The rapid growth of industrial London in the 19th Century saw the green fields north of Kings Cross and West of Upper Street Islington gradually transformed into leafy squares and terraced streets. The villages and hamlets which defined the area were swallowed up. Though the substantial three or four storeyed terraces were built for wealthy inhabitants the social status of many of the streets quickly declined. Those who could moved further away, seeking fresh air and green spaces.
All Saints Church at Battle Bridge opened in 1837. St Andrews Church was consecrated in 1854. A number of other parish churches including St Thomas, St. Matthias, and Holy Trinity (all now retired) were built to serve the populous.
Pollution, overcrowding, lack of social and sanitary infrastructure all took its toll on the area through the Victorian era. Serious overcrowding led the borough council to begin rebuilding parts of the area in the 1930’s. Bombing during the Second World War destroyed many houses, particularly north of Copenhagen Street and west of Caledonian Road, and the borough council began large-scale rebuilding of high rise estates.
In the 1960’s a new generation of young professionals began to inhabit the area. The gentrification of Barnsbury was noticed by the national press. The term ‘supergentrification’ was used by the Times to describe the successive waves of restoration which took place, and the displacement of the former tenants. This left the parish polarised. The very wealthy on the east of Caledonian Road, serious social marginalisation of the west side. The local churches are one of the very few places that bridge that divide.
The Barnsbury Team ministry was formed when St Andrews and All Saints were united in 1975. In 1994 Church on the Corner was opened in the old Edward VIIth pub on Copenhagen Street.
The three churches work closely together. Each has a distinct ministry and mission. St Andrews parish primary School is a success story, welcoming children from across the spectrum of the parish, and recently receiving an outstanding OFSTED report.
The parish is not unique in the problems it faces, but perhaps is an extreme. High crime rates, high levels of social exclusion, fragmented community cohesion. But rather than being hidden away, this all exists within a short walk of the journalists, lawyers and politicians who inhabit the leafy squares of Islington.