Another area not too far from the city and the West End is Islington. It sits between Liverpool Road on the west and New North Road on the south-east. A town has existed here since Saxon times. Islington has gone through a number of changes of fortune over the years (the Angel, Islington appears on Monopoly boards and is one of the less expensive properties). Nowadays it’s described as “up and coming” and in its very expensive parts, like Kennington, a five bed-roomed house will cost in the region of £2.5 million.
What I always think of as the heart of Islington is Upper Street. (Islington High Street runs parallel and is a lovely little street with a couple of very good restaurants and some antique shops. Camden Passage is a market that runs between the two and is full of antique shops.) Nearby is Chapel Market, a short street market that sells the usual things – fresh fish, fresh fruit and vegetables and other items.
Upper Street itself runs from The Angel (the site of an old coaching inn) along to Highbury Corner (this area was part of manor lands) where Highbury and Islington mainline and underground stations now stand. It is full of shops, bars and restaurants. Almost every taste in food is catered for here – Indian, Chinese, Italian, to name just a few. The Business Design Centre, opened in 1986, was originally the site of the Royal Agricultural Halls, originally built in 1862 for the Smithfield Show.
There is also Islington Green, a small green – and I do mean small – triangular in shape, on the corner of Upper Street and Essex Road. It used to be used as free grazing for farmers, but now houses a memorial to the dead of the First and Second World Wars and a statue of Sir Hugh Myddleton who was instrumental in improving London’s water supply in the eighteenth century.
In the UK, historic buildings may be known as “Listed,” which means that the building or part of it that is “Listed” cannot be tampered with or decorated in any way that is not in accordance with the listing. Islington has more than its fair share of Listed Buildings. Included in this is the Almeida Theatre in Upper Street (a small theatre with only 325 seats, worth a visit for the less “mainstream” plays), The Camden Head Public House in Camden Passage (I wholeheartedly recommend this one, the food is good and there is plenty of seating outside for those days when the weather is good; and they regularly have live comedy or music evenings) and the York Public House in Islington High Street, but there are many others.
The area is, like so many others, worth a visit to view the architecture. Many of the buildings still have bricked up windows, an overhang from the days of the Window Tax of the Seventeenth Century. (Properties were taxed for the number of windows they had so it worked out cheaper to brick some of them up.) And with all else there is to offer, I fully recommend it.