Curating Imagine Islington

Roz Currie, Curator


During 2015 and 2016 Islington Museum worked on an Arts Council England project, ‘Imagine Islington‘, exploring objects from the museum collection. Three different artists and six primary school classes were inspired by six objects from our collection. The exhibition brings together the six objects and the artworks they inspired, created by the class and artist.

The whole project was experimental and playful -exploring the objects in different ways. We wanted the exhibition to reflect this and included the cast of a pregnant tummy to stroke, body noises to listen to, acetates to look through and rain sticks to play.

The objects chosen by the artists are below, click on the links to see the artworks:

  • A Wooden Water Pipe -This 17th-century water pipe was made from the trunk of an elm tree. It was used to carry water, provided by the New River Company, bringing water initially to houses and businesses in the City of London, and later to Islington.


  • Joe Orton Book Covers -Writer Joe Orton and his partner and mentor Kenneth Halliwell created ‘guerilla artwork’ using books from Islington Public Library Service. In 1962 they were each sentenced to six months in prison for causing ‘malicious damage’ to seventy two library books.
  • Objects found at 53 Cross Street -53 Cross Street, off Upper Street, was built in 1785.  The first owner was Thomas Vernon and many different people have since lived there. During the 1990s, Martin King moved in and started to explore the house, he collected the traces of those who had lived in the house before him and donated them to the museum.
  • WWI Embroidered Postcards -Leonard Mansfield sent silk embroidered postcards to his girlfriend, Margaret, from the trenches during the First World War. Silk cards were manufactured in France from 1900 onwards but became popular throughout the conflict as souvenirs for troops to send to family and friends.


  • Gas-Air Machine -Dr Robert Minnitt developed his first Gas-Air apparatus in 1933 and this refined version in the 1940s which was used until the 1970s. He was known as ‘the man who killed the agony of child birth’, providing pain relief for mothers during labour.
  • UV Light-Therapy Goggles -In the early-20th Century rickets was a very common disorder among children. It was caused by a lack of vitamin D from food and sunlight. UV light therapy was used to treat children in the Finsbury Health Centre. Children would wear these goggles to protect their eyes.


WWI Embroidered Postcards: Sharing cultures, sharing lives

In 2016 artist Sarah Pimenta worked with teacher Louise Murtagh and Year 1 at Moreland Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington.

Second World War embroidered postcards

Leonard Mansfield was only 18 when in 1916 he left his home in Islington for the Western Front where he was a signaller. Leonard was seriously injured in a gas attack on the 25th August 1918 but survived the war.

Leonard sent a number of silk embroidered postcards to his mother and girlfriend, Margaret from the trenches . Beautiful artworks in themselves, they contain embroidered images of French and British flags, flowers, insects and seasonal messages. They give us a unique insight into personal relationships transformed by war.

Panel 7 -Mansfield wedding

Silk cards were manufactured in France from 1900 onwards but became popular throughout the conflict as souvenirs for troops to send home to family and friends in Britain. The embroidery was made at home by French and Belgian women and was then sent to factories to be made into cards. Designs include flowers, patriotic messages and the badges of individual regiments.

Leonard survived his injuries, marrying Margaret in 1925. They lived in Islington for the rest of their lives.

Moreland Primary  chose to work with these objects to explore the idea of why people send postcards . They thought the idea that Margaret had kept the postcards from Leonard so safe for so many years was a lovely message about treasuring and valuing things given to us by those we love. The simple designs of the postcards depicting images from France and England was also an interesting point to start thinking about heritage and identity visually.


 Activity 1: My cultural heritage

  • pencils
  • paper
  1. Explore Leonard’s story with the class. Think about why we send postcards. Our class was very mulitcultural so we explored the idea of sending postcards across different cultures. We looked at how Leonard represented both his home culture and the French culture in which he was temporarily living in the designs and symbols on the postcards. We looked at how this linked into the idea of France and Britain being allies in the Second World War.
  2. Pupils spent time researching their own different cultures, looking for key symbols and colours that represented their perceived cultural identity.
  3. They then designed a postcard that combined these symbols, like a secret code that represented their cultural identity.

