Lights Out: the Safety Curtain Falls


The Barn, as a pleasure ground, closed its doors in 1872 after the final tumultuous decade of Giovanelli and the short reign of Smith.  The tavern was rebuilt in the 1880s and stands there today.  The rampant housing boom swallowed the gardens.  Like for the other great pleasure gardens of London, the party was over.  But the memory is still alive.  

Vocals and piano: Richard Rhys O’Brien


Highbury Barn, desolate, a ruin amongst the weeds
Cats and dogs running around, where depravity used to feed
Windows all broken, thieves take what they can
Another pile of rubble, it’s broken many a man
The good burghers of Highbury, can now sleep in their beds
Hoping all the riff raff, go somewhere else instead
No more sin in Highbury, at least not on display
What goes on in private, no-one will say
Highbury Barn, Highbury Barn, started with cakes and ale
Story’s not quite over, [there’s] a little twist in the tale
Thousands of people had a good time, but then where did they go
Well they went to Highbury Corner, just down the road
There at Highbury Corner, people got up to speak
Soapbox for everyone, every day of the week
Famous all over London, rivalling Hyde Park
Place where you could have your say, a place where a dog could bark
Politicians of all hues, preachers and quacks
Socialists got arrested, blaspheming, things like that
But once again, like the Barn, it all got out of control
Too many people, too much noise, like the days of old
So if you find yourself in Highbury, [take a] stroll up to the Barn
There you will find the Tavern, still going after all this time
Wash down a meal with a pint of ale, it’s busy when there’s a game
But if you want the old Highbury Barn, all that’s left is the name
If you want to go dancing, or listen to a band
You’ll have to go somewhere else, to find your promised land
Highbury Barn, Highbury Barn, famous in its day
Highbury Barn, Highbury Barn, where we came out to play
It may have caused some trouble, it may have caused some strife
But singing and dancing, eating and drinking, that’s the stuff of life
You can see them today on Highbury Fields, where sausages get burnt
Looking back at history, are there lessons still to be learnt
So thank you for coming to Highbury Barn, but when you take your leave
Remember that in the neighbourhood, someone is trying to sleep.