The Islington Museum is dedicated to the history of the London Borough of Islington. Islington was originally named by the Saxons Giseldone (1005), then Gislandune (1062). The name means "Gīsla's hill" from the Old English personal name Gīsla and dun ("hill", "down"). The name later mutated to Isledon, which remained in use well into the 17th century when the modern form arose. In medieval times, Islington was just one of many small manors thereabouts, along with Bernersbury, Neweton Berewe or Hey-bury and Canonesbury (Barnsbury, Highbury and Canonbury – names first recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries). Some roads on the edge of the area, including Essex Road, were known as streets by the medieval period, possibly indicating a Roman origin, but little physical evidence remains. What is known is that the Great North Road from Aldersgate came into use in the 14th century, connecting with a new turnpike (toll road) up Highgate Hill. This was along the line of modern Upper Street, with a toll gate at The Angel defining the extent of the village. The Back Road, the modern Liverpool Road, was primarily a drovers' road where cattle would be rested before the final leg of their journey to Smithfield. Pens and sheds were erected along this road to accommodate the animals. The hill on which Islington stands has long supplied the City of London with water, the first projects drawing water through wooden pipes from the many springs that lay at its foot, in Finsbury. These included Sadler's Wells, London Spa and Clerkenwell. By the 17th century these traditional sources were inadequate to supply the growing population and plans were laid to construct a waterway, the New River, to bring fresh water from the source of the River Lea, in Hertfordshire to New River Head, below Islington in Finsbury. The river was opened on 29 September 1613 by Sir Hugh Myddelton, the constructor of the project.
The first recorded church, St Mary's, was erected in the twelfth century and was replaced in the fifteenth century. Islington lay on the estates of the Bishop of London and the Dean and Chapter of St Pauls. There were substantial medieval moated manor houses in the area, principally at Canonbury and Highbury. In 1548, there were 440 communicants listed and the rural atmosphere, with access to the City and Westminster, made it a popular residence for the rich and eminent. The local inns, however, harboured many fugitives and recusants. The museum houses a gallery covering nine themes on local and social history: childhood, food and drink, fashion, leisure, healthcare, radicals, caring, home and wartime. Amongst the items on display are a bust of Vladimir Lenin, who lived and worked in Clerkenwell, and some of the book covers defaced by Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell. The museum has a regular programme of temporary exhibitions, including visiting displays and displays from its own collections. The museum also hosts talks, walks and children's events. The current exhibition is 'Trade - often copied, never equalled: celebrating 25 years of after-hours clubbing in Islington'. The museum is fully accessible for wheelchair users but there is no accessible parking. An induction loop is available.
Location : 245 St John Street London EC1V 4NB
Transport: Angel (Northern Line). London Buses route 153 stops nearby.
Opening Times: Wednesday, Sunday closed.
Otherwise daily 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free.
Donations are encouraged
Tel: 020 7527 2837