Islington (St. Mary)

ISLINGTON (St. Mary), a suburban parish, in the parliamentary borough of Finsbury, Finsbury division of the hundred of Ossulstone, county of Middlesex, 1½ mile (N.) from London; containing 55,690 inhabitants, of whom 29,452 are in the district of St. Mary, 4960 in the district parish of St. John, Holloway, 7551 in that of St. Paul, Ball's-Pond, and 13,727 in that of Holy Trinity. This village, called in Domesday book Iseldone, appears to have derived its name from its situation with regard to Tolentone (the modern Highbury), in relation to which it was the British Isheldone, or "Lower Town." It probably stood originally on and about the thoroughfare now designated the Lower-street. In the fields near Barnesbury Park are the remains of a camp, supposed by some, but with little reason, to have been that of Suetonius, after his retreat from London, when augmenting his forces prior to the battle with Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, from which event the hamlet of Battle-Bridge, partly in the parish, is said to have derived its name. At Highbury, which could not have been far distant from the Ermin-street, the Romans had a summer camp, whose site, long afterwards, was occupied by a mansion, which, becoming the property of Alexander Aubert, Esq., was by him fitted up in part as an observatory, and furnished with astronomical instruments of various descriptions.

From its proximity to London, and the salubrity of the air, Islington, which seems to have been of some importance even in the time of the Saxons, was at a very early period one of the chief sources whence the inhabitants of the metropolis drew their supplies of agricultural produce, for which the place was famous. It afterwards became more remarkable as the residence of opulent citizens, and of many illustrious and distinguished families. In the year 1465, Henry VI., after his escape from the battle of Hexham, having wandered in disguise for some months, was taken, and being brought to London, was arrested at Islington by the Earl of Warwick. His successor, Edward IV., upon his accession to the throne, was waited on in the neighbourhood by the principal citizens; and in 1487, Henry VII., on his return after the defeat of Lambert Simnel and his adherents, was escorted into the metropolis in a like manner. Among the mansions erected here in ancient times, was Canonbury House, the country seat of the prior of St. Bartholomew's monastery in Smithfield, and of which, though the site is for the greater part occupied by modern dwelling-houses, there are still considerable remains. Of these remains, Canonbury Tower, a lofty square structure of brick, commanding an extensive view of the surrounding country, is still entire; and many vestiges of other parts are preserved in the out-buildings of the houses that have been erected near the spot. The seat of the prior of St. John's, Clerkenwell, at Highbury, was demolished in the reign of Richard II., during the insurrection of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw; in memory of which outrage, the small portion of it that remained was long denominated Jack Straw's Castle. Henry VIII. frequently visited Islington, where some of the nobility of his court resided; an old house formerly standing on Newington-Green is said to have been occupied by him, and in 1546 he issued a peremptory proclamation enforcing the preservation of game in the neighbourhood. During the reign of Mary, many Protestants suffered death at Islington, firm in their adherence to the faith which they professed. Queen Elizabeth exhibited much partiality to the place, which she repeatedly visited, and where some of her friends, including Sir Thomas Fowler, Sir John Spencer, of Canonbury, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, were resident. It was chiefly in this reign that the ancient houses, for which the village was some years since distinguished, were built. In 1603, James I., on his accession to the throne of England, was escorted through the fields of Islington into the city, with much ceremony; and Charles I. passed through the village on his return from Scotland, in 1641. In the next year several fortifications were erected here in common with other suburban districts, by order of the parliament, to protect the metropolis. About this time a great increase in the number of the houses began to take place; and shortly afterwards, the village became a well-known and favourite resort of the citizens, for whose amusement and recreation numerous places of entertainment were provided, for which this ancient suburban parish may be said to have been remarkable, until, by the extension of buildings since the commencement of the present century, and the change in the manners and customs of the people, all traces of these characteristics of the place were lost, or merged in its present state, as the mere residence of persons engaged in the trade and commerce of London.

