Clerkenwell & Islington Guides – Walks & Events November 2022

As well as the regular posts illustrating the different aspects of the history of Clerkenwell and Islington, we plan to publish a monthly list of some of the walks and events in the coming month that explore the places described in our posts.

These walks and events will offer the opportunity to learn more from experts in their fields, on a walk on the streets, or in some of the fascinating buildings that the area has available to explore.

So welcome to November’s listing, and we hope you will find something of interest, and look forward to seeing you on a walk.

Gangsters, Gelato and Garibaldi: The Story of Clerkenwell’s Italian Community – Saturday 12th November

The walk brings to life London’s 19th and 20th century “Little Italy” which had its hub in the steep and narrow streets of Clerkenwell known as “The Hill”.

Discover a street life filled with organ grinders and fortune tellers, the exploits of gangster, Darby Sabini and his mob and the hugely successful Italian business men who set up in the streets around Hatton Garden, including Carlo Gatti who introduced ice cream to the masses. Having also found out about the grinding poverty of Saffron Hill and the political exiles who fought for the unification of Italy the walk ends outside the famous Terroni Italian Deli in Clerkenwell Road, where gelato and other Italian delicacies can be enjoyed.

Garibaldi biscuits will be served en route!

The walk led by Karen and Jo can be booked here.

Health and History Walk: Wray Crescent Park – Sunday 20th November

Wray Crescent is a small park created in the 1970s to bring greenery to an urban area. It has the only public cricket ground in Islington. There’s a lovely vegetable garden named for Yvonne Connolly, the first female black head teacher in the UK and a bee friendly area. Learn more about the musical history of the surrounding Victorian streets, from Soul2Soul to piano factories, and discover local cycling champions, suffragette supporters and more!

The walk led by Oonagh Gay can be booked here.

Ghostsigns of Islington – Sunday 20th November

Remnants of bygone advertising are still visible today clinging to the walls above our busy streets. These old signs are commonly referred to as ‘ghostsigns’ and most of the ones we’ll look at on this walk will be the hand-painted variety.

This hand-crafted and labour-intensive form of advertising might seem strange to us today, with our large-format printing, lightboxes and interactive screens, but 100 years ago hand-painted signs like this were commonplace, the buildings that carried them barely visible beneath a patchwork of signage for branded products, well-known shops and local tradesmen. 

On this walking tour you will see many surviving signs of this type overlooking the streets that border Islington Green. At each stop you’ll hear fascinating and intriguing stories about the businesses, people or products behind them, from vets to vegans, rubber to metal.

The walk led by Jane Parker can be booked here.

Islington’s Big Screens: From Silents to Super-Cinemas – Sunday 20th November

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.

The walk led by Nigel Smith can be booked here.

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

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.

The walk led by Tom Currie 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 walk will be led by Islington Guides and can be booked here.

Canonbury Tower Tour – Friday 11th November

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 walk led by Islington Guides can be booked here.