An evolving street running north-east from Islington Green in the direction of Stoke Newington. The route may be of Roman
origin and was certainly well-established by the Middle Ages. The road has gone by a variety of names for part or all of its
length, including Seveney Street, Lower Street and Lower Road. There were some substantial properties here by about 1600 but
at the end of the 17th century several of these homes had been let as inns. Rows of cottages were built from the 1760s and
over successive decades the pattern of construction became increasingly dense, urban and poor, spreading into a network of
side streets in the early 19th century. Overcrowding became a serious problem. Philanthropic housing associations planned
the first slum clearance programmes from the late 1870s and had almost totally rebuilt the area by the end of the century.
The Great Northern and City Railway opened in 1904 with a station at Essex Road, at the corner of Canonbury Road. After World
War II much of the area was rebuilt again by the borough and county councils, notably in the form of the Marquess estate of
the 1960s and early 1970s. Following Islington’s gentrification, private developers have been building town houses and
flats since the 1980s. Essex Road now possesses a diverse set of commercial premises, from dirt-cheap discount stores to exclusive
little French bistros and quirky antique emporiums. Many shops occupy single-storey extensions built over the former front
gardens of terraced houses. The more interesting establishments tend to lie near Islington Green but these are spreading north-eastward
with Islington’s ever-growing desirability.
In 1807 the poet Thomas Hood moved to 50 Lower Street with his parents, remaining here for twenty years. The composer Benjamin
Britten had a studio in Halliford Street from 1970 to 1976. His opera Death in Venice was partly composed here.