• Islington
  • Isendone
  • Iseldone
  • Yseldon
  • Eyseldon
  • Hisselton

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from London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions, by Henry Benjamin Wheatley and Peter Cunningham (1891)

Islington, an extensive suburban parish, extending north from Clerkenwell to Highgate and Hornsey, and east and west from Shoreditch, Hackney, and Stoke Newington to St. Pancras. It is 3¼ miles long, 2⅛ wide, and 10¼ miles in circumference, and has an area of 3107 acres. It includes the town of Islington and the hamlets of Holloway, Highbury, Canonbury, Barnsbury, Kingsland, Ball's Pond, and other places. In the 17th century a country village,—when the first census was taken in 1801, it was still rural, and the entire parish had only 10,212 inhabitants. Since then the population has gone on increasing with constantly accelerating rapidity, and in 1871 amounted to 213,778. In 1881 it was 282,628, an increase of 68,850 in ten years; an addition equal to that of the entire population of a town like Rochdale, or a county like Westmoreland or Montgomery. As a village, Islington was originally considered remote from London; but, like Chelsea, on the other side, it is now a part of this great and increasing metropolis—"the monster London" of Cowley's poem upon "Solitude."

Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
And all the fools that crowd thee so,
     Even thou, who dost thy millions boast,
A village less than Islington wilt grow,
     A solitude almost.—COWLEY.
Not only London echoes with thy fame,
but also Islington has heard the same.—DRYDEN (?)1
For what was Ninive? A noble, a rich, and a wealthy city. What is London to Ninive? Like a village, as Islington or such another, in comparison of London. Latimer's Last Sermon to Edward VI., 1550.

The origin of the name is uncertain. In ancient records it is written Isendone, Iseldone, Yseldon, Eyseldon (Domesday and City Books, 1398). From about the middle of the 16th century it was commonly written Hisselton.

Hither came alle the men of that contray
Of Hisselton, of Hygate, and of Hakenay.

Turnament of Tottenham

Stow (1598, 1604) writes Iseldon, but Islington was in use much earlier. In 1559 William Fleetwood, Recorder of London, writes to Cecil:—

My Singular Good Lord—Uppon Thursday at even, her Majestie in her cooche nere Islyngton taking of the air, her Highnes was environed with a number of Rooges. One Mr. Stone, a footeman, cam in all hast to my Lord Maior, and after to me and told us of the same. I dyd the same night send warrants out into the sayd quarters and into Westminster and the Duchie; and in the mornyng went abroad myself, and took that daye lxxiij roogs, whereof some were blynd and yet great usurers, and very rich.

What these blind usurers had to do with environing the Queen's coach does not appear; but no doubt the Recorder deemed it necessary to prove his zeal by arresting "roogs" of some kind or other. By a later report it would seem that "the brick-kilns by Islyngton" were a favourite haunt of the sturdy rogues and vagrants who infested the neighbourhood; and for beggars and thieves Islington, as the first halting-place from London on the great North Road, was a favourable place for the pursuit of their calling.

Go away! betake you to the end of the town; let me find you between Wood's close stile and Islington, with "Will it please your Worship to bestow the price of two cans upon a poor Soldier, that hath served in the face of the Soldan," and so forth.—Haywood, The Royal King, etc., circ. 1608, p. 61.

Islington was famous for its dairies, brick-kilns, houses of entertainment with their tea-gardens and ducking-ponds, cheesecakes and custards, and fields, the favourite Sunday resort of rural-minded citizens.

Master Stephen, What do you talk on it? Because I dwell at Hogsden, I shall keep company with none but the archers of Finsbury, or the citizens that come a-ducking to Islington Ponds.—Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour.
March 27, 1664.—Walked through the Ducking Pond Fields; but they are so altered since my father used to carry us to Islington, to the old man's, at the King's Head, to eat cakes and ale (his name was Pitts), that I did not know which was the Ducking Pond [see Ball's Pond], nor where I was.—Pepys.

Pepys on another visit (January 1668) mentions the pond behind the White Lion Inn.

