Historic Clerkenwell London Walk: Clerkenwell, London EC1, is a lovely area to explore by foot at the weekend when the streets are quieter. I found The Clerkenwell Historic Trail PDF which I downloaded from Islington Council website. My walk is based on this route with a few variations and in a slightly different order. Most of the historic buildings are in Clerkenwell or close by (Farringdon). The trail begins and ends at Farringdon Station. You will discover that the Clerkenwell name comes from the Clerks’ Well where Parish Clerks would gather to perform biblical mystery plays and Sadler’s Wells is built on an ancient well. If you love London walks, or you’re looking for things to do in Clerkenwell you will appreciate this Historic Clerkenwell London Walk.
Historic Clerkenwell London Walk Highlights
Start your walk from the station where you can admire the original building which opened in 1863. It was the terminus for Metropolitan Railway, the world’s first underground metro line. The station was first called Farringdon Street. In 1865 it was called Farringdon and High Holborn. Walk to Farringdon Lane to find the Clerks’ Well.
Clerks’ Well, Clerks Court, 18-20 Farringdon Lane EC1R 3AU: A sacred or holy well connected to medieval miracle plays dating back to 1174. The well was uncovered during building works in 1924. You will notice a plaque on the wall, the well is in the building basement which you can see if you look through the window. Clerks’ Well is how Clerkenwell got its name.
Middlesex Sessions House, 22 Clerkenwell Green EC1R 0NA: Built in 1780 as the seat of the Middlesex Quarter Sessions of the justices of the peace, an urban and senior magistrates centre.
Marx Memorial Library and Workers’ School, 37A Clerkenwell Green EC1R 0DU: The library has thousands of printed books, pamphlets and newspapers referencing Marxism. The building is Grade II listed.
St James’s Church and Garden, Clerkenwell Close EC1R 0EA: The church dates back to the 12th century when it was the church of the nunnery of St. Mary. Henry VIII closed the nunnery in 1539. The church continued as Clerkenwell’s parish church. It was rebuilt in 1792 following designs by James Carr. A plaque on the fence calls it a Georgian church on medieval grounds. The surrounding green space is beautiful and a lovely place to sit down. If you walk around the church garden boundary, you will see some beautiful buildings.
School Board Stores, 27-31 Clerkenwell Close EC1R 0AT: Now the Clerkenwell Workshops, the building was once the school board store built in 1895-7, T.J. Bailey was the architect. You will notice words such as ‘Stationery Dept. on the stonework above the doors.
House of Detention, St James’s Walk: Look for the ‘School Keeper’ entrance. There is a staircase that leads down to the 9000 sq ft catacombs underneath the school playground. The prison opened in 1847 to hold prisoners awaiting trial. The prison was demolished in 1893 for the Hugh Myddleton School which is now a residential building. The catacombs can be hired for corporate events.
London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, Farringdon EC1R 0HB: The building contains books, documents, images, films, and maps about London. It is a free resource open to everyone. The building was previously a printing and binding works and office for Temple Press Ltd. The building was designed by F.W. Troup and H.R. Steele in 1937.
Spa Fields, Skinner Street, EC1 0WX: Have a sit down at Spa Fields Park. It is known for the Spa Fields Riots of 1816 when the Spenceans invited the radical speaker, Henry Hunt, to address the crowd.
Finsbury Health Centre, Pine Street EC1R 0LP: This is a Grade I listed building. It was designed by Berthold Lubetkin and the Tecton architecture practice and built in 1935-38.
Exmouth Market, EC1R: A lovely semi-pedestrianised street with restaurants, bars, cafes and shop plus outdoor food market. Stop off for food and beverages.
Church of the Holy Redeemer, 24 Exmouth Market EC1R 4QE: A beautiful 19th-century church by architect John Dando Sedding.
Finsbury Old Town Hall, Rosebery Avenue EC1R 4RP: Grade II listed building by architect William Charles Evans-Vaughan built in 1895. You can hire out the venue for events and weddings.
Laboratory Building, 177 Rosebery Avenue EC1R 4TW: Grade II listed Art Deco building designed by Stanley Hall and Easton and Robertson built in 1938. It sits on the site where one of the filter beds from the New River was. Freshwater was brought to London from near Wear Hertfordshire which became known as the New River. The building was used as the Water Board’s laboratory, research and offices. It has since been converted into flats.
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue EC1R 4TN: The present building is the sixth on this site dating back to 1683. It is a Grade II listed building. Richard Sadler opened a ‘Musick House’ in 1683 for vocal and instrumental concerts. The building is named after Richard Sadler and the monastic springs that served St John’s Priory Clerkenwell which was found on the site.
City University of London, Northampton Square EC1V 0HB: The CUL is a public research university. It was previously the Northampton Institute, named after the Marquess of Northampton who donated the land. The purpose of the institute was to provide education and welfare to local people. The building has Grade II listed status, built as the Northampton Institute 1894-6 to the designs of E.W Mountford.
Finsbury Bank for Savings, 18 and a Half Sekforde Street EC1R 0HL: The savings bank opened in 1816 on St John’s Square. It moved to Sketforde Street in 1841 and then to Goswell Road in 1961. Charles Dickens was a famous customer of the bank. It is a Grade II listed building dating back to 1840. The street has some lovely houses on, so take your time to look around.
Order of St John Church, Museum and Gate, St John’s Lane EC1M 4DA: A museum dedicated to the Order of St John, an international charity to provide humanitarian and medical support worldwide (St John Ambulance). It is housed in St John’s Gate. You can visit the museum (rare armour, ancient coins, etc.), garden and priory church which has a crypt and historic rooms upstairs. In the 1140s a Priory in Clerkenwell was launched as the headquarters for the Order. Over the years the buildings have been used for different purposes but is now a place where you can discover the history of the Order.
Smithfield Market: Grand Avenue EC1A 9PS: The famous meat market was previously a livestock market in the 10th century. Smithfield Market is housed inside a Victorian Grade II listed building with cover. The architect was Sir Horace Jones, and the building was completed in 1868.
You are back near Farringdon Station so you can return home from there.
Leisurely Historic Clerkenwell London Walk Information
Download The Clerkenwell Historic Trail Map before you go. You might want to read up on the area history on the Clerkenwell Wikipedia Page. For more photographs visit my Love Clerkenwell London Pinterest Board.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London and the picture of the St John Museum is from their website.
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