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Special collections

Islington has a vibrant history and these collections focus on the local people and organisations that helped contribute to it.

Dove Brothers archive

Dove Brothers Ltd was a prominent construction company based in Islington from 1781 to 1993 which worked with most of the major architects of the late 19th to 20th century. The archive documents the work of the building firm. 

Geoffrey Fletcher collection

Geoffrey Fletcher was a renowned artist, author and connoisseur of ‘off-beat’ London. He came to love Islington in particular, recording its buildings, streets and people during the 1960s and 1970s. The collection contains paintings and sketches together with sketchbooks, prints, cuttings, book manuscripts and pamphlets.

Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton collection

In 1962 aspiring writer Joe Orton (1933-67) and his partner and mentor Kenneth Halliwell (1926-67) were each sentenced to six months imprisonment for theft and malicious damage to Islington Public Library books.

They were found guilty of theft of library books and defacing the library book covers by adding alternative images from other sources or inserting new text and narrative. In the process Orton and Halliwell produced "guerrilla artwork", motivated by what they believed to be "the endless shelves of rubbish" that they found in public libraries.

Following the couple's trial, the offending covers were returned to Islington Public Library Service, where they were held by the special collections librarian until being passed to Islington Local History Centre some years later.

Penton family and estate papers

Family, estate papers and miscellaneous papers relating to the Pentonville estate of south west Islington and Clerkenwell and the Penton family who owned the land, 1707-1945.

Memoir of Henry Price (cabinet maker)

This handwritten diary of a working man exists because Islington-resident Henry Price decided to set down on record some of the story of his life, "knowing it to be something out of the common". 

Robert Pringle and Sons (London) Limited

Find out about an Islington-based manufacturer of jewellery and clocks. Materials include sales catalogues, commemorative booklets and photographs.

Royal Agricultural Hall

The Agricultural Hall Company was established in 1860 by the Smithfield Club to construct and manage the Agricultural Hall, Islington. The hall was built to host the club's annual meeting and cattle show but also used for public events and large-scale exhibitions. It was designated the Royal Agricultural Hall in 1884.

The first Cruft's dog show took place at the hall in 1891 and then annually until 1939. 

By the early 1970s, the building was in a derelict state. There was a local campaign to save the building, which was purchased by the London Borough of Islington in 1976. In 1986, the hall was converted into an exhibition and conference centre and renamed the Business Design Centre.

Sadler's Wells Theatre Archive

Playbills, prints, photographs, cuttings, books and archive material relating to Sadler’s Wells buildings, performances and management.

Theatre, cinema and music hall collections

Islington Local History Centre holds various materials related to local cinemas and theatres. Most photographs and illustrations are exterior views, except in the Sadler’s Wells collection.

Walter Sickert Family Collection

Islington Council’s Walter Sickert family collection contains the paintings, drawings and etchings found in Sickert’s studio at the time of his death, along with an archive of his photographs and personal papers.

Most of this material was deposited with Islington Libraries by the Sickert Trust (1947-1950) in recognition of the significance of Islington in the artist’s life. The collection reflects Sickert’s enduring reputation as an artist, writer, teacher and eccentric.

The collection also includes paintings by members of Sickert’s family and by his wife, Thérèse Lessore.


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