Ho, ho! To Islington! Enough!
Fetch Job my son, and our dog Ruffe!
For there in pond, through mire and muck,
We'll cry "Hey duck there, Ruffe, hey duck!"

Davenant's Long Vacation in London.

Taylor the Water Poet's s first stage in his Penniless Pilgrimage was to Islington, staying the night at the Maidenhead Inn:—

I stumbling forward thus my jaunt begun,
And went that night as far as Islington.

On his return he again stayed at the Maidenhead, where by his friends he was "entertained with much good cheer: and after supper we had a play of the Life and Death of Guy of Warwick played by the Right Honourable the Earl of Derby his men." The discovery of the chalybeate waters of the Islington Wells added to the attractions of rural Islington.

Audacious and unconscionable Islington! Was it not enough that thou hast, time out of mind, been the Metropolitan Mart of Cakes, Custards, and Stewed Pruans? The chief place of entertainment for Suburb Bawds, and Loitering Prentices? Famous for Bottl'd Ale that Begins the Huzza! before one drinks the Health, and Statutable Cans, nine at least to a Quart.
People may talk of Epsom Wells,
Of Tunbridge Springs which most excells,
I'll tell you by my ten years' practice
lainly what the matter of fact is:
Those are but good for one disease,
To all distempers this gives ease.

A Morning Ramble; or, Islington Wells Burlesqt. London: Printed by George Croom, for the Author, 1684. [Single half-sheet.]1
Islington, as famous for cakes as Stepney or Chelsea is for buns.—Dr. King's Journey to London, A.D. 17— (Works, vol. i. p. 193).
Time was when satin waistcoats and scratch wigs,
Enough distinguished all the City prigs,
Whilst every sunshine Sunday saw them run
To club their sixpences at Islington.

Rev. Charles Jenner, Eclogue, vol. ii. p. 1744.

A man who gives the natural history of the cow is not to tell how many cows are milked at Islington.—Johnson, in Boswell, by Croker, p. 587.

On Wednesday, May 5 [1784], I arrived in London, and next morning had the pleasure to find Dr. Johnson greatly recovered. I but just saw him; for a coach was waiting to carry him to Islington, to the house of his friend the Rev. Mr. Strachan, where he went sometimes for the benefit of good air.—Croker's Boswell, p. 753.

The mysterious conspiracy (1531) of Richard ap Gryffyth to murder Henry VIII. was "conducted at Islington."2 December 12, 1557, a Protestant congregation, with their minister, John Rough, and deacon, Cuthbert Simson, who had assembled at the Saracen's Head Inn, Islington, to their godly and accustomable exercises of praier, and to hear the word of God," were arrested by the Vice-Chamberlain to the Queen and committed to prison. Rough was shortly after burned. On September 17 of the same year, Richard Roth or Wroth, Ralph Alerton, James Austo and Margery Austo were burned at Islington as heretics. On December 8, 1609, a bloody duel was fought here between Sir James Stewart and Sir George Wharton. The former, as the challenged party, had the choice of weapons, and he wrote to his adversary, "I have sent you the length of my rapier, which I will use with a dagger, and soe meet you at the farther end of Islington ... at 3 of the clocke in the aftemoone." They met, fought with determined courage, and both fell, pierced with many wounds, and died on the field of battle. Stewart was the son of the first Lord Blantyre, Lord Treasurer of Scotland, and godson of King James I., who, it is said, directed that they should be interred in the same grave. The parish register records the burial of both on the same day, November 10, 16091—John, son of Sir John Egerton, who was killed in a duel on April 20, 1610, was buried here, two days after. In the great Civil War one of the principal of the London forts was constructed at Islington, and, according to Denzil Holles, the keys of the City were here delivered to Cromwell by the Lord Mayor.2 Like the other suburbs Islington was, as late as the last century, infested with highwaymen. Defoe relates how, in June 1720, a gentleman coming to town was robbed near the turnpike at Islington at eight o'clock in the morning. The highwayman was "pursued by the haymakers who were then in the fields," but does not appear to have been caught.

Eminent Inhabitants.—Sir Walter Raleigh—if tradition may be trusted.

