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Since 2010, Islington Council has unveiled 14 new green heritage plaques and we are about to add some more with your help through a third year of the Islington People's Plaques scheme. Read on to find out which people and events are now recognised with a permanent memorial.
86 Highbury Park, N5
The growth of the inner and outer suburbs of London in the latter Victorian period brought with it a new type of retail development, the suburban shopping parade. James Edmondson was the builder responsible for some of the most notable of these shopping parades throughout London during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
James Edmondson was born in Clerkenwell on 27th August 1857. His father, Isaac Edmondson, was a carpenter from Cumberland, and his mother, Hanne, was from Westmorland. Isaac worked on various building projects in Islington with some success, and by 1881 the Edmondsons had moved into No 40 Petherton Road, a well situated and sized house in a desirable area. By this time James was 23 and thought to be working with his father.
James and Isaac Edmondson were contracted with Charles Herbert Shoppe as ‘builders and contractors’ and developed the parade of shops at The Broadway, Highbury Park around this time. The development of the streets of the Sotheby Road Conservation Area in Islington were James’ first major building project. The shops typically located in such a parade would have been small businesses such as butchers, fishmongers, boot-makers, and greengrocers. Purpose built flats were built on top of the shops. At this time the Edmondsons set up their shop under the name of Merrs. I Edmondson and Son Ltd. at No.8, The Broadway, Highbury Park, now No. 86 Highbury Park.
It was from these premises that the business successfully grew, and the company worked on numerous building projects throughout the London with James at the helm. The pattern of residential streets fronted by a parade of shops was repeated in his later developments at Crouch End, Muswell Hill and Golders Green. The business continued to flourish with James’ eldest son, Albert James, joining the company in the 1920s. Albert James successfully ran the business, and then became a Conservative MP for Banbury and eventually ennobled as a Baron Sandford in 1945.
James Edmondson retired and moved to Bournemouth in 1923, and died there in 1931. His work can still be seen throughout London, with many of the shopping parades he built now fully restored and are, again, a central part of the communities they are situated in.
Plaque unveiled on 12 October 2013
Bevin Court, Cruikshank Street, WC1
Artist Cyril Mann was born in London in 1911 but spent most of his formative years in Nottingham. At 14, he was the youngest boy ever to win a scholarship to the Nottingham School of Art. He left for Canada in 1927, where he worked in a number of trades, including mining and logging. However, the beauty of the Alaskan border landscape inspired Mann to take up painting again. Returning to London in the early-1930s, he studied at the Royal Academy Schools and, later, in Paris.
After serving in the Second World War as a gunner, Cyril and his first wife lived in a council flat in Paul Street, near City Road. The flat proved to be the worst possible base for an artist. It received no natural light, forcing Cyril to paint in artificial light. For three years he concentrated on shadow formations, doing small, formalized still-life paintings with a strong use of line and colour. During this period, he painted some iconic images of post-war Finsbury and Islington, including sunlight on Finsbury Square, trolley buses near the Angel, and a luminescent Chiswell Street, all providing rare sparks of colour in a grim world. After teaching at the LCC Central School of Art, Cyril was appointed lecturer at Kingsway Day College and Sir John Cass College, specialising in the 'Technology of Painting', in 1950.
In 1956, the artist moved to a small one-bedroom flat on the seventh floor of Bevin Court in Cruikshank Street, Finsbury (now Islington). Life took a turn for the better when he married Renske van Slooten in 1960 – she also became his model and muse. At this time, Mann gave up lecturing to concentrate on painting full time. Flooded with light, Bevin Court allowed Mann to explore the dynamic effects of sunlight and shadows in a different way from previous artists. He was fascinated – to the point of obsession – by fierce, dazzling sunlight bouncing off surfaces in constant movement.
Cyril and Renske left Bevin Court in 1964, moving to Walthamstow and then Leyton in East London. Throughout the 1960s, and into the following decade, the artist presented his work in a series of successful exhibitions and one-man shows. Suffering severe health problems in the late-1970s, Cyril Mann died in 1980 in his 69th year.
Plaque unveiled on 28 September 2013
1 Highbury Terrace, N5
Francis Ronalds was born in London in 1788, the second of eleven children. In 1796 his family moved to 1 Highbury Terrace; Francis lived there until 1813. It was while living here that he developed his interest in chemical experiments and started his pioneering work on electricity, carrying out experiments at home. It was through his work on the electric telegraph that he came to fame.
"Very early in life chemistry was my chief amusement and my most memorable performance, in this science then, was the blowing up of a large hydrogen gazometer in the breakfast room of No 1 Highbury Terrace.” (Sir Francis Ronalds in 1860).
Ronalds spent a great deal of his life in Italy. He spent the final years of his life in Battle, East Sussex and in 1870 was knighted for his contributions to the invention of the telegraph. Ronalds died, unmarried, on 8 August 1873.
Plaque unveiled on 31 August 2013
Manor Gardens Centre, Manor Gardens, N7
Florence Keen founded the North Islington Infant Welfare Centre and School for Mothers in Holloway in 1913. At that time around 10 percent of children in Islington died before their fifth birthday. Keen worked to educate mothers about preventing disease and death among their families. By 1920, the clinic had received over 12,000 visitors and its services had expanded to include dentistry, massage and artificial sunlight treatment. The organisation, now known as the Manor Gardens Welfare Trust, continues to provide community healthcare in Islington.
