Campbell Road: 'The Worst Street in North London'

To its respectable neighbours Campbell Road was easily identifiable as the roughest street in north London. As Jerry White argues here, to its residents this reality was more complex...

It has long been recognised by social scientists that space bears an important relationship to community feelings. The layout of buildings in streets or blocks or estates can help or hinder the sense of both belonging and separateness which are characteristic of community.

I want to look here at space – as spatial relationship – in a London 'slum' street between the wars. This was Campbell Road, Finsbury Park, known by middle-class outsiders from the 1890s to the 1930s as 'the worst street in north London'. It was a classically 'rough' community, of the sort which lives on in local popular memory to this day although in this case the street was demolished a generation ago. It was exceptional among many similar areas in comprising just a single street, so that the apparent boundaries of this particular 'slum' were unusually well-defined. It contrasted vividly with parallel streets that looked similar, were built at about the same time and for the same sort of people, but were always occupied by more respectable working-class communities.

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