Posts Tagged Clerkenwell

Fire at Mount Pleasant

Report from the London Fire Brigade:

“Four fire engines and around 20 firefighters attended a fire in a studio/workshop on Mount Pleasant, near Clerkenwell, overnight.

“Firefighters rescued one female, who was taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service where she later died. The fire caused some damage to the second floor of the premises.

“The Brigade was called at 2321 and the fire was under control by 0039. Crews from Clerkenwell, Islington and Euston were at the scene.

“The cause of the fire is under investigation.”

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TfL gets Michael Cliffe wrong

A few years ago I got TfL to correct the 153 bus stop which had renamed Hemingford Road as Hemmingford. Surely it’s not impossible to get placenames right when you are the main transport body for the city!

Now they’ve done it again. I was using the TfL journey planner to plot a route to the Finsbury Estate for a friend who was planning a trip to the nearby Islington Museum. The website came up with a walking map – but spoilt it all by referring to the destination as “Michael Clifton House/Patrick Coman House”. As Finsbury folk know, it’s Michael Cliffe House, not Michael Clifton.

Michael Cliffe was a Finsbury councillor, Chairman of the Housing Committee, and Mayor of Finsbury, who went on to be the MP for Shoreditch and Finsbury.

The whole point of naming estates after people is to honour their memory, so the least TfL can do is get the name right. I’ve written to them pointing out their mistake and asking them to correct it.

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Bandstand busking

Earlier this year, Clerkenwell Councillor George Allan & I were chatting to residents in Northampton Square, and the subject of the old bandstand came up. One of the families had very musical children who were saying they wished they could use the bandstand to perform.

Roll on a few months, and it’s become a reality. Bandstand Busking, a self-described ‘a sort of cooperative of music likers’ are organising a series of busking events in London bandstands, including Northampton Square. Their website is not wildly easy to use but certainly gives a flavour of previous events, plus some fetching photos of bandstands in all seasons.

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Islington’s most haunted?

The Evening Standard has a piece about London’s most haunted places – and one of them is in Islington.

According to the Standard, Charterhouse Square, on the southern fringe of the borough, is haunted by ghostly screams from the site of a plague pit dating back to 1348, where some 50,000 victims were buried.

And it’s also claimed that the Charterhouse itself is haunted by the ghost of its former owner Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, “who strides down the main staircase, head tucked under his arm, as he returns to where he was arrested.”

They don’t mention the ghost of William Wallace, executed in nearby Smithfield. Nor all the ghosts that might haunt Poirot’s flat in ‘Whitehaven Mansions’ (real-life Florin Court).

I have to say that I’ve never had any ghostly experiences while delivering or doorknocking around Charterhouse Square. Not even while coming home late after a night out. What with the pubs, clubs and early morning meat market, it’s the living who have trouble sleeping….

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Licensing battles: victory in Clerkenwell, fight continues in Westbourne Road

Congratulations to George Allan and the Clerkenwell Lib Dem team for securing victory in their campaign.

They have been asking that the area is recognised as ‘saturated’ with licensed premises. Clerkenwell ward has 135 licensed premises – that’s about one for every 35 households!

So no more licenses will now be issued: and existing licensed premises will have to be good neighbours or risk losing their license to a better operator.

This is one of the first examples of residents fighting back against the flood of licensed premises following Labour’s Licensing Act, but it may well not be the last.

I’ve just sent in my witness statement in a case supported by residents in the Westbourne Road and Ellington Street area. This is a residential neighbourhood, away from main roads, with schools, churches, a children’s centre and adventure playground. Not the obvious place for a boom in booze – yet that’s what’s happening.

The Ellington Street Residents Association (ESRA) have found there are already 27 off-licences within 500 metres of the shop where yet another off-licence wants to open up. Staggering distance, you might say.

The licensing law gives few grounds for councils to reject such applications, despite, in this case, so much local opposition. St Mary’s ward councillor James Kempton was particularly frustrated that the petition of over 450 signatures was effectively marginalised. Now the case is going to court, with a hearing later this month.

The heart of Westbourne Road’s little shopping parade used to be the local post office. But like so many in Islington, it was closed as part of the notorious ‘Network Renewal’ programme. I find it deeply ironic that as one Government policy has robbed this neighbourhood of its post office, another now allows the flooding of the area with off-licences.

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Dukes and peasants

The Independent has listed its top 50 gastropubs, and two Islington establishments are included: the Peasant (a regular haunt for Islington Lib Dems after a Clerkenwell campaign session) and the Duke of Cambridge.

The latter is named after George, Duke of Cambridge a leading C19th general, Crimean War hero and cousin of the royal family. He has a genuine local connection beyond pub names, as he got married in St James church Clerkenwell.

I recently blogged about pubs, including former pubs, in Islington. Since then I’ve come across this fascinating set of photos on Flickr, showing over 500 former London pubs. I’d not realised before that the HSBC branch on the corner of White Lion Street was indeed the former White Lion pub.

Once you start looking for them, you spot the ex-pubs everywhere. Corner sites with high ceilings or large windows, often slightly taller than the adjacent buildings. Or with giveaway details like the old pub name in tiled floors or on the pediments.

As well as the bank branch, new uses for Islington’s old pubs include a church and even a mosque.

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Fancy a pint?

One of the joys of Islington is its pubs, not the high street chains but the lovely Victorian pubs on quiet side streets.

Last night, Rich and I enjoyed a pint and the Sunday papers at the Island Queen. Hidden away opposite Hanover School on Noel Road, the Island Queen has a spectacular interior, huge and high-ceilinged – like the Kings Head on Upper Street, but without the crowds. Everything was perfect, the service, the atmosphere, the drinks and we unwound happily.

