Back in October, Basil and I took a trip to Clerkenwell. It's one of my favourite areas in London and has a fascinating history which never disappoints. I met some wonderful local residents, learnt something new about the area and discovered it's pretty dog friendly too!
It was a chilly day so we warmed up with an excellent coffee at On the Green Cafe which serves a great coffee and cake in the grounds of St James Church. This wonderful Parish church sits on what was St Mary’s nunnery in the middle ages when Clerkenwell was a village just outside the City of London. Some time ago, an ancient tunnel was found running south from the old nunnery towards the nearby monastery of St John Clerkenwell!
We left St James' Church in search of Scotti's Snack Bar Known by black cab drivers all over London, it’s a quaint retro cafe run by Al the friendly owner, who tells me its been in the family for 50 years. Clerkenwell was once ‘Little Italy’ until WW2. Still to this day, every August, London’s Italians still gather here to celebrate their culture and food.
If you leave Scotti's and turn left, you can wind your way to the Crypt of St Johns Order which was part of the monastery set up by the Knights Hospitalers as their HQ in the 1140’s. They were both knights and monks and its from here they set off for the Crusades. Disbanded by Henry the eighth in the 1540’s the only bit left of the original monastery building is the crypt which the Victorians revived.
Basil was impressed with this garden even though he wasn't allowed off his lead, he was welcomed in by the gardener who was a wonderful man originally from Italy. He showed us round and talked to us about the incredible olive tree in the middle of the garden. It was at least a tonne in weight and 500 years old and he knows this because he helped move it into position! Job well done.
It was such a treat to meet this lovely man and to wander around this peaceful garden in the middle of Clerkenwell.
It was Halloween and so the pumpkins were out in force. The most impressive display had to be outside the Zetter Townhouse and although dogs aren't allowed inside, the manager made an exception for Basil and we were ushered in with a warm welcome into the amazing downstairs bar and lounge area. I could tell that Basil felt right at home! This place is a must visit. Just go for a drink and soak up the wonderful atmosphere.
We had a great morning in Clerkenwell, finishing up at The Green; it's not very green now but when it was the clerks green - which was formed around the village well (which can still be seen!) - it was a place of fun and relaxation. It was also a meeting point for radical groups before marching into London. Such amazing history in this place.
Steve & Basil