Jan 01, 2013
SE10's London team takes walk down history lane
You may be wondering what 700 cows an hour, Pink Floyd and the Metropolitan Subterranean Railway could have in common. After a recent tour of the area surrounding their London offices in Clerkenwell Green, the team at SE10’s U.K. office can tell you that these all are part of its long and varied history.
The offices are in Clerkenwell – London’s oldest suburb – which dates back to the early 12th Century. It was named after a well in Farringdon Lane where London Parish clerks, in the adjacent green, performed sacred plays in the Middle Ages (hence – Clerks-well). The original well can still be seen today after being rediscovered during excavation work in 1924.
Strong monastic traditions in Clerkenwell originate with the Benedictine nunnery of St. Mary and the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem. The knights of St. John of Jerusalem cared for pilgrims during the Crusades and established the first hospital in Jerusalem. Although technically open to everyone, the Priory of St. John was the preserve of upper class travelers and contains the oldest crypt in London.
The Industrial Revolution greatly transformed Clerkenwell. The area became the center for distilleries, breweries and the printing industry. Clerkenwell was famous for gin production in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The town even had coin-operated gin dispensers for out-of-hours shots. Clerkenwell was also known for its excellence in clock and watch making.
Cowcross Street, a few blocks from the SE10 office, got its name from the cows, sheep and pigs that used to cross the River Fleet on their way to meet their untimely fate in the slaughterhouses surrounding Smithfield meat market. At its peak, 700 cows an hour could be seen crossing the bridge.
Farringdon Tube Station on Cowcross Street is part of the world’s first underground railway. Dismissed by many at the time as an expensive folly and health hazard, the Metropolitan Subterranean Railway turned out to be a great commercial success – as well as coining the phrases of the world’s ’metro’s’ and ‘subways’.
Originally, the SE10 office, located at 1 Sekforde Street, was the ‘Watercress and Flower Girls’ Christian Mission’ in the late 19th Century, which provided refuge to poor and disabled women by allowing them to make paper flowers to sell locally. The building later became recording studio to rock band Pink Floyd in the 1970s and, most recently, the flat of Hugh Grant’s character in the film About a Boy.
Clerkenwell’s long and diverse history still enhances its charm today. It’s fascinating to think that preserving historic areas enables a movie star, livestock and one of the U.K.’s top PR firms to all share a piece a history.
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