First built as Queen's Head Street School in 1884

Enlarged 1892 and again in 1910.

Bombed 1940-45

A New School called Tudor School built soon after the War

Renamed as Islington Green School in 1964

Renamed again as City of London Academy in 2008


Renamed as City of London Academy in September 2008


The History of Islington Green School to 1991

The site is now occupied by City of London Academy,
which is welcome to continue the history if it so desires.



Since 1884 the Islington Green School site has held three separate sets of school buildings which have been enlarged and adapted as times have changed. The school names have changed over the years. It was reorganised in 1911, and 1934-36. In 1947-1951 it became Tudor Secondary School for Boys and Girls. In 1954 it became a Senior Mixed School and then became Islington Green Mixed Comprehensive in 1965. In September 2008 it became City of London Academy.

The small first site has expanded, taking over houses and gardens, a builder's yard, and a complete road, in its search for space. As a result the site is at a mass of different levels which seem to make no sense, but in fact fossilize what was there years ago. There are the sloping remains of Queen's Head Street which used to be at one edge of the site. In the centre are the garden levels of the old houses. These had once been the levels of the old hay fields of the 1840s. Last are the trenches left by the rows of old house basements which used to line the fringes of the original school.

The Many School Names

The school names have changed over the years. It was reorganised in 1911, and 1934-36. In 1947-1951 it became Tudor Secondary School for Boys and Girls. In 1954 it became a Senior Mixed School and became Islington Green Mixed Comprehensive in 1965. In September 2008 it became City of London Academy.

This article will try to unravel the complicated story of the different schools and the history of the site site.

Let us go back to the start of the school history

The Compulsory Education Act of 1870

In 1870 Parliament passed an Act which required all children to attend school from the age of five to thirteen. Up to this time many did not go to school at all, or attended now and then when they could be spared from working to help the family income, or to look after younger children while their parents worked. Many of those who did attend school went to tiny dame schools in private houses. There they paid a few pence each week to be taught to read and write by unqualified teachers. There were some good schools but they were very expensive and only the rich could afford the fees. The Government was now proposing compulsory free education for all boys and girls.

For this they needed to build hundreds of schools as quickly as possible, but where? The first task was to find the sites and then to build. The government set up Local School Boards in different areas of the country and told them told them get on with it. These Boards were elected by local people and both men and women had the right to vote and to serve on the boards. This was years before women gained the right to vote in Parliamentary elections and many powerful women cut their teeth doing this work.

The project for building, training of teachers, and creating the curriculum, was so enormous that it was not until 1884, fourteen years after the Act was passed, that the School Board could explore Islington for sites.


The London School Board and the

Site of the Queens' Head Street School

When the London School Board was set up in 1870, it began to look for sites. This was not always easy in the centre of town, as they had to be within easy walking distance of the pupil's homes. The schools were to be for children aged 5 to 13, so the younger ones would have to be taken to school and back by older children. There were no school dinners so this would mean four trips a day. These children would not be able to afford to go to school by bus, as so many do today. There were no cars and everyone walked, so the schools had to be very close. It was not until 1883 that the Board found a suitable site in this part of Islington. Let the School Board minutes take up the story:


Finding the Site for the Queen's Head Street School

Minutes of the London School Board, December 1883 - May 1884 –

(now held at the London Metropolitan Archive, Northampton Road,
London EC1R. near Sadler's Wells. They are in large bound volumes, easy to access).

This is part of the minutes for 24 January, 1884. It shows the price which the site would cost before building could start.

Purchase of interest of Clothworkers' Co.
Page 345 para 19, 24 January, 1884.

'The Committee recommended that the purchase of the following interest in
Sites on the under-mentioned terms: -


Finsbury (AK)
Queen's Head St.

[First interest]



Freehold 21 houses Nos. 1 to 35, Queen's Head St and 2 houses in Thomas Street - Net rack rental of houses in Queen's Head St. £472 - Nos. 23 and 25, subject to lease for 3 years at £2, 11s per annum - Nos. 29, 31 and 33, subject to leases for 2 years are at £3.12 shillings per annum - Two houses in Thomas Street, subject to leases for 42 years - Ground rent £4 - net rack rental £65 annum - Nos. 29, 31 anal 33, subject to leases for 2 years at £3,12s, per annum - Two houses in St. Thomas Street, subject to leases for 42 years - Ground rent £4 - net rack rental £65,



Surveyor's Fee   £71,8s



[Note: Rack rent was the full rent of the property including both land and improvements and would be the price on the market.]

