An urban view — 29 May 2018

Known colloquially and ‘Angel’, in the 1960s it could have easily gained the nomenclature of Toucan Turnpike.

Utilising at bomb site on its south-western corner (now a Jamies Italian) a huge hoarding proclaimed the proud boast that ‘Guinness was good for you’. The area now takes its name from the original Angel coaching inn dating back to 1639.

THE EXISTING BUILDING in pale terracotta stone with a corner cupola replaced the earlier building in 1899. It was a pub until 1921, then until 1959, the building was used as a Lyons Corner House. Today it is a branch of the Co-operative Bank.

The original Angel stood near a toll gate on the Great North Road (now the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road), at the bottom of Islington High Street.

Its religious name suggests even earlier origins, possibly as a hostel for pilgrims.

Travellers would rest here overnight rather than risk the open land between Islington and the City, which was infested by highwaymen and other thieves. There were also large fields for farmers to rest their animals before the journey to Smithfield meat market. For those travelling north the Angel was a coaching inn, the first northward staging post outside the City of London.

(Map of Angel crossroads, the black square indicates total destruction)

It became a local landmark and was mentioned in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, in connection with Oliver’s first meeting with the Artful Dodger: ‘it was nearly eleven o’clock when they reached the turnpike at Islington. They, crossed from The Angel into St John’s Road’.

The area in which it was situated used to be called Merry Islington because from time immemorial it had been a great entertainment centre for Londoners. The Collins Music Hall, the Grand Theatre, and the Philharmonic Hall were all situated here. Today, because of its numerous restaurants, Upper Street is known as Supper Street.

In 1935 Victor Watson and his secretary Marjorie Phillips had been on a flying visit around the capital in a taxi, finding names for a board game that Watson had bought from Parker Bros., in Atlantic City. They had chosen many but still needed a name for one last square to go on their Monopoly board.

At a loss, they stopped for afternoon tea at the Lyons Angel Corner House Tea Rooms. Rather than looking further, Watson chose ‘The Angel’ as the last name, making it the only site on the board named after a building.

A plaque describing this event was unveiled by Victor Watson’s grandson, also named Victor.

Featured image: The Angel, Islington, opened in 1903 as the Angel Hotel, this landmark building was chosen in 1935 as one of the sites for the British version of the Monopoly board game. It is now home to a branch of the Co-op Bank by Des Blenkinsopp (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Gibson

(2) Readers Comments

  1. Tigger and I live at the Angel. London Underground gave the station the abbreviated name ‘Angel’ because it tends to drop the definite article when using local names. I first encountered the station years ago when it consisted of a single island platform which could be dangerous when crowded. (Today’s southbound platform is extra wide to cope with rush hour crowds.) Its escalators, down which I travel several times a week, are the longest on the Underground.

    My only regret is that I was never able to have a cup of tea, served by a ‘Nippy’, in the Lyons corner house. Going in there to manage my account with the Co-operative Bank is the next best thing, I suppose!

    • Once a year my mother would drag me ‘up west’ for shopping and as recompense she took me to a Lyons Corner House for tea

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