Day 14 – Clerkenwell – Finsbury – Farringdon Road

Pretty extensive route today; initially covering the eastern side of the Finsbury district between Goswell Road and St John Street then moving back into Clerkenwell and visiting the area east of Farringdon Road and north of Clerkenwell Road.

Day 14 Route

Before we get into that though here’s a quick update on overall progress so far (including today).

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So today’s excursion takes Sadler’s Wells as its starting point and begins by heading north on Arlington Way and after a quick diversion along Chadwell Street merges into St John Street up to the apex with Goswell Road. On the way we pass the Old Red Lion Theatre (currently showing a world premiere of Arthur Miller’s first play “No Villain”). Criss-cross between Goswell Road and St John Street using Owen Street and Friend Street. The latter then links via Hermit Street and Paget Street to Rawstorne Street. This is occupied along its southern side by the Brewers Buildings, constructed in the 1870’s in an act of philanthropy by the Brewer’s Company, one of London’s historic livery companies.

Back on Goswell Road nos. 338-346 form the site of Angel House, a former tobacco warehouse with a set of distinctive travel-related plaques on its frontage.

Spencer Street, Earlstoke Street and Wynyatt Street take us back again to St John Street and turning south here takes us to the main building of City University. The University was originally founded in 1894 as the Northampton Institute with the objective of promoting ‘the industrial skill, general knowledge, health and wellbeing of young men and women belonging to the poorer classes’. It achieved university status in 1966 by Royal Charter. At the moment City University is not one of the federal colleges of the University of London but it was announced this year (2105) that it will become so as from August 2016. Alumni include  the likes of Tony Blair and Michael Fish amongst their number.

The University buildings cluster around Northampton Square from which radiate Wyclif Street, Ashby Street and Sebastian Street.

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Next rung down is Percival Street which links, via Agdon Street and Cyrus Street, to Compton Street. This was the site of the Harrow public house from as far back as the 1760’s up to the late 1980’s. The building below dates from 1904-05, part of the Watney Combe Reid estate.

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Back on Goswell Road we encounter the design studio of the internationally-renowned architect Zaha Hadid (best known here for the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics). It’s not one of those places you can just pop into for a browse.

These days Clerkenwell is the main hub for London’s architecture and design studios and this is in full evidence in the cluster of streets around Brewery Square; Brewhouse Yard, Dallington Street, Pardon Street, Northburgh Street, Great Sutton Street and Berry Street.

Once these are out of the way we hit Clerkenwell Road itself

Head west until we reach St John’s Square, home to the Priory of the Order of St John. The origins of the Order and its mission to administer to the sick and injured lie as far back as 11th century Jerusalem. The Priory Church Clerkenwell was occupied by the Order from around 1140 to 1540 when, because of its association with the Catholic Church, the English branch was disbanded during the reign of Elizabeth I. Subsequently the building was put to a number of different uses, coffee house, pub, offices of the Master of the Revels, until the Order of St John in England was resurrected in 1888 by Royal Charter. Although it has other activities it is most prominent today in the guise of the St John’s Ambulance. Unfortunately, today both the museum and garden were closed (despite what is says on the sign).

 

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St John’s Square is also home to the rather twee Zetter TownHouse Hotel and this gravity-defying paean to petty crime.

Leave the square via Jerusalem Passage which leads into Aylesbury Street and from here go north along Woodbridge Street as far as Sekforde Street. Here we find the site of the one-time Finsbury Savings Bank and another Dickens connection; apparently he deposited some trust funds here in 1845. The bank was absorbed into the London Trustee Savings Bank around 1928 and this branch closed in 1960.

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Continue back to St John Street and then sharp right into Skinner Street which skirts Spa Fields Park. At the top end we cut back through the park to reach the apex of the dog-legged Northampton Row which is the location of the London Metropolitan Archives.

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This free resource is home to an extensive collection of documents, images, maps, books and films covering around 900 years of London’s history. Took the opportunity to apply for a History card and also look around the current (to 27 April 2016) exhibition on War in London. This includes some very sobering photographic archives showing the destruction caused by the bombing raids of both World Wars. As the image below dramatically reminds, St Pauls only survived WWII against some pretty considerable odds.

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At either end of Northampton Road lies Bowling Green Lane which segues into Corporation Row which runs along the back of the former Hugh Myddleton (that man again) School. There were separate entrance gates here for Boys, Girls and so-called Special Girls. This was not intended in the Jose Mourinho sense of the word I believe but probably alludes to the fact that there was a separate school of deaf and dumb children on the premises at one time.

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Turning right back into Woodbridge Street and again into Sans Walk brings us round to the front side of the building, now offices and flats (of course).

Head down St James Walk next and cut through St James’s Church Gardens to reach the two limbs of Clerkenwell Close on the eastern side of which sits the Peabody Estate, Pear Tree Court. This was one of six such estates built by the Peabody Trust in the late 1870s and 80s on sites cleared by the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Peabody Trust was one of the original London Housing Associations established in 1862 by the American Banker, George Peabody. It continues to fulfil that charitable mission to the present day.

