Exploring EC1

Maps and stories for past, present and future

Exploring EC1 is a project to experiment with ways in which media and maps can help people explore and engage with the past, present and future of their neighbourhoods.

It is focussed on Farringdon and Clerkenwell, which has a rich history, lots happening, and big changes in prospect. I've lived just south of Smithfield for the past 22 years. My son Dan provides technical expertise. David Wilcox david@socialreporter.com

I've now started a Connections blog about EC1 developments. I'll provide updates there, and revise these pages as I go.

About EC1

Change is coming

I've lived in the Smithfield area for over 20 years, next door to London's oldest church, St Bartholomew the Great. Back in the 1970's I worked for for the London Evening Standard, which then had offices just off Fleet Street. As planning correspondent I wrote a lot about threats to London's heritage, and plans for future development - some inspiring, some destructive like those for Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, and urban motorways.

I confess that I was rather ignorant of the history of this area then - but the Barbican was under construction, and on the Standard we campaigned for inclusion of the Arts Centre, which went through the City's Court of Common Council after lengthy debate and internal opposition. In 2022 Barbican residents and other are fight a new Cash Versus Culture campaign over the current site of the Museum of London.

A couple of years ago it became evident that Smithfield and Farringdon were going to change. The City of London Corporation declared Farringdon to Moorgate The Culture Mile, linking Barbican Arts Centre with a partnership of other venues and organisations. Plans emerged to move the Museum of London to the derelict western end of Smithfield Market, and for the Market itself to move to Dagenham. Crossrail would make this the most accessible spot in London.

As I reported here I met up again with Mike Franks, who I first knew in 1970 when he was an architect-planner on the GLC Covent Garden team. He quit over the destructive plans for development, and founded the pioneering Clerkenwell Workshops. After leaving the Standard I helped Mike secure funding from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Celebration Committee to develop Clerkenwell's first heritage trail. In 2019 Mike inspired me with his vision for Clerkenwell Commons as an environment for conversation, collaboration and action. Funding from the Peel Institute supported research into how maps could support the Connecting Clerkenwell initiative. The EC1 Echo community newspaper - also supported by Peel - provided the means to report on changes in prospect and to float some ideas. Click images below for Echo stories.

The past

  • Heritage sites including London's oldest church and hospital, the historic home of the Knights of St John, and the 14th century Charterhouse.

  • Pioneering modernist housing and health centre from the 1930s

  • Clerkenwell Green, venue for radical meetings of Lollards, Chartists and communists over 500 years, and now home to Marx Memorial Library.

  • Smithfield Meat Market, with an 800-year history, adjacent to the site of burnings and executions of Protestant and Catholic martyrs, and that of "Braveheart" Sir William Wallace. This is also where Wat Tyler, leader of the 1381 Peasants' Revolt met King Richard and was killed after a fight with the Lord Mayor of London.

EC1 heritage information sheet

The present

  • The Barbican Arts Centre, the Museum of London, and a host of other venues and activities form the City of London's Culture Mile.

  • The Goldsmith's Centre offers free exhibitions by top craftspeople.

  • Clerkenwell's cafes, pubs and restaurants of a wide range of eating, drinking and entertainment.

  • The Peel Institute, committed to building a more connected Clerkenwell through a range of activities, projects and team of community organisers.

  • The EC1Echo, supported by the Peel and published by Social Spider, provides news, features, photos and listings in print and online connecting Clerkenwell and City

  • The development of Barts Square, south of Smithfield on the site of former hospital buildings, has created a new residential community with cafes and restaurants.

EC1 story sheets index

The future

  • Opening of the Elizabeth Line will make Farringdon and south Clerkenwell the best connected place in London.

  • City of London is negotiating a move to Barking for Smithfield Market

  • The Museum of London will develop a new Museum in West Smithfield.

  • The former market buildings will house a rich mix of retail, food and drink, crafts and performances

  • Culture Mile is developing a host of new activities and improvements to public spaces

EC1 Futures information sheet