EC1 Echo articles on historic Clerkenwell
The February/March edition of the Echo is full of articles about EC1 history, and how we can celebrate that to help people explore and connect. and also see links below.
February/March edition of the EC1 Echo
Interview with London Museum director Sharon Ament about the new museum in West Smithfield
Using the Peel Institute’s 125th as a spur to mapping Radical Clerkenwell - director Olu Alake. See also below
Creating a Museum of Streets using maps and media - and see also below
The London Underground’s 160th anniversary of the Paddington - Farringdon Metropolitan line
Marx Memorial Library celebrates its 90th anniversary
Book on the radical borough of Finsbury
Controversy about council plans for Clerkenwell Green, historic centre of Clerkenwell
The council’s plans for Clerkenwell Green don’t suit everybody
Islington Council has announced plans for major changes to Clerkenwell Green, writes Amelia Braddick
The council’s plans for Clerkenwell Green don’t suit everybody • www.ec1echo.co.uk
From Amwell to Australia - the story of James Blackburn, Clerkenwell’s ‘white collar’ convict
- - interview with the new director of the Museum of the Order of St John, Anna Mason, who of her interest in Radical Clerkenwell
The Peel Institute at 125
Olu Alake, director of The Peel Institute
In 1896, the local MP for Finsbury Sir George Masterman Gillett had been meeting with associates of fellow Quaker faith. Their thoughts usually turned to the many young men they saw around the area, battling poverty and other associated social and economic challenges. It was these meetings that culminated in the opening in 1898 of The Peel Institute, primarily as a place “to supply the young men… with a social centre for recreation, open every evening in the week…”
They met in a Friends’ Meeting House that was previously a woodyard that had manufactured a long wooden instrument called a “peel” which was used to place bread in huge ovens. The meeting house was commonly known as “The Peel”. The work of The Peel expanded rapidly into a real community centre for all families, providing not just healthy recreation, but also education and vocational training and social connectivity. Sir George was the MP for Finsbury for 14years, culminating in his appointment by the Prime Minster in 1936 as Commissioner for Distressed Areas – effectively, the modern-day equivalent of the Levelling-Up Minister. This despite his notorious short shrift for what he considered inertia of his own Labour Party in tackling issues of concern. It is no surprise that The Peel was the achievement he was proudest of.
As one of the few community organisations that has continuously served the same locality for over one hundred years, there is clear heritage value in celebrating this 125th anniversary. More pertinent than the admittedly remarkable history of the founder and the meandering fortunes of the organisation though, is the story of the locality it serves. What is it about Clerkenwell that has made The Peel such a vital social support infrastructure resource for generations of people? What is in the DNA of the area that infuses successive generations of leaders of the organisation with the passion and zeal to tackle social issues and dedicate itself to making the area a more equal society?
This is particularly enthralling when one considers the myriad other radical social characters and organisations that have made Clerkenwell its base through the past 125 years and even long before: The Chartists and Suffragettes met here, Karl Marx lived here, Dickens walked through and wrote about here, Lenin worked here, Gordonists rioted, prisons stormed, radical presses and bookstores established, LGBTQ people found sanctuary, - all in this area.
Through this 125th anniversary year and beyond, we want to explore these rich seams of local history that have had national significance, and the related socio-economic and cultural themes that have resonated and endured through time. We want to utilise the rich archives of the area and work with local heritage and cultural organisations and individuals to bring this history alive using 21st century technology. If you are interested in joining up for an exploratory consultative meeting at The Peel Centre, Northampton Road on the 9th of February 5.30 – 7.30pm, please contact Olu at to discuss further or book a place. Maybe we can make history together?
A Museum of the Streets
David Wilcox. Article with added links
I’m excited by Sharon Ament’s vision for the new London Museum – and also believe we needn’t wait three years to engage with the extraordinary heritage in the streets of EC1, drawing on the knowledge of residents as well as historians.
Here’s how we can explore what’s possible in Clerkenwell and Smithfield.
In the Echo last year City councillor Mathew Bell to coincide with for St Bartholomew the Great and Barts Hospital.
I suggested digital technology could extend the experience by streaming events, and through augmented reality apps.
I hope that a Bartholomew Fair for 2023 might be supported by the Corporation’s new , and a .
However, we don’t need a Fair to take these ideas forward on the doorstep of the new museum in West Smithfield – and elsewhere.
Back in 2010 the Museum pioneered a as “a bid to put the collections of the museum where they belonged, on the streets of London.”