Public house dating to around 1800, with extensions and an outbuilding from the late C19.
Reasons for Designation
The Albion public house, 10 Thornhill Road, London Borough of Islington, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a well-composed building of around 1800 of stock brick with stucco dressings, redolent of the period in its scale, proportions, and restrained detailing.
* as a former tearoom and garden of around 1800, built on the fringes of London adjacent to what were then Great and Little Bowling Alley fields, The Albion constitutes a rare example of pre-urban development within the capital, built prior to the rapid expansion this part of Islington into the 1830s;
* for the survival of key elements of the C19 phase of the building’s expansion, charting its conversion in the wake of the 1830 Beer Act and its evolution as a public house to meet changing commercial demands.
* with nearby Grade II-listed buildings, including 9-11 Malvern Terrace (List entry 1298018), Grove Cottage on Ripplevale Grove (List entry 1208408), 2-6 Ripplevale Grove (List entry 1195711), and the War Memorial at Thornhill Road Gardens (List entry 1431840).
The Albion is one of the earliest buildings on Thornhill Road, dating to around 1800. The plot was occupied by Thomas Albion Oldfield at this time, who ran a dairy and later a tea house and gardens here. A string of four houses to the south were subsequently developed by Oldfield, named Albion Cottages and shown on the E & B Baker revised plan of Islington, published 1817. It is probable that the Albion is the building marked on the 1803 St Mary Parish map, the first to be developed on this east side of the track which connected to Back Road (later Liverpool Road), a partially developed thoroughfare by this time that ran parallel to Upper Street to the east. To the west of the track were Great and Little Bowling Alley fields. These were owned by George Thornhill (1811-1875), a prominent landowner and a MP for Huntingdon who later gave his name to the road when it was formalised by development in the 1840s. The fields were used for grazing cattle in connection with Oldfield’s dairy, though into the late C18 they also had an association with sports, particularly cricket. The fields to the south were connected to White Conduit House, and were home to the White Conduit Club, an aristocratic cricket club and forerunner of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) that played here from around 1780 through until 1787, when they relocated to Lord’s Old Ground in Marylebone. Cricket continued to be played on these fields after the departure of the White Conduit Club, and in 1805 the Islington Albion Club was founded, its name derived from the Albion tea house which overlooked the grounds (Cromwell, p398). Matches were held throughout the 1820s, with the last recorded game played in 1834, when the club departed for open ground near to Copenhagen House, around a mile to the north. The club played under the Albion name at Holloway, and then Alexandra Park before disbanding in the 1890s (Middlesex Gazette, 11 December 1892).
The evolution of the Albion tea rooms and gardens into a public house came in around the early 1830s. Writing in 1835, ‘Walks Through Islington’, Thomas Cromwell recorded that the Albion had been ‘built by the late Mr Oldfield about the time of their [The Islington Albion Cricket Club] establishment here, and which by him was intended to be a tavern and tea-house. But the “Albion” was never applied to the first mentioned of those purposes, owing to the speculator’s want of success in obtaining that essential article, a license; and it is at last only “licensed to sell beer by retail, to be drunk on the premises.”’(Cromwell, p398). It is probable that the conversion occurred in the wake of the 1830 Beer Act, which made beer licenses readily attainable for a nominal excise fee, leading to a national surge in licensed houses in the immediate years that followed. At around this time the surrounding streets were beginning to be developed, with Albion Grove and Malvern Terrace laid-out to the west, shown on the 1843 D Rumsey plan. While the Albion stood in relative isolation prior to the 1840s, with only Oldfield’s Albion Cottages to the south, into the 1860s it came to form part of a continuous building line along the east side of Thornhill Road, between Richmond Road to the south and Upper Barnsbury Street to the north. The Ordnance Survey (OS) 1874 map, the first to record the form of the buildings in detail, shows the pub with a walled garden to the rear. Flanking narrow structures, potentially covered terraces, are shown to the north and south, which may have formed parts of the original tea gardens associated with its earlier use. The southern portion of the building is shown as being distinct from the pub, which a photograph of the 1880s shows as a stabling building. The door arrangement seen in the around 1880 photograph, has the present central covered entrance and a second door to the northern bay, though also a door in the bay to the north of the portico. There are several hanging gas lamps and, above the portico, there is an ornate cast-iron balustrade; this all having been lost by the middle of the C20. The livery and signage of the pub at this stage demonstrate that it was tied to Watney’s brewery. Internally, the form and detailing of the servery and counter imply a late-C19 date, suggesting a phase of works carried out by Watney’s at around this time. It is probable from the historic door arrangement that the Albion had at least three distinct bar areas at this stage, the subdivisions removed into the later C20.