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Also on Clerkenwell Close are former warehouses which were built in 1895–7 as the central stores of the London School Board. This is one of the several original entrances still visible today.

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Pear Tree Court leads out onto Farringdon Lane where we head south alongside the railway and past Vine Street Bridge. The sign in the picture below helpfully provides a number call if your vehicle should crash into the bridge.

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Ok so we’re on to the final lap of this one, left into Clerkenwell Road then up Clerkenwell Green and back onto Clerkenwell Close to take a closer look at St James’s Church. This has apparently been a religious site since the 12th century though the current church dates from 1792. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to get a look at the interior of the church, or its much vaunted crypt, on this occasion.

By way of compensation today’s Pub of the Day, the splendid Three Kings, is just across the road. A public house has occupied this spot since at least the 18th century, when it was originally known as the Three Johns. The somewhat unprepossessing exterior (blame a re-tiling job in 1938) is more than made up for by the splendidly idiosyncratic interior styling.

Until next time…

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Day 13 – Rosebery Avenue – Mount Pleasant – Gray’s Inn Road

Another short one today – just ticking the streets to the east of Gray’s Inn Road and north of Rosebery Avenue and finishing off with a look at the Post Office’s Mount Pleasant site and a sixties time capsule within Holborn Library.

Day 13 Route

Start off on Rosebery Avenue again; this time at the Old Finsbury Town Hall  the Grade II listed building originally known as the Vestry Hall at the time of its construction in 1895. The building is now occupied by the Urdang Academy performing arts school which unfortunately means there is no public access to see the interior art nouveau detailing which it is best known for. You can however see the influence of that style in the glass and wrought iron canopy over the entrance.

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A little way further north turn right down Gloucester Way right by the Finsbury War Monument with its extravagant angel, created by Thomas Rudge in 1921.

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Then we go west again along Myddleton Street which brings us to the junction of Rosoman Avenue and Exmouth Market. The latter is worth a visit for its selection of independent stores and bar/restaurants; and for the gentlemen there is an opportunity for recoiffeuring at “Barber Streisand” (no stop you’re killing me !).

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Exmouth Market also houses the entrance to another listed late 19th century building, the Italianate-styled Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer.

 

Take a left down Pine Street then cut through Vineyard Walk onto Farringdon Road and back up to Rosebery Avenue. This time we turn north on Tysoe Street into Wilmington Square. On the west side take in Attneave Street and Easton Street before leaving via Yardley Street. The passage at the top end of the square fronts another archetypal Georgian terrace and emerges opposite Charles Rowan House (see previous post).

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Follow Margery Street back down to the point at which King’s Cross Road changes into Farringdon Road then head north-east up Lloyd Baker Street. A circuit of Lloyd Square, Wharton Street, Granville Street and Granville Square returns us to the same point. This time we go west along Calthorpe Street which id on the north side of the vast Mount Pleasant sorting office site. You can also get a view of the backside of 200 Gray’s Inn Road now the home of ITN Productions, the people behind the ITV news.

Pheonix Place flanks the west side and runs down to Mount Pleasant itself.

Mount Pleasant (officially known as the London Central Mail Centre) is the UK’s largest sorting office, a 12 acre site created in 1889 where the former Coldbath Fields Prison formerly stood. From 1927 to 2003 it was the central focus of the London Post Office Railway the PO’s own driverless, underground railway. In the picture above you can see the signage for one of the platforms. In 2014 mayor Boris Johnson gave the green light to a controversial proposal to build 700 new homes on a large portion of the site. Despite fierce local campaigning for affordable housing it now seems inevitable that most of this new build will comprise yet more luxury flats. As a reminder, Royal Mail was privatised in 2013. The sorting office operations, employing 3,000 people, will continue beyond the re-development.

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Next we head back north on Gough Street thereby returning to Gray’s Inn Road. At no.238 the former premises of bedmakers, Litvinoff & Fawcett, was for a brief time a couple of years ago squatted by the Occupy Movement and proclaimed as a Bank of Ideas.

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Beyond Coley Street is the aforementioned no.200. Now ITN’s HQ this was in a previous incarnation the location of the offices of the Times and the Sunday Times and also housed those papers’ printing presses in the basement. The current building was the result of a 1990 redevelopment.

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Loop east down Elm Street and back up the remaining section of Mount Pleasant before crossing Gray’s Inn and making a circuit of Kings Mews, North Mews and John Street to arrive back on Theobalds Road.

This is the location of Holborn Library, dating from 1960 and one of the earliest examples of the now oft-maligned modernist architectural designs of the sixties. Unfortunately the part of the building really worth seeing, the third floor, is only accessible when hosting special exhibitions (such as the one by Artangel in 2014). There used to be a 250-seat lecture theatre, also used for film screenings, on this level. Although now only partially used as offices the rooms here remain a symphony in wood panelling.

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