Activity 2: Mono printed postcards

  • A5 polytile
  • printing rollers
  • sharp pencils
  • A4 sugar paper
  • block printing ink
  1. We gave each pupil a postcard sized piece of polytile l. Using a pencil, pupils drew their postcard designs on to the polytile, filling the sheet. They needed to be careful to press hard enough into the polytile to make an indentation, but not too hard so that it pierced the polytile.
  2. Pupils put some printing ink on to the paint trays, rolling it with a printing roller until it was smooth.
  3. Pupils then used the printing roller to put ink on to their polytile, covering their design, remembering to not use too much ink.
  4. Pupils place the inked side of the polytile on to a piece of paper. They ran a clean printing roller over the back of the polytile, pressing it on to the paper. They then carefully peeled back the polytile to reveal the printed postcard design on the paper.

Activity 2: experimenting with mono printing

  • A5 polytile
  • printing rollers
  • tissue paper
  • glue
  • scissors
  • mark making tools such as stamps, bubble wrap, lego blocks etc.
  • A4 sugar paper
  • block printing ink
  1. We gave each pupil a piece of sugar paper on which to experiment with mark making techniques. Pupils used different tools dipped in ink to print onto their paper. They experiemented with pattern, shape and colour.
  2. Once dry, we also encouraged pupils to cut and glue a few strategically placed pieces of tissue paper onto their piece of paper on top of the mark making. You can again experiment with colour and shape.
  3. Once everything was dry, we then printed our polytiles again on to our sugar paper, following the instructions above.
  4. Layering techniques created interested explorations of colour.

Moreland was keen to develop its pupils literacy so we turned our artwork in to real postcards. Using Leonard’s text and format as inspiration pupils addressed and wrote their own postcards, sending them to family members.

Want to know more:

Click here to find out more about the artworks created by Blessed Sacrament RC Primary School and Sarah Pimenta as part of the Imagine Islington Project.

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December: we remember

Using data from census records, war graves and war memorials we can begin to discover the names of those from the historic boroughs of Finsbury and Islington who died at Gallipoli.

In December we remember the death of:


Private John Clampitt
Gloucestershire Regiment – 7th Service Battalion


Temporary Sub-Lieutenant Charles Bridgland
Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve – Drake Battalion
Heywood House, Camdon Road, London NW

Private John Gasson
London Regiment – 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)


Private William Hughes
Worcestershire Regiment – 9th Battalion
8 Randall Road, Clifton Bristol, Avon


Driver Herbert John Fordham
Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery – 66th Bde. H.Q.
28 Russell Road, Parlmer’s Green, London

Corporal John Mandall
South Wales Borderers – 2nd Battalion
32 Peerless Street, City Road, London

Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 13 December to 18 December

Date: 12. or 13.12.1915
Camp cleaned up during morning and at 1245 Battn fell in with Bdexxx? To NORTH PIER. At 1430 embarked on HMT ALAUNIA. Battn on duty all loading and unloading fatigue provided. 3 men to hospital.

Date: 14.12.1915
Transport sailed at 1600. Routine parade and inspection during day. Uneventful night.

Date: 15.12.1915
Arrived MILO at 0800 and remained in harbour until 1230 when voyage continued. Routine as before. I man to hospital.

Date: 16.12.1915
Battalion on duty and nearly whole strength required for ships guards and fatigues, routine modified accordingly. At dusk news of a submarine in neighbourhood received and MG Officers remained by guns all night.

Date: 17.12.1915
Quiet day and night. Routine as usual. Practised alarm during morning.

Date: 18.12.1915
Arrived at ALEXANDRIA at dawn. Disembarked at 1230 and proceeded by road and train to SIDI BISCH where remainder of day spent in preparing camp.

Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 6 December to 12 December

Date: 6.12.1915
Battalion paraded at 1000 for company training. Camp inspected by CO. 4 men to hospital.

Date: 7.12.1915
All tents struck during reorganisation of Brigade Camp and repitched during afternoon. 3 men to hospital. Sundry fatigue parties furnished.

Date: 8.12.1915
Routine parades and inspections, as before. Information received that draft from England would join Battalion the following day. Draft inspected during afternoon at 54th Div TBD Camp by CO. 2 men to hospital.

Date: 9.12.1915
Morning parades and inspection as usual. 3 officers and 97 other ranks from 3/11th Battalion and 27 returned casualties arrived during afternoon. Fresh camp pitched on south side of existing camp. 4 men to hospital.

Date: 10.12.1915
Battn on duty for Bde and Brigade being in waiting, also on duty for Division. Numerous Brigade and Divisional Guards on fatigues and provides picquets day and night.

Date: 11.12.1915
Battn medically inspected by MO 1/10th London Regiment. Routine inspections and parades as usual as far as possible.

