While the Square Mile is London’s historical home of trade and finance, Clerkenwell on its northern edge is clearly the design equivalent. Since the Industrial Revolution, the area has housed craft workshops, printers, clockmakers and jewellers. The area is celebrating its rich design heritage this month with the sixth annual Clerkenwell Design Week from 19 to 21 May. Today also sees the end of Made in Clerkenwell, an event which saw 100 artists descend on two Victorian studios to show off their handmade crafts.
Festivals aside, the area remains a popular place to live for architects, graphic designers and artists, which could be down to the abundance of studio space and industrial warehouses – a trait it shares with its eastern neighbour Shoreditch. Another similarity is the fact it gentrified around the same time in the mid-90s and has held on to its creative businesses. “Thanks to its wealth of advertising agencies, publicists and recording studios, Clerkenwell still attracts the creative crowd,” says Alex Taniewski-Elliott, manager at estate agent Fyfe McDade. “They now rub shoulders with the new wave of City workers wanting to live and play in a vibrant area with soul, character and the added benefit of being able to walk to work.”
Developers and landlords have also been zoning in on the area in the past five years. This is due to a number of factors; house price value rises around the City fringes; upcoming projects like the rejuvenation of Smithfield Market, Exmouth Market and Barts Square near London Wall; and the arrival of Crossrail at nearby Farringdon, which will be the only station with access to Thameslink, London Underground and the new high-speed east to west train service when it’s completed in 2018.
Property search agency Sourcing Property also pinpoints the area as “especially popular with our buy-to-let investor clients” as it’s constantly in demand with renters, too. “The investment properties we’ve bought have all let extremely well and quickly,” says managing director, Jo Eccles, “typically to finance, tech or media tenants, with an average gross rental yield of around 3.6 per cent.” Current prices range between £1,000psqft to £1,400psqft, according to Jamie Burnhope, a buying consultant at Black Brick, but he foresees this number rocketing skywards in the next five to ten years. “With all the new developments in Clerkenwell,” he says, “I see no reason why prices could not catch up with those in Soho.”
FIVE REASONS TO MOVE TO THE AREA
There’s loads of great architecture. From high-ceilinged loft living to listed Victorian period houses, there are plenty of unique homes on offer here.
Situated two minutes’ walk from Sadler’s Wells, Exmouth Market is heaving with crafty design shops, fashion boutiques and independent bookshops along with a wide range of cafes, bars and restaurants.
You’re more likely to get fit and healthy living in Clerkenwell because you can walk to Central London. Its position on the outskirts of the city means you can walk to work, walk to a party in Shoreditch or walk to the theatre in the West End or the Barbican.
Since its 90s gentrification heyday, there’s loads of really great places to eat in Clerkenwell. Start off with brunch at The Modern Pantry, visit Smith’s of Smithfield for a classic salt beef sandwich for lunch, dine on the finest British meat at The Quality Chop House, then go for a pint at The Eagle.
Crossrail will be running through Farringdon by 2018, and nearby Angel and King’s Cross may be approved for Crossrail 2 so watch this space.