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Radical Clerkenwell

Starts at:

The entrance to St Bartholomew's Hospital on West Smithfield Street (EC1A 7BE), Clerkenwell


60 minutes

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Join Alan Dein - broadcaster, writer and life-long Londoner - for a walk through the cobbled streets of Clerkenwell: the city’s centre for radicalism and non-conformism.

With ancient architecture nestling alongside advertising agencies and coffee shops, Alan invites you to scratch the surface of Clerkenwell’s modern wealth. You will discover a history of overcrowded slums, cattle traders and artisans. Here, poverty brushed with power to create an appetite for both compassion and non-conformity - both of which still echo today.

Our journey visits the execution site of rebels such as William “Braveheart” Wallace, the house where Lenin plotted the overthrow of Tsarist Russia, and the overcrowded Rookery slums that made the citizens of Clerkenwell ripe for political activism. But we’ll also go beyond the historical landmarks to see the many remnants of Clerkenwell’s history that still thrive today - the infamous Smithfield meat market, London’s first hospital and the charities and churches which grew along side rebellion to make Clerkenwell the beating heart of left-leaning reform.

Tips & Hours

  • This walk is best before 5pm. We don't recommend taking this Detour on Sundays because most of the stops are closed.

  • Some of the stops on this Detour have inconsistent hours, but can all be enjoyed from outside too. To see the meat market at its busiest, go between 6am - 8am. Particularly interested in the Marx Memorial Library? Go between noon - 4pm Monday through Thursday.

  • Bring few pounds if you’d like to get a drink at the pub along the way

  • We will encourage you to sneak into a small section of the meat market that is technically closed after 12 noon. A guard might ask you to leave, but it’s not disruptive if this happens.