Non-Tourist London: A London Walk

Euston to Clerkenwell Green: A circular route.

These are not two areas of London that might spring to mind as destinations for a tourist, or visitor. For those with an interest in history, architecture, or seeking unusual opportunities for photographs however, they may well provide some nice surprises. The walk is essentially flat, and not at all arduous. If not wanting to spend time in any of the museums, you could easily do this in a half-day trip. It is probably best done after 10am, when the busy period of the rush hour has abated, and before the afternoon exodus from the capital begins.

Arrive at Euston Station by main line railway, bus, or underground train. It is one of the easiest destinations to find, on any transport network. Leaving the station by the main exit, the outside food court will be behind you, and the busy bus station will be on your left. Turn left at the main road and walk along to the traffic lights. You will see the bus station on one corner, and opposite you will be the local Fire Station, housed in an old building. Cross the road heading south, and make sure to use the pedestrian lights, as the road is incredibly busy. You will now be at the corner of Upper Woburn Place.  Opposite, you will see the imposing St Pancras New Church, built in 1828. Unfortunately, proximity to traffic has stained the once pristine stonework, but this building is of some importance, and is Grade 1 listed. The church has a crypt, and this now houses art exhibitions. Details can be found on the church website.

Continuing south along Upper Woburn place, look out for an entrance on your left. This is Woburn Walk, a pedestrianised shopping street. One of the best preserved examples of a Victorian street that still exists in London, it is not that well-known, but worth exploring. Often used in film and TV productions, it may seem more familiar than you imagined. It is also the site of the home of W.B. Yeats, from 1895-1919. Leave by the same entrance, and turn left towards Tavistock Square, passing the imposing British Medical Association building on your left, and the large garden square on your right. At the junction with Tavistock Place, turn left, heading east. On the left hand side of this road, you will soon see the unusual building called Mary Ward House. Once the home of that famous novelist and social reformer, the house is now used for functions, and is also a popular filming location. It is one of the most unusual architectural designs you will see in London. Continuing along Tavistock Place, you will find cheap hotels and backpacker hostels, as well as reasonably priced cafes and restaurants. This is part of the University area of London, and is generally very busy.

At the junction with Hunter Street, turn right, and head south towards Brunswick Square. You cannot fail to see the concrete housing estate on your right. Built above a shopping area, in the style of a stepped pyramid, this example of 1960’s brutalist architecture is home to a large amount of social housing, and the style has divided critics over the years. There is an art-house cinema, some trendy shops, as well as some useful shops, and a couple of very decent restaurants, that are not too expensive. I actually like this development, and would urge you to wander inside for a while, to get the feel of it. Across the road is another large garden square, that gives the area its name. At the north-east corner, you will find the Foundling Museum, dedicated to the original Foundling Hospital. This houses many exhibitions, and also tells the story of the founder, Thomas Coram, as well as the history of Handel and Hogarth.

Back south along Brunswick Square, and into Grenville Street. At the junction with Guilford Street, you will see opposite you the famous Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. Turn left, and head east again for a short while, until you see Doughty Street across the road to your right. Cross over into this street heading south, and you will see the Dickens Museum on your left, at number 48. This is a lovingly-restored Victorian house, that was the London home of the famous writer, and where many of his most famous books were written. It is open to the public, and there is an admission fee. After this, continue along Doughty Street until it becomes John Street. At the end, you will be on the busy Theobalds Road. Directly opposite, on the south side, is the large complex of Gray’s Inn. This is one of the four Inns of Court. It is home to this professional body, and also houses the offices (known as Chambers) of many barristers, and others serving the legal profession. Built around a large square garden, this has existed here since the fourteenth century. Just to your right, you will see a narrow road called Jockeys’ Fields. Immediately before this is a walkway that gives pedestrian access to the area, and you can have a look around this unusual and bustling place, with barristers in their gowns and wigs.

Follow this south until it merges with Jockeys’ Fields. At the end, turn right into Sandland Street, then next left into Brownlow Street. At the main road, turn left and head east, in the direction of Chancery Lane Station. Before you get to there, you will see some very old buildings on the other side of the road. Their name is Staple Inn, and they are timbered buildings dating from the Elizabethan era. Once part of the Inns of Court, they survived the Great Fire, and are now home to some incongruous shops, unfortunately. But they will be a delight to the eye, some of the oldest surviving original buildings in London. Continue past Chancery lane Station still heading east. At the junction where the road divides in a prominent fork, take the sharp left, into Hatton Garden. This long street is home to London’s jewellery district and diamond market, including the famous De Beers. Virtually every shop is a jeweller, and it makes for some interesting window-shopping, as well as providing historical interest, as it has been the jewellery district since the reign of Elizabeth the First. To the right is Ely Place, where you can see the oldest Catholic church in England, St Etheldreda’s, dating from the 13th Century.

At the end of your northward stroll, you will arrive at Clerkenwell Road, directly opposite St Peter’s Italian Church. This is the hub of London’s Italian community, who have had a long association with the Clerkenwell area. Built in 1863, it is a modest building, with some colourful exterior decorations. Facing the church, turn right, and head east until you cross the busy junction at Farringdon Road. Take the left into Clerkenwell Green, and you will see the mixture of buildings that once formed a small village, dating back to the Middle Ages. Though the present buildings are home to fashionable offices, the architecture is a pleasant mix, and has the feel of a country village still. The square is dominated by an attractive church, St James Clerkenwell, dating from 1792.

Retrace your steps back to the junction at Farringdon Road, and head south to Farringdon Station. Here you can get a tube or main line train, or take a bus back to wherever you want to go. You will have seen some unusual buildings, a great deal of history, and parts of London far from the usual tourist routes. If you take this walk, I hope that you enjoy it.

Here are some links to points of interest.

http://www.stpancraschurch.org/index.php?id=163

http://londonunveiled.com/2013/07/04/woburn-walk/

http://www.marywardhouse.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunswick_Centre

http://www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk/

http://www.dickensmuseum.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staple_Inn

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerkenwell

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Non-Tourist London: A London Walk

  1. You would make (possibly you did) a great guide, Pete. I can see the streets as I read your descriptions. I spent a lot of time in the area around Hatton Garden and also enjoyed the window shooping there! Elizabeth

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  2. What a lovely post Pete, it’s brought back a lot of memories. I was a Park Keeper for Camden Council in the mid-90s and one of our duties was to open and lock up all the parks in that area from Lincoln’s Inn fields, Tavistock Square, St Andrew’s etc. My recollection is there were about 30 parks across the borough we locked up every night – no easy task at times getting people out the parks. I felt privileged to work in such a historic area of London and your post has brought it back to life as well as the other places you mention which I loved to visit too. Thank you for sharing. Best wishes as always, Jane x

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    1. Thanks Jane. Your experience as a park keeper highlights just how many green spaces there are in London. A resident or visitor is never too far from somewhere green and peaceful.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. A post which encapsulates everything that is so refreshingly rare about your blog – thank you for a patient, considerate, informed and unpretentious way of dealing with my problematic home city.

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    1. Thanks very much, happy to promote your excellent blog. I don’t post that many London articles, as I have moved to Norfolk. But I will be sure to add links to you whenever I do!
      Regards, Pete.

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    1. Thanks David. I think there are already quite a few London Walks books out there. I write these from personal experience, actual walks I have done, and places visited, before I ran out of steam, or got bored!
      Hopefully some readers will get some inspiration from the ideas.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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