Honour for Highbury pioneer and inventor of the electric telegraph

Highbury residents with Cllr Stacy (far right) and the new plaque

Highbury residents with Cllr Stacy (far right) and the new plaque - Credit: Archant

»An inventor who helped to create the electric telegraph and rejoiced in blowing up his Highbury home has been honoured with a permanenent tribute.

Sir Francis Ronalds, meteorologist, designer and pioneer of electric telegraphy, was commemorated with an Islington People’s Plaque at a ceremony outside his former home in Highbury Terrace on Saturday.

He is one of Islington’s best known former residents and gave his name to Ronalds Road, close to where he used to live.

Writing in 1860, he said: “Very early in life chemistry was my chief amusement and my most memorable performance, in this science then, was the blowing up of a large hydrogen gasometer in the breakfast room of No 1 Highbury Terrace.”

Born in 1788 the second of 12 children, Sir Francis moved to N5 in 1796 and lived there with his family until 1813.


While in Highbury he nurtured his interest in chemical experiments and began his ground-breaking work in the field of electricity – conducting various experiments, some more successful than others, at home.

Most Read

He moved to Hammersmith in 1816 and in the back garden built two frames for the eight miles of wire his new invention – the electrostatic telegraph – required.

In 1870 he was knighted for his contribution to the invention of the telegraph but died unmarried in Battle, East Sussex, on August 8 1873.

Sir Francis’s old home in Highbury Terrace houses a sheltered housing scheme which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Residents joined councillors for a garden party to celebrate the occasion.

Cllr Terry Stacy, one of the Highbury east ward councillors who helped make the plaque a reality via the local initiative fund, said: “The sun came out to help us celebrate one of Highbury’s most famous sons, Sir Francis Ronalds.

“Islington’s People Plaques are a great way of celebrating the borough and its people.”