It is difficult to get away from history in the Amwell area because there is so much of historical interest here, and we are lucky that so many of our architectural assets have remained intact, in particular the Georgian houses and squares, and one or two examples of outstanding modernist architecture. But there is lots going on in the present as well; we have two charming parades of independent shops in Amwell Street and Arlington Way and a number of really good pubs and coffee bars. There is also a strong sense of community which is seen in events such as the Christmas Shopping Evening and the Summer Street Festival. Like any inner city area we have some problems with antisocial behaviour, but by and large Amwell is a safe area with a low crime rate and we work closely with our local police and Islington Council to keep it that way.
The map below shows the boundaries of the Amwell area. We hope that the following articles and pieces of information about the area will entertain our members.
Wondering about Amwell street names?
On the west side of the Amwell area lies the Lloyd-Baker Estate, which was laid out in the 1820s. The Estate is named after the Lloyd Bakers – a Gloucestershire family. Lloyd Street, Lloyd Square and Lloyd-Baker Street all mark the family’s association with the area. Lloyd Baker Street was known as Baker Street until the 1930s when it was changed to avoid confusion with the other, more prominent Baker Street. The name Wharton has Gloucestershire connections. Granville, as in Granville Square, was the first name of Granville Edwin Lloyd Baker who inherited the estate in the late 19th century. His son, Michael Granville Lloyd-Baker, died in 1916 in the Great War, and the estate was passed to his granddaughter Olive Katherine Lloyd-Baker in 1924 when she was 22.
Olive was born in August 1902 and died in May 1975, after the Amwell Society had been founded. She was a well-known figure in the area until her death. Although she didn’t have the financial resources to support regular repair of the Georgian houses, she did care for the tenants and made annual visits to see if they were all right. Tenants recalled that ‘Miss Olive’ enjoyed a glass of sherry during her ‘inspections’. Three years after her death 95 houses were sold to Islington Borough Council in 1979, these were mainly in Granville Square, Wharton Street and the north side of Lloyd baker Street. They were brought up to basic standards by, for example, installing bathrooms. Many the houses on the Lloyd Baker Estate are still tenanted, while others, as they have become vacant, have been sold freehold and renovated.
Miss Olive over-saw the building of Cable House, named after her agent, R.W.Cable, after bombs had ruined the older houses on the site in 1941. If you look into the area of Cable House at the corner of Lloyd and Great Percy Streets, you’ll be able to see a foundation stone, which Miss Olive laid on 21st January 1948. It was partly thanks to her determination to preserve the Georgian architecture, which she fully appreciated, that most of the Lloyd Baker Estate survives to this day
There are glimpses of Olive Katherine’s strong character in the diaries of her uncle Arthur Lloyd-Baker, who obviously had great fondness for Olive and her sisters. She instantly took to his Christmas present to her in 1903 of a wooden rocking horse, had high spirits for “Uncle Arthur” at the age of two, and as a teenager was intellectually well-developed and good at conversation. With her uncle away in Flanders serving in the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in WW I, she was brought up by her grandfather Granville to manage the affairs of the Estate. This she did for some fifty years up to the time of her death as the result of a stroke at the age of 72.
Water all around us
The New River Head  is where Sir Hugh Myddelton’s New River, originating in Amwell and Chadwell, Herkordshire, terminated in a group of ponds and reservoirs. It is an important site for the New River Company’s successor, Thames Water.
The Fleet River rises in Hampstead and flows in a conduit 25 feet [7.5m] below King’s Cross Road towards the Thames. The story of the river’s progress from country brook to commercial ditch and stinking sewer is told in The Lost Rivers of London by Nicholas Barton.
Sadler’s Wells is the most famous spring in our area. The spring is 200m below the theatre in London’s sub–‐strata. The water was known to the monks of St. John’s Priory, Clerkenwell before the Reformation. In 1683 Richard Sadler was digging in his garden when he came across a flat carved stone covering the well. He found the water to be mildly chalybeate. Chalybeate water was said to have health–giving properties. Sadler opened his garden and thousands of people flocked to try the water to which he added orange‐flower water. It was said that Sadler’s Wells was “…very effectual for the cure of al hectic and hypochondriacal heat, for beginning consumptions, for scurvy, diabetes, for brining away gravel stones in the kidney &c.”
In 1718 the first “musick house” was built on the site attracting “strolling damsels, half-pay officers, peripatetic tradesmen, tars, butchers and others that are musically inclined”. Sadler’s Wells today is the UK premier dance theatre.
Bagnigge Wells is now occupied by a block of flats called The Cube on King’s Cross Road. This well was a pleasure garden favoured by Nell Gwynne, the actress, aficionado of citrus fruit and mistress of Charles II who had a house nearby hence Gwynne Place and Gwynne House. In 1787 pumps were installed in a pavilion, gardens laid out with arbors and seats for drinking tea. In the first years of the 19th century Bagnigge Wells was ‘monopolised by lower grades of society for whose delectation 3d concerts were instituted and who enjoyed their pipes and beer in the bowers and played bowls or nine-‐pins whilst their wives and children regaled themselves on muffins and tea or syllabubs and cakes.”