Welcome to the first Clerkenwell and Islington Guides Newsletter of 2023, and to start the year we have a comprehensive set of walks available, exploring many different aspects of the area, starting with:

Burnings, Butchery and Black Death: A Walking Tour of London’s Bloody Past – Multiple dates in January and February

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.

Paintings of Islington – Tuesday 10th January

This one hour walk around the Angel area of Islington will visit the locations that feature in five paintings by very different artists – Canaletto,  Walter Sickert, Francis Hayman, Thomas Rowlandson and John O’Conner. 

This walk by Rob Smith can be booked here.

Dissenters of Newington Green – Tuesday 10th January

For many years Newington Green was a tiny hamlet, far from London, where radical thinkers and dissenting religious groups came to escape the constricts of the City. You will hear how Newington Green became associated with some of the most important thinkers of the 18th century

 Here’s some of the things we talk about 

  • Mary Wollstonecraft’s pioneering school for girls
  • London’s oldest houses
  • The man who was sent for execution once a year
  • A forgotten graveyard
  • Anne Boleyn’s unfortunate romance
  • The chapel that inspired American revolutionaries, philosophers and physicists

Whether you live in the area or you have never been there before you’ll be sure to enjoy the stories about remarkable people on a walk led by a qualified Islington guide.

This walk led by Rob Smith can be booked here.

Up and Down The City Road – Tuesday 17th January

“Up and Down the City Road In and Out The Eagle That’s the way the money goes Pop Goes the Weasel “Generations of children have sung about the City Road but today most people think of it as part of London’s Inner Ring Road. In this two hour walk I will be looking at the history of City Road and the buildings in streets either side, and telling the stories of people who have lived near it. Some of the things I will talk about

The office that counted Telegraph Poles

  • A building that made Gin that now connects London to the World
  • Streets you will have seen on film
  • The worlds oldest eye hospital
  • And of course the famous Eagle from the nursery rhyme 

This walk led by Rob Smith can be booked here.

Islington – London’s Larder – Wednesday 18th January

Islington is famous for its bars and restaurants but its links with food go back to the Middle Ages. This walk looks at how Islington has kept London fed for the last 800 years. In this one and three quarter hour walk around one of London’s liveliest areas you’ll hear about dishes like White Conduit Rolls, Islington Cheesecake and White Pot, you’ll hear about Cream and Cake Boys, Nippies and Merry Milkmaids, the entertainer who ate phosphorous and get to see the home of Webb’s Soda Water and Mad Frankie Frasers favourite café. If your interested in food history, like exploring London’s side streets or simply want to build up an appetite this walk is for you.

This walk led by Rob Smith can be booked here.

Islington’s Big Screens: From Silents to Super-Cinemas – Sunday 29th January

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.

Merrie Islington – Monday 30th January

Islington is famous for its bars and restaurants but its been a place for merrymaking and entertainment for hundreds of years. This walk looks at the tea rooms, pleasure gardens, spas and alehouses that were popular in 18th century earning the name “Merrie Islington”. Although the places themselves have long since gone, some traces remain and here we will hear about the sometimes bizarre entertainment on offer at The Prospect House, Busby’s Folly, The London Spa and the many other establishments. 

This walk led by Rob Smith 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.

These tours are free 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.

Clerkenwell Curiosities – Saturday 4 February

Clocks and Crusaders, Gin and Jerusalem, Huguenots, Radicals and Criminals. Explore the narrow streets of Clerkenwell bursting with colourful characters, fascinating stories, hidden gems and controversial modern architecture.

Find out about Clerkenwell’s history as a global centre for gin and clock making, the bomb outrage at the Clerkenwell House of Detention and a Musical Coalman.See where Lenin met Stalin and peer down the well that gave the area it’s name – usually only available by appointment.

This 90 minute circular walk begins and ends at Farringdon station and is led by Karen, an official Islington & Clerkenwell guide.

This tour led by Karen Lansdown can be booked here.

Bleeding Hearts and Body Parts – Multiple Dates in February, March and April

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.

This walk is led by Hazel Baker and can be booked here.

Georgian London – Dates in February, March and April

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, 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.

This walk led by Hazel Baker can be booked here.

A Road to Ruin – Sunday 26th February and Saturday 1 April

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?

This walk led by Hazel Baker can be booked here.

Oliver Twist Walk – Sunday 19th February

his Oliver Twist walking tour follows the footsteps of Oliver Twist and Artful Dodger as they make their way through London to reach Fagin’s lair, just like in Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist.”

You can’t be too stealthy in London, especially if you want to avoid being caught by the police. The Artful Dodger and Oliver would have needed this skill when they headed into Fagin’s lair.

This walk led by Hazel Baker can be booked here.

Our next newsletter will be in early February.