A walk in Clerkenwell
28 March 2011
Twenty-four retired members (REMS) and friends assembled near Farringdon Station on 3 March to explore Clerkenwell in London.
It was a dry day, unlike Kate and Mike Quinton’s first venture with REMS in the area in 2005. There were other hitches though. The first was having to move the start slightly because of the workings for Crossrail.
There was still a lot of traffic around Smithfield Market, but we managed to negotiate Charterhouse to see the frontages of the older cold stores, as well as the General Market and its cast iron columns. On reaching Grand Avenue we noticed a plaque of a wild boar high up on No 1, St John’s Street, a sign of the many animals that have come this way.
Then we looked down on the cobbled spiral ramp, up which animals used to come from the Metropolitan Line and where Max Perutz worked during the Second World War to make landing and refuelling strips of ice and wood pulp for aircraft patrolling the Atlantic.
After investigating Charterhouse Square we returned along Cowcross Street (there were plenty of evocative names on this walk), where Kate and Mike were horrified to find that the designated lunch place had closed, despite having served them only 2 weeks before and taken on board that 20 plus hungry people would arrive on the day. The Sir John Oldcastle pub nearby served just as well. John Temple’s picture has George Freeman and Mike standing outside it.
In the afternoon, we sat for a moment John Belling, REMS Secretary, trying out one of the unusual seats in St John’s Gardens. Having had a look at Clerkenwell Green and absorbed some of the associated history including that of the local water supply, we found ourselves round the back of St James’s Church, where we were allowed in, against the high wall of the House of Detention, built to take the overflow from Bridewell and Newgate. Stanley Melinek said he had been into the underground cells some time ago.
Finsbury and its grade 1 listed Health Centre was next, after leaving the medieval street pattern behind. Then there was Exmouth Market and Spa Fields, where Margaret Stedman took it easier than the fist fighting and bear baiting that she might have enjoyed in the 17th century.