Clerkenwell Road, EC1R

Place Name

After a local well, the Clerks’ Well, which gives its name to the area. It was first mentioned in 1150. William Fitzstephen writing in about 1180 explains: “Around the northern outskirts of London are excellent springs with sweet, fresh, clear water, gushing over glistening pebbles. Among them in Fons Clericorum, the Clerks’ Well.” John Stow, writing 400 years later, says the well: “Took the name of the parish clerks in London, who of old time were accustomed there yearly to assemble, and to play some large history of Holy Scripture.” The clerks being The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks of the City of London, first granted charter by Henry IV in 1442. The road itself was laid out some 300 years later in April 1878 as part of a development by the Metropolitan Board of Works. A thoroughfare between Gray’s Inn Road and Goswell Road, it was designed to cut through the network of Elizabethan slums, and soon became a warehouse lined tram route. A number of earlier streets, as shown on John Rocque’s 1746 map, disappeared under the development, including Mutton Lane, Vine Street, Hatton Wall, Portpool Lane and Wilderness Row.


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