The week before, I met Lib Dem friends at the Crown on Cloudesely Road, which has endured when so many other pubs in the area have closed. One friend lives in an ex-pub on Cloudesley Place. Of the pubs on Barnsbury Road, the original White Conduit House, latterly the Penny Farthing, has become a restaurant; while the Eclipse is now flats, and the King Edward VII became the Church on the Corner. Now the King of Denmark at the south end of Cloudesley Road is due to shut next month.

Sometimes closed pubs do re-open. Most recently the Canonbury tavern. Famous for its huge garden, it closed in 2006 after growing complaints from the neighbours about noise nuisance. Now it’s reopened with compromise conditions preventing late night use of the gardens.

Neighbourhood pubs are great, but you want them to be good neighbours, not neighbours from hell.

The current 24-hour licensing laws, introduced by Labour back in 2003, were supposed to create a ‘continental cafe culture'; needless to say, they have not. Instead chain pubs and bars, with no stake in their neighbourhood, can create nuisance on an industrial scale.

Truly independent pubs are much more interested in what their community wants and are free to provide it. But under the current law, most pubs are tied to the big hospitality conglomerates. The Fair Pint campaign, backed by Lib Dem MP Tim Farron, is trying to change that.

Meanwhile in Clerkenwell, the LibDem councillors are running a campaign to declare the ward a ‘saturation zone’, arguing that the 135 pubs, bars, nightclubs, off-licences, restaurants and other alcohol outlets already in the ward are more than enough. I’ve been out with them the last few weeks, collecting petition signatures. (And yes, we do tend to end up in the pub afterwards).

Imagine my joy last week when I saw that on my list of people was one Hazel Blears: her famous flippin’ flat is just a bottle’s throw from Farringdon. As she was a Home Office minister at the time the Licensing Act came in, I was quite looking forward to the encounter: but she was out. Down the pub? Or, as one friend suggested, at one of her other homes….

What would I have told her? We’re not anti-pub – far from it. But we want decent pubs that are good neighbours and part of the community around them; not soulless drinking factories. 24 hour licensing isn’t the answer. Reforming the tied pub system could be.

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Kodak in Clerkenwell

The Daily Mail has an article with some interesting old photos of London and beyond.

I was intrigued by the Kodak shop, which the Mail says is in Clerkenwell: but where? According to Nachphoto, it’s Kodak’s head office, in Clerkenwell Road, and the photo was taken in 1902.

The building was designed by George Walton, a Glaswegian designer and architect who came to London in 1897. Examples of his furniture are here. There’s a photo of the interior here, when it was Head Office of the Eastman Photographic Materials Company, and you can certainly see Walton’s style.

Today the site of the building is a mix of shops and cafes; Kodak has long since relocated its HQ to a tower block in Hemel Hempstead.

Meanwhile, as one of the Mail readers has spotted, even in those days they were digging up the roads…

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The Fleet River

The Fleet river is one of London’s lost rivers, running from springs at Hampstead and Highgate into the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge.

On the way, it flows through the ‘Ken Ditch’ that apparently gives Kentish Town its name, and of course, past Fleet Street. Between the two, it runs through Battlebridge at Kings Cross, and onto Clerkenwell by Farringdon. So although not flowing under Fleet Street itself, it does link the past and present site of the Guardian….

What was for years the filthy Fleet Ditch was culverted in the 19th century and became the Fleet sewer.

It didn’t always stay out of sight. Basements in Clerkenwell regularly flooded. The engineers digging out the route of the Metropolitan line faced the Fleet erupting more than once, covering the neighbourhood with filth and disrupting the rail works.

With the Fleet now safely underground, it risks being forgotten, although you can apparently hear it underground at Ray Street and at Charterhouse Street.

Earlier this year there were reports that the Environment Agency might open up some of our lost rivers. Similar projects have already seen bits of the river Wandle, for example, restored, although I fear the Fleet may be a bit too built up to create much of a wildlife habitat.

In the meantime, this week there’s a great piece in the FT about a walk (well, more of a pub crawl!) along the route of the Fleet. And you can trace it on the map courtesy of the ever wonderful Diamond Geezer.

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Finsbury’s Liberal hero

On Friday I was doing some daytime door-knocking around the Angel with Caroline Pidgeon. We were also getting signatures for the One Hour Bus Ticket campaign, on which more later.

Seeing Islington through a visitor’s eyes, one thing that struck me was that on quite a short stretch, we passed 3 blue plaques – as well as the homes of various contemporary celebrities.
Last month, I was honoured to be among the guests for the unveiling of a new blue plaque in Clerkenwell, organised by the Amwell Society. The plaque commemorates Finsbury MP Dadabhai Naoroji – appropriately enough in Naoroji Street, named after the great man. He was Britain’s first Asian MP and a Liberal MP, first elected in 1892.

And his political connections live on today in Clerkenwell councillor Marisha Ray.

Dadabhai is a hero for our area (he already has a plaque on Finsbury Town Hall) and for my party, but not exactly a household name. As the Amwell Society point out, people don’t know why it’s called Naoroji Street. And with more people talking up the BNP, it’s important to remember that London has always been a multi-cultural city. So the plaque is a great idea.

Emily Thornberry MP didn’t exactly unveil the plaque – it’s high up above the reach of vandals – but she did speak very positively about Naoroji’s contribution, although managing completely to avoid mentioning he was a Liberal MP! There’s a nice piece aout the event in the Tribune.

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