While Bloomsbury has been my standard visiting residence in London, on this trip we're staying in the Islington flat of a good friend who is in South America for a few months. We are fortunate to have been allowed to stay in his London apartment. I first met this friend, Mark, in the 1990's when he walked into my Greenwich Village shop. He is a collector (and part time antiques trader) from whom I have sometimes bought merchandise. We've remained good friends from the day he walked into my store.
The name Islington is the evolution of several earlier names. The Saxons (c. 1000-1050 AD) called it Giseldone and Gislandune (meaning "Gisla's Hill" or "Dune"). This name eventually became Isledon until the 1600's after which Islington became the commonly-used name.
Islington is perched upon a hill in Central London. It provided a good source of water for agriculture and raising livestock (in its earlier, more rural days). The hill allowed water to be transported, through wooden sluices, to the rest of London below. By the late 1600's and early 1700's, Islington had become a popular destination for London day-trippers—a little taste of the country, yet, not too far from home. Inns and ale houses lined the village's roadways.
During the Georgian and Victorian periods (18th and 19th Centuries), Islington became more residential. Rows of town houses were built, followed by apartment buildings which continued into the Edwardian Era (early 20th Century). The handsome doorway, shown above, typifies the entry to a Georgian townhouse.
As London's Twentieth Century building projects displaced the urban poor, many moved to Islington—where spare Edwardian flats could be found or several families might occupy a subdivided townhouse. Islington was hard-hit by German bombers during World War Two and the Post-War period was difficult for her. The area was blighted during the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies—only to be rediscovered by gentrifiers in the Eighties and Nineties (who fell in love with affordable Georgian townhouses in need of restoration). Prime Minister Tony Blair lived in Islington, and the neighborhood became associated with Center-Left, middle class politics.
Today, Islington is the most densely-populated borough in the entire United Kingdom. The main streets are lined with familiar chainstores. But one can still find charming storefronts on the quiet side streets, like the French bistro, shown above.
And, while most people in Islington walk or take public transit, one might see the occasional little car parked on a quiet street.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248