Plaque unveiled on 27 July 2013
166 Drayton Park, N5
Jack Kennedy was a campaigner for justice, equality, and workers' rights, who worked as a bricklayer for Islington Council and was a member of the Union of Construction and Allied Trades & Technicians (UCATT).
Born in Tipperary in 1935, Jack moved to Drayton Park in Highbury during the 1950s, and was a passionate believer in social justice.He was a key figure in the successful campaigns to free the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, wrongly convicted of pub bombings in the 1970s, and in other struggles against miscarriages of justice.
In the 1980s he was a founding member of the Construction Safety Campaign, which exposed deaths on British building sites. The campaign led to new, improved site safety laws to protect workers.
Plaque unveiled on 16 March 2013
Had headquarters 28 Penton Street, N1
Between 1978 and 1994 the African National Congress (ANC) was based in Penton Street N1, near the Angel. It was from here that exiles Oliver Tambo and future President Thabo Mbeki planned the overthrow of the apartheid regime.
Plaque unveiled on 22 February 2010
Lived at 60 Thornhill Square, N1
Edith Garrud, a self-defence instructor who taught jiu-jitsu, was one of the first professional martial arts instructors in the western world. She and her husband, William Garrud, ran a school of ju jitsu on Seven Sisters Road, Hackney.
She was also a Suffragette and trained ‘the bodyguard’, the Suffragettes’ own protection unit, which guarded its members from the police and arrest. She was portrayed in a cartoon in Punch magazine in July 1910, single-handedly tackling a group of policemen.
City Road Basin, N1
Crystal Hale lived in Islington for almost 50 years, initially in Canonbury Square and then at Noel Road. She led a campaign to save the City Road Basin from being filled in and redeveloped; she also founded Islington Boat Club, the Angel Community Canal Boat Trust and Angel Canal Festival.
People who nominated Hale wrote that her contribution to Islington has given many the opportunity to experience life on the water and that, without her support, City Road Basin would no longer exist.
Plaque unveiled on Sunday 4 September 2011 at the 25th Angel Canal Festival
Gifford Street, N1
The Keskidee Centre was Britain's first arts and cultural centre for the black community. It was founded in 1971 near King's Cross by Guyanese-born Oscar Abrams and his fellow trustees. The centre took its name from a singing Caribbean bird.
Plaque unveiled on 7 April 2011
Highbury Barn Tavern, N5
The Peasants’ Revolt was triggered by opposition to an unpopular poll tax and in 1381, Wat Tyler, Jack Straw and their fellow rebels had their final major rally in Islington.
Sir Robert Hales, the Lord Treasurer and Prior of St John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell, was in charge of collecting the tax. St John’s was burnt to the ground by the rebels and an estimated 20,000 insurgents then converged at Highbury and destroyed Highbury Manor, the Prior’s residence.
The revolt was ultimately crushed and the leaders executed but for many years afterwards, the site of Highbury Manor was referred to as ‘Jack Straw’s Castle’.
Plaque unveiled on Saturday 11 June 2011
Painted, lived and taught out of 1 Highbury Place, N5
Sickert, one of the most best known British painters of the 20th century, opened his studio at 1 Highbury Place in 1927 and lived and worked from the studio until 1934.
It was the last of his studios in Islington and he also briefly ran a school of art on the premises. Whilst working here, he painted 'The Raising of Lazarus’, which he donated to raise funds for Sadler's Wells Theatre.
Plaque unveiled on Saturday 30 July 2011
Sobell Leisure Centre, Hornsey Road, N7
Businessman and philanthropist Sir Michael Sobell donated £1.1million towards the costs of building Islington's Sobell Leisure Centre, which opened in 1973.
A plaque commemorating his gift was unveiled at the Leisure Centre in Hornsey Road by his daughter, Hilda Rubin.
Plaque unveiled on 7 September 2010
13-15 Bingfield Street, N1
Legendary British comic actor Kenneth Williams was born at 11 Bingfield Street on 22 February 1926. He became a TV, radio and film star, perhaps best known for his roles in the Carry On films.
Plaque unveiled on 24 June 2010
Established a school for girls on Newington Green
Eighteenth-century writer, philosopher and advocate of women's rights Mary Wollstonecraft was honoured with a green heritage plaque at Newington Green Primary School. The plaque commemorates the school for girls established by Mary Wollstonecraft in 1784.
Plaque unveiled on Tuesday 8 March 2011, International Women’s Day.
Little Angel Theatre, Dagmar Passage, N1
John Wright founded the Little Angel Puppet Theatre in a derelict temperance hall in 1961. Since then, the Little Angel company has developed an international reputation through producing and touring new shows and collaborating with other performers and venues. Wright also worked to improve and protect the area around Dagmar Passage.
The theatre, which also runs education programmes and puppetry training, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2011.
Plaque unveiled on Saturday 9 July 2011 at the Little Angel Theatre's annual summer party
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