Canonbury, London

An LAS walk around the Canonbury district of London. Even though it was a rainy day, we still had a very interesting walk, and I tried to capture it in images as best as I could.

Canonbury is a residential district in the London Borough of Islington in the north of London. It is roughly in the area between Essex Road, Upper Street, and Cross Street, and either side of St Paul’s Road. In 1253 the land in the area was granted to the Canon’s of St Bartholomew’s Priory, Smithfield, and became known as Canonbury. The land was mainly open land until the early nineteenth century.

We started off from the Highbury and Islington tube station.

Once outside the station, we saw this restaurant with a rather interesting name… “The Famous Cock” at first glance I thought it said “Cook”. Hmmm. Ask no questions…

From the station we turned right, then crossed the road. Once over the road, you will see to your left that there is a park, that can’t be accessed. Apparently this is because during the World War II there was a zeppelin that dropped a bomb that distroyed part of the buildings, and gardens in front. So, instead of rebuilding, the gardens were sectioned off, and the distroyed part became a road. On the right, there is a park/gardens that you can get into that runs along Compton Terrace.

At the break of the park, a road cuts through, and then the Union Chaple is on in between two parks.

The next park has some interesting Anchor shaped flower areas. At the time we spotted them we weren’t sure what the significance was.

Below you can see the Anchor flower bed, and the Union Chapel.

At the end of the gardens we noticed this pub, called the “Hope and Anchor”. This might be the reason for the Anchor flower beds. More interestingly, the pub, the “Hope and Anchor” is better known in the 70’s and 80’s as the pub for the Punk Rock bands to play in. We were told that several bands like, U2, The Police, The Stranglers, and Madness, played here.

Next we turned left onto Canonbury Lane. Into the next park that was in front of us.

We are now on Canonbury Square. This area has been home to many famous people, such as Charles Dickens (who wrote a Christmas Story about a lamplighter in Canonbury that also features the Tower), Leslie Forbes (Tracen and detective story writer) and Gavin Menzies (Amateur historian).



Along Canonbury Place, on the corner was a interesting green building. This is part of the Canonbury Tower. The original tower can be seen peeking behind the green building below.

Canonbury House is attached to the green building.

Down the side of Canonbury House, you can get a glimpse of the back garden with the tower, and the interesting houses behind it.

One story about the tower, is that in 1570 the estate was bought by Sir John Spencer, on of the richest men of the era. He was Lord Mayor of London at the time. He had an Illegitimate daughter, Eliza, who had fallen in love with Lord Compton. Despite owning two great estates, however, her 21 year old lover had spent all of his father’s money and even borrowed from Sir Spencer himself. When Sir Spencer learned of the romance he was furious and locked his daughter up in the tower. Apparently Eliza escaped from the tower by climbing down a knotted sheet. Lord Compton was waiting below disguised as a baker’s boy with a card and basket. Sir Spencer disowned his daughter, but the couple still married, and Lord Compton later became a courtier to Elizabeth I. When the couple had a son, the Queen felt sorry for them, and approached the girl’s father, Lord Spencer, with a story that the child had been disowned by its family and was looking for a godfather. Lord Spencer agreed to become the godfather and turned up for the christening. There was his daughter and a beautiful baby boy. So there was a reconciliation.

Walking down Alwyne Villas, we can see what is known as a “Ghost Company Sign”. Basically this is the remnants of a company sign imbedded in the stonework of a building.

On the other side of the road is another smaller tower. Here it is said that there have been many partied held. But more impressively they have been over 500 people partying until early in the mornings. No party was going on when we were outside, but the property still looks very impressive.

At the end of the road, it was interesting to see a huge bottle of Moët on a side of a building. This is the Romulus Wines Merchants.

Just around the corner, we took a quick glimpse of the New River walk that comes into London.

A little glympse down Canonbury Villas as well.

Next we walked down Braes Street, and we were shown a plaque. Well more that there was a plaque behind a wall. Not sure why is was hidden, I think mainly because it was in a play area. But I was able to get a picture of said plaque. This is to commemorate the building of the very first State Aid housing. What we’d call as Council Homes today, but was a lot better than some I’ve seen.

The very first Council Houses. Don’t look too bad to me. Not sure if they are still council houses, or whether they were part of the Buy to Own schemes in the 80’s.

Braes Street leads into Richmond Grove. At the end of the road is the Islington Town Hall. Now here was an interesting event. There were literally around 20 or so big posh cars, all in black with Plaques on the top of them. We asked one of the Chaufeurs what was happening, and he said that all the Mayors of London were doing their annual charity walk from Whittington (as in Turn Again Whittington) Hospital to Central London, but they would be stopping at Islington Town Hall as it is the half way point to have lunch. As we were at the Town Hall, and we were told they’d be here in about 5-10 minutes, we waited. Then along came some London Purley Kings…

Following them came the Mayors all in their refinery.

Then of course they posed for a photo opportunity.

We then walked down Upper Street, which is also known as the A1. Soon after we came to St Mary’s Church.

Before we got to the church there was an interesting flower shop in this lovely building.

Islington Square is having a makeover, and going to become a large shopping centre.

The King’s Head is next to Islington Square, and is known as a Theatre. They are best known as being the first theatre pub since Shakespearean times. Currently they are performing The Mikado.

At the end of the walk we come to Islington Green, where there is a war memorial.

From the green we can see a Cafe Nero Coffee shop. On the roof of the coffee shop which is round was this statue. I am not sure of the significance, but it is there.

In 1885, Henry Vigar-Harries described Islington Green “where the young love to skip in buoyant glee when the summer sun gladdens the air” and how “within a mile and a half from this spot there are 1030 public houses and beer shops”.

A statue of Sir Hugh Myddleton is at the end of the green. The design and construction of the New River is often attributed solely to Sir Hugh Myddleton. Although he was left to complete the work between 1609 and 1613 when it opened.


2 thoughts on “Canonbury, London

  1. Hi,

    Chris, your Guide on the day here, I hope you enjoyed the walk.

    Although the weather was poor, there are some lovely photos here.

    For info, the coffee shop was once the Electric Theatre (opened in 1906) and the figure once held electrically lit light torch above her head.

    • Hi Chris,
      Yes, I enjoyed the walk. Thanks for your kind comments, and the information. Hope to see you on another walk someday.


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