Welcome to the second Clerkenwell and Islington Guides monthly newsletter of walks and events.

Although we are now getting into winter, there are still plenty of opportunities to explore an aspect of the areas history, discover some fascinating buildings, and hear stories about the characters that have walked the streets of Clerkenwell and Islington, starting with:

Islington’s Big Screens: From Silents to Super-Cinemas – Wednesday 7th December

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

This walk is led by Nigel Smith and can be booked here.

Canonbury Tower Tour – Friday 9th December

Come and explore the inside and outside of one of Islington’s historic jewels – the Canonbury Tower.  Originally built in the early 1500s by Prior Bolton of St Bartholomew’s Priory as a summer retreat, the Tower has a fascinating history, and was owned by Thomas Cromwell (of Wolf Hall fame) and at one time occupied by novelist Oliver Goldsmith.  

The tour of Canonbury Tower is led by Islington Guides and can be booked here. New dates will also be added soon.

Burnings, Butchery and Black Death: A Walking Tour of London’s Bloody Past – 10th and 16th of December

Travel through a thousand years of history, meeting kings, body snatchers, Charles Dickens, an eighteenth century ghost, and William Wallace (and learn how he was in no fit state to shout “Freeeedoooommmm!” whilst being executed!)

On our walking tour we’ll visit the areas around Smithfield, for centuries London’s site of both animal and human slaughter. We’ll learn about how the city disposed of the tens of thousands of Black Death corpses in the fourteenth century, the execution methods used in the Middle Ages, and how the area became a notorious slum which Dickens used as the setting for Oliver Twist.

The walking tour begins outside Barbican Station, ends near to Farringdon Station, and will take around two hours. Total distance is about two miles.

This walk is let by Tom Currie and can be booked here.

The Only Way is Essex Road – Tuesday, 13th December 2022

Walk the full length of Essex Road, from Islington Green up to its junction with Balls Pond Road, just over one mile. Along the way we will stop to look at historical sites and marvel at how this important road into London has seen so much change throughout the centuries.

We’ll look at a variety of interesting buildings and developments that tell us about the history of this road, with references to entertainment, social housing, animal husbandry, royalty, sport and manufacture.

Find out about an innovative market, an early care home, alcoholic beverages, Georgian floor covering and Elizabethan establishments. See a cloned church, a Jazz Age café, an Egyptian Temple and the bones of a Victorian swimming pool.

It’s a marvellous mixed bag… but then so is Islington… and that’s why we love it.

The walk is led by Jane Parker and can be booked here.

Free Tours of St Mary’s Church and Tower with Clerkenwell and Islington Guided Walks – 13th & 20th December 2022

The specially curated tour will give you a glimpse into the history of St Mary’s, how it has influenced Islington today and will culminate with a trip up St Mary’s Church tower, giving you a bird’s eye view of London. Can you manage the 120 steps to the top?!

A tour of St Mary’s Church, including breath-taking views from the tower! Led by a qualified tour guide from Clerkenwell and Islington Guides, this tour of the church and tower will last around 75 minutes.

St Mary’s Islington on Upper Street has played a central role in the history of Islington for 1,000 years. During this time several different churches have stood on the site, leaving an eclectic range of architectural styles.

Learn about the 12th century Norman church and its 15th century medieval successor. Today’s splendid tower and steeple remain from the 18th century, while the neoclassical porch is early 20th century. The main body of the church is an interesting example of post World War II reconstruction, dating from 1956.

The tour will tell the fascinating story of St Mary’s and Islington. It will feature a rare opportunity to climb the 120 steps of the tower and see the fabulous 360 views across London.

The tour is free, but must be booked in advance as numbers are strictly limited to eight places. Please arrive 15 minutes before the start time and meet under the porch outside the front door to the church.

The 13th of December tour can be booked here and the 20th December tour can be booked here.

Islington’s Golden Mile – Saturday 17th December 2022

A wander along Upper Street looking at remnants of lovely old fronts in the form of doorway mosaics, curved glass and gilded signs.

Along this route, from Highbury Corner to Islington Green, you’ll see how Georgian houses were converted into fancy Victorian emporiums, complete with gilded signage, polished brass and decadent displays set within curved glass windows.

Learn how the street became a magnet for wealthy Victorians who came here to purchase handmade and luxurious goods. See evidence of, and hear about, umbrella makers, milliners, provisions stores, tea rooms, furriers, furnishers, tailors, toys and other novelties.

We will also be looking at how the street has evolved through the twentieth century.

The walk is led by Jane Parker and can be booked here.

Art Deco Holloway – Friday 23rd December 2022

We’ll look at some marvellous ‘statement’ architecture constructed in the interwar years during a design period that later came to be identified as ‘Art Deco’.

The modernist architecture of the Jazz Age era with its clean geometric lines, simplicity, functionality and minimal decorative enhancement was designed to impress and inspire – a kind of “understated showing-off” pointing to a positive bright future – a complete change from the fussiness and over-embellishments of the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Holloway continued to be one of north London’s major shopping and entertainment destinations and many of businesses here were keen to keep up with the designs of the time. This means there are some excellent examples of modernism and deco style hiding in plain view at almost at every junction. We’ll look at a cross section of buildings and styles, including places of entertainment, commerce and health as well as manufactories and housing developments.

The walk is led by Jane Parker and can be booked here.

Tour of the Clock Tower in Caledonian Park – Multiple Dates

The Clock Tower has recently been restored – both inside and out. The stairs, masonry and ironwork have all been carefully repaired and repainted and the clock itself has been cleaned.

Visitors will be able to see the large turret clock in action and enjoy breath-taking views of the city from the tower’s balustrade. You will find out about the history of the cattle market that stood on this site and the “Cally” market that preceded it.

The tour of the Clock Tower is led by Islington Guides and can be booked here.

The Charterhouse – Multiple Dates and Tours

The Charterhouse are running multiple tours, including their candlelit tours.

The Charterhouse are also offering Islington residents tour tickets for £1

Details and booking can be found here.

Our next newsletter will be issued in early January.