Walking London’s Civil War Defences – Islington

This was a walk that I first did in 2005 and blogged about here. I’d stumbled across an article by Guy Mannes Abbott published in the Architects Association journal that linked the Civil War Parliamentary defences of London to the progressive architecture of the London Borough of Finsbury in the post-war period. The idea that the streets that I walked home in the dark each night were part of a ‘utopian enclosure’ was incredibly beguiling.

“The forts mark an area known for its spas and radical reformers and which, in the seventeenth century, Wenceslaus Hollar represented in a series of etchings showing extensive earthworks. They protected an area that would become the site of the largest and most ambitious plan ever for the social regeneration of London and which remains a paragon of what could be achieved with social housing. Spa Green, Bevin Court and Priory Green just north of Finsbury are all positive manifestations of a politically committed and revolutionarily ambitious approach to collective works, but – conscious of what there was to fight for – Tecton also produced a plan for an elaborate system of defences and network of communications with uncanny echoes of the Civil War forts.”

from ‘The Malignants trecherous and bloody plot against the Parliament and Citty of London which was by God’s providence happily prevented May 31, 1643’
from ‘The Malignants trecherous and bloody plot against the Parliament and Citty of London which was by God’s providence happily prevented May 31, 1643’

I’d been intending to make a video of this walk for my Walking Vlog series ever since starting it in 2015, but had delayed and delayed as I considered that a true walk of London’s Civil War defences should at least cover the section north of the Thames from Wapping in the East to Pimilico in the West (where the Lillington Gardens Estate that stands of the site of the fort has an oddly fortress-like appearance). But then, first I encountered the southern ‘line of communication’ while walking the River Neckinger, followed by reading an article in London Archaeologist debating the location of the defences around Whitechapel. I was faced by an edifice of research that was difficult to penetrate.

Eventually, the landscape called me. The original walk of the Finsbury Forts was too rich not to capture on camera, and so I headed out on the day the clocks went back to retrace my steps from 17 years ago. Picking up the traces of that walk on the edge of the City of London I headed up Goswell Road to Mount Mills and then followed the deep entrenchment across Northampton Square to the site of Waterfield Fort, now occupied by Spa Green Estate. From here I progressed down Rosebery Ave to Mount Pleasant Fort before ascending Amwell Street to the Fort Royal which occupied a commanding position on the crest of the hill at Claremont Square near the Angel Islington.


  1. Joy   •  

    Thank You! A delightful way to spend the “extra” hour!

  2. Pingback: Walking historic Whitechapel - the lost byway

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.