Thursday, 14 October 2010

The only way is Upper street

on their way to upper street

Upper Street was my manor (as they say in Guy Richie movies) as I grew up. For me it started at Compton Terrace, with its beautiful topiary and flower beds situated just after Highbury Roundabout, and ended at The Angel.
Many of the shops have gone, replaced by trend and nicety. Once the only effete part of Upper Street was Camden Passage with its Antiques and object d’art, now Upper Street is awash with pleasant eateries and boutiques. Not a bad thing at all as the poverty I was surrounded by in my youth was not at all glamorous.
walking the walk modern style

I remember the variety and character of a walk down Upper Street; Maggie May’s Music shop, a record shop cum Ice cream emporium. Clarkes shoes where I would do my Harry worth impression in the large glass window. Bellers the shop with numerous wooden draws that housed everything from thermal pants to string vests. The Hare & Hounds, now a  trendy pub slash bar that, rumour has it, was once the sight of a decapitation. Next to it Sutton Dwellings, where I stood in the throng to see Arsenal’s victorious 1971 double winners hold aloft their trophies at the town hall. St Marys Church where my school friends and  I would fight to sit on the pew donated by Arsenal.

Marsden’s Wine lodge where I spent many a Saturday afternoon as a child with a bottle of coke and a straw getting tipsy on the fumes. Canonbury Book Shop a small space with books, paints pencils and all manner of creative items.The Screen on The Green when it was the old fleapit and home to the most famous gig of the Punk era..

The Co-op next to the funeral parlour. John Dory’s Fish and chip shop and The Hope and Anchor, with its regular bands in the basement; I recall Be-Bop Deluxe;
 Kilburn & the High Roads and Doctor Feelgood appearing there on a regular basis along with the more mainstream Blue Mink (names to conjure with).

The pubs on Upper Street were always busy and seemed rather glamorous. The Fox which became the generic Slug and lettuce, the Wheatsheafs which became the generic Walkabout bar The Champion which now changes from year to year. The Kings Head where the customer was bamboozled post decimalisation with the charging policy being pedantically Old money.Next door the Old Post office; another example of great architecture.

Running parallel to Upper Street where the bland Essex Road to the East and the dull Liverpool Road to the West. Further west was the no mans land of The Callie.The only reason for venturing into Essex Road were, as a kid, Saturday Morning pictures at the beautiful Art Deco Carlton; now inevitably a Bingo Hall. And as a teenager The Tiberton Arms, The Tib as it was known for a late night drink in the small Pub filled with Islington’s beautiful people; the chaps and birds from the manor.
The Angel ended just before Angel Tube and spread sideways to Chapel Market. Going “Up Chap” meant shopping, Ice Cream by the lost children’s post, Pie & Mash and the man with the stall selling canteens of cutlery and dubious canned goods. It also meant Apple and Spam fritters and being subjected to casual racism on occasion.

Overall I have fond recollections of the place and when I venture down that way I see memories everywhere. Being an Islington boy was good, very good indeed.

Over at you will find a video showing the Upper street experience courtesy of Weaverman.


  1. Great article bro. I really enjoy your reminiscencings. More of it...There's a book in all of this. Call me when your ready to publish.

  2. Excellent piece with lots of memories. One of the greatest names to have actually lived in Upper Street was Boris Karloff who spent six months living in the Rectory of St.Mary's Church before crossing the Atlantic to eventually find fame in the movies. Karloff's sister was married to the vicar.

  3. As the current vicar of St Mary's, I'd love to know more about Boris Karloff's stay in my vicarage! Any idea what year this was?


having said that;