Islington celebrates 50 glorious years as borough it is today

Upper Street in 1960

Upper Street in 1960 - Credit: Archant

“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the London Borough of Amwell.”

Modern day scene of Upper St

Modern day scene of Upper St - Credit: Archant

How different things could have been, if some had got their way when the local authority of Islington was created in 1965.

Myddleton was another contender. Or how about heading to New River town hall for a meeting of the full council?

Exactly 50 years ago yesterday (Wednesday) as a result of the London Government Act 1963, the former metropolitan boroughs of Islington and Finsbury merged.

It took nearly two years of preparation, overseen by council officers from both sides.

Liverpool Road in 1965

Liverpool Road in 1965 - Credit: Archant

There was considerable tension as officials from the two authorities met at Finsbury Town hall, in Rosebery Avenue.

Mark Aston, manager of Islington Local History Centre, in St John Street, Finsbury, said: “Unofficially, Finsbury felt the two boroughs were incompatible, instead, preferring a union with western neighbour Holborn – both boroughs were similar in size and demographic.

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“Architects of the reorganisation of London wanted to avoid metropolitan boroughs ‘choosing’ their partners.

“The new boroughs were to feature a mixed social dynamic, demographic and business.”

In spite of protest from the ‘Finsburyites’, the merge with Islington to the north would take place.

They feared that Islington’s size and the demands of a much larger population would dictate that Finsbury resident’s needs would be overshadowed by Islington’s anticipated dominance. Furthermore, they thought it may lose its identity.

Cllr Ernest Ward – Islington’s first mayor – announced “an all-out effort on his part would be made to ram home the importance of complete unity between the two communities.”

In a further attempt to lessen the impact, Finsbury councillors discussed the naming of the new London borough in which it was to become a part of.

The front-runners were the London Borough of ‘New River’ and ‘Finsbury and Islington’; other names suggested included ‘Myddelton’ and ‘Amwell’. New River was an interesting choice and one recognising the manmade, physical feature that linked both boroughs.

The Islington team suggested the new borough be called either ‘Islington and Finsbury’ or simply ‘Islington’.

The latter, of course, was adopted and Finsbury was removed from the title. However, both authorities came together in agreement when designing a coat of arms for the new borough.

This was to include combined representative symbols of the predecessor boroughs, accompanied by the motto of ‘We Serve’.

Following the reorganisation, the London Borough of Islington became, geographically, the capital’s second smallest borough in London.

And things were very different when modern Islington was born; a terrace house on three floors, with six rooms, a kitchen and scullery, would have cost £4,750 freehold.

An E-type Jaguar would have set you back £1,867 and pint of beer was just 1s 10d (or 9p in current money). A good job, as the average UK wage was £20 a week.

But, as the French would say, plus ça change, housing, fair rents, race relations and crime were the big issues facing the borough at the time.

And in 1965, Arsenal FC finished 13th in the First Division, while Manchester United won the league title.