The road – originally a cattle path – bisected Laycock’s Farm, which was an extensive property bounded by the Back Road (Liverpool Road), the established residential and commercial properties along Park Street (Islington Park Street), Upper Street and Highgate Road (Holloway Road), and the market gardens and grounds of the Chapel of Ease (St. Mary Magdalene’s Church). Later, the road became the principal route from Liverpool Road to the dairy and Upper Street.
Laycock Street Timeline
After Thomas Flight, the landowner.
Laycock Street is named after 'Laycock's Farm & Cattle Lairs' started as early as 1720. Charles Laycock, Jnr. who died in 1777 was one of 'the greatest goose-feeders and wholesale poulterers in the kingdom.' Islington was then the dairy capital of London because the rich soil produced the best grasses on which the cattle fed.
Source: Barnsburyboys blog 2016
Laycock's Dairy Farm
Laycock's dairy farm faced Union Chapel, was built by Mr. Leroux, at the beginning of the century. Richard Laycock who died in 1834 was the proprietor and it was one of the largest dairies in the country. Richard Laycock, in 1810 kept 500-600 cows on 225 ha of pasture in Islington and neighbouring parishes.
Thomas Flight then took over as landowner. Over 500 acres were farmed around Liverpool Road and Upper Street and it certainly stretched as far as what is now Islington Park Street. There were 10 bulls and around 500 milking cows. However, by 1860 little was left apart from his yard and cowsheds, now isolated in the built-up area.
It was situated on the route into London for animals being herded for sale at Smithfield, so Laycock obtained payment for holding animals overnight, or for longer if they needed fattening.
Source: Islington Council
In 1841 the occupier of Laycock’s farm had six cowsheds’ each with 54 cows, and pens with 5,000 sheep.
In 1852 John Nichols was proprietor, milk was 4d per quart and fresh cream three shillings. Between 1900 and 1914 Laycock's former dairy was owned by Hislop & Sons.
In 1865 a cattle plague started in Mrs. Nicholls's sheds in Liverpool Road (probably the former Laycock's farm) and spread quickly around London. Within three months the number of cows had fallen from 1,317 to 314, many beasts having been sent away for safety. By the end of the year 625 cows had died, leaving 274 in the parish.
The street contains laycock green, a public open space opened in 1977 by Marie Betteridge, former parliamentary communist candidate and a wellknown tenants’ leader and local resident and campaigner.
From 1886 to the 1890's the London General Omnibus Company had a coach factory between Flight's Yard and Park Street.
By 1908 several factories were built on part of Laycock’s yard. More land along Laycock Street was sold and occupied by the London board school (1915) followed by the Islington Borough Council’s blocks of flats called Laycock Mansions (1926). Other light industries followed with such companies as Tidmarsh & Sons and Builders Industries Zinc (BIZ). The Samuel Lewis Trust dwellings bounded on the northwest end of the street and all five blocks were constructed by 1910.
Given the proximity of three major housing estates and the Laycock Primary and Junior Mixed School, it was not surprising that Laycock Street was a busy route both for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. It became an extension to the children’s’ playground and a lucrative route for the ice cream vendors both on tricycles and in motorised vans.
Re-organised 1927-32. In 1939 the Junior Mixed and Infants were in Laycock Street.
Re-organised 1947-51 as Laycock Primary, Laycock Street, for JM, I, and Laycock Secondary.
Reorganised again for Junior Mixed and Infants c.1971.
The Local Area
World War II
An ex-pupil remembers the V1 bomb
Islington Gazette 07 November 2017
On 27 June 1944, a V1 (doodlebug bomb) fell at 12.46pm at Highbury Corner: 26 people died and 150 injured.
The V1 bomb destroyed and damaged houses on Compton Terrace and on the opposite side hit the Express Dairy (now the tree reserve and part of the roundabout) as well as shops, houses, pub, and train station at the northern most end of Upper Street.
