Islington is a primarily residential district of Inner London, England and forms part of the London Borough of Islington. Due to its geographical location being in close proximity to London city centre and Westminster, the district has enjoyed popularity amongst the rich and the eminent over the years.The name Islington was originally given by the Saxons as Gislandune and Giseldone, meaning ‘Gisla’s hill’ in Old English. It later transformed to Isledon which continued to be used until the modern form of the name arose in the 17th century. The town was one of several small manors in medieval times.
The availability of water supply in Islington made it the ideal location for growing vegetables to feed London. Many Londoners ventured out to the town, attracted by the rural feel that the area exuded, and made Islington a rather popular destination. This resulted in an upswing in public houses, music halls, tea gardens and theatres springing up and around the town to service the needs of the tourists. One such structureunderwent a successful public appeal process in the early 1980s to redevelop it into a theatre following its origination as a Literary and Scientific Society, the purpose of which being to spread forbidden knowledge, and the subsequent abandonment thereafter. A festival of music and avant-garde theatre was held at the newly redeveloped site and at other venues in Islington, giving birth to the now successful Almeida Theatre. The Royal Agricultural Hall located in the town was the largest structure of its kind and the principal exhibition venue for London until the 20th century, with a capacity of up to 50,000 people. The building was used during World War II by the Mount Pleasant sorting office and never re-opened. However, the main hall has now been integrated into the district’s Business Design Centre. The old structures that have survived are now primarily residential or smaller creative work establishments.
A rapid increase in the population of the town, partially due to the establishment of horse-drawn omnibuses in the early 19th century, led to the erection of well-built, large houses and an influx of artisans, professionals and clerks, attracted to the fashionable squares, into the town. However, due to the industrialization of London in the mid-19th century, the construction of numerous new goods yards and railway stations saw the displacement of the poor to clear Inner London. Many of these displaced citizenstook up residence in Islington causing a prompt reduction in the attraction of the town by the perceived “better off”. The district fell into a lengthy decline and was mainly run-down by the middle of the 20th century. Prior to World War II, which caused extensive damage to Islington’s housing cache, numerous council housing blocks had been constructed and added to the housing stock. Subsequent to the war and partially due to bomb site redevelopment, the council housing began to flourish again in the district of Islington. A number of extensive estates were erected and the worst terraced houses were cleared out. However, the town remained densely populated with significant levels of overcrowding, and soon middle-class families were rediscovering the remaining Georgian terraced housing. This resulted in a wide-spread rehabilitation of the district’s housing and brought about the fashionable popularity of the area once again. The process of gentrification, whereby the poor are displaced by the aspirational, soon became prevalent within Islington and several figures that became pivotal to the New Labour movement in England were among the new residents, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair prior to his 1997 general election victory. It is said that the Granita Pact between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took place at a now obsolete restaurant in the district. The redevelopment of the Angel tube station and the creation of the Victoria line allowed for developers to rehabilitate many of the older Georgian and Victorian townhouses, as well as construct new developments. Islington remains an area with diverse residents, with its apartments and private housing in close proximity to its social housing in nearby neighbouring districts. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also calls the district its home with its head office located in the Islington CAA House.
Islington is mentioned extensively in contemporary English culture and literature. The author of the novel ‘The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy’, Douglas Adams, resided in Islington and used the townas a backdrop in his novels. Reference is made to a fictional street located in Islington by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series as the headquarters of the ‘Order of the Phoenix’. ‘About a boy’, a novel by Nick Hornby, now adapted into a film, is also set in Islington. The town features in numerous other works of literature, as well as in an opera and in poetry.
Islignton has an extensive public transport network, with bus routes, railway and London Underground services operating throughout the town and into neighbouring cities and suburbs, making accessibility and mobility efficient and reliable. Angel tube station is regarded as the town’s most well-known station, and is also mentioned in several works of fiction. This station is renowned for having the longest escalator, at 318 steps, on the London Underground System, and was notoriously associated with a Norwegian man after he skied down the escalator in 2006.The primary shopping street of the central district is located on Upper Street in Islington, and carries the A1 road.
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