Around Clerkenwell

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.

Once the Crown and Woolpack
Once the Crown and Woolpack

This building looks like a Victorian pub and it was indeed a Victorian pub, but today it is occupied by a beauty salon.

Pub mosaic
Pub mosaic

At the side entrance, this mosaic identifies it as the Crown and Woolpack. In recent years many pubs have gone out of business.

Once the Empress of Russia
Once the Empress of Russia

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.

Window with decorative face
Window with decorative face

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.

This is not a park
This is not a park

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.

Don't bother me - I'm busy
Don’t bother me – I’m busy

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.

Coat of arms
Newer part Older part
Brewers Buildings, Rawstorne Street

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.

The old Gordon's Gin factory
The old Gordon’s Gin factory

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.)

Spencer Place Baptist Chapel
Spencer Place Baptist Chapel

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.

The bandstand, Northampton Square
The bandstand, Northampton Square

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.

Memorial drinking fountain
Memorial drinking fountain

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.

Memorial to Charles Clement Walker
Memorial to Charles Clement Walker

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.
1885.

Having enriched himself through industry begun in his native Clerkenwell, Walker gave money to charity and public works. He also laid out Wilmington Gardens.

Old Middlesex Sessions House
Old Middlesex Sessions House, Clerkenwell Green

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.

Justice
Justice

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.

Holborn Union Offices 1886
Holborn Union Offices 1886

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.

Cannon Brewery
Cannon Brewery

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!

Dancing among rubbish, Coman House, Finsbury Estate
Dancing among rubbish, Coman House, Finsbury Estate

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
This entry was posted in Out and About and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Around Clerkenwell

  1. WOL says:

    By the difference in color of the brickwork on the Spencer Place Baptist building, they took the roof off (and possibly a steeple?), so they could lay the joists to add the storey that is now the flat. The flat looks as though it has windows across the front to let in the natural light — which could be quite pleasant on a sunny day — depending on what’s across the street from it! Looks like it might have a bit of a balcony which might be a nice place to sit in fair weather. I like the arcitecture of the Holborn Union building. Nice tall windows. Might be fun to have a flat that included that hexagonal bit on the right side. Georgian architecture can be quite pleasing if it is not too austere.

    • SilverTiger says:

      You’re probably right about the alterations applied to the chapel. I hadn’t got that far in my thinking but your proposal makes sense.

      The Holborn Union building is now a block of flats so it’s quite possible that someone has a flat including the hexagonal bit.

      Georgian architecture is usually well proportioned and that takes away some of the severity, I think.

  2. If you look on the Gordons website timeline you’ll see production continued here until the mid 1980s (1984) when they moved to a new site in Essex. This particular building was rebuilt in 1957, but the original Gordons Gin factory had been on the same site since 1898.My interest goes back to 1976 when I lived on the 9th floor of the building just behind it ( Finsbury Hall of Residence, T.C.U.) & in the early daylight hours I would open my double glazed windows and breathe in the wonderful cool fresh air with aroma of gin-with occaissional background ring of crates of glass bottles being moved.The sound of Clerkenwell waking up and returning to life. Omnipresent through hot summer term days of revision!This was always a ‘tonic’ to the start of my student day. The smell of gin always triggers this memory.

    • SilverTiger says:

      Thanks for adding these useful and interesting details. I have added an update in the text pointing to your comment.

      I hope the post brought back some happy memories!

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Regarding the comment on the Gordons Gin building from 2002 it become a state of the art Data Centres housing a major network hub and thousands of computers, in 2004 it had a power outage (all backup systems failed) causing an outage to 40% of the internet UK traffic and email mostly effecting BT, AOL, Yahoo and some telco companies.

  4. Mrs 'ben' James says:

    Hello, There is mentioned in the 1881 Census for my late relatives 15 PAVED PLACE, SPENCERS PLACE. Do you have or know where I can get more information about this area please? many kind regards Ben James

    • SilverTiger says:

      I suggest you contact the Local History Centre, sited at the Finsbury branch of Islington Public Libraries. If they cannot help directly, they can suggest further sources of information.

Genuine comments are welcome. Spam and comments with commercial URLs will be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s