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_Part I Updated Dec 2022”

Download:  "Hunting Ghosts_Part ll_Index Updated Dec 2022



Update, December 2022.  The Downloads above are the result of a massive updating exercise carried out by Jenny using the new data provided by Mick Bucknell - see below.  It is now clear that until about 40 years ago Cloudesley Road was a major shopping and business centre supporting a large community of people who both lived and worked there.  Together, these documents now represent a really detailed research resource which we hope to enrich with the memories of people who have lived in the area for long enough to be able to give us insights into the social history of those times.  If you're one of those people or you know someone who is, then we'd love to hear from you.  Please do comment below or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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


Later Addition, October 2022: Mick Bucknell's Data 

Our hunt for the ghosts of Cloudesley past has taken a great leap forward with the discovery of a treasure trove of record cards compiled by Mick Bucknell, which record in detail all the shops in Cloudesley Road between Copenhagen Street and Richmond Avenue, from when they were built in 1830 to the present day, together with their residents.  Mick contacted us via the website to say he'd been born at the Royal Free Hospital in 1952 and has lived on Cloudesley Road all his life - "Gold Dust", to coin a phrase!

The first thing we've done with Mick's data is to create a spreadsheet chart showing all shops with an indication of what trades were carried out and when.  We were then able to analyse the data in various ways.  You can download the spreadsheet below:

Download: "Hunting Ghosts - Cloudesley Road - Past and Present (Part III)"

If you can't read Excel files then try the PDF version here.  And here's a small version of the chart to give a favour of the overall pattern of shops without the detail.

Shops Chart


Clearly, this chart supports Jenny's designation of Cloudesley Road as a busy and bustling commercial centre.  But it extends and expands that picture in several important respects. 

Firstly, whilst Jenny's records rarely extended further back than 1870, the directories which Mick used (Kelly's and Robson's) mostly have records dating right back to when the properties were first built around 1830.  This means that quite a few shops just don't show up in Jenny's analysis - sometimes they seem to have become private residences or sometimes merged into larger commercial entities (Bull's Yard? Barnett's Yard?).  In fact there are a number of sub-districts of such "early" shops, especially on the West side of Cloudesley Road.

Secondly, remember that Mick's data only extends as far South as Copenhagen Street whereas we know from Jenny's work that extensive commercial development once characterised the area on both sides of the present Cloudesley Road right down to Chapel Market, taking in what used to be known as White Conduit Street, the present day Culpepper Gardens (where all properties have been demolished) and probably right across the presnt day Sainsbury's car park.  In other words, although we can identify a shop population of about 40 from Mick's records the true number may be at least double this.  Truly this was a major commercial centre right through the Victorian period and well into the 20th century.

Thirdly, note the huge variety of trades and professions and goods and services supported.  An attempt has been made to record, categorise and colour code these based on the directory records but this probably does not do justice to the range of activities on offer.  Within a relatively small area it was evidently possible to purchase more or less any household good or trade imaginable as well as all sorts of artisan services.  Significantly, these correlate very well with the range of trades and professions of private residents which we have identified and documented in previous analyses of the Cloudesley Estate (mainly Cloudesley Square and Stonefield Street to date) - see the History > Jobs and Crafts section of the website.  The picture which emerges is of a relatively self-contained community of people who all live, shop and work in the same small area - as very different picture to the Barnsbury of today.

As to the evolution of trades over the years, the basic functions such as Bakeries, Dairies, Grocers, Pubs and so on seem to have stayed fairly constant, with other more specialised activities evolving as one would expect as technology and fashions change (boot to saddles to cycles to cars; cat meat to butchers to whole foods!).  There is also a less successful trend discernable towards larger scale factory-type enterprises, perhaps culminating in the Linalux/Rongas complex at nos.119 to 125, which mass produced successively artificial flowers, gas mantels, "reflectors", the toys (especially toy soldiers!).  Interestingly, Cathy Ross reports that Dove Brothers, who already had a large workshop in Milton's Yard (now Dove's Yard just to the East of Cloudesley Road, and owned the leaseholds on nos. 40-114 next to it, may have applied for planning permission to pull down these houses and replace them with workshops or a factory.  In the event, this proposal was not popular and was refused  - a lucky escape!

Two big questions remain:  why and how did the "Cloudesley Road Commercial District" come to be, and what led to its demise - shockingly, of all the 40 commercial premises described here, only two survive today - the Mini-Mart on the corner of Copenhagen Street, and the Crown Pub.

Shop Numbers Bar Chart


The bar chart above shows how the total number of shops changed over time (subject to the caveats mentioned in the download).  Clearly, there were a substantial number trading right from the outset, which grew to a peak around 1870, then declined somewhat but stayed fairly stable until the 1960s.  There was then a catastrophic decline in the 1970s 80s, and 90s resulting in the almost exclusively residential district of today.

Our first tentative conclusion is that the first shops in the 1830s were purpose-built as shops, mainly on the West side.  In other words this is the same conclusion we reached about the Crown pub, also based on Mick's data.  It is supported by a close examination of the buildings which were previously shops, many of which have step-free access, large windows, and quite elaborate moulded lintels typical of a retail establishment (see particularly the top of the West side up to Richmond Avenue).

Our second conclusion is that the kiss of death for these shops was gentrification!  As more and more buildings were "done up" into attractive residential dwellings by gentrifiers over the 60s to 90s period, often with the backing of the Council, the rents and rates charged to shopkeepers in Cloudesley Road must have risen to unsustainable levels where the only sensible response would be to sell up and move on.  In fact we have anecdotal evidence that this was the case.  Moreover, it is surely significant that one of the leading lights of the Barnsbury Tenants Association (previously the South West Islington Tenants' Association), vehemently opposed to gentrification, was none other than Danny Doolan, long-established greengrocer at 135 Cloudesley Road from 1951 to 73 (and before that, Mrs Mary Doolan 1947 to 50)!  In the event, the Tenants Association lost out to the rival Barnsbury Action Group, spearheaded by the arch-gentrifier architect Kenneth Pring.  Pring's group also brought in a traffic management scheme for the Cloudesley Estate which is still in place today (a harbinger of the socially divisive Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) initiatives currently being implemented by Islington Council today?).  The rest is history!  In our extensive analysis of the remarkable and still contentious gentrification of Barnsbury, here, we tended to come down on the side of the gentrifiers - after all, Barnsbury is now undoubtedly one of the most pleasant places to live in London.  On the other hand, the analysis above serves to remind us that this came at a cost - the virtual elimination of a previous community of shopkeepers and traders who are now largely forgotten.  This press cutting about Cloudesley Road (also in the Gentrification article) from The Journal of 1972 captures perfectly the strong but conflicting emotions about the gentrification of Cloudesley Road and the concurrent demise of its shops at that time.  It also has this great photo of Danny Doolan in his shop!

 Danny Doolan in Shop



#3 dakotaboo 2024-02-06 18:07
A wonderful resource. I stumbled upon this area a few weeks ago and your articles have been a great eye opener.
#2 Guest 2022-12-23 20:39
Excellent. I will walk down the road with new eyes. Many thanks Jenny Mick and Nick
#1 gillian 2022-10-24 16:16
Fascinating. A downside of gentrification!