Welcome to the February 2023 issue of the Clerkenwell and Islington Guides newsletter of walks and events for the coming months.

There are a bumper number of walks this month, so hopefully there are some that will be of interest as the days slowly get longer.

Islington Health and History Walks

Islington Guided Walks and Islington Council are pleased to be offering a series of free health and history walks in local parks. These offer the chance to stroll at a gentle pace and appreciate nature, whilst also hearing about fascinating local history.

These walks cover multiple locations and dates, and the first walk exploring Paradise Park and the ancient churchyard of St Mary Magdalene is on the 24th February

Islington Health and History Walks can be booked here.

Canonbury Tower Tour

There are multiple dates in February, March and April for the Canonbury Tower Tour, which includes the opportunity to see inside the oldest building in Islington and enjoy a magnificent view for miles over London from the roof of its tower.

The Canonbury Tower Tour can be booked here.

Evolving Islington

Discover how Islington developed from a rural settlement and centre for dairy farming into the diverse, bustling area it is today.

In 1086 the Domesday Book reported that Islington contained just 27 households. Today its quarter-of-a-million residents live in an area that’s often mocked as being the natural habitat of a wealthy ‘metropolitan elite’ but also has one of the highest percentages of child poverty in the country.

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 walk takes place on multiple dates, starting on Thursday the 16th of February, and the walk can be booked here.

Islington’s Big Screens: From Silents to Super-Cinemas

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 takes place on multiple dates, starting on Wednesday the 8th of February, and can be booked here.

Conserving Canonbury

Come on this walk to discover a green piece of Islington.

Canonbury was one of Islington’s earliest conservation areas; it’s also one of the greenest parts of the borough. On this walk we’ll explore its streets, square and hidden river. We’ll see one of the oldest buildings in Islington as well as a house that was listed before it was built. We’ll also consider how street furniture, paving and signage contribute to the character of this conservation area so we’ll be looking down as well as up!

The walk will last about 90 minutes. It starts outside the Union Chapel, a short walk from Highbury and Islington Station and finishes at Islington Town Hall on Upper Street.

This walk takes place on Wednesday the 22nd of February, and can be booked here.

Up and Down Upper Street: Angel and the Heart of Islington

At the heart of Islington is Upper Street, the borough’s main road and liveliest thoroughfare. Upper Street was once part of the main route for drovers bringing livestock into Smithfield Market in the City of London. Islington comprised Upper Street, Essex Road (formerly Lower Street/Lower Road) and a lot of fields until the 18th century.

The gateway to Upper Street is Angel, a name which has come to denote this whole quarter. On this walk from Angel station, you will gain insights into the street’s many facets.

This walk takes place on Sunday the 26th of February, and can be booked here.

Tour of the Clock Tower in Caledonian Park

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.

These tours are free and run on multiple dates in February and can be booked here.

Bleeding Hearts and Body Parts

Farringdon and Smithfields have always been associated with gore and bloodshed. For centuries, these two areas of London were the sites of public executions, and the blood of countless criminals was spilt on their streets. In more recent times, Farringdon has had its fair share of bleeding hearts and body parts. Smithfields has been the site of public executions as well as the stage for a number of blockbuster films.

Despite all this violence, both Farringdon and Smithfields have managed to retain an air of mystery and fascination. These two areas of London are steeped in history, and their bloody pasts only add to their allure. For those with a taste for the macabre, Farringdon and Smithfields are definitely worth a visit.

If you want to learn more about London’s gruesome past, or are interested in the stories of courage and defiance that have been written in its blood, then book your tickets now. The walk dates are:

Saturday 11th and 25th of February at 6pm, Saturday 11th and 25th of March at 6pm and Saturday 22 April, 6pm

The walk can be booked here.

Georgian London

The Georgian period was considered to be elegant and polite. A new type of society had emerged in Britain; a more free, diverse and enlightened society.

On this London walking tour, which starts at Angel underground station, Hazel will take you back to the days when the surrounding area had a raucous reputation and see how it transformed from a place to be avoided at all costs to a most desirable postcode. The walk dates are:

Sunday 19th of February at 12.30, Sunday 19th of March at 12.30, and Saturday 29th of April at 12.30

The walk can be booked here.

A Road to Ruin

The perfect guided walk for those with a keen interest in history, London and alcohol.

The walking tour ventures through Clerkenwell, historically an area of gin and beer production.

Delve into the past & investigate the relationship between different classes of society in London and what this meant for the alcohol they were able to drink. What was the impact of production and consumption of alcohol? How did artists depict society and the expectations put on the different classes?

The walk dates are; Sunday the 26th of February at 12.30pm, and Saturday the 1st of April at 12.30pm

The walk can be booked here.

Burnings, Butchery and Black Death: A Walking Tour of London’s Bloody Past

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 can be booked here.

The Real London of Peaky Blinders

In series two of Peaky Blinders, the BBC series based around the Birmingham gangs that ruled the racecourses after World War One, Tommy Shelby and his boys head to London. This brings them up against the Italian gangster Sabini, and Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons. But is Peaky Blinders based on real life? This ninety minute walk led by Islington guide Rob Smith looks at the true story of the Sabini gang, and visits some of their haunts in what was London’s Little Italy. Rob will tell some stories from the mean streets of gangland and introduce some more of London’s gangs from the Titanic mob of pre First World War London, to gangsters like Mad Frankie Fraser who grew up in the world of the Sabini’s.

This walk takes place on February the 18th and can be booked here.

We look forward to seeing you on a walk in the coming weeks.