Clerkenwell was known as Little Italy in the 1850s and remains the spiritual home of London’s Italians. They are represented by the very striking St Peter’s Italian Church on Clerkenwell Road, which was modelled on the Basilica San Crisogono in Rome, by Irish architect Sir John Miller-Bryson, and was consecrated as the Church of St Peter of all Nations in 1863. Simply put, it’s a stunningly beautiful building.
The name Clerkenwell came from the Clerk’s Well in Farringdon Lane, with part of the old well still standing, having been incorporated into the Well Court building. The old well can be visited by appointment, but you might prefer to take your own bottled spring water with you.
Just past Farringdon Station is Saffron Hill and The One Tun Pub. In ye olde days the area was well known for its crime and poverty and was written about by Charles Dickens in his classic novel, Oliver Twist. Dickens made Saffron Hill the location of Fagin’s lair, and he also used the One Tun pub as inspiration for the novel’s Three Cripples pub, which was a home from home for the criminal underworld who used to drink and scheme there.
Almost thirty years after Oliver Twist was published, Farringdon Station opened in 1863 as the world’s first underground railway.