The parish comprises an area of 3032a. 3r., partly laid out in meadow and pasture, but to a large extent occupied by houses and gardens. The more rural parts afford some agreeable scenery; and the New River, which pursues its winding course in a direction from north to south, imparts beauty to the lands through which it passes, and a pleasing relief to the monotony of buildings. The two most ancient roads are, the great north road, which leads through the upper or main street of the village, and a road branching off from this at the Green, and called the Lower-street. The Regent's canal, and the line of the Great York railway, cross the parish. It is well paved, lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water by the New River Company. There are many fine ranges of houses, especially at Highbury, which is composed of handsome rows of buildings and pleasant villas, agreeably situated on an eminence commanding good views. The trade of the place principally arises from the supply of the inhabitants with the means of subsistence; a few manufactories afford employment to a part of the population. A literary and scientific society was formed in 1833, and a handsome building has been since erected at an expense of £3500, comprising a reading-room, library, museum, laboratory, and a spacious and well-adapted theatre for the delivery of lectures; the number of members is about 600. Courts leet and baron are held for several manors in the parish, which is within the jurisdiction of the metropolitan police; and one of the county debt-courts established in 1847 is held in the lower part of the parish.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £30; net income, £1155; patron and incumbent, the Rev. Daniel Wilson. The church, erected on the site of the ancient structure, in 1751, is a handsome edifice of brick, with a tower of the same materials, ornamented with quoins and cornices, and surmounted by a spire of stone, for the repair of which, in 1787, scaffolding was constructed of wicker-work, by an ingenious basketmaker. There are monuments to the memory of Dr. William Cave, vicar, a learned writer on divinity and ecclesiastical history, who died in 1713; and the celebrated Dr. William Hawes, founder of the Royal Humane Society, who was a native of the parish. In the churchyard were interred, the Rev. John Lindsay, an eminent nonjuring clergyman; and John Hyacinth de Magelhaens, F.R.S., a natural philosopher, who died in 1790. A chapel dedicated to St. Mary was erected at Lower Holloway in 1814. In 1827, three additional churches were built, from designs by Charles Barry, at an aggregate expense of more than £35,000, towards which the Parliamentary Commissioners contributed £23,000, the remainder being raised by a rate upon the inhabitants. They are annexed to district parishes, and are in the gift of Trustees appointed by the late vicar, on his being promoted to the bishopric of Calcutta: net income of St. John's, Holloway, £250; of St. Paul's, Ball's-Pond, £335; and of the Holy Trinity, £485. Trinity church, in Cloudesley-square, erected at an expense of £11,500, is a handsome structure with turrets and minarets: the nave, which is lofty, is lighted by clerestory windows, and separated from the aisles by arches and pillars of graceful proportions; and the whole edifice forms a specimen of beautiful design and correct embellishment. In 1833, St. Peter's church was erected, in River-lane, on the east side of the village, at an expense of £3000, partly defrayed by a grant from the Incorporated Society, but chiefly by subscription, towards which the vicar contributed £200, and his father, the Bishop of Calcutta, £100; in 1843 the edifice was very considerably enlarged, and a spire and other embellishments were added: the living is in the gift of the Vicar. Three further churches have been erected by subscription of the inhabitants, aided by a grant of £3500 from the Metropolis Churches' Fund: they are respectively annexed to the district chapelries of St. James, at Holloway, All Saints, and St. Stephen; the first and last being in the patronage of the Vicar, and the other in that of the Incumbent of Holy Trinity district parish. The church of All Saints', at Battle-Bridge, is in the early and later English styles, with a campanile turret of stone, surmounted by a crocketed dome; it was consecrated July 3rd, 1838, and cost £4600. St. Stephen's church, in the New North road, is a neat edifice of brick, in the early English style, with an ornamented spire rising 100 feet from the pavement; it was consecrated June 18th, 1839: the expense of its erection was £4400. In Norfolk-street is a small chapel, formerly belonging to dissenters, but now licensed for divine worship according to the rites of the Establishment, service being performed by a curate of the minister of St. Paul's church. A church was commenced at Highbury, in August, 1847. There are places of worship for Independents, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and Baptists, one for a congregation professing the principles of the late Edward Irving, and a spacious Roman Catholic chapel.

The Church Missionary Society, having, in 1827, purchased the house and grounds formerly occupied by Mr. Sabine, opposite Tyndale-place, erected a handsome building for the residence and preparation of young men intended for foreign missions, capable of affording accommodation to 40 students. Highbury College, established at Mile-End in 1783, removed to Hoxton in the year 1791, and thence to Highbury in 1826, is an institution for young men intending to become ministers of the Independent denomination; the building, which consists of a centre with a fine portico, and two wings, cost £22,000. A proprietary grammar school, in connexion with the Church of England, was instituted in 1830, for which handsome premises were erected, in the later English style, in Barnesbury-street, at an expense of £1400, defrayed by shares of £15 each. The parochial charity schools, established by subscription in the beginning of the last century, were in 1842 divided into two branches, one to belong to the parish church, and the other to the chapel at Holloway; the former is held in a commodious schoolroom in Church-street, and the latter in the old rooms in the Liverpool road, built in 1815, at an expense of £3000, and lately much improved. The parish has the right of sending some scholars to the free school in Owen-street, Clerkenwell, founded by Alice Owen; adjoining which are ten almshouses, founded by the same lady, for aged widows of this parish and that of Clerkenwell. In Queen's Head lane are eight neat houses, erected in 1794, by Mrs. Jane Davis, in pursuance of the will of her husband, who, in 1793, had bequeathed £2000 three per cent. consols., for their endowment. In Frog-lane are eight houses, for widows of decayed members of the Clothworkers' Company founded in 1538, by Margaret, Countess of Kent. There are various bequests for distribution among the poor; and £925 a year, arising from the Stonefield estate, bequeathed in 1517 by Richard Cloudesley, for superstitious uses, are, by an act passed in 1811, applied to the repair and maintenance of the chapel at Holloway and the three district churches erected in 1827.

Among the eminent persons who have resided at Islington, are, Halley, the astronomer; the classic Addison; William Collins, the highly-gifted but ill-fated poet; Colley Cibber, the actor and dramatist, who died in 1757; Alexander Cruden, author of the Concordance of the Bible, who died in 1770; Christopher Smart, the poet; Oliver Goldsmith; James Burgh, a voluminous writer on moral and political topics, who died in 1775; the Rev. Dr. Price, known for his financial calculations; Morland, the painter; Captain Huddart, F.R.S., an eminent engineer; the Rev. W. Tooke, an accomplished man and refined scholar, chiefly known by his valuable works on Russia; John Nichols, F.S.A., the indefatigable author of numerous antiquarian and biographical works, who was born in the parish in 1744, and died in 1825; John Quick, the comedian, who died in 1831; and Charles Lamb, the distinguished essayist and author of Elia.—See Holloway and Ball's-Pond.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.