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TOFFS GO WALKABOUT!

Historic Walk through Clerkenwell in London, 15 September 2003.


We met at Farringdon Tube Station, originally built as a Railway Station in 1863 and one of London's oldest.

Toff members were joined by walkers who came via the Greater London Forum for the Elderly.

We started by looking at what is left today of the St.John's Priory built during the 14 th and 15 th centuries as part of a religious settlement of 3 monasteries and a nunnery. The area supported ancient crafts including the manufacture of beer and gin because plentiful supplies of good water were available. Jewellery was made and sold here too.

From the 1400's to the 1970's ...a few yards away we were shown the exterior of a house built for Janet Street-Porter. I much preferred the older buildings!

St.John's Street (one of the oldest in London), leads to Smithfield (originally Smoothfield), a famous market for horses, cattle and livestock generally, since the 11th century.

Holloway Road nearby was the route of the livestock to market and was called "Hollow Way" because their hooves had hollowed it out over the years.

The current Smithfield Market building (erected in the 1860s ) has a structure on each of the four corners of this imposing site which were originally pubs for the workers! Another famous historic site is St.Bartholomew's which housed a fair featuring jousting tournaments and an annual market. Executions were held there as live entertainment for the public, until 1868, (there was very little on television in those days!)

Giltspur Street was so-named because a famous gilder of spurs traded there, and nearby is Pye corner where the Great Fire of London came to its end. (not a lot of people know that!)

The present day world famous Old Bailey Courts' building is on the site of the old Newgate Prison which had been in existence since the 1200's.

Pye Corner

St.Bartholomew was an Augustine Canon (that's the religious sort - not a large piece of ordnance!) who founded the original hospital and priory in 1123 after being visited by a vision. It is certainly the oldest hospital in the UK and one of the oldest in the world. Monks and nuns originally looked after the patients. Other innovations by St.Bart's were the very first Matron ( in the 16th.Century ) and the earliest physicians and surgeons in the country. Hogarth the artist was a Governor of the hospital.

Smithfield is also the site of the execution of the legendary Scots Patriot William Wallace - Braveheart - and he didn't look anything like Mel Gibson!

St.Bartholomew the Great Church has a wonderful arched entrance , built around 1200 AD, over which there appeared to be (until relatively recently) a non-descript much later building with a plastered exterior finish. When carrying out some minor repairs to this later building they discovered a beautifully preserved 17th Century Tudor house which you can now see in all its glory.

The St.Bartholomew's Fair was started in 1123 as a cloth fair (the first in Europe) and continued right up to 1855.

Charterhouse Street was named after the monks of Chartreuse (who invented the famous green liqueur). They founded a priory here in the late 1300's on ground donated by Sir Walter de Manos. It was subsequently destroyed by order of that well -known lover of (the Church of Rome's) religious buildings Henry the VIII and replaced by a rather fine Tudor house.

St Johns Gate

We saw much more than I can do justice to here but I will just mention the Fox and Anchor pub, a splendid art-deco building dating from 1898 and built with the support of the Royal Doulton pottery company. This pub is famous still for the enormous breakfasts it served the porters from the nearby market!

Many thanks to our amazingly knowledgeable guide, Kathleen Frenchman who dispensed masses of information with good humour and patience and made the walk so interesting. Any mistakes of fact in this word picture are mine; I'm quite sure Kathleen related it correctly !!

So a most enjoyable experience for all of us. Do come and join us on future walks -- into the past.

Stephen Newman


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