I’m lucky enough to live in a Regency terraced house in Islington, a typical example of early 19th century speculative building. My street was built in sections of about ten houses, which were then sold to finance the next stretch, and so on. My section was originally called Claremont Row and dates from 1818. The name pays tribute to the memory of Princess Charlotte of Wales had died in childbirth the previous year, and lived at Claremont House.
At the top of the street, there is a section called Brunswick Terrace which neatly indicates the builder’s support for Caroline of Brunswick, the Prince Regent’s estranged wife. One might argue that both these names make a political statement: the Prince Regent was unpopular for his extravagance.
So, what sort of people lived in my street? It was built to service the posh folk living in the nearby squares. Typically, there are a few small shops at each end, and the rest of the street housed the respectable working class. My house was a baker’s shop and has a large front window to display the baker’s buns and bread. The oven in the basement produced a huge amount of black, gritty-tasting coal dust – as I discovered when the house was re-wired. Still, at least the house must have been warm!
|Old shop front, Richmond Avenue|
|Albion coaching inn|
A short walk takes you to the much classier Richmond Avenue, built in the Egyptian style. Here, obelisks and sphinxes the size of lions guard your front door – a proud reminder of Nelson’s destruction of Napoleon’s navy in The Battle of the Nile in 1799. Nearby is the Albion, an old coaching inn. Cricket was played here on summer evenings and cows grazed nearby. Nowadays, the old stables’ stalls for the horses have been turned into cosy retreats for customers. The cobblestones are still there, though, and you have to watch out if you’re wearing high heels.
|Richmond Avenue plus sphinxes|