A long and eventful day offered an opportunity I may not get again in a hurry. An invitation to meet with some friends in a place not far from the house we lived in when I was born. We moved not too long afterwards and apart from a vague memory of a trip there when I was still a nipper I don’t think I have been back at all. Right, I thought to myself, I’ll go and check it out.
The New River Walk is on one side of the road, and you can tell from this image it is still as beautiful as ever. A rare haven of tranquility in North London. Is it any wonder that this part of Canonbury was once among the most sought after in the area? Strangely it is not strictly a river, and neither is it that new. The aqueduct was constructed in 1613 by Sir Hugh Middleton to bring fresh water to London.
Stepping back out of the New River Walk, and here I catch my first glimpse in many moons of Douglas Road. Created in the middle of the nineteenth century, the road was typical of the development of Canonbury, with villas overlooking the river. The snap here at the top of the road shows house numbers in the thirties. We lived in the twenties.
As I look down to where the middle of the road used to be my heart sinks. Completed in the 1970’s, the Marquess Estate won design awards. 1200 flats and maisonettes were constructed in an area that included my first home. You can tell from the bleak brickwork and boarded up windows that the development has not been an unqualified success.
The Marquess Estate has earned a dubious reputation as stab city. Large parts of it are being bulldozed and reconstructed. The plan is to change the demographic of the residents by selling the new properties on the renamed ‘New River Estate’.
All was not lost though. Just down in nearby Essex Road I saw my first ‘Banksy’ on a pharmacy wall. You can understand why the owners of properties he has ‘decorated’ go to great lengths to preserve his handiwork. It seems a shame though that some would have him hung, drawn, and quartered for sharing his unique art with us, and many of those who think that way are precisely the sort of people who bulldoze riverside villas to make way for stab city developments.
Funny old town, is London.