Day 22 (Part 1) – Finsbury – City Road – Old Street

Back out in the relative wilds today so managed to fit in two separate sections. Before we get into the first of those however here’s an update on the total area covered so far (including today’s double-header).

Route so far April 2016

First up today was the triangular area bounded by Goswell Road, City Road and Old Street, which is basically the Finsbury district of the Borough of Islington. It’s an area with a high concentration of social housing though the most northerly section is now succumbing to luxuryflatitis. Won’t be coming across any blue plaques today – anecdotally the most famous residents of this part of town appear to have been Arthur Mullard and the mother of the Kray twins.

Day 22 Route 1

So we kick off from the Angel tube station and head down City Road. After a hundred yards or so turn right into Wakley Street and then from Goswell Road return to City Road via Hall Street. From here you get one of the clearest impressions of the contrast between the shiny new private developments and the old public housing estates. To the rear on the right is Kestrel House – one of several blocks named after birds of prey.

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Turn right again down Pickard Street then do a circuit of Moreland Street. Here there is one of several graffiti’ed memoria to trainee plasterer Darren Neville who suffered a cardiac arrest while in police custody in 2015. I suspect that the other piece of graffiti which reads “We must learn to live beside each other as brothers or we will perish together as fools” is unrelated.

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Take a detour down Mason’s Place, which has a charm of sorts, to return again to City Road.

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Cross the road to get to City Road Basin which forms part of the Regent’s Canal and is the site of a huge luxury housing development scheduled to come on stream (so to speak) in the summer of 2016.

Next we make a brief foray north of City Road. First up is Wharf Road which is home to the adjacent art galleries, Parasol Unit and Victoria Miro both of which are between shows at the moment but are always worth checking out when open.

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From here we head east along Micawber Street then duck in and out of City Road via Thorseby Street, Windsor Terrace, Wellesley Terrace and finally Shepherdess Walk (which less poetically is also known as the B144). At the end of this latter, just next door to Shoreditch Police Station, is the Eagle public house; almost certainly the only pub to be mentioned in a nursery rhyme as in :

Up and down the City Road / In and out The Eagle / That’s the way the money goes / Pop ! Goes the Weasel

which was a verse added in 1856 for a variety performance at the Theatre Royal.

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Cross over to the Finsbury side again and taking a route via Dingley Place, Dingley Road, Macclesfield Street, President Street and Central Street arrive at Kings Square. This is the site of St Clement’s Church, completed in 1824 and now Grade II listed. Unlike most churches closer to the centre this isn’t accessible to the casual visitor.

 

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From here Lever Street returns to Goswell Road. This actually has a curry house called Ruby Murray – after the Northern Irish singer of the 1950’s who is now far better known as an example of nouveau cockney rhyming slang than for her recorded output which included seven UK top ten hits in 1955.

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Criss-cross between Goswell Road and Central Street using Seward Street, Pear Tree Street, Bastwick Street, Ludlow Street and Gee Street. The last of these borders the Stafford Cripps Estate built in the early 1950’s and named after Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (1889 – 1952), the Labour politician who was ambassador to the Soviet Union during WW2 and subsequently served in Clement Attlee’s immediate post-war government. The estate was also used as the location for a “bomb explosion” in a December 2015 episode of Luther.

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On to Old Street now which has been an important route out of the city since as far back as the 12th century. Even then it was known as Ealdestrate which morphed into Eldestrete before evolving into Oldestrete in the 1373 records.

Moving east we turn north again on Central Street and then take Mitchell Street to get to Helmet Row, at the southern end of which lies St Luke’s Church. Originally built in 1773 and partly designed by our old friend, Nicholas Hawksmoor, this Grade I listed building is now home to the London Symphony Orchestra’s community and music education  programmes.

The tomb shown in the picture above is dedicated to Thomas Hanbey, a Liveryman of the Ironmongers’ Company and a freeman of the Company of Cutlers (in Yorkshire). This was paid for by his wife Mary and replaced the original tomb sited there in commemoration of the Caslon family. Since she was a Caslon herself by birth there’s obviously a story behind this but her will remains stubbornly silent as to her precise motive.

Doubling back up Helmet Row we pass St Luke’s Garden (see bottom right above) to get to Norman Street. On the corner here stands the Ironmonger Row Baths, built in 1931 as a public wash house and later upgraded to a Turkish Bath. After a major (£17m) refurbishment the baths reopened in 2012 as a state-of-the-art leisure centre and spa but including a restoration of the original Turkish Baths.

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Next we head north on Ironmonger Row itself as far as Lever Street again. Then cut through Hull Street to get to Dingley Road where there is still an opportunity to see this advertisement for Black Cat Cigarettes before the adjacent development obscures it. The brand was introduced in 1904 by Carreras Ltd whose Camden factory we encountered back in the Day 2 post.

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Via Dingley Place back to Lever Street and on the corner with Mora Street another pub has fallen victim to residential redevelopment.

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There’s also evidence here of the impact of Storm Katie which passed through a few days ago. And yet another one of those damn pigeon photos.

Now we’re back yet again on City Road emerging by Moorfields Eye Hospital. Originally founded in 1805 as the London Dispensary for curing diseases of the Eye and Ear, the hospital moved to this site in 1899. It is the oldest and largest centre for ophthalmic treatment, teaching and research in Europe.

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That’s really the end of the sightseeing for today so it just remains to fill in the missing spaces which entails the sequential perambulation of Bath Street, Cayton Street, Baldwin Street, Peerless Street, Galway Street, Radnor Street and Bath Street again before briefly revisiting Old Street.

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And then finishing off with St Lukes Close, Mitchell Street, Bartholomew Square and Lizard Street to close the loop.

After tha I leg it back to Goswell Road for lunch at today’s pub of the day, The Old Ivy House. Another Shepherd Neame establishment where I enjoy a substantial Greek salad and a large glass of Pinot for a tenner.

Then it’s just a question of waiting for the bus to take me down to Holborn….

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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).

Covered So far copy

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…