The Prince Landlady Eileen Christie shares her hopes and dreams
Eileen pictured as a child
Published: 15 June, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
A PROPERTY developer who owns a swathe of Caledonian Road will be seen on television next week bragging about how he flouts Islington’s planning laws.
Andrew Panayi is one of the key figures in the next episode of BBC2’s hit documentary series The Secret History of Our Streets – inspired by a survey of the social make-up of London’s streets by Charles Booth in 1886.
Next week’s episode is about Caledonian Road, and gives a fascinating insight into the history of the mile-and-a-bit long road from its beginnings as a hunting field in the 18th century through to its current up-and-coming status.
Along the way viewers will learn its history – as a working-class area whose residents – often at war with authority – worked in adjacent lead factories and slaughterhouses; as a red light district rife with drug abuse and crime and its fight to fend off the Channel tunnel rail link.
But most fascinating is one of the stars of the show, Mr Panayi. He arrived in England from Cyprus in 1985 with £60 in his pocket and is now worth millions.
A landlord for much of the street, he trails the camera around the flats he has squeezed onto extra floors, in backyards and underground, many built without planning permission.
“Build first and ask for permission later,” he says. His friend adds that town hall planners “bring out the crucifixes” when they hear his name because he disregards enforcement action and nothing is ever done – a claim Town Hall sources disputed to the Tribune.
Mr Panayi claims he has abided by the law in the past few years, however. The real star of the programme, however, is landlady Eileen Christie, who runs the Prince pub – also owned by Mr Panayi.
She was born in the area and said her only dream when young was to live in the Bemerton estate (built in 1970) and have children. Which she did. She describes how her father arrived from Jamaica in 1947 and rented a flat in Cally Road, saved his money and bought his own house. But then it was compulsorily purchased by the council to build Bemerton.
“My dad had four houses,” she says. “They were compulsorily purchased. He hated Labour because they took his houses off him. But if we still owned those housed they would be the same as in the Thornhill Square area – they would be worth about £2 million.
“But the houses were cold and damp and had no heating.”
Former slaughterhouse man Ray Hadland talks about the famous cattle market in Caledonian Park. And Norma Steele – born in the area in 1938 – recounts the story of the residents’ battle in the 1990s to stop the Channel tunnel rail link destroying their homes.
Eileen told the Tribune that the BBC approached her after attending the Cally Festival.
“I needed some talking into it,” she added.
She also revealed she is now in dispute with her landlord over an illegal partition to the pub. Mr Panayi had converted half the ground floor into residential flats without planning permission and now those tenants have complained about the noise.
“I’m having to sell up,” she said. “It’s not fair. The tenants are illegal and shouldn’t be there, yet because they are there the noise is too loud and I can’t run my business.”
The Town Hall said it was investigating “a breach of planning permission behind The Prince pub”.
• The Secret History of Our Streets is broadcast on BBC 2 on Wednesday at 9pm.