Date: 12.12.1915
Battalion paraded 1000 for church parade with remainder of Brigade. Orders received that division would embark for EGYPT following day.

November: we remember

Using data from census records, war graves and war memorials we can begin to discover the names of those from the historic boroughs of Finsbury and Islington who died at Gallipoli.

In November we remember the death of:


Private Charles William Hathaway
London Regiment – 1st (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
81 Henshaw Street, Munton Road, New Kent Road, London


Private Harry John Trew
London Regiment – 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)


Private William John Thomas
Hampshire Regiment – 2nd Battalion


Private Bertie Marsh
London Regiment – 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)


Private Harry Andrews
Royal Army Service Corps – 27th Labour Company
7 Corporation Street, Islington, London


Lance Corporal William Alfred Wright
London Regiment – 3rd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
39 Huddleston Road, Tufnell Park, London


Private George Mitchell
Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment) – 5th Battalion
59 Halton Road, Canonbury, London


Private Walter Frederick Hart
London Regiment – 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)

Private Alfred John Williamson
London Regiment – 3rd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
14, Platt Street, Pancras Road

Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 29 November to 5 December


Date: 29.11.1915
Hospital heavily shelled during morning. Sea still very rough but weather improving although bitterly cold. Owing to heavy Australian casualties, obliged to leave hospital and accommodated in tents in immediate neighbourhood. 1 man wounded and 3 men to hospital. Night quiet.

Date: 30.11.1915
Fine day, no wind, sea calm. Notice received that immediate embarkation unlikely owing to lack of transports. Tents inspected by CO. Rifle inspections held. One man to hospital. Night quiet.

Date: 1.12.1915
Fine day and sea calm. Uneventful day and night. Physical drill and normal routine. No men to hospital.

Date: 2.12.1915
Dull day but sea is still calm. Hospital shelled with fatal results to staff. Quiet night. Routine as before. No men to hospital.

Date: 3.12.1915
Orders received that battalion would embark at 0750, order cancelled at noon owing to change in weather. Further orders to be ready at 1900, received at 1800 and at 1930 battalion embarked in SS EL KAHIRA without incident. 5 men to hospital.

Location: MUDROS

Date: 4.12.1915
Arrived MUDROS about 1000 and marched to PORTIANOS CAMP where remainder of day spent settling down. Various brigade and divisional fatigues furnished. No men to hospital.

Date: 5.12.1915
Quiet day, battalion resting except for sundry fatigues. Inspection by CO during afternoon. 3 men to hospital.

More Information

The Rifles’ wait at the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital must have been unpleasant. The hospital was an easy target for the Turkish guns , who probably realised that it was being used as a temporary barracks. Moreover, many of the transports had been damaged in the storms and the weather was still unsettled. Finally, on the 3rd December, the battalion was able to embark on their transport, a steamer called the SS El Kahira. They arrived at Mudros Harbour on the following day.

Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 22 November to 28 November

Date: 22.11.1915
Very quiet day and night. Work day and night on trenches improvements. Patrol ran into digging party near 92Z5 and was heavily fired on by covering party and enemy on BULGAR BLUFF. It retired without incident. 10 men to hospital.

Date: 23.11.1915
Uneventful day and night. Progress made on new fire bays and on trenches generally. Some additional wiring done in front of right-half sector. Patrol found all quiet in front. 4 men to hospital. Enemy snipers busy.

Date: 24.11.1915
Quiet day and night except for exceptional activity of enemy snipers. No information from patrol. 5 men to hospital. Work on trenches as usual.

Date: 25.11.1915
Battalion relieved at dawn by Suffolk Yeomanry and remainder of day spent quietly at rest camp. Whole Battalion placed at disposal of Suffolk Yeomanry for emergency tactical purposes. 1 man wounded and 3 to hospital.

Date: 26.11.1915
Quiet morning. In afternoon orders received to send down all heavy baggage to beach at ANZAC and that battalion would proceed to MUDROS during the night 27/28. Very heavy thunderstorm during early evening followed by torrential rains and heavy wind Capt JE Heinz? And Lt J S Day RAMC to hospital.

Date: 27.11.1915
Battalion about to fall in to proceed to ANZAC when orders received to stand fast for the time being. About 2100 further orders received that move postponed. Weather still bad, blizzard during night and heavy fall of snow. 2 men wounded.

Date: 28.11.1915
Weather very bad. Snowy hurricane. Battalion paraded at 1800 and proceeded to 1st Australian Stationary Hospital pending embarkation. Arrived about 2100, very bad journey owing to mud and water everywhere. 2 men to hospital.

