Tracking a street through time
Find out more about a high street's past by finding the signs that tells its story. Choose a date and then select an image on the right to discover more about Upper Street's history
1811 | 1908 | 2001
Upper Street, Islington, London (2001)
2001 - public houses
Although the pub in this photograph is a new one, many pubs have a history that goes back far into the past. Their names often reflect a particular moment in history. The ‘Royal Oak’ commemorates the Boscobel Oak, which hid Charles II after his defeat at Worcester in 1651. The name The Rising Sun refers to William of Orange and has its origins in late 17th-century anti-Stuart feelings. Other pub names are corruptions of older names: the ‘Elephant and Castle’, from the ‘Infanta of Castille’, is well known, the ‘Pig and Whistle’ is another example - a derivation of ‘Peg and Wassail’, an old toast.
Many pubs will date from the Victorian period. These reflect changes in attitudes towards public drinking in the 18th and 19th century. The image portrayed of public drinking at that time is a hostile one; this was, after all, the age of the gin palaces. The explosion of pubs in the later 19th century represents an attempt to control drinking in public and make it respectable, hence the often very elaborate decoration and fittings. Even now, you can find Victorian pubs which still have much of their original glass, their snugs and their decorated ceilings: a far cry from the seedy image of the drinking dens of the 18th century.
Select a new date from the top of the page or an image from below.