Mary Cosh obituary: Historian with encyclopaedic knowledge of Islington leaves ‘phenomenal legacy’

Walter Sickert Heritage plaque unveiling, Highbury Place, 30 July 2011. Mary Cosh far right. Picture

Walter Sickert Heritage plaque unveiling, Highbury Place, 30 July 2011. Mary Cosh far right. Picture: Em Fitzgerald Photography / Islington Local History Centre - Credit: Archant

A historian with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Islington died last month, leaving behind a “phenomenal legacy”.

Mary Cosh, who lived in Barnsbury for more than half a century, died aged 100 on December 18 after a short stay in the Marie Curie Hospice in Belsize Park.

Mary wrote several books on the area, including A History of Islington which was published in 2005 but is still considered the "definitive" account on the borough's heritage and development.

Mary served in the Women's Royal Navy Service during the Second World War and later studied English at Oxford University. She freelanced for publications including The Spectator and The Times and was a founding member of The Islington Society.

Islington South & Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry told the Gazette: "I got to know Mary when I was first elected, and we kept in through the years on issues which were important to her, including energy efficiency and the rights of older people. Mary was such good company, with her encyclopaedic knowledge of Islington and her ready wit, and I was so glad I was able to attend her 100th birthday party. We will all miss her."

Mark Aston, the local history manager at Islington Council's heritage service, added: "She had a fantastic innings and what a legacy she's left behind, but it's still a shock, it's very sad.

"She was a lovely, intelligent, very elegant lady and also had a fantastic mind and passion for local history and the heritage of Islington. [...] She brought heritage and the borough's history out to the people and she was a successful writer of history books.

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He added: "The legacy she left behind is phenomenal, it's for other researchers and historians to build on what she produced. [...]

"In the future, perhaps we would like to think about putting a plaque up for Mary, she certainly deserves it."

The president of Islington Society Lord Chris Smith said: "I'm sad to hear the news, though she did live life to the fullest possible extent. She will be much missed, much remembered, and will continue to be much loved."