Inventory Site Record

Compton Terrace Garden (Islington)

Brief Description

Compton Terrace Garden consists of two elongated enclosures that were originally for the private use of residents of the Terrace. The land was part of the Marquess of Northampton's considerable estate, the name Compton deriving from the C17th owners. Although not completed until 1831, Compton Terrace was planned in 1805 as a row of villas each side of the Union Chapel of 1806. By 1823 9 houses had been built north of the chapel and the lessees agreed to make a private road with a communal garden in front. Maintenance was later transferred to Islington Borough Council and the gardens opened as a public amenity. In 1944 a German bomb destroyed or badly damaged 12 of the 19 houses north of the Chapel and in the 1960s Highbury Roundabout was built over the area devastated by the bomb.

Practical Information
Site location:
Upper Street
N1 2XE
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
8am - dusk
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail/London Overground/Tube (Victoria): Highbury & Islington. Bus: 4, 19, 30, 43, 271, 393
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

Compton Terrace is a range of early C19th terraced houses on a private road insulated from the main street by a strip of garden, similar to Highbury Park Terrace (q.v.). The land was part of the Marquess of Northampton's considerable estate; the name Compton comes from the owners of the estate after the death of J Spencer in 1610. In 1805 Henry Leroux from Stoke Newington obtained a lease from the 9th Earl of Northampton in order to build a row of villas each side of a small Union Chapel, which was built in 1806. The area had been important for Non-conformism from the C17th; the 1806 chapel was later replaced by the Union Chapel Congregational Church, built in 1876-77 by James Cubitt, with its tower completed in 1889. Apart from the Chapel, Leroux only built four houses adjoining it before he was bankrupted in 1809. An engraving of the Chapel in 1819 shows a low wall with railings and planting behind separating the chapel and four houses from the main road, with a line of trees also shown on the Baker Plan of Islington of 1817. In 1819 and 1822 Lord Compton signed agreements with the builder Henry Flower and carpenter Samuel Kell for construction of the remaining 33 houses. In 1823, there were 9 houses built north of the chapel and an agreement was made with the lessees 'to build a private road in front of the houses with 'a paddock or grassplot' as a 'pleasure ground' enclosed by a dwarf wall and iron fence with gates'. Clothes drying was not permitted nor storage of 'timber, stone, bricks, lime or any other material whatsoever'. This offered some protection from the noise of traffic along Upper Street, which in the C19th was not only the main route from the north to the City but also that taken by cattle and sheep driven to Smithfield Market. A management committee of the occupiers was set up and the costs of maintenance and planting was to be shared by the occupiers.

In 1841 historian Samuel Lewis, whose father was minister of the Union Chapel from 1804-52 and lived at No. 19 Compton Terrace, wrote that the terrace 'derives much ornament from the plantation between the houses and the high road which renders its situation more secluded, than it would otherwise be.' By 1928 the gardens consisted of two long narrow enclosures enclosed by a low wall with railings above and 'attractively laid out with well-kept lawns, flower beds and trees' and described as 'a great amenity to the adjoining dwelling houses' and at that time it was maintained by the Marquess of Northampton, later transferred to the Borough Council. The original C19th railings to the gardens were removed in 1939/40 for the war effort but would almost certainly have matched those remaining in front of the houses of Compton Terrace, which survived because the front basement areas presented a safety hazard that precluded their removal.

Compton Terrace and its gardens at one time extended further north, the original configuration shown on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of the area surveyed 1871. On 27 June 1944 a German bomb destroyed 5 and badly damaged a further 7 of the 19 houses north of the Chapel as well as the garden here. A plaque on the north end of the terrace commemorates the 26 people who were killed and the 150 injured. The OS map of 1952 shows a blank where the houses had stood, with the outline of the garden still extending to Highbury Corner junction. The OS map surveyed in 1961 shows the new Highbury Corner Roundabout built on the area devastated by the bomb, replacing 12 houses of the terrace. The perimeter of the roundabout's centre island follows the line of the original garden and terrace. Looking towards the roundabout from the north end of the garden today, it is possible to imagine the continuation of the garden into this green space.

Photographs from the 1950s show trees but otherwise sparse planting along the Upper Street perimeter but by 1962 a regular line of young trees had been planted and an island flowerbed cut into the grass. Some island beds in the gardens had been indicated on C19th plans and the OS of 1871. By 1993 these trees were maturing but even then there were few shrubs planted beneath them. Since then a variety of shrubs have been planted along both perimeters. A privet hedge lines the path at the north end of the south section of the garden and backs some of the benches, and this section also has two anchor-shaped flowerbeds planted seasonally with bedding plants, which appear to have existed since at least the 1980s but their provenance is not known, possibly the creation of Peter Bonsall, former Head of Islington's Parks and Gardens, who was particularly keen on floral displays. The gardens have lawns, flower beds and well-grown trees, now surrounded by reproduction railings.

Former residents included John Betjeman's grandfather who lived at No. 13 in 1882, Rev Joost de Blank lived at No. 25 from 1952-57 prior to becoming Archbishop of Cape Town, and Rev Hamilton Moberley, who lived here when he was Bishop of Stepney between 1938 and 1952.

Although the gardens had become somewhat neglected by the early C21st, the Upper Street Association, which includes residents of Compton Terrace, petitioned Islington Council to improve planting in the gardens as a result of which a major planting initiative in the northern section culminated in a Community Planting Day in March 2009. In November 2009 a successful application was submitted by the Association to the 'Edible Islington' scheme for funds to plant fruit trees and bushes in the garden.

At the north end of Compton Terrace itself is a small, separate green space called Highbury Gardens. It was created in winter 2008/09 as part of Islington Council’s initiative, ‘Greening the Grey’ and is administered separately from Compton Terrace Garden.

Sources consulted:

Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928. Cosh, Mary ' A History of Islington' (London, Historical Publications, 2005); 'The Squares of Islington Part II: Islington Parish' (London, Islington Archaeological & Historical Society, 1993); Cromwell, Thomas 'Walks Through Islington' (London, Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, 1835) (London Metropolitan Archives; shelf mark 74.1 CR; Lewis, Samuel, jun. ' The History and Topography of the Parish of Saint Mary, Islington, in the County of Middlesex' (London, J.H. Jackson, Islington Green, 1842) (Institute of Historical Research); Longstaffe-Gowan, Todd 'The London Town Garden 1700-1840' (New Haven & New York, Yale University Press, 2001; Nelson, John ' History of Islington: A facsimile of the First Edition (1811) together with 79 Additional Illustrations and an Introduction by Julia Melvin (London, Philip Wilson & Summerfield Press Ltd, 1980) (Senate House Library); Richardson, John ' Islington Past', revised edition (London, Historical Publications, 2000.

LPGT Volunteer Research by Michael Ann Mullen, 2010

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ316846 (531635,184560)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Islington
Site management:
Greenspace Division; Compton Terrace Residents' Association
1805-09; 1819-31; 1960-66
Listed structures:
LBII*: Union Chapel. LBII: Nos. 1-27 Compton Terrace
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:
Upper Street North
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Union Chapel: local landmark

Compton Terrace Garden

Photo: Sarah Jackson

Click a photo to enlarge.

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.