Clerkenwell lies north of The City and dates from the early 12th-century.
It grew up around the Benedictine nunnery of St. Mary and the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem. These buildings were demolished in 1536 during Henry VIII’s Reformation, and the land was given over to aristocratic families.
When the well-to-do moved out in the 16th-century, the area was taken over by traders. The Industrial Revolution brought small-scale works to the streets, and textile manufacturers sat side-by-side with metal plants. Merchants mixed with craftsmen – brewers, printers and jewellers mixed with every kind of trade imaginable.
These days many of the businesses are long gone, replaced by dull-fronted office blocks.
Smithfield has been associated with meat since at least Saxon times, when a cattle market gave birth to a thriving community outside the city walls. The encroaching city soon overtook the stink, blood and muck and led to its closure in 1855, and the cattle moved to Islington.
A watered down meat market survived, and Sir Horace Jones was commissioned to build the ironwork roof in 1866.
St. Bartholomew-the-Great is one of the oldest churches in London, dating back to Norman times. It was founded by one of Henry I’s courtiers in 1123, and became the parish church of Smithfield in the era of Henry VIII.
By the early 19th-century the building was little more than a ruin, and extensive repairs were necessary. A massive restoration project was undertaken in 1858, and the porch was added in 1893.
Charles Dickens lived at 15 different addresses during his lifetime, all of which have now been demolished – except the one in Clerkenwell. This four-storey building still stands in Doughty Street, and was his home between March 1837 and October 1839. It now houses the Dicken’s House Museum
It has been lovingly restored to resemble how it would have looked in the Victorian era, and contains some fine 19th-century paintings, pieces of Charles Dickens memorabilia, and a few of his original manuscripts.
If you enjoy this then try: Bloomsbury (walk it in 22 mins or catch a train from X to Bloomsbury).
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