London Travelogue, Day the Seventh

In which I do research and Jim is forced to walk–a lot!–and we find a River which is not a river and an Angel which is not an angel.

On the suggestion of my UK Agent, John Parker, we decide to check out Clerkenwell as a possible location for Book 4. Clerkenwell has an interesting history first as a rural spa where the gentry could take the waters far from the madding crowds, later as the location of an infamous “House of Detention” from which Wat Tyler directed his Peasant’s Revolt, and later as a seat of radicalism and socialism less drawingroom genteel than that of Bloomsbury. Some people also claim that Sweeney Todd plied his razor here, but I’m not sure of that.

So, we hop out of bed, find our brekkie once again at Gran Sasso and then walk down Euston Road to King’s Cross Road and follow it down for a while as it dips southeast and becomes Farrigdon Road…and begin to think we should have taken the tube to Farringdon, and maybe we’ve missed the crossing and where are we anyway, when we find Rosebery Avenue and stumble into the pedestrian favoring lane of Exmouth Market. We sit down in the shade of a market stall near a pub and try to figure out where we are. And are surprised to discover we’re in Clerkenwell.

We wander around trying to find Clerkenwell proper and discover a park which is not Clerkenwell Green. Mr Kat finds a Victorian dog waterer. dog waterer and gives it a go. But we have no dog nearby, and a sign that reads “Dogs not allowed on lawns” might explain why. There is a dog on the next path over, being inspected by some police constables–possibly for bits of lawn between his toes–or maybe just petted.

We carry on looking for the famous Well of Clerkenwell and this time we actually find it: the Clerk's Well of Clerkenwellbehind glass in an office building. Or rather Mr. Kat does, as I’m looking the wrong way. It’s very hard to take a picture of through the glass, but we decide not to follow the signs to the Farringdon library to cajole someone into opening up the exhibit for us, as we can see most of it through the glass wall. We carry on down the street and around the corner in need of a nice cuppa. Tea that is. Which we find at a small sandwich shop near Clerkenwell Green.

Clerkenwell Green
It is not particularly green and is so very small we can’t imagine how Fagin and the Artful Dodger managed to find enough pockets to pick here upon which to train Oliver Twist. But the Royal Philharmonic offices are located on the other side so we figure that makes up for a lot.

We stumble around a bit looking the place over and discover Clerkenwell Priory Gate, which is somewhat choked with traffic Priory Gate and a tree. We wander some more and come up on the other side of the priory gate through Passing Alley Passing Alley which proves to be very well named indeed.

More twisty little streets, including one called Cowcross, lead us to Smithfield Market–the largest meat market in Europe–and also the location of many executions, including that of Sir William Wallace. smithfield market

We don’t make the turn that would take us down to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Hosier’s and Cock Lanes or the Haberdasher’s Hall (of which I’m not aware until we return to the US), but take Charterhouse Street toward the Charterhouse, which we discover one can’t get into from this side. But we do discover Sutton’s Hospital and its checkerboard wall checkered wall. The dark squares turn out to be made of flint, which Mr. Kat recognizes from his childhood in Norfolk as real, honest to goodness, hand-me-another-arrow-Zog nappable flint. Flint up close Ouch. Don’t fall against that wall, kids….

We also find one of the famous Smithfield Pubs which were charted to open at 6 a.m. for the benefit of the market men who’d worked all night and thus missed opening hours. Fox and Anchor pub sign The Fox and Anchor is at the end of Fox and Knot Street and it’s such a remarkable bit of Art Nouveau, that I had to take a photo of the whole thing. You can click on the picture to see the whole building front. Art Noveau Fox and Anchor frontage At the top, there is a fired tile frieze of a Fox and not one, but two Anchors under a mass of lilypads and the date, 1898. It’s very surreal. Also note that the gargoyles are laughing when viewed from the front.

Oddly we don’t pause for a pint at the F&A, but carry on back up Cowcross and around by some byways until we come out at Northampton Road and Rosomon Place, get lost again, never stumble over the House of Detention, and wind up in a Pub on Rosebery that appears to have five different names, none of which I now remember. But it does have the best Pie and a tolerable Pint. I have Matador Pie, which contains no matador (take that Mrs. Lovett), but does have beef, real Spanish chorizo (not to be confused with the orange fat and spices squeezed into intestines that is sold in the US as chorizo), tomatoes and Spanish olives. It is divine and served with peas that are actual peas, not mushy peas. Mr Kat says they ruin the experience of true English Pubness, but I’m OK with that.

After we are suitably refreshed, we carry on, looking for the Head of the New River, which we find just a few blocks up Rosebery. Funny, it doesn’t look like a river….
New River Head but the sign delares that it is New River Address Placque.

Mr. Kat puts up with me for a while as I try to find any sign of the actual river–which is actually an artificial river dug by Sir Hugh Myddelton in the 17th Century. Eventually we find a pumping station, some gardens, and a locked iron gate which would normally lead to the actual bit of water that is still exposed at New River Head, but as it is Wednesday and past 2, it’s locked.

Drat. Mr. Kat is getting restive, so we agree to follow the course of the river up toward Angel Tube Station and see if we have any better luck, but if not… I’m in trouble….

After a lot of wandering about, I find a park which is directly over the course of the New River and has been laid out to look a bit like a river. Leaving the increasingly grumpy Mr. Kat on a bench to dandle his toes in the non-existent water, I follow a hunch…

And discover the other end of the Islington Tunnel on Regent’s Canal. (Remember how the research started at the Canal Museum near the tunnel on the first night in London?) Well, here’s the other end: Islington Tunnel and some narrow boats that are moored nearby Narrow Boats on Regent's Canal.

