London Commons

Exploring City and Clerkenwell connections

This article was written for the EC1Echo March/April 2020 ... but owing to the Coronavirus emergency we have paused the planned exploration. However, if the idea interests you, please get in touch David Wilcox david@socialreporter.com. The previous exploration of Clerkenwell is available here.

A group of local residents has started a deeper “timeline” exploration into the past, present and future of the Smithfield and south Clerkenwell areas, following our story from Peter Bill.

Market buildings will be turned into a venue for exhibitions and events, the Museum of London will move to the long-empty western end of the market, and a new Centre for Music is planned on the former Museum site.

Stretching back 1,000 years to the beginnings of the livestock market, the timeline will take in the 12th-century foundation of London’s oldest surviving church, St Bartholomew the Great, and Barts Hospital. It then stretches through the 16th-century executions and burning of martyrs in west Smithfield - right through to recent developments in Smithfield such as the Culture Mile programme.

The exploration, led by former Evening Standard planning correspondent David Wilcox, also cover aspects of Clerkenwell and Smithfield’s history such as the area’s crafts activities from watchmaking right through to the new creative industries in the neighbourhood.

David said: “Last year I really enjoyed developing an online map of the 1977 heritage trail for Clerkenwell, originally created by local resident Mike Franks. Researching the trail revealed to me the many linkages between City and Clerkenwell. I think there’s scope to re-stablish connections, and help both residents and visitors explore the area.

“I think there’s scope to re-stablish connections, and help both residents and visitors explore the area.

“The new Barts Square development has brought several hundred new residents to Smithfield, and the Elizabeth Line station at Farringdon - coupled with Thameslink - will make this one of the most accessible places in London”.

But David hopes that these improvements will benefit all the area’s communities. “In many ways the planned developments are good news,” he says. “I do think it’s important to explore whether local residents will benefit from these changes, though.

"Therefore our first task will be to pull together existing information about the area, and then start explorations led by people’s particular enthusiasms – such as the green spaces we need to cherish and the music available in the many local venues.

David hopes to aggregate people's ideas and build up a huge, living picture of the area. “Today anyone with a smartphone can be a reporter - so we want to use a mix of print, thanks to the Echo, a website and social media to help people start their own explorations, and bring the results together.

“We’ve already had offers of help from London Metropolitan Archive, and the Layers of London project which displays maps from 1270 to the present day, enabling people to add their own photos and stories. The Culture Mile team are very encouraging”.

You will be able to see links to existing information and ma plus the evolving exploration at https://commons.london/