More Information

On the 26th November the battalion received orders that they would soon withdraw to the British base at Mudros on the island of Lemnos. That day the weather went berserk. Thunderstorms, torrential rain, strong winds and blizzards struck right across Gallipoli. On the 28th November there was a hurricane.

Lieutenant Clement Attlee of the South Lancashire Regiment, who became the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister after the Second World War, was in some of the worst weather. After finishing his dinner, he asked the kitchen staff how they were. “They said ‘It’s just up to our knees but we’ll manage the coffee!’ Looking down we saw the water spreading across the floor up to our boots. I went out to see how the men were and found the main communication trench a torrent in which I could hardly stand. It was rushing down from the higher ground. I’ve found our trench and most of the dugouts flooded collapsing.”  All the streams that had dried up during the Turkish summer became fearsome rivers.

Captain Peter Ashton of the Herefordshire Regiment, stationed, like Clement Attlee, several miles south of the Finsbury Rifles, made an unexpected rescue. ‘The water [in the river] was about waist high and running very strong. The two wooden bridges had absolutely disappeared. On my way downstream I heard something snorting and blowing in the water, and I found it came from a little Turkish ammunition [-carrying] pony which had come downstream and got caught in a bush. I put two men onto getting [the pony] out of the stream and he continued his career in the British Army.’

The cold was probably the worst affliction. Lieutenant Gething of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment recalled, ‘When I returned along the trench, which was still unfit to stay in, I found six men had crawled back and were huddled on the firestep frozen to death. We then found about 20 men lying by a hedge with groundsheets over them, more or less frozen stiff. We got them up after a lot of groaning and complaining and made them jump around in a circle to restore the circulation.’

Once again, the Finsbury Rifles were luckier than some on two counts: they were about to leave and they were not on the Suvla Plain, where the worst flooding took place. The Rifles began their journey to Mudros by tramping through mud, rain and snow. It took them five hours to march the few miles south from Aghyl Dere to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital  ( ANZAC) on ANZAC North Beach where they were to be accommodated until a ship could take them off. The allies had made North Beach into a harbour soon after the landings by building a pier and sinking a steamer, the Milo, there to form a breakwater.

Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 15 November to 21 November

Date: 15.11.1915
Battalion relieved at dawn by Suffolk Yeomanry. Rest camp shelled by 5 howitser about midday and one man wounded. Day and night otherwise quiet. 5 men to hospital. Routine parades and inspections.

Date: 16.11.1915
A few shells burst during day over camp but no damage done. Parades and Physical drill as usual. Bombing course restarted. Some names of various officers, N.C.O.s and men submitted for trench war decorations allotted to Division. Uneventful night. 2 men to hospital.

Date: 17.11.1915
Some shelling throughout day without result. Parades as before. Bombing course continued. Day quiet. About 1930 heavy firing all along line and at 2000 at urgent request of Suffolk Yeomanry half battalion sent to left sector as supports, of night: our men did not come into action. Four men to hospital. Weather very bad. Much rain and wind and very cold.

Date: 18.11.1915
Some ineffectual shelling during morning, otherwise day and night very quiet. Parades inspections as before. Bombing course continued, 2 men to hospital.

Date: 19.11.1915
Quiet day and night. Routine as usual. No men to hospital.

Date: 20.11.1915
Suffolk Yeomanry relieved in centre section at dawn. Trenches somewhat heavily shelled during day, particularly left-half sector but little damage done. Patrols out throughout night but no enemy movements reported. BULGAR BLUFF apparently unoccupied. Considerable work done in draining STAFFORD GULLY. 1 man to hospital. Much colder.

Date: 21.11.1915
Quiet morning but considerable shelling in early afternoon. No damage done. Trench improvements carried on generally. Patrols out at night as before. Second one fired on from neighbourhood of BEDFORD RIDGE but retired without casualties. No men to hospital. Weather very cold and damp.

More Information

The Turks were taking advantage of the quiet days . Forces opposite the Finsbury Rifles’ trenches were reorganised; fresh troops were brought into the frontline. Ever more complex and secure defences were constructed in the high ground.

The Turks could take advantage of the high ground above the beaches. They had  modern heavy artillery and plentiful ammunition from Germany. After 20th November, these guns started bombarding the British and their allies based below them. There were fewer and fewer places where soldiers could hide from the blasts of the enormous shells. The Finsbury Rifles were fortunate to avoid most of these attacks.

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