Arlington Square was part of the Corporate Estate built between 1846-58 by the Clothworkers’ Company, who had owned land here since the C14th. Plots on the estate were let for house-building to a number of developers, including Henry Rydon who built Arlington Square and is commemorated in a local street name. Several of the surrounding streets were built to provide artisans' cottages. The garden was originally a private communal area for residents of the square. St Philip's Church was built in 1854-6 on the north side of the square but was demolished in the 1950s following a fire, but it had already been damaged by WWII bombing, which also destroyed many houses in the area. The Clothworkers’ Company sold the estate to a private company in 1945 and in the late 1940s ownership of the garden, by then rather neglected, was transferred to Islington Council. The garden was restored and opened to the public in 1953.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2013
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Arlington Square and the transformed Community Hub, May 2013. Photo courtesy of the Arlington Association
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Arlington Square is in the centre of a mid-C19th residential development of the Clothworkers Corporate and Packington Estates, and a precursor to Union Square (q.v.).The Clothworkers' Company had first acquired 34 acres here following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and in 1563 was bequeathed a further 60 acres by Dame Anne (Alice?) Packington. In 1817 the land was let to the Rhodes family of dairy farmers. By 1812 the New North Road was constructed and the Regent's Canal opened by 1820, as a result of which land value had increased. Building began from 1845/6 once restrictions to building had been removed. The estate was built between 1846-1858 by a number of developers, Henry Rydon building Arlington and Union Squares, who later in the 1850s built Highbury New Park, and after whom a street is named. Rydon sub-leased land to a number of builders including William Catling who built part of the west side of Arlington Square and also to John Hill, Edward Rowland and Thomas Evans. In 1871 the gardens possessed a complex circuit of paths and periphery planting. The developers had originally had 80 year leases, on the expiry of which in 1927 the Clothworkers Company took over the maintenance of what became their Corporate Estate.
In 1945 the estate, which had suffered bomb damage in WWII, was sold to the London and Manchester Assurance Co. Ltd. Some of the surrounding terraced houses remain from c.1850. St Philip's Church used to stand on the north side of the square, built in 1854-6, but it was demolished following war damage and then a fire in the 1950s. The gardens in the centre of Arlington Square passed to Islington Borough Council in the late 1940s and were restored and reopened in 1953. The ornamental gardens have lawns, raised beds, rose beds and perimeter shrubs as well as a variety of trees. An urn in the garden has an inscription for the London and Manchester Assurance Co.
The square today has large mature trees, shrubs, lawns, roses and other flowerbeds. The local residents' group, the Arlington Association, holds monthly gardening sessions and in recent years volunteers have transformed the square by planting more than 25,000 bulbs, plants and shrubs, as well as magnolias, acers, olives, palms and a paper handkerchief tree. In one corner of the square there is a popular small community garden with raised beds, growing vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers. Arlington Square’s large and peaceful space is now much loved and appreciated. The ongoing restoration by local residents is a stirring example of how communal gardening can bring neighbours together, forge friendships and create a beautiful community space. An area in the centre of the square that has recently been improved has been named the Arlington Square Community Hub to raise awareness of what is being proposed and to encourage funding support.
Mary Cosh, The Squares of Islington Part II: Islington Parish, London, 1993