The Thornhill Estate in London was laid out between 1810-49 by Joseph Kay on land owned by the Thornhill family. The family originated in Yorkshire, moving to Diddington Manor in 1730. Their property portfolio was extensive, and included 86 acres in Islington – most of Barnsbury. The London estate was let out for dairy farming but the family decided to develop housing when London expanded explosively in the early 1800s. Family interest in the estate died with Captain Noel Thornhill in 1955.
The gardens are really more like a park, and now ‘..an area of local importance to nature conservation..’, with plane trees dating back to the original plantings of 1852. The gardens were finally opened to the public in 1946, by the last family member, Captain Noel Thornhill.
St Andrews Church, at the northern end, in the curve of Thornhill Crescent, was designed by Francis B Newman and John Johnson and built between 1852-54. The land was donated by George Thornhill and the church was consecrated by the Lord Mayor of London – clearly an influential family. It is the largest church in Islington.
The West Library was designed by Beresford Pite, 1905-7, and paid for by Andrew Carnegie, one of five libraries funded by him in Islington! Letters from the alphabet are engraved above the windows.
Barnsbury Wood, just outside the north side of the square, is original countryside, undeveloped and closed apart from two hours on Tuesdays.