There is a house no farther from London than Islington, about a bow's shot on this side the church, which, tho' I think it has no such evidences remaining upon its walls, cielings or windows, that will prove him [Raleigh] to have been its owner, the arms that are seen there, above a hundred years old, being of a succeeding inhabitant, is yet popularly reported to have been a villa of his.... As for the house, it is and has been, for many years, an inn [the Pied Bull].—Oldys's Life of Raleigh, fc. lxxiv.

Sir Henry Yelverton, the celebrated lawyer of James I.'s time, was baptized here July 7, 1566. Lord Keeper Egerton, afterwards Lord Ellesmere, was living here in 1605. Sir Thomas Coventry, at Canonbury in 1625, when Attorney-General, and in 1627, etc., when Lord Keeper. Sir Symonds d'Ewes, the antiquary. Parliamentary journalist, and autobiographer, in 1630. About the same time Sir Humphrey May, Master of the Rolls. Lord Mandeville, afterwards Earl of Manchester, 1635. John Playford, the musician, lived here many years. Samuel Humphreys, author of Canons and other long-forgotten poems, was buried as a "stranger" in the churchyard, January 15, 1737. William Collins, the poet.

After his return from France, the writer of this character paid him a visit at Islington, where he was waiting for his sister, whom he had directed to meet him. There was then nothing of disorder discernible in his mind by any but himself; but he had withdrawn from study, and travelled with no other book than an English Testament, such as children carry to the school: when his friend took it in his hand, out of curiosity to see what companion a Man of Letters had chosen: "I have but one book," said Collins, "but that is the best."—Johnson's Lives of the Poets.

Colley Cibber; he is said to have died in a house next the Castle Tavern. Oliver Goldsmith. [See Canonbury.] Alexander Camden, author of the Concordance (d. 1770), in Camden Passage, Camden Street He was found dead on his knees in the posture of prayer. John Nichols, author of Nichols's Anecdotes, in Highbury Place. Dr. William Hawes, physician, founder of the Humane Society, was born in Islington, and buried in the churchyard, December 13, 1808. "Autograph Cottage," No. 102 Upper Street, was the last residence of William Upcott, the great autograph collector. Charles Lamb, in Colebrooke Row, in what he calls " a detached whitish house close to the New River, end of Colebrooke Terrace, left hand coming from Sadler's Wells."

A few old houses still linger in Islington. The ceiling of a back room on the first floor of No. 41 Cross Street has the arms of England, the initials E.R. (Elizabetha Regina), and the date, 1595, in stucco; also the initials F/TI (Thomas and Jane Fowler), fleur-de-lis, medallions, etc. The Fowlers were Lords of the Manor of Bamsbury; hence Bamsbury Park, Islington. In a large room in the first floor of the Old Parr's Head, John Henderson is said to have made his first essay in acting.

Besides the mother church, already noticed, there are more than twenty other churches belonging to the Establishment, and an endless variety of Nonconformist places of worship; the Church of England Missionary College, Church Missionaries' Children's Home, Caledonian Asylum, London Fever Hospital, Liverpool Road, and a very large number of schools and educational and benevolent institutions. The old Sadler's Wells and the new Philharmonic Theatres are in Islington parish; in the High Street and Liverpool Road is the Royal Agricultural Hall; and on Islington Green a marble statue by Thomas of Sir Hugh Myddleton, erected July 1862, by Sir Morton Peto. [See Agricultural Hall; Ball's Pond; Canonbury; Colebrooke Row; New River; Sadler's Wells.] There is a very curious map of the county round Islington in the reign of Charles I. among the State Papers, Cal. Dom. Car. I., vol. ccxxxix. art 86.

1 A couplet fathered on Dryden, in the Whig Examiner, by Addison.

1 See also An Exclamation from Tunbridge and Epsom against the new found Wells at Islington. London: Printed for J. How. [Single half-sheet.]
2 Froude, vol. ii. p. 321.

1 Lytons, vol. ii. p. 488.
2 Denzil Holles, Memoirs, p. 162.