History of the Islington Society

The society was founded in 1960 to involve and support local people in the conservation and regeneration of Islington’s built environment and local services

It took a while for Britain to recover from the war and it was only in the 1960s that significant rebuilding began.  In many parts of London, this meant plans to demolish buildings damaged in the war which had survived and which many believed could be repaired.

Islington was no exception and it was a scheme to demolish Union Square and replace its Victorian terraces with five and six storey blocks of modern flats that was the catalyst for the birth of the Islington Society in the autumn of 1960.  The Packington Estate went ahead, commencing in 1963, and by the time the decision to approve the scheme had been lambasted by a government inquiry, it was too late to save Union Square.  However, many other terraces were saved and when the Council bought a large area of Victorian housing in the 1970s, the Scott estate was refurbished.

Moreover, the Packington Estate had to be reordered two or three times, before safety concerns led to its demolition and a rebuilding that largely respects the former street pattern.

Another early campaign was against the new sodium lighting hoist on ugly concrete lamp-posts to replace more elegant standards and a gentler light.  Heritage lamp standards have now been introduced to many conservation areas, and the yellow light is no more.

The Society encouraged the formation of other amenity groups, such as the Archaeology & History Society, and the Angel Improvement Trust which set up an information centre on Islington Green.  The campaign for an Islington Museum, which for a time was run by volunteers next to the Town Hall, eventually resulted in its establishment in Finsbury Library alongside the Local History collection and close to the London Family Centre and the London Metropolitan Archive.

In the 1990s there was a successful campaign to bring rooms above shops back into productive use.  A decade later the Society was campaigning to encourage use of local shops and travel by bus rather than private car.

The Society has always been proactive in encouraging good modern design as well as reuse of existing buildings and with these twin aims in mind has been awarding buildings old and new since 1992, first through the Geoffrey Gribble Award and more recently with the sponsorship of the Building Design Centre.  The Award to a landscaping scheme around the former St. Luke’s church may well have secured its subsequent development by the London Symphony Orchestra.