Clerkenwell & Smithfield
London’s oldest church and some of its tallest residential towers lie on the edge of this medieval suburb that is now home to the capital’s cutting-edge design community
Nestling the northern edge of the City of London, thirty years ago Clerkenwell was dismissed as an ungainly, peripheral district sandwiched between central and north London. Then it was said to offer little more than a strong socially-inspired tradition of counter-cultural political radicalism and scores of disused industrial warehouses housing the remnants of a bygone manufacturing industry. Today these elements have formed the basis for a thriving modern village that is home to several creative industries and the UK’s highest concentration of architects’ offices. Additionally, it fosters a progressive attitude towards conservation that encourages bold contemporary design to sit side by side with historic structures. Overlooked by the Barbican’s epoch-defining attempt at post-war social housing and cultural amenity, the district also offers a rich and extraordinarily well preserved tapestry of London history. Its stellar collection of market, hospital and religious buildings are dotted around a beguiling patchwork of cobbled courtyards and sheltered alleyways and house a torrid past of Victorian distilleries, social reform and public executions.
St Bartholomew's Hospital
WALK START LOCATION: Barbican tube station / Map
WALK ENDS: Near Clerkenwell Road