This map gives a unique picture of the social divisions in Islington at about the time when Canonbury School and Queen’s Head Street School (later called Islington Green School were being built.
The Booth Map of London Poverty was first published in 1889 so it was being compiled about ten years after Canonbury School was opened and gives a unique picture of the social mix of people living in Islington at that period. The contrast between the site of Canonbury School and Islington Green School sites is startling.
Charles Booth (not to be confused with General Booth of the Salvation Army) was a wealthy business man who refused to believe that a million Londoners lived in 'great poverty', as radical politicians claimed. Soon after 1890 he started a long survey to prove them wrong, the first really careful survey of how people lived and worked. Booth divided people into eight groups H-A, but coloured in his maps in seven colours ranging from 'Wealthy' to 'The Lowest Class' as follows:
Booth published coloured maps of the streets of London showing their status.
How The Survey Was Compiled
The information was collected by teams of people who interviewed the local clergy, police, teachers, and others with particular knowledge of the local areas. One of the main sources of information was the School Board Visitors. Their original qualification was the ability to run faster than the children, and so catch truants, but they became far more than that, compiling unrivalled local knowledge. It was their duty to visit every house in every street and make notes on each family with children of school age. This began a few years before the children reached school age and continued until the last child in the family had left. Many of the Visitors worked in the same area for a number of years, so their knowledge of individual families, the fathers’ occupations, family income, family circumstances, etc. was extensive.
The Collection of Booth material, which is stored at London School of Economics, includes 392 note-books of house to house surveys, 55 volumes including records of interviews, and 6 boxes of 25' O. S. maps hand coloured to show degrees of poverty. The seventeen volume survey analyzed this material, but the original notebooks, terse and immediate, are sharp and alive. Quick notes written on the hoof as raw material for more ponderous sentences later, they are worth reading in their own right. They formed the basis of much social legislation for years after.
The Booth Map of London Poverty shows that the neighbourhood of Upper Street and Highbury Corner was generally prosperous [Red and Pink], and so were some parts south of Essex Road, but there were many streets about St James the Apostle and St Bartholomew which were very poor (Blue and Dark Blue).
Thus Canonbury Primary in its Red and Pink streets of Highbury Corner was built in a completely different kind of area from Queen’s Head Street School which was the original name of Islington Green School. There was one short street of Light Blue near Canonbury School, surrounded by Pink and Red. Islington Green School site was in a sea of Light and Dark Blue. The contrast of site, and therefore school population, could hardly have been greater.
The London School Board seems to have bought a long, narrow strip at the top of lots 286 and 287 running between Compton Road and Canonbury Road. The zigzag shape of the school building has been marked in black. We shall see this shape later.
The new school stood behind a long row of houses, with only a narrow entrance squeezed between two of them. The houses which blocked off the school from Compton Road were demolished later as a result of the bombing. This shows that the present limestone pillars and the long row of iron railings must have been built later, when the school was enlarged in 1910.