1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Finsbury

FINSBURY, a central metropolitan borough of London, England, bounded N. by Islington, E. by Shoreditch, S. by the city of London and W. by Holborn and St Pancras. Pop. (1901) 101,463. The principal thoroughfares are Pentonville Road, from King’s Cross east to the Angel, Islington, continuing E. and S. in City Road and S. again to the City in Moorgate Street; Clerkenwell Road and Old Street, crossing the centre from W. to E., King’s Cross Road running S.E. into Farringdon Road, and so to the City; St John Street and Road and Goswell Road (the residence of Dickens’ Pickwick) running S. from the Angel towards the City; and Rosebery Avenue running S.W. from St John Street into Holborn. The commercial character of the City extends into the southern part of the borough; the residential houses are mostly those of artisans. Local industries include working in precious metals, watch-making, printing and paper-making.

An early form of the name is Vynesbury, but the derivation is not known. The place was supposed by some to take name from an extensive fen, a part of which, commonly known as Moorfields (cf. Moorgate Street), was drained in the 16th century and subsequently laid out as public grounds. It was a frequent resort of Pepys, who mentions its houses of entertainment and the wrestling and other pastimes carried on, also that it furnished a refuge for many of those whose houses were destroyed in the fire of London in 1666. Bookstalls and other booths were numerous at a somewhat later date. The borough includes the parish of Clerkenwell (q.v.), a locality of considerable historic interest, including the former priory of St John, Clerkenwell, of which the gateway and other traces remain. Among several other sites and buildings of historical interest the Charterhouse (q.v.) west of Aldersgate Street, stands first, originally a Carthusian monastery, subsequently a hospital and a school out of which grew the famous public school at Godalming. Bunhill Fields, City Road, was used by the Dissenters as a burial-place from the middle of the 17th century until 1832. Among eminent persons interred here are John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, Susanna, mother of John and Charles Wesley, and George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends. A neighbouring chapel is intimately associated with the Wesleys, and the house of John Wesley is opened as a museum bearing his name. Many victims of the plague were buried in a pit neighbouring to these fields, near the junction of Goswell Road and Old Street. To the south of the fields lies the Artillery Ground, the training ground of the Honourable Artillery Company, so occupied since 1641, with barracks and armoury. Sadler’s Wells theatre, Rosebery Avenue, dating as a place of entertainment from 1683, preserves the name of a fashionable medicinal spring, music room and theatre, the last most notable in its connexion with the names of Joseph Grimaldi the clown and Samuel Phelps. Other institutions are the technical college, Leonard Street, and St Mark’s, St Luke’s and the Royal chest hospitals. At Mount Pleasant is the parcels department of the general post office, and at Clerkenwell Green the sessions house for the county of London (north side of the Thames). Adjacent to Rosebery Avenue are reservoirs of the New River Head. The municipal borough coincides with the east and central divisions of the parliamentary borough of Finsbury, each returning one member. The borough council consists of a mayor, 9 aldermen and 54 councillors. Area, 589.1 acres.