A church that lost its steeple! Islington Arts Factory’s historic home

Like many historic churches, this distinctive one now serves a valuable alternative purpose.   

Camden Road New Church, now home to Islington Arts Project

Camden Road New Church, as the picture shows, has a conspicuous lack of a steeple. In fact, it lost it in the 1990s due to corrosion. Fixing church spires is a costly business so, sadly perhaps, this is now the likely state for the foreseeable future!

The Camden Road New Church and Sunday School were both designed by architect Edward C Gosling and built for The Camden Road Society of the New Jerusalem Church in 1873-4. The Society, which originated in July 1787, comprised enthusiasts and followers of the writings of the international scholar and religious cleric Emanuel Swedenborg. Having sold their Chapel in Cross Street, Hatton Garden, the Swedenborgians moved here, after expanding their influence and followers. The New Church in Holloway was consecrated on 1 January 1874 by Reverend Rudolf L Tafel.

Due to the need for yet further expansion as the congregation grew even larger, the site was remodelled and extended in 1908 to a design by E G Trobridge. At this point it included a three-storey Verger’s Cottage, ground floor cloakrooms, an extended library and lecture hall. The cellar height was increased, a new furnace/fireplace and a new access to the church gallery were installed. It was given a grand entrance decorated with turquoise blue, green and white glass mosaic tiles on the floors, dados and stair risers and an impressive staircase with treads of white/grey marble. There was elaborate detailing, including a pair of new Honduras carved mahogany doors leading into the church, and the addition of a stained-glass top light to the old external door showing a sun rising through the clouds with the words NEW CHURCH inscribed above in ruby glass. It must have looked quite something in its day!

On expiry of the lease in 1954, the congregation merged with the Argyle Square Society of the New Church and moved to a site in High Barnet. The buildings were then altered and subdivided internally to accommodate its change of use to a boy’s youth club and community arts facility. 

Founded in 1977, the building now houses Islington Arts Factory. It is the only multi-arts community centre in the London Borough of Islington and provides over 50 educational courses in art, dance and music for children and adult learners. The centre has a philosophy that creativity should be undertaken for its own sake and that active involvement in the arts encourages positive personal growth throughout life and fosters social cohesion within the area.

A wide range of activities take place at the centre and they put on an annual montage, featuring everybody from their performing arts classes in a creative showcase. It regularly opens the Gallery to established and emerging artists, and mounts an open entry exhibition and children’s art exhibition annually. They also hold an annual fundraising art auction which helps support their work so they can continue to provide low-cost high-quality access to art, dance and music.

The choice of activities is varied and sometimes unusual (taxidermy was mentioned on their website recently!) It’s worth checking out – you may get inspired to take up something new.

 Find out more about upcoming guided walks in Islington and Clerkenwell at our website.