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Highbury Area Guide

Highbury Area Guide

Author: Julie, 21/07/2016

Highbury is a district in the London Borough of Islington.

The area now known as Islington was part of the larger manor of Tolentone, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Tolentone was owned by Ranulf brother of Ilger and included all the areas north and east of Canonbury and Holloway Road. The manor house was situated by what is now the east side of Hornsey Road near the junction with Seven Sisters Road. After the manor decayed, a new manor house was built in 1271 to the south-east; to differentiate it from the original manor and because it was on a hill, it was called Highbury, from which the area takes its name.

Ownership of Highbury eventually passed to Alicia de Barrow, who in 1271 gave it to the Priory of St John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights Hospitallers in England. The wealthy Lord Prior built Highbury manor as a substantial stone country lodging with a grange and barn.

In 1381, during the Peasants’ Revolt, Jack Straw led a mob of 20,000 rioters who “so offended by the wealth and haughtiness” of the Knights Hospitallers destroyed the manor house. The Lord Prior at the time, Robert Hales, who had taken refuge in the Tower of London, was captured and beheaded on Tower Hill. Jack Straw and some of his followers used the site as a temporary headquarters; consequently the derelict manor became known for the next 500 years as Jack Straw’s Castle. This should not be confused with the better known Jack Straw’s Castle, formerly a pub and now residential flats at Whitestone Ponds, Hampstead, which was named after the semi-legendary leader of the revolt. The Manor of Highbury remained the possession of the Knights of St John until it was confiscated by Henry VIII in 1540. The land then stayed as crown property until Parliament began selling it in the 17th century.

John Dawes, a wealthy stockbroker, acquired the site of Jack Straw’s Castle together with 247 acres (1.00 km2) of surrounding land. In 1781 he built Highbury House at a cost of £10,000 on the spot where Highbury Manor had stood. Over the next 30 years the house was extended by new owners, firstly Alexander Aubert and then John Bentley, to include a large observatory and lavish gardens.

The grounds around Highbury House started to be sold off in 1794. By 1894 Highbury House and its remaining grounds became a school. Finally in 1938 Highbury House was demolished and is now the site of Eton House flats (on Leigh Road), built by the Old Etonian Housing Association in 1939.

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