Into the late 1800s, the Albion was extended, with the present north-eastern bay added to the rear, shown on the 1896 OS map revision. The garden structures were taken down by this time, and the garden was truncated, with the rear part of the plot subdivided. The stabling block became Albion Garages in the 1930s. The subdivision of the two premises was maintained through until 1987, when the garage was integrated as part of the pub (this later addition to the pub is formally excluded from the listing).
Public house dating to around 1800, with extensions from the late C19.
MATERIALS: stock brick with stone and stucco dressings.
PLAN: façade to Thornhill Road with garden and outbuilding to rear (east) of the plot. The front bar occupies the breadth of the original pub plan (the northern six bays) with a short return section to the north end. To the rear of the main bar is a dining area with WCs set-off to the north side, extending into the single-storey projection. A cellar runs beneath the main bar area, accessed from behind the servery. A private dining room runs above the front bar, with offices and staff areas to the north.
EXTERIOR: the façade to Thornhill Road is of ten window bays, including the former stabling block to the south. The principal entrance has a portico set on engaged pilasters to the façade and a pair of replacement cast-iron columns. There is a secondary entrance in the northernmost bay, set within a pedimented surround. The entrance doors are part-glazed, with late-C19 panes with cut-glass floral motifs. Sash windows are set in moulded surrounds to both floors, multi-paned types from the early 1800s to the first floor and later-C19 single pane sashes at street level. The rear elevation of the main range has one early-C19 door glazing towards the south end of the main range, broad and low, with multi-paned glazing to its upper section. To the centre, inserted part-glazed doors open onto the garden with later-C19 sashes above. The brick single-storey extension (WC block) to the north end at the rear has two external entrances from the garden, this dating to the late-C19.
INTERIOR: the central Thornhill Road entrance leads to an open bar space served by a long servery and counter. The counter appears to date from the late-C19 and is divided into paired panelled sections, most with hinged openings to give access to the beer engines. There are pendant corbels supporting the countertop and the curved ends to the bar have a decorative boarded trim to the top of the panels, with carved bunches of grapes to the pendants on the south side. The bar back shelving is a modern insertion. There is matchboard panelling applied to the wall (to dado level) and ceiling in the front bar room and a pair of marble fire surrounds with fluted lintels and jambs to both the north and south ends. To the rear of the main bar is a dining area, with a moulded cornice and a simple marble fireplace to the south wall. WCs and access to the cellar is to the north of this area. The cellar has a replacement stair, the position of the opening re-sited from the east wall (into the dining area, where a blocked early-C19 door is visible from the stairs) to the south wall, adjacent to the servery. The cellar has flagstone and brick shelving to the alcoves to the southern hearth foundations and along the east wall.
At first-floor level there is a private dining room directly above the main bar room, formed from two previously distinct rooms, this with a timber fire surround to the south wall, with simple moulded cornicing, dado rails and picture rails through the room. Two rooms in use as offices are at the north end, with arched alcoves flanking two blocked fireplaces. A further room with no historic fittings of note - opposing the upper dining room - is in use as a staff room.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: brick outbuilding with double-hipped slate roof to south of the plot, built pre-1897. Used for storage, though not inspected internally.