Hail and history on Good Friday

This morning my delivery round took me to the network of streets between City Road and the canal. These are some of the oldest streets in the area, and there are little bits of history at every turn.

On 32 Haverstock Street, now a private house being refurbished, there is a plaque saying ‘Seminary for Young Ladies’. On the corner of Coombs Street and City Garden Row is a plaque marking the boundary of St Luke’s parish.

Another church, St Matthew’s, used to be nearby on City Road. It was destroyed in bombing in 1940, and Langdon Court now stands on the site. Behind it in Oakley Crescent, the former vicarage survives. It’s now called St Peter’s House; when I first came to Islington in 1992, the then curate of St Mary’s church, Pete Ellem, was living there; we enjoyed many evenings of coffee, philosophy and gossip in his attic flat. What I didn’t know then was that another former tenant was the French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire. Perhaps Islington should put up a plaque?

Even the street names are full of history. Nelson Street and Nelson Terrace were built in1802; Nelson was already a hero from the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, years before Trafalgar. Elia Street is named after the pen-name of the essayist Charles Lamb who had a cottage nearby on Colebrooke Row. City Garden Row evokes the time when this land was a recreation area just outside the city boundaries. Other streets like Graham Street, Noel Road and Vincent Terrace are probably named after the developers’ families (as are Matilda Street, Muriel Street and Rodney Street in Barnsbury). We like a bit of history. Today’s developers, who seem to go for empty names like ‘The Island’, ‘The Base’ and ‘NorthPoint’, should take note….

Despite being just off City Road, the streets were surprisingly quiet. In fact the only noise came from the refuse collection and recycling teams doing their rounds. On a Bank Holiday? Yes, thanks to the Lib Dem Council and the hard-working binmen. We also have a Friday collection in Morton Road and I’m glad to say both our bins and our recycling were collected as normal today.

The weather this morning was much better than forecast, and perfect for delivery. That changed this afternoon. About 5pm I was picking my way around the steps and basements of Packington Street, when the sky suddenly went dark, and then hail struck. I lurked in a porch while the ice bounced off the pavement and thunder rumbled.

Today is of course Good Friday. As a Christian, I should have gone to church, indeed would have done if I’d not had my deliveries to get out. My church organises a procession on Good Friday; carrying the cross along Upper Street to St Mary’s, starting at noon. They’d have had good weather today. On the first Good Friday, the Gospels record that the sky went dark and the earth shook. So the hailstorm gave me pause for thought as well as a pause in my delivery.

The storm passed and I carried on delivering, albeit with bits of ice inside my collar and making their way down my back…. Still it did make our post-delivery meet-up for a drink all the more welcome. To quote Apollinaire, “La joie venait toujours après la peine”; pain is always followed by joy. Not a bad thought for Good Friday.



  1. personalpedia said

    Backed into your post, had no idea that Guillaume Apollinaire had a flat near City Road – thanks for in information. In addition, I had no idea that Brits (liberal) still went to church – how refreshing!

  2. […] of the Nile, although the Richmond Avenue houses date from 1841. (I’ve blogged before about Nelson’s influence on Islington streetnames.) So not so much Nelson’s Column as Nelson’s […]

  3. debbie said

    I am currently researching my family history, my great great grandfather used to live on oakley crescent and was married in st matthews. shame it was bombed. do you have any images of what the church looked like?
    kind regards

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