Atcheler. He held the royal warrant and, as 'Knacker to the Queen' and something of a sporting man, he was a minor mid-Victorian celebrity... A sign on the wall outside Atcheler's office at 186, York Road read:

John Atcheler

Horse Slaughterer To Her Majesty
Horse Grease Harness Oils
Patent Grease For Axles
Orders Promptly Attended To
Commit No Nuisance"

As time went on the factories at Belle Isle appear to have become a little more respectable. By 1970, Adams’ tilekilns had been taken over by John Tylor & Sons, an instrument manufacturer. Tylor built a large tower for delivering constant water pressures to test the instruments. The firm also appears to have expanded into engine manufacturing (see image). Later on the works was taken over by a plastic manufacturer which emblazoned it with the logo “Ebonite” and as such it remained a conspicuous landmark until 1983 when it was demolished. For a more detailed account see here, page 10.

Tylor Ebonite Tower 2Tylor Engine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently. I visited present-day Belle Isle as part of a self-guided walk - "Wrong Side of the Tracks" - starting in King's Cross.  There are few remaining signs of past glories but the area is still a hive of entrepreneurial activity, with small factories, workshops and a host of design studios and small media firms in extremely smart offices.  How times change!

Old Warehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting Ghosts - Cloudesley Road - Past and Present

Ghost SignShe’s done it again! The indefatigable Jenny Tatton has been researching the many shops and other commercial premises which used to be a prominent feature of Cloudesley Road. You can download the fascinating results of this research here:

Download: “Hunting Ghosts – Cloudesley Road – Past and Present (Part I)”


Download: “Hunting Ghosts – Cloudesley Road – Past and Present (Part II)”


Part I is essentially a guided walk up and down Cloudesley Road (not forgetting Culpepper Park) with photos and short descriptions of all the “ghost” shops, studios, and pubs which used to ply their trade in days gone by. The map below show the main premises covered.

Map

Part II is a detailed database of all the proprietors of the premises described in Part I, and more, with names, occupations, dates and cross references. The data in this case comes from commercial Directories.

What emerges clearly from this research is that in the past and up until quite recently Cloudesley Road was a “bustling village full of industrious residents” engaged in a wide range of commercial activities.  Jenny has already spoken with some of our older residents who can remember these times and we hope that more will come forward to share their priceless memories.

Your walks down Cloudesley Road will never be the same again!

 

Just to the North of the Cloudesley Estate, at the junction of Liverpool Road and what is now Barnsbury Street (see old maps), was St Mary's Workhouse.  The workhouse was a grim but important feature of Georgian and Victorian life, especially after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.  The history of workhouses is well documented in a remarkable website compiled by Peter Higginbotham, here.  Of particular interest to Cloudesley residents is his section on Islington Workshops, here, from which much of the following, including images, has been taken.

The building of St Mary's Workhouse started in 1776 and by 1814, according to Higginbotham, "there were 407 inmates, 95 men, 186 women, 64 boys, 48 girls, and 11 lunatics [sic] with room for about 50 more".  In other words, a huge establishment.  In 1869 a new, larger workhouse was built on St John's Road near Archway.

St Mary's, Liverpool Road WorkhouseSt Johns Road Workhouse

Life in the workhouses was of course grim.  Inmates were kept in spartan conditions and were assigned hard labour such as the mindless task of preparing "oakum" - tarred fibre used for caulking - by unravelling old ropes.  On the other hand, there was probably a huge variation in conditions from workhouse to workhouse, and at St Mary's the staff at least appeared to have meant well and attempted to do the best for their charges with the limited resources available to them.  Higginbotham includes an extract from a review by The Lancet in 1865 which paints quite a cheery picture - see below:

Extract From Lancet Review of St Mary's 1865oakumpickingwomen 2Workhouse Meal

Perhaps a better impression of the reality of workhouse life can be glimpsed by studying the records of individual inmates.  It is possible via Ancestry to access workhouse admission and discharge records and the St Mary's Liverpool Road entries for 1866 are available here and offer a horrifying insight into the appalling and shattered lives of many islington residents at the time, as the following screenshots show.  The admission records reveal that inmates came from neighbourhoods all round the Cloudesley Estate, particularly from Caledonian Road (see the George Gissing description, here) and Copenhagen Street, often whole families at a time, and hint at the underlying tragedies involved.  The discharge records are scarcely less dismaying, with common destinations including "Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum", "Infant Poor House", "Fever Hospital", and of course "Died".

Download Records

 As the last image in the download starkly reveals, between April 27 and May 5, 1866, Mary Ann Jones, Charwoman and widow, aged 78, was admitted from No 2 Cloudesley Street.  "Cause of Seeking Relief" is, as usual, listed as "Distress".  Apart from this, however, cursory examination of the records reveals no other instances of Cloudesley Estate residents being admitted to the workhouse in 1866.  This might suggest that the area was relatively well off compared to neighbouring streets such as Caledonian Road.  Similarly, although there are several instances of inmates being discharged into "the service of [name and local address]..." no such examples involving households in the Cloudesley Estate have been found, although no doubt a steady traffic both out of and into the area would have occured over the years.

Finally, to end on a slightly more uplifting note, from other sources entirely we learn of one Charles Arthur Holland-Goodwin who was born as an illegitimate child to his mother Elizabeth in 1902 in the St John's Road workhouse.  But by 1961, he has married Rose Juliff, enjoys presumably steady employment as a Stationery Checker, and is living at ...  16 Cloudesley Square! (My house - Nick).  More on this redemptive story later!

 

Around 1909, the back gardens between Stonefield Street and Cloudesley Road were redeveloped into Dowrey Street and a new school was built there - Cloudesley Physically Handicapped (PH) School.  You can see the school buildings marked on an OS map of the time, below.

OS Map

It has proved curiously difficult to find any records about this school.  The only photos we have are these rather blurred aerial RAF images which Florence has hunted down (use the church to orient yourself).

Aerial School 2

Aerial School 1

We are fortunate, however, to have been contacted by Peter Lambert, who attended the school during the 1940s and he has kindly shared his memories of this time in this charming account:

Download: "Memories of Cloudesley PH School", by Peter Lambert

You will learn here about the authoritarian Mr Gush, evacuation during the blitz, christmas parties in Caledonian Road, trips to the theatre and to the seaside in Kent, and many other anecdotes from this distant period during and immediately after the Second World War.  Despite the hardships, Peter ends his memories with this:

"I hope these notes will assist you in building a record of the history of the Cloudesley school - a school which I know helped many young handicapped people overcome their disabilities and set them up for life.

I for one feel blessed for having spent those important years in the company of such dedicated staff and of course my fellow students."

Here are before and after pictures of Peter, aged about 13, and as he is today.  Also a picture of a Dennis Bus of the type which he refers to in his account.

Peter Lambert Today 1

Peter Lambert 1


 Dennis Bus


 

Does anyone else have information about Cloudesley PH School?  Peter would love to hear from you and so would we all.