Thursday, October 18, 2018

A wander around Holborn and Clerkenwell

London is a great city for flaneuring. There's probably nowhere quite like it. And so having an hour to kill is always an opportunity.

After a smashing fish and chip lunch with John Dixon at the Fryer's Delight on Theobold's Road, I took in a few old haunts. I worked for magazine publisher EMAP in four different buildings around Holborn and Clerkenwell from 1989 to 1993. Robert Elms described Holborn as his favourite part of London when he was his own Listed Londoner on BBC Radio London recently. I can see why. It's a really fascinating part of town, with plenty of traces of the strong Italian character, including two splendid Catholic Churches in contrasting states of health. All of this rubs alongside the diamond traders in Hatton Garden.

While businesses in office buildings come and go. I was pleased to see some of the old pubs, cafe's and delis are still going strong. But what pleased me most were the characterful newer businesses. Nowhere stays the same for long in London, but it was good to see so much has remained true to these roots. Exmouth Market is an artisan food paradise but unsurprisingly the pie and mash shop has gone. Lamb’s Conduit Street has also upgraded its reputation as the home of strong independent menswear, with Universal Works and Folk the standouts. However, to see the magnificent Shop 70 now a Ryman seems a travesty.

Hatton Garden and Leather Lane are actually very similar to how I remember them, full of life, colour and lurking intrigue. There was no trace of the old publishing village we inhabited, the Guardian having long gone too, though I'm sure there are salesmen of a different kind keeping the City Pride in business. MEED House on John Street is now residential, 67 Clerkenwell Road and Abbots Court are still offices, but there's not much to show of the “most advanced publishing system in Europe” we were told we had on Bowling Green Lane. The receptionist told me they still get mail for EMAP.

There's a gallery here, if you want to see the pictures.

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