They say the past is another country..and it’s often in black and white when you look at the photographs. Here are a few postcards of Ockendon Road and the surrounding area some dating back–what?–100 years or more. Not sure when they were taken but if anyone can add more information, please do.
The street seems to have been built in the early 1860s, on land which had previously been part of the failed cattle market (see below). Our perambulation starts around the beginning of the 20th century, looking westwards towards Essex Road. Two or three delivery carts, no trees, and only two lamp posts.
About the same time, same side of the road, looking the other way. This is what the film director Alan Parker–born in the borough–called “Islington before they painted the ‘ouses white”.
Decades later, probably in the 1960s, a view down Wall Street with two rather small men hurrying homewards. Today Wall Street has almost disappeared, but there’s still a postbox, no doubt with far fewer collections now.
Here’s a sunny day in Wall Street, looking the other way towards Ockendon Road. Just one late riser, on his way to work or just to post a letter.
LET’S NOW GO WEST to Essex Road, with Jay’s resplendent premises on the corner. Jay’s was a pawnbroker as well as a watchmaker, but now it’s gone. Not the clock, though. Quite posh houses over the road on the right. Is that a 73 in the picture?
All aboard! Hold very tight, please! Keep your hats on !! This is one of 3736 horse-drawn buses in London at the turn of the century.
Move on to something like 1910, and the horses have rapidly been replaced by electric trams. The London and Provincial Bank stands impressively on the corner of Englefield Road. Litter was a problem then, but not crossing the road. The women on the right seems to recur in many of these pictures, whenever they were taken.
Up next is The Lord Clyde–a Victorian pub–in the 1960s. Now rather splendidly refurbished, with a great big sign on the north-facing wall.
In 1836 John Perkins built a big cattle market on Essex Road, then Lower Street. It covered the ground between what are now Northchurch and Baxter Roads; it must have included Ockendon Road. Islington Market was an attempt to get live cattle out of overcrowded Smithfield Market. But it quickly failed, to be replaced in 1855 by the Metropolitan Market which became the Cally Road market. Mr Perkins’ market was then covered by houses, of course. Including ours.
Heading south, one of Essex Road’s more impressive buildings (on the corner of Halliford Road) is now Islington Council offices. But it was built in 1812 in open fields by Samuel Ridley as a floorcloth manufactory; “a grandiose Palladian building” says The London Encyclopaedia by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert. Floorcloth was used not to clean floors but to cover them, a forerunner of linoleum; the erection of this factory presumably reflects the rapid growth of urban London at the start of the 19th century. It became Probyn’s beer bottling factory from 1893 to 1972 (this from the invaluable Streets with a Story by the Islington Librarian Eric Willats). Further south, a little gem:
Annette Crescent is a pretty parade of Grade II listed buildings from the early to mid 19th century (says The London Encyclopaedia), rather hidden from Essex Road by the trees in front of them.
Essex Road station, presumably just after it was opened in 1904.
Looking north with Essex Road Station in the centre, and traffic congestion at the crossing with the New North Road. St Matthew’s Church (long demolished) in the distance.
High summer closer to St Matthew’s on the corner of Essex Road and Canonbury Street. The church was badly damaged by bombing in 1940 and demolished in the 1960s.
Almost opposite Essex Road Station was The Golden Fleece, here en fete with barrels full of Barclay Perkins ale brewed on the South Bank on the site of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.
The Fleece was roughly where the Post Office and the former Costcutters is now. The elaborate lanterns looming into the road were not enough to save it from closure in 1944.
Looking northwards to The Golden Fleece, around the turn of the century.
At the other end of the row that started with the Golden Fleece–at the corner with New North Road–was the strikingly named and signed Public Benefit Boot Company, part of a chain started in Hull in 1875. This picture was taken around the start of the 20th century. But despite its prominence in Essex Road, the store soon moved on to a more salubrious (or trafficked) part of Islington, the High Street, leaving bystanders staring into a hole in the road:
Lured by the camera, the onlookers then moved round the corner. Note the curiously shaped early stop sign warning motorists of the junction with New North Road:On the other side of the junction on the opposite side of the road from the site which became Essex Road station in 1904 was the Three Brewers. It was a Cannon Brewery pub with beer brewed in St John Street, Clerkenwell, and it had been there since at least 1830.
The building is still very recognisable, even though now it’s a Japanese restaurant.
Close by is one of Islington’s more distinguished buildings. The Carlton Cinema was built in 1930 to a design by Dalston-born George Coles reflecting the wave of mania for things Egyptian which swept much of the world following the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The Carlton provided an entertainment hub for N1, as this picture shows: talking films only a few years after the release of the very first talkie, The Jazz Singer; stage acts; Phil Finch on the mighty Compton organ.. and Jan Ralfini and the Carlton Orchestra: 12 players, unless one more is hidden behind the maestro on what Americans call the marquee above the entrance here. The 2,500-seat auditorium was also magnificent: There’s a marvellous piece of footage by Pathetone of the performance of a Rhapsody For Eight Pianos produced by Phil Finch in 1933:
The cutaway shots of the attentive audience are for some reason particularly affecting. Lots of great stills of the eight-minute film here:
Here’s the cinema as it was in 1938, obscured by the 77 tram from Smithfield to West India Docks, shortly to be replaced by trolley bus 677, which eventually became diesel bus service 277:The Carlton was taken over by Associated British Cinemas in 1935, and renamed as an ABC in 1962. In this 1962 photo the main feature is Blake Edwards’ Days of Wine and Roses, starring Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon: The ABC became a bingo hall in 1972, and closed its doors 35 years later. In 2012 it was bought by the Resurrection Manifestations church which holds services on Sundays and Tuesdays. The cinema is a grade II* listed building. It now seats 1300.