This was the preferred local site. Several other sites for different schools in other parts of London follow in the same minute. They do not concern us here, but indicate how many schools were in the pipeline and how actively the Board was building at that time.


21 February, 1884, Page 599 para 11

"That a reply be forwarded to the Education Department informing them that the Board are arranging for the purchase of a Site in Queen's Head-street, and that, so soon as a contract for the purchase shall have been signed, the alternative sites proposed to be scheduled in Colebrook row and St. James street (Finsbury AJ and AK) will be abandoned"


28 February, 1884 Page 670 para. 22

A letter sent to the Education Department forwarding a copy of the report of Her Majesty's Inspector said:

'I have today inspected the Sites in Colebrook-row and St. James'-street, and the site last submitted in Queen's Head-street, I have also conferred with Dr. Matthews, the first signatory of the memorial against the adoption of the Site in Colebrook-row. Apart from the other considerations of the three sites submitted, I am in favour of the Queen's Head-street site as being the best Site of the three. When the considerations that are not unfairly urged in the Memorial are taken into account, this preference in favour of the Queen's Head-street site is confirmed. Not only is the Site more accessible to the class of children for whom the new School is needed, but also its central position between Angler's Gardens and Hanover Street Board Schools, admirably fit it for the purpose.'

The Inspector's phrase, 'when the considerations that are not unfairly urged', suggests that there had been some special pleading. No doubt particular estate agents, or other interested parties, had pressed their claims rather too strongly, but the decision was clear, Queen's Head Street was thought to be the best site.

The Earlier History of the School Site 

The Clothworkers' Company

The row of houses was part of the Clothworkers Estate in Islington, which had been covered with houses. Most houses in this area were only thirty or forty years old at this time, but this row seems to appear on a map of 1793. If so, they were already 90 years old in 1883 and perhaps a good deal older. This may be why the Clothworkers decided to sell them. There is mention of a ‘hot wall' in the surveyor's report, so one of the chimneys have been dangerous and this could have been another reason to sell.

The Clothworkers' Company, which is a very old livery company of the City of London, owned over sixty acres of land in Islington, just south of Essex Road. The Estate included twenty-three acres, one rood, entrusted to it by Dame Packington in her will dated November 24, 1559, for charitable use. At that time it had consisted of fields, but as these were built over, the property became extremely valuable. In the nineteenth century London expanded explosively. Suddenly, land which had grown hay, was being sold at building-plot prices. As a result the Clothworkers became very prosperous.

There were complaints that the Company was using charity money for its own purposes. Instead of increasing the amount spent on charity, the Company continued to pay the same amount as many years before and pocketed the rest. Dickens was vitriolic about many livery companies dining on turtle soup paid for by charity money. An inquiry found that money had been wrongly spent, so from then on the full charity money was allocated to almshouses and education, as Dame Packington had intended.

This map shows the names of the various Islington Estates


The 1793 Map of Islington published by Baker.

The Bakers held a stationers Shop in Islington High Street at this period. Only a very small part of the area had been built up at that time and the New River was open to the skies, wending its peaceful way to the Water Board Head-quarters near Sadler’s Wells.

The Clothworkers’ Estate and Queen’s Head Street imposed on the Baker map.

The 1870 O.S. map with the houses to be demolished shaded in.

This became the site of Queens Head Street School

The site of the original Queen's Head Street School

The long, narrow site has been shaded in. The houses on the rest of the site and the Builder's Yard between were to remain as they were for many years.

21-27 St Peter's Street, Islington, built c.1840


Using the Census Returns

This terrace of houses was similar to the row of houses in Queen's Head Street which was to be demolished in order to build the new School. Who were the people who who were to be cleared out of their homes? How many adults were there and how many children? What were their,jobs? How did they earn their livings? Where were they born? How old were they? A writer could build a novel on the material about them and the detail which is hidden in the 1881 Census sheets. A pupil could imagine himself or herself to be a child of the same age on the census and tell the story of the move. Exciting? Traumatic? Opening up new opportunities, or destroying a magical past?

Why People Moved from the Country to the Towns

In The Growth of Marylebone & Paddington I described the building of Oakington Road, Maida Vale, in 1868 and discovered details about the people who first moved into that terrace.

