53 Cross Street: Biography of a House
By Mary Coshj, Martin King, Pauline Lord , ISBN: 9780954849009
Published in 2007, 72 pages, price £21
Calling all Black Sheep…check this out…
In 2003, Islington Council put 53 Cross Street (former Black Sheep Co-op house)
up for sale. “ It was sold to a developer for £600,000 who sold it on to a businessman, presumably at a huge profit.”
Taken from a following book review. Edited version, for full text see… here
Or on my site Green Galloway
Peter Gruner on how a punk squatter peeled back the years of his 18th-century home and helped compile a fascinating history of a North London houseFORGET your castles and palaces full of antiquities – when it comes to finding out how people really lived, you can’t beat looking over an old house. So when art lecturer and punk squatter Martin King moved into 53 Cross Street, Islington, in 1989, he realised that this was a house full of ghosts from the past.
He began peering into the pitch black coal- strewn cellar, under filthy floorboards, and peeled away layers of dusty faded wallpaper. He discovered that the five-storey Georgian property, a stone’s throw from busy Upper Street, was built in 1785. He thought that one day he’d love to write a book about the place.
Today, 18 years later, and thanks to collaboration with Islington historian Mary Cosh and architectural photographer Pauline Lord, his remarkable project is finally complete. 53, Cross Street: Biography of a House, is published this month with a brief history by Ms Cosh and more than 40 colourful photographs by Ms Lord.In 1978 Islington council compulsorily purchased the property, but were unable to afford restoration. So for the next half dozen years the house, one in a row of four, remained empty, occasionally squatted.Then “cowboy developers” moved in, writes Mary, and converted the whole row into bed sits, by the “simple expedient of covering up old features, nailing up of shutters and boarding over the cellar walls with wood chip.” In 1983 the council handed 53 over to the Blacksheep Housing Co-op – a bunch of “punk anarchists” who set about much needed repairs. Martin, who became a member of the co-op, moved in nine years later. In between delving into the house’s history, and lecturing at Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, Martin launched a campaign to give the squatters permanent tenancy. He organised impromptu tours of the house to show how the squatters had made it habitable and enlisted the help of former local MP and then Minister for Culture Chris Smith, now Lord Smith of Finsbury.But Islington council decided to put the house up for sale in 2003. It was sold to a developer for £600,000 who sold it on to a businessman, presumably at a huge profit.As for all the artefacts discovered at Cross Street, they will all be donated to Islington Museum when it officially re-opens at its new centre at the Finsbury Library in March next year.
Meanwhile the book will be an essential purchase for anyone planning to investigate the history of their home.
If there is a criticism, it is that although an interesting and colourful read, there is insufficient detail about the people and personalities who lived at 53 Cross Street over the years. Perhaps that’s the subject of another book.
I have ordered a copy of the book – will review here when I get it.