Now a leap for a moment into the 2000s. In the spring of 2008, an art graffito by Banksy appeared overnight on the corner of the Savemain pharmacy opposite the cinema. It showed a boy raiding a Tesco bag flag up a pole created out of electrical fitment on the wall of the building, with two other children pledging their allegiance. It was immediately celebrated and much photographed. But it was son attacked by the virulently anti-Banksy graffitists called “Team Robbo” who tagged the name of their hero HRH King Robbo on top of the Tesco logo. A preparatory Sketch for Essex Road was sold for £!95,000 at an auction in 2008 to raise money for Ken Livingstone’s mayoral re-election campaign. In 2010 Jerry Hall (now Mrs R Murdoch) sold at Sotheby’s a canvas version of the graff called “Very Little Helps”. The original is now part-protected by a plastic overlay, under which it languishes like a ghost sign. But at least it has not yet been sliced off the wall by opportunist art thieves, as has happened to some Banksys.
Going south down Essex Road, the junction with Cross Street:
The date is 1935, deducible by the length of skirts and the appearance of a Belisha Beacon at the road crossing. They had been introduced by the transport minister Leslie Hore-Belisha the previous year. The strange double level pavement survives, of course, as do many of the houses in Cross Street. Alas, the surgery posters have gone.
A bit further along Essex Road, on the corner of Packington Street a building which both does and does not survive:The Coronet Cinema opened in 1911, and this must have been taken very soon afterwards. Note the ubiquitous hats:Thirteen years later the Coronet was named (less winningly) The Blue Hall Annexe; it closed for good in 1941. Later it became an antiques emporium called The Merchants Hall; it is now (2018) being redeveloped as offices under a name that reflects its original purpose: The Old Sorting House. It was the first Northern District Post Office, built in 1855. The bit of the Coronet that remains is the side of the auditorium, still visible in Packington Street.
Right next door, a notable pub, first seen in pictures in 1680, though it is far older than that: The Old Queen’s Head is reputed to be the place where tobacco was first smoaked in Europe (in 1586 by Sir Walter Rayleigh, who had brought it back from the Americas). Here is it around 1800: And in the 1820s: This print is based on a drawing made by Thomas Shepherd, renowned for his many pictures of disappearing London in the 19th century, But of course the OQH has not disappeared.
While we’re at it, let’s carry on to the end of Essex Road, and Islington Green
This must be the early 1900s?
The Green was of course the home to one of the most famous and enduring London music halls.
Collins caught fire in 1958 and never reopened. It is now, of course, Waterstones.
We must not forget the Royal Agricultural Halls:The Halls were built in the 1860s to accommodate up to 50,000 people for cattle shows. They were a wonder of the age.
The High Street in the 1920s or ’30s, looking towards the Angel; a rare rainy picture!
Sun’s out again: looking back the other way, with a prominent Home and Colonial grocery and the flag out on Collins’ Music Hall in the background..
The Angel about 1828.
Now it’s recognisable: the architect’s drawing from 1902..
..completed by 1910.
NOW LET’S GO BACK, and take the 73 or the 38 to the north end of Essex Road, passing our very own Ockendon Road-named bus stop (very nice!). One stop further on is the very distinctive Mercers’ House, sheltered accommodation opened by the Mercers’ Company in 1993. It’s the modern equivalent of almshouses such as the Geffrye. The architect was John Melvin, who also led the transformation of the Royal Agricultural Halls into the Business Design Centre. One architectural critic describes the Mercer’s House as “stupendous”..a tribute to the terraces destroyed in the area in the previous few decades.
Right at the end of Essex Road and St Paul’s Road is another eminent building, graded II* listed by the guardians of our heritage. St Paul’s Church was opened in 1828 as one of a wave of more than 600 new churches built to accommodate the rapidly expanding population of Britain’s cities. It was one of the earliest designs of the prolific (Sir) Charles Barry,. who went on to design the Palace of Westminster.This part of Islington seems mostly to have been devoted to nurseries when St Paul’s was established, but people and houses soon took their place.
St Paul’s was declared redundant in 1980. Eventually in 1994 it was taken over by the St Paul’s Steiner Project to be used as a Steiner school, and it is now called The Nave.
In 2013 The Nave was the starting point for the atheist “church” the Sunday Assembly, launched by two standup comedians as a community meeting outside established religions. There are now 70 Assemblies in eight countries, but the Nave one has moved to Conway Hall.
This is the same spot on Essex Road, looking towards Ball’s Pond Road in 1949.
LASTLY ON THIS WESTERLY PEREGRINATION one of the marvellous Things We Have Lost, a little further away.
Highbury and Islington Station on the North London Line, built 1850, a mini St Pancras. It was damaged by bombing in 1941 and demolished as part of the building of the Victoria line in the 1960s. Replaced by a shed. How the glory is departed!
You can are some of these pictures with similar views now on a separate page: https://ockendonroad.wordpress.com/2018/07/11/yesterday-and-today-compare-the-difference-on-essex-road
The other end of our road is Southgate Road. Here’s a historic walk in that direction: https://ockendonroad.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/a-walk-through-the-past-2-eastwards-to-southgate-road