Clerkenwell has a long history. It took its name from the Clerk's Well at Farringdon Lane.


The area

The area was greatly changed by the Industrial Revolution. It became a centre for breweries, distilleries and the printing industry. It was best known for clock and watch making which once employed many people from around the area. Flourishing craft workshops still carry on some of the traditional trades, such as jewellery making. Many former industrial buildings have been converted into residential dwellings, and in the last decades the area has been undergoing a constant transistion.

Before Clerkenwell became a built up area, it was famous as a resort where Londoners could disport themselves at its spas, tea gardens and theatres. Sadler’s Wells has survived, after rebuilding, as heir to this tradition.
— Wikipedia

Monastic traditions

Clerkenwell had strong monastic traditions. The nuns of St Mary's, Clerkenwell, lived on the site of the present St James' Parish Church. The Monastic Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, had its English headquarters in Clerkenwell. It was founded to give medical assistance during the crusades.
St John's Gate is still there, in the rebuilt form of the Priory Gate. Carthusian Monks lived at the Charter House, near the boundary with the city. The Charter House later became a school and almshouse, which still remains.
In the Middle Ages, the London Parish clerks performed annual mystery plays at the Clerk’s Well, based on biblical themes.

Craftsmanship and trade

In the late 19th century Clerkenwell became a place for craft, watchmaking and jewellery workshops. It was then a very radical area. Karl Marx lived next to Clerkenwell Green when writing "Das Kapital". And Hiram Maxim invented the machine gun in the building on the corner of Hatton Garden and Clerkenwell Road.
Hatton Garden is still London's centre for the diamond trade - with a huge choice of jewellery shops and workshops.
The large building at the south end of Saffron Hill is the London headquarters of de Beers, and every day the diamonds are delivered by helicopter to a landing pad on the roof.