Silver Tiger: walk through Islington

26 Aug

Everyone has a story. Silver Tiger lives in Islington and has given permission to share a post on with Islington Faces readers as a SUMMER SPECIAL. Although originally published on 2 March 2011 it reveals just how pleasing it is to grab a camera to capture things that catch your notice when you make time to look more closely. It also makes  a lovely walk from Highbury Corner – take an A-Z or your phone if you think you might get lost. Enjoy your travels around Islington. Brief interview by Nicola Baird.

Try a staycation in Islington. Have you seen the elephant hedge cut by Tim Bushe?

Try a staycation in Islington. Have you seen the elephant hedge cut by Tim Bushe (or read the interview with him and how his hedge skills help raise money for charity)?

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week. 

Q: Silver Tiger, why did you start
I originally started a blog to see what blogging was and why so much fuss was being made about it. I had no clear idea of what directions the blog might take and the earliest posts reflect that uncertainty. Having started blogging, I found it fun and got a buzz from knowing that it was public and that others were reading it and often leaving comments.There is no specific aim to the blog, other than recording ideas and events that are of interest to me personally. Like a diary, the blog recounts episodes of my life and expresses my thoughts and feelings. Later, we can use it  to look back over the events of our life and the adventures that we have enjoyed together. If others find it interesting too, then that’s a bonus.
Q: What makes staycations enjoyable?
My partner and I are both interested in architecture, especially fine old buildings with a historical interest, and also in art. Wherever we travel, we follow these interests and they provide material for the blog. Most of our travels involve staying in a hotel somewhere and exploring from there. A “staycation” is a cheaper alternative because it doesn’t involve hotel bills! On the other hand, it still presents possibilities because in the UK, a day-return journey on the railway can take you a surprisingly long way.London as a whole is an endlessly fascinating city and has a wonderful transport system that allows you easily to visit all parts of it. In our explorations, we are continually making discoveries that interest and excite us. Islington, as a part of London, shares its character, and there is a lot here to interest the historian, the art lover and curious people like ourselves.

The philanthropist, the hole in the wall and the cat walker
Here are just a few curiosities from around Islington, collected yesterday and today.

Experimental grass for the sparrows

Yesterday evening (March 2011) we passed by Laycock Green where this little notice board stands amid a stretch of greenery.

Sparrow notice

It tells us that this area of the Green has been sown with a variety of grasses and wild flowers as part of the project (in cooperation with the RSPB) to find out ways of encouraging house sparrows in the hope of halting the decline in their population. Underneath, an anonymous annotator has added the comment “excellent for BEES”.

Samuel Lewis Building
Samuel Lewis Building

My eye was then caught by these apartment blocks. Intended for people of modest means, they are unusually handsome and stylish. There are several similar blocks on this estate.

Window bearing Samuel Lewis's name
Window bearing Samuel Lewis’s name

Inscriptions over the windows facing the main road give a clue the the origin of the estate. It was built in 1910, financed by a trust set up in the will of Samuel Lewis. Lewis’s life corresponds exactly with the Victorian age for he was born in 1837 and died in 1901.

Born in Birmingham, Lewis started out selling steel pens, later opened a jeweller’s shop and eventually became a financier and, ultimately, a philanthropist. As a millionaire he was able to dedicate what was for the time a huge sum of money for the building housing for the poor. He might have been proud to know that this, his first building, is now Grade II Listed.

G.E. Adams, dairy and provisions
G.E. Adams, dairy and provision merchant

This morning I went off to Almeida Street, as I shall explain, and on the way saw this old shop in Theberton Street. Once a dairy and provisions shop, it seems to be a dwelling today, the original name sign protected by a thick layer of varnish.

pilaster lionface

At either side of the shop is a pair of pretty pilasters with a handsome lion’s face at the top. Note also the aeration grill running across the top of the window.

Almeida Passage Hole in the wall

Almeida Street is a cul de sac for traffic though not for pedestrians. Walk down to the end and you find this narrow walkway called Almeida Passage. At first out in the open, it then runs through the buildings, a fact that has gained it the popular local name of “the hole in the wall”. Inside the “hole”, the walls are painted black but the paint is very patchy. I suspect this is the result of painting over repeated graffiti.

Milner Square
Milner Square

The hole in the wall takes you into Milner Square. Like many Georgian squares, this one has a central garden surrounded on four sides by terraces of houses. These are unusually tall and imposing, in contrast to the garden which is dominated by a tennis court and is rather plain.

I was given to understand that this once upper crust neighbourhood had “gone down” and had become a dodgy area where disaffected youth lurked. I didn’t see anything of this during my visit but I did notice that every front door had at least two locks and usually three.

Gibson Square
Gibson Square

Next to Milner Square is Gibson Square. The garden is prettier and better tended than Milner Square’s but at the moment part of it is screened off by works whose nature I didn’t stop to find out.

While I was taking photographs, I noticed a lady sitting on a bench. Beside her was a long-haired cat and a few feet away, another similarly long-haired feline was grooming. Having given me the hard stare as cats are wont to do, they took no further notice of me and I did not intrude on their privacy either.

Walking the cat
Walking the cat

After a while, the lady got up from the bench and walked towards the gate. The cat followed along and it was obvious from the way that the human waited when the cat paused in its progress, that they were together. I thought how nice it was to be able to go for a walk in the park with your cat!

The Rainbow
The Rainbow

My last photo of the walk was this old pub, The Rainbow, dating from 1879. It stands on the corner of Liverpool Road and Barnsbury Street. No longer a pub, it has served as offices but I am not sure what it is used for at the moment. The pub, and the people who have worked or drunk in it, must collectively have lived through some momentous times. Will it ever become a pub again? On current showing, what with the decline in the industry, that seems unlikely.

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via at Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


2 Responses to “Silver Tiger: walk through Islington”

  1. philosophermouseofthehedge August 31, 2015 at 8:28 pm #

    I love Silver Tiger’s blog. He discovers so many delightful places and has a lovely style of writing about them.
    Enjoyed visiting here. Very interesting! (now off to wander around a bit more…)

    • nicola baird blogs September 2, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      Thank you for visiting Philosopher Mouse! Actually I don’t know if Silver Tiger is a he. About 720 people saw this post on my blog so hopefully lots will be inspired to explore Islington better – and maybe take Silver Tiger’s route. Nicola

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