Mavis Ring (nee Devine) who was at home having lunch before afternoon classes at Laycock Primary School when the V1 bomb fell on Highbury Corner. Here Mavis, now 80 and living in Essex, shares many other memories about growing up in wartime Islington.
Tell us about the Highbury Corner bomb on 27 June 1944
I was about nine or 10. I distinctly remember it. I lived on the 4th floor of the Lewis Buildings and went to school at Laycock Street Primary. That day I had a school friend into lunch. As my mother was giving us our lunch, the doodlebug came over and then it did that awful stop. You did not know where it was going to fall. We sat there and waited. Then we heard the bang. My mother said, ‘Sit still, mind the glass.’ But there wasn’t any breaking glass. We went to the window and saw the smoke – we thought it was from Tidmarsh’s the timber yard directly opposite the Union Chapel at the bottom of Laycock Street where my father, who was a carpenter, had gone to get wood for the blackout blinds he made. My mother said "Oh my God it is your father..."
The bomb bounced from one side to the other, so Tidmarsh’s was safe. It destroyed both sides of Highbury Corner including the Express Dairy restaurant where many people were having lunch, and the pub on the corner. There were craters on both sides.
I think there was a hubbub. We found out a lot of people were killed, including a couple of our teachers.
But as children we were never told this. We probably heard our parents talking about it. You didn’t get flowers put on things like you do now. People just got on with it.
I do remember one evening my Mother looking at the red sky where the East End was being bombed saying "Some poor Devils are getting it tonight".
My elder sister Doreen was working in the Royal Free Hospital in Grays Inn Road. She must have been 19 or 20 then. My other sister, Sheila, was a dressmaker in Oxford Street.
They tried to get back to find out if we were alright as they heard a big bomb had gone off in Highbury. But when they tried to get home on the bus they were stopped at Angel. They didn’t know what to expect the other end.
By then it was 1944 and my mother still wouldn’t let me be evacuated. She had that idea that if we went, we would all go together. So, we stayed. My mother used to play the piano in the evenings and invite people from the flats around. She used to say ‘If our end is coming we don’t want to hear it coming!’. There were brick built shelters with bunks built in the grounds of the Lewis Buildings – it’s where there’s a round railing area with plane trees – but we didn’t use them until my father had been working at one of the main line stations when it was bombed. That night he came home and said from now on we were going down the shelters.
I can’t say I was unhappy. I was at a lovely little school. I’m sure being with your family is how you are made. The air raid warnings used to come in the morning and perhaps the evening. We used to go to school at the same time, at 8.45am every day, and you could guarantee the warning would go, so all the children in Lewis Buildings would sit on the landing watching planes going over. Then all clear would go and the headmistress would come through the flats ringing a brass bell saying, "Come to school".
- Interview by Nicola Baird
The official report
At lunchtime on June 27, a German “V1” – a pilotless jet aircraft 25ft in length, travelling at 400mph and carrying a 1 tonne TNT warhead – dropped near the junction with Compton Terrace. It killed 26 people and injured 138.
Islington was suffering a new campaign of Vergeltungwaffe “Vengenace” attacks. The first happened nine days before, in Spencer Street and Wynyatt Street, Finsbury. It killed 13 and injured 83.
In all, there were 41 “V” blasts in the borough up to January 1945, killing 321 with 2,011 casualties. But historian Michael Reading, a survivor of the Highbury Corner bomb himself, believes Islington embodied the defiant British spirit of the time.
Michael, author of Remembering Islington Under Attack, tells the Gazette: “I would have thought it was just another bomb, as far as the people of Islington were concerned. People just had to get on with things. London had already gone through the Blitz in 1940/41, and the ‘little Blitz’ in 1944.
“It’s difficult to convey living in wartime, but five years, as it had been in 1944, is an awfully long time. By then we were well used to it. There was a real community spirit, because we were all at risk.”