Britain’s first female dentist could have a building named after her at former Holloway prison site

The former prison garden at Holloway is now overgrown. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Britain’s first female dentist could have a building or street named after her on the site of the former Holloway prison.

Lilian Lindsay, who lived nearby before her death in 1960, was forced to stand on the pavement during an unsuccessful interview at a London dental school because women were not allowed inside the building.

She is one of the Islington residents whose names have been put forward by housing association Peabody, which is redeveloping the former prison. It wants to know if residents think buildings or streets should be named after Islington women.

The housing association will build 15 towers up to 14 storeys high after purchaing the site for £81.5m from the Ministry of Justice in 2019.

The controversial plans include 570 flats for private sale, 415 affordable or shared ownership homes, a centre to help women rebuild their lives after prison, and a park.

Campaigners say the towers are too high and that some breach council policy on height, and they also want more space for a building that reflects the site’s history as Europe’s largest women’s prison.

Work is likely to start in October and Peabody wants to hear suggestions for names from residents.

It canvassed their views at an event where it gave away 250 plant cuttings from the prison gardens to residents, former prison staff, and gardening enthusiasts.

Cuttings included roses, hydrangea, ivy, smoke bush, and eunoymous.

It is hoped they will take root around Islington and residents will be invited to donate cuttings when a park is developed on the site.

What the new development could look like

The current prison gardens, which have become overgrown since the jail closed in 2016, will be demolished as part of the redevelopment.

Peabody also wants to know what themes residents think they should use for inspiration when naming new buildings or roads.

These could include women’s rights, the silver screens of Holloway Road, the prison gardens, Islington’s history, the natural world, or women connected with Islington.

This is why Lilian Lindsay’s name could feature at the new estate.

Undeterred by her unsuccessful London interview, Lindsay went on to train as a dentist in Edinburgh, before opening her dental practice in 69 Hornsey Rise in 1865 when she became the first qualified female dentist.

A blue plaque recording her achievements was erected on her childhood home in Hungerford Way, not far from the Victorian prison. The house was later pulled down without planning permission. Islington Council slapped a £60,000 fine on the developer.

A new blue plaque in Russell Square marks where she lived above the British Dental Association. She was the trade body’s first female president and pioneered studies in the history of dentistry.

Entertainer Gracie Fields is another Islington celebrity who could be immortalised on the estate.

Her home in Upper Street has a blue plaque and it is close to the Collins Music Hall – now Waterstones on Islington Green – where she made her London debut.

The Rochdale-born actress and singer also lived for a time in Myddleton Square.

She made her name in the music halls and on the West End stage and “our Gracie” is famous for her film Sally in Our Alley.  A succession of hit movies in the 1930s followed and she was the biggest UK box office star.

The plaque on Upper Street was unveiled in 2011.