|Borough||London Borough of Islington, City of London (Golden Lane Estate only)|
|OS Grid Reference|
From medieval times until the slum clearance programme of the 1870s, St Luke's position on the edge of the City made the St Luke’s locality a haven for all kinds of prohibited activities, from astrology and wizardry to bear-baiting and prostitution. Thieves and pickpockets could make regular forays into the City and then lose any pursuer in the maze of courts and alleyways around Whitecross Street, which nowadays has a more respectable weekday market. The reputation of St Luke’s as a ‘rookery’ – a zone of criminality – reached a peak in the first half of the 19th century. ‘Flash houses’ – drinking dens and lodging houses where criminal plans were laid and stolen goods fenced – were more numerous here than anywhere else in London.
Whitecross Street Market one of London's oldest markets and was formerly one of London's great Sunday markets, and dates to the 17th century. During the mid-19th century, the street vendors and costermongers operating out of an informal street market in Whitecross Street came to public attention following the publication of a series of articles written by journalist, James Greenwood, and published in the Pall Mall Gazette. Greenwood's articles presented a brutal picture of the lives of London's poorest classes and caused a public sensation.  By the end of the 19th century, the area had become a by-word for poverty and alcohol, and it became known as Squalors' Market.
By 1900 southern St Luke’s had become a district of workshops and warehouses, with new tenement blocks providing homes for law-abiding citizens. However, many of the worst elements simply decamped to the other side of Old Street and this part remained disreputable until the 1930s.
The area that would become King Square Gardens was mainly fields owned by St Bartholomew's Hospital when in 1822 it was bought by the Church Building Commission to build a large church. As a large church in the middle of fields would be odd, they also planned to develop the fields into middle-class housing to provide the necessary parishioners. The plan worked, and Booth’s Poverty Maps in the 1880s showed a lack of poverty, with the area surrounding the square showing up as middle-class. The garden was laid out as a classic of its time, seeming to be lined with trees and large lawns in the centre, a rain shelter in the centre and a playground in one corner.
In 2021 on the St Luke’s Estate, squirrels were causing havoc on the balconies of an estate building. The council arranged for a pest consultant to trap the squirrels which temporarily helped, however the trapping stopped after a few months. An Islington Council spokesperson said We’re committed to making sure everyone has a secure, decent and genuinely affordable home. We’re taking action to deter squirrels from Godfrey House - for example we’ve installed environmental spikes to deter climbing - and we will continue to monitor the situation. It’s important people don’t feed squirrels on or near the estate as this can encourage squirrels to the area.
More information on the Wikipedia page .
- London Sunday Trading in Social Investigation/Journalism - Curiosities of London Life, or Phases, Physiological and Social of the Great Metropolis, Charles Manby Smith (1853); accessed 13 April 2009
- Koven, S., Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London, Princeton University Press, 2004, pp 31-36; Jones, P.T.A., "Redressing Reform Narratives: Victorian London's Street Markets and the Informal Supply Lines of Urban Modernity," The London Journal, Vol 41, No. 1, 2006, pp 64–65
- [Squalors' Market] in Social Investigation/Journalism - Unsentimental Journeys; or Byways of the Modern Babylon, James Greenwood (1867); accessed 13 April 2009