This article is by Stephanie Wilkins, who has lived in and near Clerkenwell for nearly 3 years:
If you are young and fortunate enough to afford the high rent of property in EC1, I envy you. If you are young but unable to afford the rent, I feel your pain. In either case, however, read on if you’d like to discover more about my favourite London postcode.
What contributes to Clerkenwell’s unique character is its architecture: mainly former industrial buildings constructed from brick, steel and glass, with large openings and beautiful proportions. The buildings were originally used as breweries, distilleries or in the printing industry, but have proven to be equally suitable for residences, with their lofty and light-filled interiors.
Whilst manufacturing in London has been in decline since the beginning of the 20th century, Clerkenwell retains its craft character through its high concentration of design professions, celebrated each year by the Clerkenwell Design Week. There are the diamond jewellers of Hatton Garden, and places such as the Wyvern Bindery on Clerkenwell Road. More recently, digital ‘craftsmen’ have moved in, with many software and design studios being based in the area. This is partly due to ‘Silicon Roundabout’ (Old Street roundabout) being a short walk away.
Where to begin with restaurants in Clerkenwell? In summary: if you love food, you’ll love Clerkenwell. Here are just a few of the my favourite places to eat in EC1: St. John (expect to eat parts of animals you never thought you could/would); Smiths of Smithfield (for some of the best salt beef in London); The Modern Pantry (for brunch with a twist); The Eagle (London’s first gastro pub); The Quality Chop House (for the naughtiest, greasiest mince).
There is plenty of nightlife to be found in Clerkenwell too, with most of it focused in the area around Smithfield Meat Market, the last surviving wholesale market in central London. If you make it through the whole night at Fabric nightclub, you can catch the opening of the meat market. Whether you’ll feel like browsing animal carcasses at 7am is another matter!
Even though I’m no coffee fanatic (just half an espresso will have me shaking for the rest of the day), I can acknowledge that EC1 has more than its fair share of good coffee houses and cafés. For example, there’s: Look mum no hands!, Shoreditch Grind, Workshop Coffee, Caravan, J+A café. Settle down with a cup of coffee and your MacBook and you’ll fit right in with the Clerkenwell crowd. And if you’re at Look mum no hands! you can get that puncture fixed at the same time.
In fact, Clerkenwell might be one of the few places in London where there are as many bicycles as there are cars. Should you not own a bicycle, there are several Barclays cycle hire points at which to rent one.
No blog post for Find Properly would be complete without a description of the area’s public transport links. If your destination is not within walking or cycling distance, the area has very good transport connections. Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, Circle and Northern tube lines connect Clerkenwell to King’s Cross (where many more connections are possible) in around 5 minutes. Farringdon is also served by First Capital Connect trains to Gatwick Airport (very useful!), Brighton, Luton and Wimbledon. And by 2017, Farringdon will be served by the new Crossrail, which will cut travel time to Heathrow airport to only 31 minutes.
In terms of open space, head a little north of EC1 and you’ll find Regent’s Canal. The canal stretches from Angel all the way to the Thames in Limehouse and is usually busy with cyclists and runners (head out first thing in the morning though and it is wonderfully peaceful). In EC1 there’s the Finsbury Leisure Centre and, close by, the newly refurbished Ironmonger Row Baths (with Turkish Baths).
Admittedly, there are no large parks in Clerkenwell (does the concrete jungle of the Barbican count?), but perhaps that’s one of the sacrifices that you’d be willing to make for such a central postcode.
So to summarise : Clerkenwell is a really cool and trendy area, conveniently located near the City and Silicon Roundabout. If you can afford the high rents, you should definitely check it out!