Inventory Site Record

Barnsbury Wood (Islington)

Brief Description

Barnsbury Wood is an area of woodland between Thornhill Crescent and Huntingdon Street left as open land when the Thornhill Estate was built in the 1850s. It was originally the garden of the Vicarage of St Andrew's Church. The garden was later abandoned and became woodland. It was purchased by Islington Council in 1974, originally to build on but due to the awkwardness of access it was decided to leave it as open space. It is now managed for ecology and is the smallest nature reserve in London

Practical Information
Site location:
Crescent Street
N1 1BW
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Open Land
Open to public?
Opening times:
Tuesdays 2 - 4pm; Saturdays from July-Sept 2 - 4pm + access by arrangement, plus open days
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 8 times, most recently in 2024.
Special conditions:
No dogs
Used for environmental education activities for children
Events have included theatre performances; has opened for OGSW
Public transport:
London Overground:Caledonian Road & Barnsbury.Rail:King's Cross.Tube:Caledonian Road, King's Cross (Met; Picc, Vic; Ham & City, Circle, Northern)then bus.Bus: 17, 91, 153, 259, 274
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.islington.gov.uk/services/parks-environment/parks/your_parks/greenspace_az

Full Site Description

See Thornhill Square (q.v.) for history of the estate and family. The site was originally the garden of the Vicarage of St Andrew's Church at 7 Huntingdon Street, where George Thornhill, the developer of the Thornhill estate, had lived. The OS map of 1874 shows the garden with paths, lawns, trees and shrubs. The Vicarage became a private school and then flats, and from the early C20th the garden was abandoned and became woodland. There were attempts to develop the site and LB Islington purchased it in 1974, originally planning to build on it but the awkward site was difficult to access and this led to the decision to leave it as open space. Nos. 1 and 2 Crescent Street, also owned by the Council, were demolished to create access. In 1977 a group of local residents had tried to secure the Council's commitment to retaining it as public open space but in 1981 there were again plans to build over the site. A residents group formed themselves as Barnsbury Wood Co-operative and proposed to buy and manage the wood as an ecology park. In 1996 it gained Local Nature Reserve status, the smallest such site in London.

Barnsbury Wood has mature secondary woodland and is important as the largest area of woodland in the borough. Trees include sycamore and ash, with lime and horse chestnut around the edges and woodland shrubs. There has been new tree and shrub planting since 1985, when children from local schools planted 200 saplings, and 2000 bluebell bulbs were planted in 1991. At the entrance, in the gap where houses once were, a garden has been planted with shrubs including lilac, hebe, lavender, roses, euphorbia and hydrangea, with railings to the street.

Sources consulted:

Michael Waite, John Archer, 'Nature Conservation in Islington', Ecology Handbook 19 (London Ecology Unit), 1992; Mary Cosh, The Squares of Islington Part II: Islington Parish, London, 1993

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ308842 (530848,184217)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Islington
Site management:
Greenspace/Islington Ecology Centre; Barnsbury Wood Co-op
1850s; 1980s
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Barnsbury Square
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

Barnsbury Wood

Barnsbury Wood - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 01/11/10 15:08

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.