Anticipate - Look forward to...
Ale - Liquor made from an infusion of malt by fermentation, flavoured with hops etc.; beer; ~-house, house selling ale.
"When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have
lost the last of England", was what Hilaire Belloc once said. Let's face it...he
was right. What better way to prepare your constitution for the forthcoming
rigours of Christmas than to partake of the products of Britain's finest
Robert Burns, perhaps, sums it up better than most: "...a now-and-then tribute to Bacchus is like the cold bath, bracing and invigorating". I couldn't have put it better myself (although after ten pints, who knows?). Invigoration, then, is what it's all about and there are few more invigorating places on a Friday evening than the Angel, Islington.
Let us delve deeper...
'Islington' was known by the ale-swilling Anglo-Saxons as 'Gislandune' (meaning 'Gisla's hill') and is recorded in the Domesday book as Iseldone, when it's land in the forest of Middlesex was held by the canons of St. Pauls. It's earliest church is mentioned in 1317.
By the mid-16th century, the hilltop village of 'merry Islington' was noted for it's handsome mansions, gardens, orchards, good dairy farms and pure water from it's springs (rather like it is today).
The area was a natural stopping place for royalty travelling to and from the capital. Later (and not so merrily), being outside the city, the area was a refuge during plague outbreaks and after the Great Fire. From Jacobean times, 'The Angel' was known as the nearest staging post to London. It was a coaching inn 'opposite some large elms' on the busy Great North Road where the traffic included herds of cattle being driven to the market at Smithfield.
'The Angel' was especially useful to night travellers, when the unlit fields, on the outskirts of the city, were dangerous. The inn was rebuilt in 1819 and again in 1899 (when it's dome became a noted landmark), was a Lyons tea house in the 1960s and today.....it is a CO-OP bank.
By the late-eighteenth century, Islington was still little more than a
cluster of houses grouped around the village (Islington) green, with the
smaller, distant hamlets of Holloway and Canonbury nearby. The lower reaches ran
into tea gardens and spas (notably at Sadlers Wells, since 1683) and it rivalled
Clerkenwell (I kid you not) as a recreational resort for Londoners. However,
Pentonville Road was now patrolled at night, by mounted escorts, to protect
homeward-bound revellers from entertainments such as 'a learned pig' (recorded
The spas, also, were claimed to cure 'dropsy, jaundice, scurvy, greensickness and other distempers not to be mentioned'.Still, Islington was a good place to be (Arsenal football club had not yet been founded). As a London character in a novel of this time states "....give me fresh air, and Islington!". William Blake mentions "...the fields from Islington to Marylebone". Goldsmith records the area as "a pretty, neat town, mostly built of brick, with a church and bells. It has a small pond in the midst though at present much neglected."
Health - Soundness of body, mind etc.
Good ~ Toast drunk in person's honour
Even in the 19th century, when Dickens wants to banish a character from the action of one of his novels, he exiles him to distant Islington. However, by the end of the century, improved transport 'decreased' the distance to London and made development inevitable although, still, the people who lived here generally confined their lives to the district (a bit like people from Kent do today).
It is up to us, tonight, to try and recreate the hearty, healthy times from the 'merry Islington' of old and probably the best way to do this is via the medium of a pub crawl.
Merry - Mirthful, hilarious; full of animated enjoyment; slightly tipsy.
Verbose - using, expressed in, too many words
Back on Upper St. and on to the next watering hole:
Tipsy - (Partly) intoxicated; unsteady, staggering, from effects of drink.
Leaving 'The Finnock...' we cross Upper Street and pass by Islington Green. Upper Street, at one time had a high causeway, green, stocks, watch house and cattle pound. The green remains and has, at it's southern end, a statue of Hugh Myddelton, a Welsh entrepeneur and goldsmith who was behind the construction of the New river, in the early 17th century which brought water from Hertfordshire to the edge of the city, to relieve it's water problems. The northern end of the Green (near the 'Slug and Lettuce' pub) was the site of Collin's Music Hall, which opened in 1862. The owner and performer was Sam Collins, who sang comic, Irish songs. The hall was a great success, mostly for the fact that ladies were admitted and drink could be consumed during the performance. It was taken over, during the Second World War and never regained it's appeal. The interior was destroyed by fire in 1958 but the building still stands (albeit in a delapidated state) and a blue plaque commemorates it's illustrious past.
Intoxicated - Made drunk; excited, exhilarated, beyond self-control.
"O gude ale comes and gude ale goes; Gude ale gars me sell my hose, Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon - Gude ale keeps my heart aboon!" Robert Burns
Blotto (slang) - Very drunk
Mumble - Speak or utter indistinctly or with lips partly closed.
OK! It is time to force one last effort from our suffering, booze-wracked bodies. We have a 5-10 minute walk (who will want to go?) to the final pub. Walking across the Georgian Duncan Terrace, past the Regents canal, we emerge on City Rd. Built in 1761, the road was historically a main route to the city. The final pub on our perambulation is mentioned in a popular nursery rhyme:
"Up and down the City Road, In and out the Eagle, That's the way the money goes, Pop goes the weasel"
"...My griefs are over - my glass runs low, Then for that reason, and for a season, Let us be merry before we go". John Curran (1750 - 1817)
And, so, it is over for another year. Surely, by now, we have heard angels aplenty singing our praises and, indeed, feel invigorated and ready to face the relentless countdown to Christmas with renewed heart. If not, the pubs open at 11 tomorrow.
Le crawl de les tetes du piss est fini! Au revoir, mes amis, au revoir!!