When the USA was spreading West and opening up the Great Plains for farming, The American Government offered free land to anyone who would work it. A flood of immigrants arrived, including many from Russia. These arrived with the clothes they stood in and a sack of wheat as seed-corn. This wheat had been bred to stand the harsh Russian winters and suited the Great Plains of America perfectly. As a result, from about 1850, the Wheat Belt in the USA spread rapidly northwards and the World became glutted with wheat.

It was cheaper to import foreign wheat than to grow it here and British agriculture collapsed. Thousands of agricultural labourers were thrown out of work many fled to London. Paddington and Marylebone attracted a high proportion of the new arrivals to London from the West Country. They arrived at Paddington on the Great Western Railway, found work in the new shops still being built there, and had no reason to penetrate further into London.

I quote what I wrote about: the Oakington Road census:-

`Of the 194 arrivals from the West Country, 52 (26.81) were Heads of Households. Some wives and children too were born in the West. So were a surprising number of servants and lodgers, who might in their turn settle in London and bring up families there.`

From about 1850 the Wheat Belt in the USA spread rapidly north and the World became glutted with wheat. It was cheaper to import foreign wheat than to grow it here, so British agriculture collapsed. Thousands of agricultural labourers were thrown out of work many fled to London. The Paddington and Marylebone area attracted a high proportion of the new arrivals to London from the West Country. They arrived at Paddington on the Great Western Railway, found work in the new shops still being built, and had no reason to penetrate further into London.


The View From Devon

The other end of the story is told in `Devon', part of the New Survey of England, 1954, published by David and Charles. The author, W.G.Hoskins, says:-

‘My ancestors were men of no particular eminence even in local history, farmers nearly all of them until the collapse of local communities all over England in the early nineteenth century drove them off the land and into the towns and across the water to the Atlantic continent. But these were the sort of people who were formed the foundations of any stable society'.

He describes the flight from the country during the nineteenth century. That was the destruction of a country way of life which had lasted for centuries. Here, in Queen's Head Street, was a town community being uprooted. What is their story? They were not agricultural labourers. The 1881 census returns can help in this.


The Queen's Head Street Census Returns

The 1881 Census taken immediately before the Queens 's Head Street Schools were built reveals that 133 people of all ages lived in the 18 houses in Queen's Head Street. (We do not know the numbers of the two houses in St. Thomas's Street which were also demolished, so these have been ignored). In one house were two old people in their seventies. Nearby was a rooming house with ten people in five separate households. Another house had two families with eight children between them, all of school age. No two houses were alike.

Of the 133 people in the terrace, 36 were adult males, 44 adult females, and 16 children below the age of 21 and working. There were 25 school children and 19 below school age. Where did they come from? Three quarters of the people, had been born in London. Some Heads of Households had come from outside. Some had married London girls and had families. In contrast to the Paddington census, of the 33 who had been born outside London, only twelve had come from the West Country. Others had come from Birmingham, Kent and the Eastern Counties. This seems to have been a London community. Some may have already been driven out of the City of London by the intensive rebuilding between 1860 and 1880. If so, they were being moved on again.

The variety of their skills illustrates the wealth of small factories in the Clerkenwell and Islington area which had developed just outside the restricting powers of the City of London and its powerful guilds. There the old craft guilds and their livery companies restricted entry to skilled trades very strictly. Outside the City it was easier for small craftsmen to start. A huge variety of small trades developed just in Clerkenwell and Islington. Many of them were highly skilled and worked in very specialist corners of the trades, as this census shows.

Islington, just outside the city limits, attracted many small craftsmen. In Queen's Head Street were a locksmith with two apprentices, a cotton spinner, a ring case maker, cardboard box makers, a telegraph engineer, a gold chain maker employing his son and a boy, a watch jeweller, some carpenters, a wire twister, a steel spectacle maker, cabinet makers, an ivory turner and other unusual trades. Some, like the watch jeweller, will have done only one small part in the making of the final objects. He for example, fitted drilled jewels in which the various moving parts of the watch would turn, into watch cases that other people had made and then handed them back for finishing. Many craftsmen may have worked at home, in a separate room or even on the kitchen table. The area was full of people who each did their part of the job and passed on the batch to the next specialist each day, or each week. It was a conveyor belt system dotted around neighbouring streets.

Besides these craftsmen, there were laundresses, nurse maids, clerks and a bookmaker. There were also three teachers, two of whom called themselves Board School Teachers, as if to stress that they were trained teachers and not just people who had drifted into Dame School work. This was eleven years after the School Boards were set up and had begun training teachers. Clearly the London Board was getting a reputation and the teaches were proud of it.

Link to Scientific Instrument Making


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