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Radical Clerkenwell

About Clerkenwell

Clerkenwell overview in Islington Life
Clerkenwell is Islington’s oldest residential and business district. The area is named after the Clerks’ Well, a 12th-century water source that adjoined St Mary’s Nunnery (c1140), a religious order once located off Clerkenwell Green. Due to fresh air, a plentiful supply of fresh water, open fields and its proximity to the City, Clerkenwell was a favoured place for the building of monasteries and other institutions. These included the Priory of the Order of St John (1143), its Norman crypt and Tudor gatehouse can be visited today, and Charterhouse Monastery (1370) and (later) School.


Reds On The Green - A Short Tour of Clerkenwell Radicalism
There has been little easily available to read concentrating specifically on the long and rich history of the politics and struggles of the area. The following account charts the changing fortunes and developments of the communities, classes and individuals involved. It also offers some passing comments on the Clerkenwell of today. This text was published as a pamphlet, ‘Reds On the Green’, in October 2005, by past tense.

Radical history of Islington: why Clerkenwell is the place where Russian Revolution Centenary is to be celebrated
A century ago on the 25 October, the October Revolution, an event that changed the world irreversibly, took place in Petrograd, Russian Empire. Now, the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution is taking place on the 7th November – as the new-style calendar dictates. Situated on Clerkenwell Green, the Marx House is having a month of lectures, meetings, exhibitions and film screenings dedicated to the Russian Revolution. (St John Street News 2017)

Was the Revolution planned in London?
Peter Frost takes us back 110 years to London, where Russian exiles sow the seeds of October 1917 (Morning Star November 2017)

1848: Chartist rallies in Clerkenwell leads to fighting with police. PastTense
For several days from the 29th May 1848, 1000s of supporters of the chartist movement assembled on Clerkenwell Green. A general order to police to disperse all chartist meeting led to fighting in the area, which spread to others areas of London…

Past Tense London Radical Histories - Clerkenwell
Clerkenwell events on the Past Tense calendar

Andrew Whitehead

Popular Politics in late C19 Clerkenwell
Once upon a time, I embarked on a PhD about mid- and late-Victorian Clerkenwell - an area noted for its radicalism. I was examining the extent to which the local occupational structure explained this radical tradition - whether radicals were indigenous or migrants - and what continuities there were between the advanced Liberal radicalism of the 1860s and the socialist movement of the 1880s, both of which were prominent in Clerkenwell (now the south-west of the London Borough of Islington).

Red London: radicals and socialists in late-Victorian Clerkenwell
My doctoral research into popular politics and society in late Victorian Clerkenwell (some draft chapters are posted elsewhere on this site) found its way into the public domain through this article published in Socialist History in 2000. I've screened the article and it is posted below.

Clerkenwell was once a bastion of artisan crafts such as watchmaking and bookbinding. There are a few, very few, remnants left of these trades. But it's still a wonderful part of London to walk round. I studied the politics of this area in the late Victorian period, when Clerkenwell was renowned for its radicalism. There's an article I wrote based on my research elsewhere on this site. I am very fond of the place.

David Rosenberg

Rebel Footprints: A Guide to Uncovering London's Radical History
The classic walking guide for the intrepid radical in London. Pluto Press. Includes a walk and chapter on Clerkenwell
The radical response to conservative heritage tours and banal day-tripper guides, Rebel Footprints brings to life the history of social movements in the capital. Transporting readers from well-known landmarks to history-making hidden corners, David Rosenberg tells the story of protest and struggle in London from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. From the suffragettes to the socialists, from the Chartists to the trade unionists, the book invites us to step into the footprints of a diverse cast of dedicated fighters for social justice. Self-directed walks pair with narratives that seamlessly blend history, politics and geography, and beautifully illustrated maps immerse the reader in the story of the city. Whether you are visiting it for the first time, or born and raised in it, Rosenberg invites you to see London as you never have before: the nation’s capital as its radical centre.

George Gissing

The Netherworld: novel 1889. Wikipedia entry
The Nether World opens near Clerkenwell Close in central London, and throughout the novel focusses on the Clerkenwell area, then largely working class and a centre of workshop and small factory trades. The novel is remarkable for its very strong sense of place.

Nothing is too good for ordinary people - film

This new four part film series from Open City examines London’s architecture through the lens of Marxist theory. Focussing on the idea of the ‘social condenser’, and centring around four key buildings, we examine how architecture has the power to embed theory into tangible spaces which have – and continue to – transform communities.

In this episode we visit Bevin Court, Berthold Lubetkin’s pioneering modernist housing project in Finsbury. We explore what we mean by the ‘social condenser’ and how the social and political landscape in Britain created the perfect storm for its emergence.

View on YouTube

clerkenwell/radical_clerkenwell.txt · Last modified: 2023/12/05 15:34 by davidwilcox