Above: Photo of Islington High Street around 1900. The Angel is the large building on the left. Apart from the traffic and people’s dress being different in 1900, the buildings are still the same today.
A more suitable title for this article would be ‘The Strange Case of the Angel, Islington’ because, as well as the fact that it is no longer a pub, the famous Angel was never in the Metropolitan Borough of Islington (which ended in 1965) either! It is only today – when the old Metropolitan Boroughs of Islington and Finsbury have been combined into the London Borough of Islington – that it can now claim to be ‘in Islington’.
Anybody who knows this part of the world will know that that the pub on the corner of Pentonville Road and Islington High Street is always called ‘the Angel, Islington’. It certainly is a large building and was a very well-known landmark. It even stood on the west side of Islington High Street but, as the map clearly shows, the western side of Islington High Street was definitely within the old Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury.
Above: Map published in 1961 showing the streets and the northern side of the old Metropolitan Borough boundary between Finsbury and Islington.
The earliest mention of the inn was 1611 when it was described as being in the ‘parish of Clerkenwell’. It would appear from this description that the pub was always within the parish of Clerkenwell which, of course, became the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury in 1899. From the 17th century it was a well-known coaching inn, standing beside the route to the North of England.
Although a famous hostelry, the Angel had stood unused and filthy for many years when, in 1981, it was cleaned and developed for letting as offices. It is currently used as offices and a branch of the Co-operative Bank. It is a grade II listed building.
Some years back Wetherspoon opened a new pub next door to the old Angel and they used that name for their new enterprise. It is therefore curious to think that a pub closed because there was not sufficient trade and another pub has opened next door and able to make a living from serving ale!