Officially, this charming little alley has no name, but I am naming it Fernsbury Street Alley, as it was almost an extension of Fernsbury Street itself.

The alley exists thanks to 1920s slum clearances, and a later change of mind about what to do when building replacement homes.

Where we are standing is part of the Lloyd Baker Estate, which was laid out in the mid 1820s as upper middle-class homes, but next to it was a 3-acre block of housing, which was rather cheaper for workers. Closely packed 2-storey homes, they were soon sub-divided and rented out by the room, and the area became notorious a slum, albeit also one noted for artists living among the poor.

However, it was a slum, and a huge chunk of land, some 3 acres was bought up by the Post Office in 1921 and over the next few years, cleared for their new depot.

It was the then Finsbury Council who, after some negotiations, were able to buy the entire site in 1930 for housing, and started building the blocks that exist here today. Even though it was council housing, the rent was double what people had paid in the past to live in this part of London, but there was a family supplement to make it affordable and discourage single people from moving in.

The northern end of the estate was built later, and more cheaply, as a hoped-for slum clearance fund from the government never arrived.

It was also this that caused a slight change in plans that would result in an alley appearing.

When the housing was originally laid out, it was an unbroken line of houses along Lloyd Baker Street, presumably, as was common at the time (and sometimes today), to maintain a barrier between the posher estate and the poor people.

When the houses were demolished, it had been intended to extend Fernbury Street up to Lloyd Baker Street. In 1933, the plans were changed, and instead of a road, there was a sunken garden, St Helena Garden instead, and a narrow alleyway.

The sunken space used to be a rose garden, but became neglected and the Amwell Society asked Islington Council if they could take responsibility for its upkeep, to which the Council agreed. It is maintained by members of the Amwell Society on a voluntary basis.


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