London. EC1. Islington.
New Kids on the block
Clerkenwell has one of the richest histories in all of London. Originally the base for the knights of St John, the historic St John’s Square HQ is now home to the St John Ambulance – a perfectly apt succession! The area was heavily utilized during the industrial revolution and a number of breweries, distilleries, print and watch making industries flourished. To this day some small watchmaker’s workshops still survive as well as printing houses (particularly useful for the new wave of design companies). During the 1860s – 1950’s, a time of great poverty in Southern Italy and Sicily the area became home to many Italian immigrants seeking a new and more prosperous life. St Peter’s Italian Church and the Italian center is still at the heart their community and their descendant’s lives.
Decline to Renaissance
After the second world War the area suffered a decline and didn’t feature on anyone’s “must see” list of London until the 1980’s/90’s when the area had somewhat of a renaissance and many of the disused warehouses from the golden age were restored to their former glory in the guise of trendy loft apartments. At this time the area was still very much undiscovered by businesses so residents of these affordable, vast and often stunningly designed lofts must have felt like they were living in a kind of New York loft movie set!
As a child, I remember Clerkenwell as a slightly lonely place, questionable underground cinemas and decaying warehouse -style buildings. The last 10 years have seen the area has flourish dramatically and its daytime footflow has increased tenfold. The principle business here these days is Design with a capital D! This in turn has led to a plethora of stylish new restaurants, bars and hotels opening and a very individual village atmosphere prevails.
However, many of the senses are still tricked into thinking time’s stood still, venturing down to Smithfield meat market early on a weekday morning or wandering down the alleys of Cloth Fair and graveyard of St Bartholomew’s the Great (one of London’s oldest churches built in 1123) on a dark night!
Perfectly situated between the West End and City, Clerkenwell is bordered by St Bartholomew’s and Smithfield to the South, Grays Inn Road to the West, Goswell Road to the East and Roseberry Avenue to the North.
Highlights and Attractions
Clerkenwell’s vibe is Arty and Cultural. Once a year Clerkenwell Design Week runs (usually in May) – a great time to visit hundreds of exhibitions, showrooms and displays. A short hop away is Barbican Arts Centre, a world class venue with theatre, cinema, exhibitions, restaurants and a library. Italian heritage is kept alive with the annual Processione della Madonna del Carmine which sets off from St Peter’s Italian church the first Sunday after 16th July – Little Italy’s most important event.
Sadlers Wells Theatre on Rosebury Avenue is London’s flagship venue for contemporary dance. Particularly popular for the annual Flamenco festival held during February.
World famous St John’s Restaurant heralded a change in Clerkenwell with it’s opening in the 1990’s. Well renowned chef, Fergus Henderson’s offal dishes are particularly popular with the likes of Kate Moss and Tracey Emin.
Exmouth Market is the new stop for the trendy (but not too cool) set. Independent boutiques are bordered by popular restaurants plus a weekly food market on a Friday.
Weekdays are lively and creative. High end design showrooms and branding/design companies dominate the area with creative workers illuminating the bars until midnight. Weekends are much quieter and more villagey in feel, yet stroll towards the Clerkenwell Road or down St John Street onto Smithfield Market and party-goers and clubbers will be propping up the bars and drinking on the pavements.
A great mix of venue genres allows for evenings to be lively or perfect for a quiet drink depending on the numerous choice of locations!
If you do see a large crowd floating towards you in the street this will be one of the numerous organized walks such as ‘Dickens and London”, ‘Murders, monasteries and Martyrs” and ‘Radicals, religion and rivers’
Glamorous setting for a cocktail: The Zetter Townhouse, 49 St John’s Square EC1V 4JJ
Authentic Italian lunchtime treat: Piada, 12-14 St John Street, EC1M 4AY
Best Burger: Giant Robot, 45-47 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RS
New York Style eaterie: Caravan, 11-13 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QD
Step back in time: The Jerusalem Tavern, 55 Britton Street, EC1M 5UQ
Because you must: St John’s Restaurant, 26 St John Street, EC1M 4AY
The Workstation – hipster coffee & mouth-wateringly tasty treats, 27 Clerkenwell Road EC1M 5RN
Burger and Lobster – the newest addition to the Mayfair staple, 40 St John Street, EC1M 4AY
+ Location Location Location!
+ Visually attractive architecture – many buildings are Italianate in style. Some of the most sought after streets are Georgian.
+ Good transport links (set to improve when crossrail is completed in 2018)
+ Stylish restaurants and bars
+ Good mix of village atmosphere yet so close to everything
+ Loft Apartment living
+ Mixed community (long established locals , boho types, professionals)
– Influx of businesses has made it busier and less tranquil
– Lacking in green spaces
– No secondary schools in Clerkenwell itself
View Larger Map
Farringdon (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City Lines)
Angel (Northern Line) a short walk away
Chancery Lane (Central Line) a short walk away
Farringdon Station – First Capital Connect Services to Gatwick Airport, Luton Airport, Brighton, South London, St Albans and part of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire
£10 to the West End (Soho/Oxford Circus)
£8 to the City (Moorgate)
Buses 55, 274, 253, 4, 17, 45 all serve the area. (Linking Clerkenwell with areas such as Hackney, Finsbury Pk, Oxford Street, St Pauls, Elephant and Castle, Shoreditch)
– Hugh Myddelton: Myddelton Street, EC1R 1YJ
– St Luke’s C of E Primary School: Radnor Street EC1V 3SJ
– St Peter and Paul RC Primary School: Compton Street, EC1V 0EU
– Clerkenwell Parochial C of E Primary School: AMwell Street, London EC1R 1UN
– St Alban’s C of E Primary School: Baldwins Gardens, EC1N 7SD
– The Charterhouse Square School: 40 Charterhouse Square, EC1M 6EA. (Independent school for boys & girls aged 3-11)
– City of London School for Girls: St Giles Terrace, Barbican, EC2Y 8BB. (Independent primary and secondary school)
– Central Foundation Boy’s School: Cowper Street, EC2A 4SH
– Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts: 23 Goswell Road, EC1M 7AJ
Anthony Horowitz (novelist and screenwriter)
Zaha Hadid (Architect)
David Thewlis (Actor)
Oliver Cromwell (Soldier & Statesman)