After breakfast at the Angel Inn (which is actually a cafe, not an inn), we went for a walk, starting by continuing down St John Street.
This building looks like a Victorian pub and it was indeed a Victorian pub, but today it is occupied by a beauty salon. At the side entrance, this mosaic identifies it as the Crown and Woolpack. In recent years many pubs have gone out of business.
Not very far away is “The Fish Shop on St John Street”, a fish restaurant, which was once the Empress of Russia, another dead pub, known as a venue for folk music in its day.
Much of the housing hereabouts consists of Georgian terraces, once town houses for families but nowadays mostly divided into flats or offices. Despite the similarity of design of groups of houses, many sport individual features and decorations, like the face above the window shown above.
In Hermit Street is this strange triangular space. It is not a park and not a garden, yet is does have some trees, ensconced behind railings and a locked gate. Perhaps it is opened in summer when it might be pleasant to sit under the trees.
There, too, we met this black and white cat who was apparently happy to sit outside despite the cold and showed no interest in our invitations to make friends.
This apartment block in Rawstorne Street, probably provided for workers, was built in three phases, 1871, 1876 and 1882, the later part in the photo on the left – one notices a simpler design of window gratings.
This is the old Gordon’s Gin factory in Goswell Road. It’s huge size is testimony to Londoners’ (and, indeed, a worldwide) thirst for gin. Today it houses offices and I know nothing of its history or when it ceased producing gin – a little research project for later, perhaps. (Update May 13th 2013: See the helpful comment below.)
According to the somewhat worn plaque, the foundation stone of this demure little building in Spencer Place was laid in 1868. Its founders perhaps expected it to endure until Judgement Day, but it is no longer a church. It has been turned to business use with a flat at the top, no doubt a more recent extension. It retains the quiet dignity of its Victorian design.
On a damp and very cold day like today, it is not surprising to find the parks, and even the streets, deserted. This garden is in Northampton Square.
This somewhat battered drinking fountain may not look much (though the tap produces water) but it in fact tells us the origins of the garden. The face you can see in the photo states that the garden was opened “for the use of the public” in 1885 by Lady Margaret Georgiana Graham, the daughter of the Marquess of Northampton.
Of more interest, perhaps, is the inscription on the other side of the fountain. It is now hard to decipher but reads as follows:
This public garden has been laid out and completed at the sole cost of Charles Clement Walker Esquire: of Lilleshall Old Hall Shropshire:
One of Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the Counties of Salop and Stafford, a native of the Parish of Clerkenwell, for the free use of the inhabitants thereof for health, recreation and enjoyment.
And in affectionate remembrance of his mother Agnes Walker, long resident in the parish.
Having enriched himself through industry begun in his native Clerkenwell, Walker gave money to charity and public works. He also laid out Wilmington Gardens.
If you didn’t know the purpose of this building, the round cartouche containing the beautifully sculpted representation of Justice would afford you a pretty strong clue. It was once the Middlesex Sessions House, a busy court, which included accommodation for resident judges and cells for prisoners awaiting trial. Today it is a conference centre.
This recalls one of the unhappier memories of the Victorian era. “Union” was often a synonym for the workhouse, where destitute unemployed debtors worked hard for their keep in conditions that we might today consider unnecessarily harsh. I am not sure whether this building actually was a workhouse itself, or just offices for the Holborn Union that ran a number of such establishments. We should be happy that the workhouse, along with the debtors’ prison, is now a thing of the past.
It was cold and my hands were beginning to ache, so we decided to catch the 153 at the stop opposite the Cannon Brewery in St John Street. In the 19th century this was one of the busiest breweries in the country and, if you look at the road surface under the archway, you will see traces of the ruts worn by the horse-drawn drays.
The Clerkenwell area contains many interesting sights, buildings and artifacts. We find new things every time we explore. I have shown only a fraction of the photos I took today, thinking this account already long enough!