Walk Four: - The Squares of Islington

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This walk takes us through what was once a refuge from the grime of London, then became a suburb, and has now been swallowed up by the city. There are no historic museums to visit, all buildings display their colours on the outside, but some of London's most beautiful squares lie on the route - which like all our walks can be done in two halves. It's weather-dependent, but one consolation is that Upper Street in Islington is choc-full of restaurants. We don't actually recommend you do all this walk - unless you are a keen walker (or are on a bike), rather do various bits of it - there are plenty of short circuits on route.

Three interconnected squares run along the west side of Upper street between Highbury (Victoria Line) and Angel (Northern line) stations, and wandering off route here will pay dividends - down to Thornhill Square, where 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' was shot. On the East side of Upper street are two squares and a park, as well as the canal run along the east side, as well as some georgian terraces. Map. Further South are Myddleton Square and the singularly strange architecture of Lloyd Baker Street and it's adjacent squares.

We begin at Angel tube (northern line). The area, known as Angel, is named after a famous coaching inn - now a bank after reconstruction in 1891 and 1981. Turn right onto Upper Street/Islington High Street - the two sides of the road have different names due to a parish boundary dispute which goes back to the 1820s. Sir Walter Raleigh lived here and received Queen Elizabeth in a house, the exact number of which is in dispute (the probable building is the Pied Bull pub at No.98). We'll follow the right hand side (the High Street) which runs into Camden Passage (Antiques Market - Mon - Sat, best on Thurs and Saturdays) which itself emerges onto Islington Green, which would be pleasant if not for the traffic. (A short cut here takes you straight to Colebrook Row)

Walk across the top of the green to where the Slug and Lettuce Pub forms the corner with what is now indisputably called Upper Street and cross over the road, taking Threberton St across the bottom of Gibson Square (no masterpiece) to Cloudsley Square (1825) and turn right to go north up to Lonsdale Square, on a winter's misted evening they are simply magical - one could easily imagine any Victorian children's novel taking place there. The conductor Simon Rattle lives there as well as a host of people who can afford the $2m price tag.

A diversion from the bottom of Lonsdale Square takes you west along Richmond Avenue, (taking Richmond Crescent on your right), Hemingford Road and left into Bridgeman Road which forms part of Thornhill Square - one of the largest, and where Hugh Grant lived in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. Back along Lofting Road to Liverpool Street, turn right and you're back on route.

At the top of Lonsdale Square turn right into Barnsbury Street. South of Barnsbury Street is Milner Square - a rather austere but large square in Venetian style of 1841. Before it was gentrified it was thought to be so perpendicular as to be gloomy - now despite the lack of gentrification it has a certain Puritan splendour. A passageway at the southeast corner of the Square (number 20) leads back onto Upper Street via Almeida Street with its famous theatre - ( currently moved to King's Cross while the building, a converted Salvation Army Temple Hall, undergoes repairs).

Turn Left on Upper Street, past the Town Hall, and then right on Canonbury Lane leads you to Canonbury Square (1800): famous inhabitants include George Orwell (number 27), Evelyn Waugh (number 17) and the Grossmiths (number 5) Diary of a Nobody fame. The Estorick Gallery is at number 39 in the square and houses a collection of Modern Italian Art - a lot of futurist stuff and figurative art. Also has a cafe.

Emerge from the Square via its east exit, Canonbury Place and turn into Alwyne Villas. There's a small park between Alwyne Road and Canonbury Grove which leads into Douglas Rd and a nice stroll by way of a diversion, along the brook. This is the remains of the Elizabethan manor house gardens, owned by the Marquesses of Northampton.

Take Braes Street west at the end of Canonbury Grove, which brings you out behind Islington Town Hall on Upper Street.

Back south along Upper Street towards Islington Green, turn off left at Colebrook Row for yet more squares and beautiful housing overlooking the canal, which emerges from its underground route here. Many of the larger houses here are former 'Ladies Academies' converted back into residential use. You eventually return to City Road, close to Angel Tube - where we started.

A continuation of the walk south: Map From City Road walk back uphill to the Angel and follow the signs for Saddlers Wells, which take you down St John Street, turning right onto Rosebury Avenue by the famous theatre - home of English Ballet. The splendid new building incorporates some of the old one of 1927, whose stage was too narrow for major 20th century ballet. The original building dates from 1638 - virtually nothing of it remains. The ballet company that started here (and was the substance of thousands of girls' fantasies in books such as 'Veronica at the Wells') eventually became the Royal Ballet, moved to the Opera house and now, for lack of funds is in Birmingham. The resident Opera company became the ENO and moved to the Coliseum on St Martins lane in the 1960s. It's an irony that neither managed to get the building reconstructed themselves. Once a spa, the original well remains in the foyer - should you visit (to see a ballet) put a coin in the box next to the well - a fairy will grab the coin and swim down into the waters - children love it.

Go round the back of the Theatre onto Arlington Way, which leads to Chadwell Street, turn left to get to Myddleton Square (1827). Take the continuation of Chadwell Street West out of the Square and turn right on Amwell Street, then left into Percy Street - down to Percy Circus (Lenin's London Home - number 16).

From here take Prideaux Place to Wharton Street, turning right then sharp left into Lloyd Square. The whole area was developed by Thomas Lloyd Baker in the 1820s, with a series of extraordinary individual houses by the Boothes. Through to Lloyd Baker Street , making sure to look at Granville Square (scene of Bennet's novel 'Riceyman's Steps) on the Right. You emerge onto one of London's main north/south axes - the Farringdon Road, home to the Guardian newspaper - just to the south is the 'village' of Clerkenwell - featured in our City walk.

Walk alongside the Holiday Inn into Calthorpe street opposite. If you're peckish we recommend the Eagle Pub/restaurant at 159 Farringdon road - a couple of hundred yards to the south - the best pub food in London and highly recommended by all the food guides. South of here the area (now occupied by a car pound) is called Mount Pleasant after Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Historical record suggests the appellation is ironical: in 1720 it was described as 'a dirty place with a few ill buildings'. You can make out the huge satellite dishes of Reuters News Agency across on Gray's Inn Road - also the HQ of ITN - the commercial TV news supplier. The Mount Pleasant Post Office is the biggest in the world, and served by its own railway.

Calthorpe Street leads to Guildford Street, along the north side of which is Mecklenburgh Square, much of which was damaged by WWII bombing and only partly reconstructed, but is frequently used for film shoots. South on Doughty Street, at number 49, is Dickens' House, and museum - his only surviving London home: Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and the Pickwick Papers were written here. The table at which he wrote these is still in the house, along with original manuscripts. If you continue along Guildford Street you come to Russell Square, and its tube station.

Just to the south on Southampton Row is Great Russell St and the British Museum should you need some earlier history.

As with all our walks, this intersects, in this case with our City walk, which begins at the South end of Gray's Inn road, and visits Clerkenwell, a few hundred yards to the south.

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