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Archway: ‘We had Irish pubs and five banks. Now they’re all gone’

PUBLISHED: 15:20 05 August 2016 | UPDATED: 09:03 08 August 2016

Archway Tavern in the 1960s. (Picture: Islington Local History Centre).

Archway Tavern in the 1960s. (Picture: Islington Local History Centre).

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We love learning about Islington in times long gone, but what about areas where heritage is vanishing before our eyes? Sam Gelder visits Archway.

Archway Tavern and an early tramcar in 1872. (Picture: Islington Local History Centre).Archway Tavern and an early tramcar in 1872. (Picture: Islington Local History Centre).

Anyone who’s been to Archway in the last few years may have noticed it’s been absolute chaos.

Scaffolding everywhere, roads closed, businesses going under and entering a shop becoming a skill in itself thanks to all the construction hoarding. It’s become an area full of doom and gloom.

Of course, it has been changing for more than 100 years, since people travelled by tramcars and the Archway Tavern was not only open but thriving.

But with so many developments taking place at once, many fear the area is in danger of losing its working-class heritage completely.

The hoardings surrounding the station came down a couple of weeks ago, and the Archway Tower is finally showing signs of life having lain vacant for four years.

Archway Tavern circa 1920. (Picture: Islington Local History Centre).Archway Tavern circa 1920. (Picture: Islington Local History Centre).

Developers have transformed the ugly, 17-storey office block into flats that will boast a winter garden, roof terrace and “club room”.

Prospective tenants being shown around the apartments this month will no doubt be told of TfL’s £12.8million plans for the gyratory: “Out the window to your left you will soon see a lovely pedestrianised and cycle-friendly square.” They probably won’t mention the 18 months of traffic chaos.

There was one casualty of the station construction work. Cafe Metro had to close six months ago, though the owner hopes to be back soon. Another shopkeeper told the Gazette now the hoardings were off, TfL had told them to expect a rate increase of “about 50 per cent”.

“Everyone here has been affected by this scaffolding,” he said. “We had no help – no reduced rates, nothing. We’ve lost about 50 per cent of business and what are the benefits? We haven’t seen any yet. Let’s see in 2017 when it’s all finished.”

The man, who did not want to be named for fear of angering TfL, said Archway was not the place he used to know and pointed to the iconic pub The Lion opposite the station, which closed in 2014 and is now, you guessed it, a Starbucks.

How the gyratory will look after TfL has completed workHow the gyratory will look after TfL has completed work

He added: “We used to have a strong Irish community here with all the pubs, now they have all closed. We used to have five banks. Gone. Will all this change benefit the residents of Archway? Or are they trying to get rid of them?”

Next in line for development is the Archway Mall and the Hill House tower block above it. The big lump of concrete is being developed into more flats by Bode.

More than 100 people turned up to a meeting with bosses in June to hear the latest on the plans. A spokeswoman for Bode said the company project would address issues raised by neighbours – including “poor design” and the “neglected unwelcoming areas”.

Some apartments will be affordable housing, though Bode have not said how many, while the development also promises to create green space on the old car park. The mall redevelopment will also bring new business to the area, but mystery surrounds the future of the Crown Post Office.

Kate Calvert, chairman of the Better Archway Forum, fears it could close, and said Bode reps at the meeting suggested it could be moved to the first-floor of a new block.

A Bode spokeswoman told the Gazette they wanted to keep the service. She said: “Ultimately, this is the decision for the Post Office but we hope they will choose to stay on our site. No decision has been made about its specific location.”

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