Inventory Site Record

Spa Green Gardens (Islington)

Brief Description

New Wells were established at Spa Green in 1737 in competition with Sadler's Wells, and it became a popular spa, the spring flowed until the 1860s. The land was acquired by the LCC in 1891when Rosebery Avenue was laid out and the public gardens were created on 4 portions of land, part surplus from road building, and part exchanged with the New River Company. The war memorial at the east end was erected in 1921. The gardens changed when the Spa Green Estate was laid out in 1946.

Practical Information
Site location:
Rosebery Avenue
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
8am - dusk
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: Angel (Northern). Bus: 4, 19, 38, 153, 341
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

The Islington Spa was called New Tunbridge Wells as the medicinal water was similar to that found in Tunbridge in 1694. It was claimed it could cure all manner of ailments including 'Hysterics, Vapours, Dropsies, Swellings of the Legs, Rheumatics, Scurvy, Jaundice, Want of Digestion, Gravel, Gout, Strangury, etc.'. In its heyday there were up to 1,600 daily visitors, including royalty, to the gardens, walks and coffee houses at Spa Green, and entertainments at one time included a miniature zoo and Merlin's Cave. The spring flowed until the 1860s although the area had begun to be built over from 1810. In 1891 land was acquired by the London County Council and Rosebery Avenue was laid out between 1889-92. The public gardens were created on 4 portions of land, the two northerly areas were surplus from the creation of Rosebery Avenue, the 2 southerly portions were exchanged with the New River Company, whose buildings and gardens are to the north at the former New River Head (q.v.). Three of the areas were laid out as gardens, with trees planted, and the fourth was paved, and the gardens were opened to the public in July 1895. Other LCC works included the new Town Hall and Fire Station.

The war memorial at the east end of the gardens was erected in 1921 and is by Thomas Rudge with a bronze angel on a granite pedestal. The gardens subsequently changed in 1946 when the Spa Green Estate was built to the south, designed by Skinner and Lubetkin, Tecton Architects (1946-50) around a small park. Spa Green Gardens have some notable plane trees as well as horse chestnut and false acacia, with stylish moderne paths and layout. On a site in the gardens opposite Sadler's Wells Theatre an Indian horse chestnut tree was planted on 17 May 1974 in memory of Lilian Baylis (1874-1937) by Hugh Jenkins, Arts Minister at the time. A well-known theatrical producer, Lilian Baylis had managed both the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells theatres. Near the tree is a plaque erected by The Vic-Wells Association on the 50th anniversary of her death on 25 November 1987.

Within the gardens is an area with gravel (Finsbury Gravel) that may be related to a phase of deposition of the Lynch Hill Gravel close to the confluence of the rivers Lea and Thames.

Sources consulted:

Andrew Saint (introduction), 'London Suburbs', Merrell Holberton Publishers 1999; Mary Cosh, 'An historical walk through Clerkenwell', (London,1987); 'The London County Council and what it does for London: London Parks and Open Spaces' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ315828 (531450,182770)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Islington
Site management:
1780s, 1890s, 1946-50
Listed structures:
LB: Well House, Spa Green Estate. LBII: War Memorial
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:
New River
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Local/strategic view corridor

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.