I return to Mr. Kat, pausing only to take a photo of the marker that shows where the invisible New River crosses 25 feet below Regent’s Canal–but the photo looks like a big gray blob, so I erase it–and agree to go home, but stop a few times on the way back to the tube station to take photos of the canal markers on the street. The City of London apparently can’t decide how to let the canal be made known as there are three different markers embedded in the sidewalks. Canal Marker #1 Canal Marker #2 Canal Marker #3 The last on seems to be quite old and seems to indicate that the tunnel bends. Another one nearer Angel Station shows another bend, which must have made “legging” it through the tunnel quite interesting indeed. And it occurrs to me that the New River must not have been dug 50 feet deep, but that the city of London has somewhat grown over it until it’s not so very strange that its pipes are now below the Regent’s Canal, but wouldn’t it be interesting if they weren’t…? And of course, there’s always the River Fleet nearby, under the ground….

We find Angel Station, which is certainly not an angel and cannot, in fact, find any angels anywhere nearby. Later I’m informed that the station is on the site of what was once a coaching inn named The Angel and that there are many pubs named the same all over London. This makes me a bit sad and I really think the Underground folks need to erect an angel of some kind for Angel. We do, however, find the longest (and steepest) escalator in all of London. Angel Escalator. This photo was taken about half-way down, so you can see how very long and steep it is.

Finally, another tube ride and a bit of walking later and we’re looking for dinner along the Euston Road when we find the most bizarre sight of the day: caryatids near Euston Station a templeful of Caryatids, just holding up a roof for no known reason on a building which does not appear to have anything to do with Greek temples or any temple at all. It looked a bit like a synagogue, in fact, but only a bit.

Eventually we find ourselves in an Indian buffet in Bloomsbury which turns out to be very delicious and we toddle off to our trusty hotel for a cuppa and then into bed, following an ominous message from my agent….

Tune in next time for the adventures of Kat Signing Books!

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About Kat Richardson

Writer, editor, eccentric pain in the tail, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels.
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6 Responses to London Travelogue, Day the Seventh

  1. In the 12th Century the early inns were connected with monasteries and took religious names, many inspired by pictures in churches’ stained glass windows. Hence Angel.

    The Angel, Islington occupied the site since before the Great Fire in 1666 and was shown as a coaching inn by Hogarth. Dickens also mentions it in Oliver Twist…The coach rattled away and, turning when it reached the Angel at Islington, stopped at length before a neat house in Pentonville.

    The Angel was rebuilt in 1899, then used as a restaurant by the Lyons Corner House chain from the 1920s to the 1950s and eventually became a bank.

    There’s another famous Angel near the docks in Rotherhithe which claims to be the oldest pub on the banks of the Thames. The Mayflower’s captain is said to have recruited his crew and Captain Cook made his final preparations for Australia there.

    Elaine Saunders
    Author – A Book About Pub Names
    http://www.completetext.com

  2. Wow! That’s some cool info, Elaine. Thanks!

  3. More information of dubious usefulness –

    The caryatids are holding up part of the roof of Saint Pancras parish church ( http://www.stpancraschurch.org/ ). It’s apparently one of my mum’s favourite bits of London because immediately after the war she worked for the Inland Revenue in Bloomsbury, and spent her lunch hours making up stories about people around Woburn Place (other side of the church).

  4. How very odd–especially when you consider they are across the street from Euston Station, not St. Pancras….

  5. Ahh, but there isn’t a Saint Euston 🙂 And Euston Square, station and Road are all in the parish of St Pancras.

    St Pancras station got its name from the graveyard they dug up to fit the station and the tracks in (excellent pics you got there, btw). The station was built in 1863-7; the old church behind it had been converted into a chapel of ease for the caryatid-supported St Pancras New Church in 1822.

    St Pancras New Church was the most expensive church since Christopher Wren knocked up St Pauls; the design is based on the Erechtheion (part of the Acropolis, apparently).

    Euston Station opened in 1837, replacing the earlier Chalk Farm terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway. There’s an incline out of the station and the railay didn’t have engines powerful enough to drag trains up to Camden.
    So trains leaving Euston were hooked onto a endless rope (3 inch thick, 4,780 yards long) powered by a pair of stationary engines. Trains arriving from Birmingham had their engines detached at Camden Town and were controlled the rest of the way by brakemen. This ought to mean that the trains leaving Euston didn’t get locomotives until Camden Town.

    Meanwhile… Euston Station is named after Euston Grove ‘a quiet scene of nursery gardens’ which is, of course, under the station. Euston Grove probably got its name from Euston Square, laid out in 1827 and named after the Earl of Euston (highest ranking of the ground landlords). Euston Road was built by the 2nd Duke of Grafton as a route for taking cattle to Smithfields in 1756; it was called the New Road until 1857, when someone realised that it wasn’t really new any more.

    In yet more pointless but mildly amusing trivia – the building of the New Road was objected to by the Capper family, who petitioned Parliament but failed to stop Grafton. The family had two daughters described by a British Museum official thuswise “They wore riding habits and men’s hats. One used to ride after boys flying kites with a large pair of shears to cut the strings. The other seized the clothes of those who trespassed to bathe”.

    One of the things that often infuriates me with London is the way that there’s always a fact behind a fact, and one thing always lead to another and you end up finding out if there’s a character limit on comments…

  6. but no limit on Character.

    Thanks Rik!

    (I really should get the rest of the Travelogue up…)

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