What’s it all about?
Mentioned in Shakespeare’s sonnets and popping up in works by Charles Dickens, William Thackeray and William Morris, Clerkenwell has always been a hive of creativity. Today this is manifested in Clerkenwell’s thriving design sector, luring a trendy young crowd of professionals who thrive in this dynamic environment. At the weekend, residents make the most of the area’s bustling markets, restaurants and bars, while enjoying a quick commute to the heart of the City of London during the week. Catering to this demographic, property in Clerkenwell is mostly made up of modern, high end flats and apartments, many of which boast stunning views over London’s skyline. Despite this central location, proximity to Farringdon station means a quick weekend getaway is always an option.
- Some Clerkenwell pubs are licensed to open at dawn to serve people coming off the nightshift at Smithfields meat market. On weekdays The Hope opens at 6am and The Fox and Anchor at 7am.
- Clerkenwell Green was once a radical stronghold and the world’s first May Day march was held here in 1890. It remains the traditional meeting point for May Day gatherings.
- In Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, Fagin and the Artful Dodger teach Oliver how to pickpocket in Clerkenwell Green.
- Legend has it that Russian Bolsheviks Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin fomented revolution at what is now the Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green.
Architecture and property
Once a residential location for influential Londoners including Oliver Cromwell, the industrial revolution brought breweries, printing, watchmaking and other craft workshops to Clerkenwell. This heritage lives on, and these days the area is a design destination and has more creative businesses and architect firms per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Consequently it's become a bit of a mecca for young and trend conscious professionals to live.
There's been a livestock market in Smithfield for some 800 years, making this one of the oldest parts of London. Consequently there's a variety of property here, from 17th century properties around the market to listed inter and post war estates, like the Barbican. The vast majority of properties are flats or apartments, many of which are located in impressive contemporary developments. The Eagle, Chronicle Tower and 250 City Road are some of the best, while beautiful terraced Georgian and Victorian townhouses can be found on City Road and Chequer Street. There are also some 1960s estates – like Spa Green and Golden Lane, which are listed – and Victorian warehouse conversions. The picturesque flats in Brewery Square and Granville Square are highly sought after, as are the new mews houses on gated River Street.
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Eating: Clerkenwell residents are certainly not short of choice when it comes to dining options. The area has a thriving international food scene and restaurants like Polpo, St John Bar and Restaurant and Sushi Tetsu are rightly classed as some of the best in the Capital. What is often claimed to be the first gastropub, The Eagle on Farringdon Road is still going strong, now joined by many competitors including The Peasant and The Easton.
Markets: Clerkenwell is a foodie’s haven, home to three of London’s finest food markets. Exmouth Market is located in the heart of Clerkenwell, along a street lined with trendy cafes and restaurants like Caravan and Moro. Smithfield Market is the largest wholesale meat market in the UK. For the true Smithfield experience, visit early in the morning as the traders set up shop. Whitecross Street Market is popular with City workers looking for a tasty takeaway lunch. Leather Lane Market is home to an eclectic array of stalls, selling everything from handbags to freshly squeezed juices.
Culture: Sadler’s Wells Theatre is one of the world’s best contemporary dance venues and its cutting edge original performances draw half a million people to its shows every year. The nearby Barbican centre, meanwhile, can boast a large range of theatre, cinema, music and arts offerings. The award winning Clerkenwell Design Week showcases the best of local and international design in a series of annual events and exhibitions.
- As well as the area’s markets, Clerkenwell has branches of most major supermarkets, including a Waitrose on St John Street where you can even borrow glassware or a fish kettle for free when the occasion arises.
- Clerkenwell is home to one of London’s quirkiest libraries, the Marx Memorial Library, which has 46,000 volumes about Marxism and socialism and puts on several classes and lectures on related topics. For more general education, make for Finsbury Library on St John Street, home to the Islington Local History Centre and the Islington Museum.
- The area’s sports and leisure facilities are sure to attract even the most reluctant gym goer. Play at the outdoor football pitches at Finsbury Leisure Centre, relax in the Turkish baths following a dip in the pool at Ironmonger Row Baths or try a high intensity workout at Gymbox.
- Try Wildabout Flowers for the perfect bouquet to brighten up your home or the International Magic Shop for quirky presents.
- Clerkenwell locals looking to treat themselves make for The Rosebery Rooms day spa, while gents can enjoy friendly service at The Wacky Barber.
- The oldest Italian deli in England, Terroni of Clerkenwell was established in 1878 and is still going strong today, providing locals with all manner of authentic Italian produce.
Clerkenwell might be an urban neighbourhood but there are green spaces to be found if you know where to look. Spa Fields, tucked behind Exmouth Market, is a busy park with an unusual adventure playground providing an oasis of greenery in this central area. Popular with locals at weekends, the park is packed with office workers enjoying lunch al fresco during the working week. There are several other small gardens in the area, such as Myddelton Square Gardens and St James.
In the past 20 years Clerkenwell has been transformed from a mainly working area to a popular and desirable residential area. This is largely thanks to the impressive blocks of flats popping up throughout the neighbourhood, including Rosebery Avenue and Clerkenwell Quarter, where apartments are designed around a private landscaped garden. The Paramount Building is a converted warehouse with a great location on St John Street.
Tube: Farringdon station is the closest Tube station to Clerkenwell, although Angel, King’s Cross, Chancery Lane and Barbican stations are all nearby. Farringdon is in Zone 1 on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines. The other stations provide access to the Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria and Central Lines.
Rail: Farringdon is also a mainline railway station, where trains run to a variety of destinations including Bedford, Brighton, Luton and Sutton.
Bus: Clerkenwell’s central location means it has many bus routes running through it. These include the 17 (to London Bridge), 38 (to Victoria), 55 (to Oxford Circus) and the 243 and 341 (to Waterloo/Wood Green and Waterloo/Northumberland Park respectively), which are both 24 hour services.
Road: A short drive from the A1, meaning locals can be on the M1 in just half an hour.
Cycle: It’s just a 15 minute cycle to either London Bridge or Oxford Circus. There is a strong cycling community in the area, with some locals campaigning for a ‘Cycling Boulevard’ between Old Street and Bury Place running along Clerkenwell Road.
Getting away: For a quick break, locals can reach London City airport in half an hour by car or 50 minutes by public transport. Luton Airport is also easily accessible with Thameslink trains taking you there in under 40 minutes.
Of the many primary schools in the area, Clerkenwell Parochial CE Primary School, St Peter and St Paul Catholic Primary School and Christopher Hatton Primary School are popular choices. For secondary options, there is Central Foundation Boys School as well as several independent schools like Charterhouse Square School and City of London School for Girls. Clerkenwell’s Italia Conti of Theatre Arts is Britain’s oldest theatre arts training school and runs a variety of courses for children aged 10 to 16.
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