Catalogue entry

T02366 THE ROYAL MAIL COACHES FOR THE NORTH LEAVING THE ANGEL, ISLINGTON 1827

Inscribed ‘J. Pollard 1827’ bottom right of centre
Oil on canvas, 40 5/8 × 57 5/8 (103 × 146.5)
Presented by Mr Paul Mellon KBE through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
Prov: ...; Colonel Wetherly, sold Christie's 26 July 1902 (38); Sir Walter Gilbey, sold Christie's 12 March 1910 (125), bt. Agnew; W. Lockett Agnew; ...; anon. sale, Christie's 20 June 1975 (56, repr., and as frontispiece in colour), bt. John Baskett for Paul Mellon.
Lit: N.C. Selway, James Pollard, 1965, no.24, repr.; N. C. Selway, The Golden Age of Coaching and Sport, 1972, no.32; Egerton, 1978, p.272 no.296, repr.col. pl.35.

The mail coaches for the north, having started early in the evening from inns in the City of London, are seen making their first halt on the journey along the Great North Road at Islington to pick up more passengers.

The Angel Inn in Islington High Street is now at least three centuries old. Its name traditionally derives from a former sign depicting the angel of the annunciation with the Virgin Mary, the latter figure being removed as ‘popish’ during the seventeenth century. The neat Georgian building which Pollard depicts replaced the original in early in the nineteenth century, when development of this formerly rural outpost of London was rapid. Pevsner (London except the Cities of London and Westminster, 1952, p.237) quotes some ‘Suburban Sonnets’ published in Hone's Table Book, 1827:

‘Thy fields, fair Islington, begin to bear
Unwelcome buildings and unseemly piles;
The streets are spreading and the Lord knows where
Improvement's hand will spare the neighbouring stiles...’


Building was rapid over the next decade. In Oliver Twist, the first monthly instalment of which appeared in February 1837, Dickens describes Noah Claypole and Charlotte trudging into London by the Great North Road; arriving at The Angel at Islington, Noah ‘wisely judged, from the crowd of passengers and number of coaches, that London began in earnest’ (Oxford edition, 1949, p.319).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981