Welcome to the March issue of the Clerkenwell & Islington Guides newsletter of walks and events, which for this month includes a new tour of a rather unique Islington building, and as the weather is hopefully getting better, and the days lighter, we have a comprehensive listing of walks this month to tempt you out to explore the streets of Clerkenwell and Islington, starting with:

Union Chapel Tour

Union Chapel has towered over Upper Street in Islington since the 1870s and today thrives as an award-winning venue, homelessness project and a working radical church. On the tour you’ll see this architectural gem up close and discover the building’s fascinating history.

The Grade I listed Victorian Gothic Chapel is one of the largest Nonconformist churches in London. It houses an important Father Henry Willis organ that is one of few left in the UK with an original hydraulic blowing system, stunning stained glass windows and a distinctive octagonal interior built for acoustics and visibility.

Take a tour and learn more about Islington’s heritage, the Chapel’s triumphant survival after a wartime bomb, and the fascinating story of its near demolition in the 1980s, at a time when Victorian architecture was only just being appreciated. (Proceeds of the ticket prices go to helping keep Union Chapel open, safe, maintained for all and to support our local communities).

This tour takes place on the 6th of March at 12;00 and can be booked here.

Finsbury in Print: from Black Dwarf to Spare Rib

Finsbury’s narrow streets and courts provide the setting for many novels. We pass by novelist Arnold Bennetts’s Riceyman Steps, through George Gissing’s Nether World, see where Dickens’ Oliver Twist first met Mr Brownlow and meet the inspiration for Miss Haversham.
Closely associated with the print trade, Finsbury was also home to many magazines and journals, from the Gentleman’s Magazine of the 18th century, through Lenin’s Iskra to feminist Spare Rib in the 1970s with stories by Margaret Drabble and Edna O’Brien among others.

This walk takes place on the 8th of March at 11:00 and can be booked here, and on the 24th of March at 11:00, which can be booked here.

Islington’s Big Screens

A stroll through more than 100 years of Islington cinema-going; all between Angel and Essex Road stations. You’’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.

This walk takes place on the 15th of March at 11:00 and can be booked here (where future dates are also listed).

The Ups and Downs of Life in Medieval London

The 12th century cleric, William Fitzstephen wrote in glowing terms about London. However, on this walk we will discover both the ups and downs of life in Medieval London. Walking through Clerkenwell, Smithfield and ending in the City of London, find out about a variety of aspects of life from prayer to punishment and employment to entertainment. The walk starts at the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell where specially selected material from the archives relating to Medieval London will be available for you to view from 10am. The walk is led by Karen on behalf of The London Metropolitan Archives.

This walk takes place on the 27th of March at 10:00 and can be booked here.

Cultural Clerkenwell

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.

This walk takes place on the 20th of April at 14:30 and can be booked here, where future dates are also available.

Evolving Islington

In 1086 the Domesday Book reported that Islington contained just 27 households. Today its quarter-of-a-million residents live in an area that boasts world-class cultural venues but also less green space than any other London borough.

The story of how Islington developed over the centuries provides many tales of social, cultural and political history. The walk takes in many of central Islington’s most fascinating sites – some well-known and others even locals may not be familiar with.

You’ll see a Tudor house that’s been in the same family since the 16th century, the first church bombed in World War II and some of the pioneering homes built in the early 20th century as Islington’s population boomed. You’ll also find out how the world-famous Union Chapel got its name and why you should never graffiti in a library book… The tour lasts about 2 hours and starts at Highbury & Islington station.

This walk takes place on the 24th of April at 11:00 and can be booked here, where future dates are also available.

We hope you have found something of interest in the above listing.

New walks and new dates for existing walks are added to our walks calendar throughout the month, so please check our website between newsletters for new additions.

Our next newsletter will be on the first Sunday of April.