I’ve just stepped out for a bite to eat on a quiet Saturday at the Society of Genealogists. The library is busy and there is a workshop on in the lecture room but it’s a quiet day generally as there is little of the normal weekday traffic buzzing around our corner of London’s EC1M where Goswell Road meets Clerkenwell Road and Old Street. Since the closure of the Family Record Centre I’ve not walked about our neighbourhood so much recently but it doesn’t take much to notice that there has been a significant gentrification of the area. The building works next door to the Society have finally finished and the new William Harvey Heart Centre next door to us at the end of the Charterhouse Buildings cul-de-sac was formally opened on July 7th 2011. The Heart Centre is part of the new Queen Mary Charterhouse Square Campus in collaboration with Barts Hospital and The London NHS Trust.Opposite the Society’s front door , on what used to be the last bomb site in London, stands a modern block of apartments, very expensive office furniture shops and a veterinary practice.
Turn left at the end of the Charterhouse Buildings cul-de-sac you come to historic Clerkenwell now with new restaurants including the very highly acclaimed Modern Pantry and the exclusive Zetter Hotel and Townhouse on the corner of St John’s Square. Over the road is the fascinating St John’s Gate; the the historic home of the Order of St John and a landmark in Clerkenwell since 1504, which has been picked by Londoners to represent Islington on a commemorative badge for the 2012 Olympics. The church of St James Clerkenwell still provides a quiet oasis of calm to sit and eat a sandwich on a sunny lunch time but the trendy set still head for the pubs and bars of Clerkenwell Green and Farringdon during the week.
Today’s weekend engineering works on the Metropolitan and Hammersmith & Circle lines closed Barbican underground station, so a stroll up Old Street to Old Street tube station past the newly renovated church of St Lukes’ Old Street means you can see how the new LSO St Luke’s concert and rehearsal centre have added vibrancy to this part of town. Turn off Old Street down Whitecross Street and you’ll come to some of the best street food and restaurants in London. Usually the street food vendors serve exotic but incredibly tasty and cheap cuisine to the lunch time office workers and residents from the nearby Peabody Trust Estate (wonderfully interesting flats built in London clay brick) but the restaurants stay open at weekends too. This weekend the street food vendors, local shops and artists held a food and rather avant-gard music arts festival as part of the open London free weekend events leading up to the Olympic cultural celebrations. The food smells were divine and I wish I hadn’t had lunch before I walked down the street. I did resist the temptation of the most wonderful meringues and pastries. I loved the jazz and local community choir but couldn’t quite work out the art.
Turn right at the bottom of White Cross Street past Fortune Street Park and you’ll come out at the Barbican Tube station opposite the Barbican Arts Centre and Exhibition Halls. All of this culture is available within 30 minutes round walk from the Society of Genealogists. A very pleasant way to get some air and stretch your legs before hitting the SoG books shelves and manuscripts. I like working on a Saturday.