Following a tip-off from a Barnsbury resident visiting Thornhill Gardens, Jenny has discovered a patch of wooden paving blocks at the bottom of Penton Street, in front of Nos 90-92 Pentonville Road, where the asphalt surface has worn away - see below.  The blocks extend throughout the forecourt area right out to the road.  The story of how they came to be there is quite an interesting one - well, I think so anyway!

Jennys Photo


Up to the beginning of the 19th century the streets of London had not changed much since Roman times and were mostly in a dreadful state.  Apart from the use of stone cobbles in more salubrious areas, most streets were little more than dirt tracks with gravel-filled potholes.  When it rained they became rivers of mud and excrement, mostly horse manure.  This was a classic "Tragedy of the Commons"; in the absence of a central administration, the building and maintenance of London streets was the responsibility of innumerable small parishes, which typically they discharged in a haphazard and neglectful manner.

Then after the Napoleonic wars a Mr J L McAdam invented the "macadam" technique, "layers of carefully graded small stones,bound if necessary with clay or cement, impacted by rolling and having only a shallow camber" to quote a good summary of the history of London's streets by Hannah Renier.  At about the same time, improved transportation by rail and sea meant high quality granite became available from places like Aberdeen.  Granite "setts" - square or rectangular cobbles about 4x6 inches - became the surfacing of choice for streets which could afford them. From about 1870 onwards, there was an increasing tendency to coat both granite setts and macadam with tar, bitumen or asphalt (bitumen mixed with gravel) for an improved and longer lasting surface (in the case of macadam, this became known as "tarmacadam", from which "tarmac" is derived).

But from the mid century onwards, wooden blocks started to be used instead of granite, and wood-paved streets became surprisingly popular in the late 19th century and well into the 20th.  Throughout this time, there was a lively competition between the three types of surfacing, cobbles, macadam and wood, with suitability for horse carriages being the main criterion for choosing between them.  Granite setts were probably the most durable and best for the horses, but relatively expensive and very noisy.  Macadam was cheaper but required much maintenance and was slippery especially in the form of tarmacadam.  Wooden blocks were also slippery, but less so than asphalt, and by the end of the century were probably the most popular choice for London streets outside the City and Docklands.  Such was the demand for high quality wood that in 1898 the Jarrah Timber and Wood Company was set up specifically to grow and import Jarrah timber from Australia!

The history of London's wooden streets is documented in an excellent blog by Ian Mansfield, here.  The extraordinary popularity of wooden paving is demonstrated by the Bartholomews map of 1928, below, taken from that blog.  All the streets marked in yellow are wood!  Blue marks the use of granite setts, macadam is marked by very faint pink, and green is compressed asphalt (first introduced in 1869 on Threadneedle Street by the Val de Travers Company).  Streets without any colouring are presumably simple dirt and gravel.

london map Bartholomews 1928


As the 20th century progressed, travel by horse was increasingly displaced by the automobile, for which tarmacadam was clearly preferable.  Then after the second world war, most of the old wooden blocks were dug up for fuel, with those which were impregnated with tar apparently burning particularly well! 

For a much more detailed history of the use of wooden blocks in London, see the entertaining "Roads were not built for Cars", here

So how were the streets of Islington surfaced, particularly those of the Cloudesley Estate?  Looking closely at the Bartholomews map, above, it seems that in 1928, Pentonville Road, Liverpool Road and Essex Road were all paved with granite setts, while Upper Street, including its extensions North to Holloway Road and South along St Johns Street and Roseberry Avenue, was wooden blocks.  The rest of Barnsbury was either macadam or just dirt and gravel in the case of the Cloudesley Estate.  We have tried to confirm this last with mixed success.  Images of the area are inconclusive.  The engraving of the infants school on Cloudesley Street below might be taken as showing cobbles but this could just be artistic licence.  The lithograph of Holy Trinity Church in Cloudesley Square seems to show residents walking about on a sandy surface or even turf.  To investigate further I questionned one of the workmen digging up Cloudesley Road for laying cable fibre.  He said he'd come across layers of stone cobbles in some streets nearby (Upper Street?) but there was no such evidence in Cloudesley Road.  The rather disappointing conclusion seems to be that when the streets of the Cloudesley Estate were first laid out they were simple dirt and gravel and remained as such until tarmacadamed late into the 20th century.  By the way, don't be fooled by the patches of cobbles on the pavements of Cloudesley Road.  These were almost certainly decorative features introduced as part of gentrification in the 1970s.

