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Smithfield & Clerkenwell

Time: 11am   Duration: 2 Hours 

Start: Outside Barbican Tube Station 

Finish: Ely Place near Farringdon Tube

5. Smithfield and Clerkenwell  

Rebels and Radicals 

These districts are between the old City of London or the "Square Mile" where the money was made and Westminster, the royal and political centre of London. As such, its central location made it an area of interesting contrasts: Smithfield was associated with Blood! The historic meat market in the old "Smooth Fields" was where live animals were driven in from the countryside and slaughtered for sale. It was a famous place of execution; for example the Scottish rebel William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered here.


Additionally, it is the site of Britain's oldest hospital in St Bartholemew's which is still located on its original site from the 12th Century. Just to the north but outside of the old City of London, Clerkenwell attracted the middling sorts including professionals (journalists, lawyers and clerks) and artisans like watch makers, distillers and other skilled craftsmen.


It takes its name from the parish clerks who used to perform mystery plays by the old well. It also had its poorer parts as it was densely populated in the 19th Century. As such, it became the focus for left-wing radicalism. Lenin visited the Karl Marx Library at Clerkenwell Green and this is where the annual May Day/Labour parade usually sets off from.

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