Welcome to the Islington & Clerkenwell Guides, August newsletter, with a comprehensive range of walks and tours to explore in the coming months, starting with:
The Regent’s Canal – Islington to Kingsland Road
This walk winds along the Regent’s Canal through north/north east London from Islington to Hackney. It is varied, picturesque, passes the route of an even older waterway from 1613 and ends at the Roman Ermine Street. We will see busy working locks, repurposed factories including film and photography studios, charming canal barges, old horse stables and much more.
This walk is organised by and in aid of the Inland Waterways Association, then led by volunteer qualified Islington guide Lesley. Reservation strongly recommended and you can also turn up on the day – cash and cards accepted.
The walk is on Sunday August 27th, 2.30 – 4.30pm, and details and booking can be found at this link.
Clerkenwell’s Lost Monasteries
This year Bart’s Hospital is celebrating its 900th anniversary on the same site that it was founded in 1123. It was originally part of St Bartholomew’s Priory, founded by a courtier of Henry 1 in thanks for surviving a bout of malaria while on pilgrimage to Rome. St Bartholomew’s was only one of four great religious houses in Clerkenwell that flourished for hundreds of years until Henry VIII closed them down. Come and see what is left of these once rich and influential priories and hear their stories – including the priors who lost their heads, the monks who went to war and the secret tunnels. Three of the Priories – St Bartholomew’s, The Charterhouse and the Order of St John – have a flourishing legacy to this day. Our tour does not go inside the surviving buildings but there are free museums that you can visit at both The Charterhouse and St John’s Gate and both also offer guided tours of their historic interiors. The tour meets at Farringdon Tube station. It takes about two hours and finishes with a visit to the Clerk’s Well which gave Clerkenwell its name.
Walk Dates: 10th August 2023 6pm, 26th August 2023 2pm, 6th September 2023 2pm, 16th September 2023 2pm, 30th September 2023 2pm and the walk can be booked at this link.
Since the middle-ages, when religious pageants were held on the banks of the River Fleet and entertainers performed at the annual Bartholomew’s Fair, Clerkenwell has been a part of London steeped in cultural history.
Theatre, literature, music, film, architecture, food, sculpture and visual art spanning the last 900 years are all covered as we wander the streets and alleys of this atmospheric neighbourhood.
In addition to following in the footsteps of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, along the way you’ll hear how William Morris, Agatha Christie, Vladimir Lenin, William Hogarth and Benjamin Franklin have all left their mark on Clerkenwell.
In London’s oldest parish church you’ll see a striking sculpture by one of Britain’s most controversial artists. Down hidden alleyways you’ll find out about one of London’s great 17th-century theatres, a pioneering architectural partnership and an unsung champion of classical music. You’ll also see why this historic area has been a location for some of Hollywood’s biggest movies. And you’ll get the chance to see close-up the site that gave Clerkenwell its name.
The tour lasts about 2 hours. It starts outside Barbican underground station (Hammersmith & City line) and ends at Farringdon station.
Walk Date: Friday 11 August 3pm. More details and booking can be found at this link.
Islington’s Big Screens
A guided walk through more than 100 years of cinema-going in Islington, taking in cinemas past and present.
We’ll encounter Victorian showmen, architectural wonders and tales of bad behaviour in the stalls. Come to discover hidden gems and hear what a night ‘at the flicks’ was like decades before multiplexes. In addition to such landmarks as the Screen on the Green, you’ll see some buildings that were once cinemas as well as a few intriguing places where all trace of their cinematic past has vanished.
The walk lasts about 2 hours, starts at Angel station and ends near Essex Road station.
Walk Date: Saturday 12 August 11am. More details and booking can be found at this link.
Forgotten Fun: Islington’s Lost Entertainments
On this two-hour tour we’ll be walking through the many ways that Islington has met that most unusual of human needs: the need to have fun.
Fun, like all culture, is subject to the whims of fashion, and Islington is littered with traces of activities and institutions that have gone from ubiquity to obscurity. We’ll explore Islington’s time as a land of pastoral excess; the antics of various rock-n’-rollers; the food; the fads; and the fights.
The walk begins outside Angel station and ends near Highbury and Islington station. Due to some mature themes, the walk is recommended for ages 15+.
Walk Date: 5th August 2023 11:00
10th August 2023 15:00
20th August 2023 14:30
2nd September 2023 15:00
9th September 2023 13:30
Caledonian Tower Tours
Tours take place on Saturdays and, during the summer, on some weekday evenings. The Saturday Tours cover the history of the Tower and Park while the weekday tours are shorter looking at the Clock and its mechanisms as well as affording the views from the top of the Tower.
Our guided tours are led by highly experienced guides from Islington Guided Walks. Tours are free currently as part of our introductory offer. Space will be strictly limited to 10 places so please book in advance. We will be operating a waiting list due to high demand.
I ticket is required per person (this includes children over 10. No ticket = no entry, if the tour is at capacity).
Dates are available during August and September. The booking link is here and the drop menu lists all available dates.
St Mary’s Church, Islington – A Guided Tour
Discover the history of Islington’s first parish church and enjoy a panoramic view across London from its 18th-century tower.
St Mary’s, Islington on Upper Street has played a central role in the history of Islington for a thousand years. During this time several different churches have stood on the site, leaving an eclectic range of architectural styles.
On this 90-minute guided tour you’ll learn about the 12th-century Norman church and its 15th-century medieval successor. In the 18th century it was completely rebuilt, lasting until 1940 when St Mary’s became the first London church to be destroyed in World War II. Only the tower and steeple survived the bomb; the main body of the church was rebuilt in 1956, a fascinating example of post-war reconstruction and design.
As well as providing a glimpse into the history of St Mary’s and how it has influenced Islington today, you’ll also have the opportunity to climb the 120 steps to the top of tower, giving you a bird’s-eye view over London.
Canonbury Tower Tour
Canonbury Tower was built in the late 16th century and is a rare survivor of Tudor domestic architecture in London. The Tower was added onto a manor house built in the early 1500s as the country retreat of the Canons of St Bartholomew’s Priory in Smithfield.
On this 90-minute tour you’ll see the existing Tudor interiors and hear about the many notable characters associated with the building. Over the centuries these have included Thomas Cromwell of Wolf Hall fame, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, Francis Bacon and the writers Washington Irving (Sleepy Hollow) and Oliver Goldsmith (The Vicar of Wakefield). You’ll also have the chance to climb up to the rooftop which affords wonderful views over London in all directions.
Canonbury Tower is owned by the Marquess of Northampton and has been in the same family since the 16th century. All visitors are guests of the seventh Marquess, Spencer Compton.
This tour takes place on multiple dates in August and September, and can be booked at this link.
We hope that you will find something of interest in these walks and tours. The next issue of the newsletter will be on Sunday the 3rd of September.