As part of Islington Irish Month, we are collaborating with London Met University’s Archive of the Irish in Britain.
Each week through March, we will share a digital item from the archive with some commentary from the Special Collections team.
To find out more or to visit the Archive, click here.
St Joseph’s RC Church on Highgate Hill – with its striking green copper cupolas and mix of Romanesque and Byzantine styles – has been a focal point for the area’s Irish community since the late C19th. Its magnificent pipe organ (a 4-manual, Grade I listed instrument from the firm of William Hill & Sons) was installed in 1948 as a memorial to residents of Islington who had lost their lives during WWII. However, this is not where the instrument started its life.
Mr Henry A. Tufnell (of the family that gives Tufnell Park its name) was a member of the first Governing Body of the Northern Polytechnic – one of London Metropolitan University’s main precursor institutions – and it was he that had gifted the instrument to the institution in 1898. It was situated within the Polytechnic’s impressive Great Hall which, from the beginning of the C20th, was a well-patronised centre of local entertainment; opened in July 1897 and with seating for 1300. Here, there were regular programmes offered by the Polytechnic’s Operatic Society, its Modern Symphony Orchestra and its Repertory Company from as early as 1912 until the 1980s.
(LH) contemporary photo of the organ in situ in the Great Hall ca. 1904, from London Met’s Special Collections. Special Collections.