Museum of London -Incoming!

Roz Currie, Curator

Over the summer we have been working with the Museum of London on their rationalisation project.  Following a review of the Social and Working History collections, 6000 objects were identified for disposal … and Islington Museum was one of the lucky recipients!

 During the 1970s and 1980s museums undertook ‘rescue collecting’. As traditional craft workshops were closing, many museums collected the whole contents, from all of the tools to the tea cups. The idea was to capture disappearing crafts and trades and recreate workshops in the museum. At the Museum of London many of these collections have never been displayed and so the rationalisation process identified duplicate and unusable items and then offered them to other museums.

I spent time at the Museum of London store in Hackney looking through boxes and boxes of exciting objects from the following places in Islington:

Oliver’s Watchcase Workshop which closed in 1971


The Rowley Parkes building on Briset Street

  • Groome upholsterer and button manufacturer

We hope to do a lot more work with these collections –looking at the different tools, understanding how they were used, and exploring their local history so keep a look out for more information. And if you know anything about light industry in Islington please do get in touch with me at

For more information about the Museum of London project see here. 

Blog Post

Exploring 53 Cross Street

By Martin King, Islington Museum Volunteer

53crossI lived in 53 Cross Street from 1989 to 2003 as a member of Black Sheep Housing Cooperative. The house was built in 1785 and there was evidence of subsequent occupation ranging from the remains of a brass engraver’s studio in the backyard to the 1960s modernisation. This had covered up much of the original fabric of the house with hardboard and woodchip paper. I became intrigued by what lay behind the walls, behind shutters and under the floor boards.

Behind the shutters I found a pair of 18th century working men’s stockings together with a piece of wood inscribed in pencil ‘George Shaw when to Aameica March 1785’. He was probably a carpenter who worked on the house and left these objects as a kind of time capsule. Under the floor boards I found late 19th century brass engravings from when the house was occupied by John and Eliza Tiley and their eleven children


In the backyard I dug through the earth and found many pottery fragments, clay pipes and a shoe. Behind the air raid shelter I found the remains of a Second World War gas mask.

With my fellow house-mate Mark McAuley I removed the 1960s hardboard in the house and underneath found fragments of wallpaper from the whole life of the house. In the hall, under the wallpaper I found a 1785 painted stencil in the gothic style.

Most of the objects I found were quite humble, everyday objects, but together they tell the story of the house over the last 230 years. The only objects I added to the collection were a plastic Millennium bug chewing a computer and two badges, one of them with the message “Think for yourself”.

Visit Islington Museum to see the 53 Cross Street objects