Will Holloway’s rich history survive gentrification?

If Highbury Corner is Islington’s beating heart, then the Holloway Road is its aorta, the main artery through which people and traffic are funneled through the borough. The name, Hollow Way, comes from the ‘hollow’ that cattle made in the road as they made their way from the countryside to the markets of London. The road may be made of asphalt now, and the first part of the A1, but it is still as important a route into the city as it was in the 14th century, when it emerged as the main route to the north.

The name Holloway was given to the road by 1307, and by the mid 15th century it had attracted some inns and craftsmen. The Holloway Road has always been changing and improving over time, so the gentrification might just be the next part of this.  The road was notorious for highwaymen in the 17th and 18th centuries, giving the area its notoriety as a dangerous place to be, especially in the dark. It was made safer by the building of houses at the northern end of Caledonian Road in Lower Holloway; as people moved onto the road small businesses sprung up and it moved towards the busy shopping street we know today.

The mix of shops and businesses that crowd the road today started to appear in the 19th century, as the suburbanisation of London moved quickly. It has always been a major transport hub, with the advance of railways in the 19th and early 20th centuries bringing even more people to the area.  The A1 runs along it, including the complicated junction at Archway that left the Archway Tavern stranded.


The road is dominated by a few stations: Highbury and Islington, Holloway Road, Upper Holloway and Archway. Highbury and Islington is at the southern end, a major transport hub between National Rail services out of King’s Cross, the Victoria Line and more recently the Overground. Holloway Road station on the Piccadilly Line is in Lower Holloway, the nearest station to the Emirates Stadium, although it is closed on match days due to overcrowding. Upper Holloway was originally a mainline station, but now forms part of the Gospel Oak to Barking Overground line. Archway station is actually just off the northern tip of the Holloway Road, but brings the Northern Line to the road; until 1940 it was the terminus of the Northern Line.

More recently the road has been home to the headquarters of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was founded in 1954 and the headquarters of the National Union of Students as well. London Metropolitan University was created in 2002 after the University of North London and London Guildhall University merged and has its main campus on Holloway Road, which includes the Orion Building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, the most striking piece of architecture in the area.

The Nag’s Head crossroads where the Holloway Road meets Seven Sisters Road is the dominant shopping area on the road, and as the road winds down towards Highbury Corner perhaps there is slight signs of gentrification.

The Holloway Road will never be properly gentrified, but its history shows that it will always be interesting.

Do you agree? 

Read Laurie Chen’s recent piece on Holloway road’s slow gentrification