Infant School Cloudesley Square


Cloudesley Church and Square 0418738 RIBA68854 600



Finally, what of Jenny's patch of wooden blocks on Pentonville Road?  According to two sources, British History Online and a wonderful blog called Jane's London, these paved the forecourt of HW Wilkins & Sons, a marble merchant at 90-92 Pentonville Road.  We have a picture below - note that Pentonville Road itself is paved with stone cobbles.  Given that Wilkins was only established in 1860, this is the earliest date for the wooden blocks, and it is possible they were laid much later.

Wilkins Marble Shop


Does anyone have any further insights into this subject?

Cloudesley Square Association Logo


The Cloudesley Square Residents Association, a forerunner of our own association, was active during the first half of the 1980s and deserves to be celebrated for its many positive achievements which those of us living in the Square today may take for granted.

The Association had its own rather attractive logo (see above) and was set up by a group of stalwart residents, pioneers of the gentrification process which turned the Square from its derelict state at that time into its present-day splendour.  The first page of the 1984 Annual General Meeting, which is reproduced here, serves both to identify many Association members of that time and also to give a flavour of some of their major preoccupations.  One such was a five-year battle over noise, particularly, but also other unneighbourly activities associated with the Celestial Church of Christ which leased Holy Trinity Church from the London Diocese.  This culminated in a high court writ in 1985, financed by the residents themselves, after which there appears to have been some improvement and an uneasy truce until the Celestials finally moved on in 2018.  

Other major achievements of the Association included:

  • Planting trees in the Square, largely paid for by the residents themselves!
  • Reinstating the railings around the church and in front of many of the houses.
  • Replacing the rather ugly concrete street lamps of the time with the much more attractive traditional ones we enjoy today.
  • Persuading the Council and others to do something about derelict housing, rubbish, squatters and the feral children of Stonefield Street!
  • Policing the traffic management scheme and introducing residents parking.  Interestingly, residents were initially split over this but parking in the Square by, for example, Post Office workers, lorries on their way to Smithfield, visitors to the Crown pub and market traders became such a problem that the present residents parking scheme won the day.

The "before and after" images below illustrate why we owe a debt of gratitude to the Association and its doughty members!


1 Cloudesley Square 1980

Cloudesley Square

Thanks to Gilvrie from  Cloudesley Street for the postcard below of an atmospheric photo by Don McCullin entitled "Sheep going to the Slaughterhouse.  Early Morning, near Caledonian Road, London 1965" (© Don McCullin, courtesy Hamiltons Gallery).  Don McCullin is one of Britain's most famous photographers.  He was born in Finsbury Park and you can read about his early life and see more of his photos here.  Gilvrie actually worked with him on the Sunday Times magazine.

McCullin Sheep 1965


The sheep are in fact on Market Road, which at the time ran through the Metropolitan Cattle Market (later Caledonian Market).  The market itself, now Caledonian Park, was on the right and the slaughterhouses, now tennis courts, were on the left.  The market was established in 1855 by the City of London Corporation on what was previously Copenhagen Fields and was at the time the largest cattle market in London, possibly the world!  You can read all about it here on a marvellous site called "A London Inheritance".  Here below is a drawing of the market in its early days courtesy of the Islington Local History Centre.  To the West of the market was the notorious Belle Isle, home to various noxious trades associated with the slaughterhouses!


Metropolitan Cattle Market


The market began declining around the first world war, becoming a flea market and eventually closing in the mid 1960s.  Don McCullin's photo must record one of the last times sheep were herded through the area.  Today, all that remains is the iconic clock tower, now in the middle of Caledonian Park, close to where the old Copenhagen House once stood.


Additional Note:  Ken Stevens has pointed out that, interestingly, there had been a previous attempt to establish a cattle market in Islington in competition with Smithfields.  This New Islington Market was the initiative of a Mr Perkins and was opened in 1836 on land bordered by Balls Pond Road and Southgate Road.  Sadly, the vested interests of Smithfields and its friends in the City meant that the new venture was never really successful and it closed in 1852, shortly before the Metropolitan Market opened.  You can read more about the new market here.   Shown below is a nice contemporary print from the 1849 London Illustrated News.

Islington New Market 1849




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




I was going to start researching the history of pubs in or around the Cloudesley Estate but soon found I didn't need to when I came across the excellent "Pub Wiki" website (click here for all pubs in Islington).  This lists all pubs past and present in the area, and indeed in the whole of London and most of the South East!  For each pub there is a list of past owners (although curiously, not usually beyond 1944).  There are usually also one or more photos and often some interesting historical details. 

