In sickness &
Join me as we explore of the hidden history of one of London's lesser-known but fascinating neighbourhoods.
Clerkenwell is named after the Clerk's Well, which you can still spot if you know where to look. In the 18th century this area was a fashionable health spa, where the privileged few took the waters. But the place has a dark side too. By the 19th century the fashionable spa was long gone and Clerkenwell had become dominated by insanitary slum housing. Karl Marx observed the conditions of woking class Londoners and felt the place - and indeed the entire country - was ripe for revolution. The Marx Memorial Library is still there to this day, on Clerkenwell Green. Over the road is the former Middlesex Assizes Court. It was from here that may poor Londoners, convicted of minor offences, were committed for transportation for life to Australia.
Next to Clerkenwell is the ancient neighbourhood of Smithfield. It's dominated currently by its 1,000 year-old meat market but things are set to change as the old market is set to move out east of London. Part of the old market buildings have already been pledged to create a new-look Museum of London. Smithfield was traditionally a place of execution. Many were burned or boiled alive here, often for their religious faith. Perhaps the most famous execution in Clerkenwell was that of Braveheart's William Wallace. Wallace's memorial sits between the wall of St Bartholomew's - one of the world oldest hospitals - and the ancient church of St Bartholomew the Great. Our tour will contrast the dark and light of this area and unearth a few of its hidden secrets.