If anyone has additional information or their own stories to tell about any of these pubs please do get in touch - the easiest way is just to add a comment at the bottom of this page.

What is immediately apparent is that there used to be many more pubs than there are today!  Listed below are first the few pubs in the area which are still going strong, then the far larger number which no longer exist as pubs, having been converted into private residences or offices or in one case a church (The Church on the Corner) and in another having been apparently been bombed out of existence (The Prince of Brunswick)!  All pictures are from Pub Wiki unless indicated otherwise.  Clicking on the names links to the current website in the case of pubs present and to the Pub Wiki entry in the case of pubs past.


Pubs Present


The Crown, 116 Cloudesley Road.  My local, and the best pub in the world!










Drapers Arms, 44 Barnsbury Street.  Excellent gastropub and host to Coudesley Association meetings.









The Albion, 10 Thornhill Road.  Fine pub which existed as the Albion Tea House long before the Cloudesley Estate was developed.  Huge garden.


Here below is a splendid photo of the Albion in its glory days c1880s, which Kieran Garvey has unearthed.  Note the huge sign advertising Watneys Ales and the horse drawn carriage poking out of what later became a garage.

The albion c1880s 002

















PigAndButcherPig and Butcher, 80 Liverpool Road.  Another gastropub famous for its meat dishes!  Current photo.  Used to be Minogues.










RegentThe Regent, 201 Liverpool Road.  Lively venue on the corner of Theburton Street.  Current photo.  Used to be various different restaurants.











FoxgloveThe Foxglove, 209 Liverpool Road.  Used to be the Barnsbury, which closed, and has now re-opened as the Foxglove, as pointed out by Nick Brealey in a comment below.  I haven't been there, and it's now closed because of lockdown, but it looks nice on the website and it gets excellent reviews! 













Pubs Past


CloudesleyArmsCloudesley Arms, 34 Cloudesley Place.  Now residential.  Freehold sold by Cloudesley Charity in the 1930s.














The Duke of Wellington, 74 Richmond Road.  Converted into offices.DukeofWellington2












Eclipse1924The Eclipse, 164 Barnsbury Road.  Converted into residential property with interesting Art Deco frontage.




















cotc 20th anniversary 1Kings Arms, 64 Barnsbury Road.  Now The Church on the Corner.










KingDe5King of Denmark, 9 Cloudesley Road.  Now offices.










PrinceofBrunswick1940Prince of Brunswick, 127 Barnsbury Road.  Apparently bombed out of existence during the 2nd World War!










RisingSunBrooksby2Rising Sun, 55 Brooksby Street.  Now residential.


















Suffolk Arms, 10 Cloudesley Road.  No picture.




WhiteConduitWhite Conduit House, 14 Barnsbury Road / Penton Street.  The original site of the famous tea room and gardens.  Now the Little Georgia restaurant.







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 played on White Conduit Fields to the North West, but a wide range of entertainments of all kinds, as illustrated in the images below.  A good account of White Conduit can be found in British History Online, here.

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


White Conduit House





















Update, December 2019.  Little Georgia Restaurant, at No 10 Penton St where it meets Dewey Road, is inscribed "White Conduit House" at the top - see processed photo below.  Clearly it is not the original building, but it marks the site, which we can confirm using a screenshot from the excellent Layers of London website, where a Greenwood map of 1828 is superimposed on a street map from today.  The gardens to the East behind White Conduit House presumably formed part of the facility.  They are now for the most part occupied by buildings between Tolpuddle St and Dewey Rd, although the South part of Culpeper Gardens is still evidence of the gardens today.

White Conduit House Today Processed

White Conduit Map













Update, February 2022.  As mentioned elsewhere in this website, White Conduit Fields was the birthplace of the MCC, owner of the Lord's cricket ground.  Richard from Cloudesley Square has unearthed this entertaining account of how a Mr Thomas Lord was responsible for this development, apparently actually physically moving the turf via a number of sites before establishing the present day Lord's in St John's Wood.

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)”   (Updated September 2020 - see note below)

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 shows the main premises covered.


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!


Later note.  In contrast to Cloudesley Road, Cloudesley Square has always been almost entirely residential, with just a few commercial, or semi-commercial properties - see here for a list.

Update, September 2020.  Jenny has now updated Part I of Hunting Ghosts (see download above), with many new stories and photos.  Here's my favourite picture - images of a ship and an aeroplane scratched into the brickwork "at child height" in the brickwork of a house on the east side of Cloudesley Road, presumably during World War II.

War Graffiti


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.  See here for their Diet-Table.  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.