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The London Night Walk: a dark, immersive tour of Smithfield and Clerkenwell

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This event has finished Took place on: Saturday, 24th Feb 2024

 £48.02

An immersive night walk through bloody Smithfield and old Clerkenwell exploring how, over 2,000 years, London went from darkness to light

As winter falls, join actors, musicians and Dr Matthew Green on an immersive night walk through the slaughter grounds of Smithfield and hallowed alleys of Clerkenwell exploring how, over two thousand years, London went from darkness into light, with torch-lit performances in darkened churchyards and courts, and piping-hot wine.

The two-hour tour takes place in the hours of darkness with musical and operatic performances in moonlit graveyards and a stop in an ancient City tavern. We will supply mulled wine as we walk.

Chronology

Roman London was pitch black at night. The medieval city, on a moonless, starless light, wasn’t much better, just pricks of candles in the window-slits. But, in time, as London cracked out of its shell and ate into fields, the city would be recast in glorious light.

Clerkenwell grew rapidly in the eighteenth century and it will be here, as the dome of St Paul’s arises from the sheaths of mist in the distance, that we discover — and experience — how the Georgians colonised not just continents, but the night itself. 

We will venture down streets, alleys and courts once pitch-black and menacing but, from the 1700s, spectacularly illuminated by street lamps, flaming links, backlit window art — so beautiful against bricks smeared in seacoal — and vast public light shows and fireworks.

With London’s thoroughfares now ‘vast fiery threads stretching into the sky’ as an astonished Prussian put it and the bricks, pavements and leaves of residential squares mottled in brilliant light and swimming in shadows, Dr Green will resurrect — in startling, memorable detail — the bright nights of Georgian London from the jelly houses where prostitutes wobbled enormous multicoloured jellies in front of men bound in rope to late-night frost fairs on the Thames, this became a metropolis that never slept.

Victorian London was lit by gas then electricity but darkness returned in the blackouts of WW1 and WW2, and now they threaten to consume us once again.

Route

We begin in ominous, brooding Smithfield. On the cusp of the City, here were burned the Protestant martyrs in the reign of Mary Tudor and survive, at Cloth Fair, medieval and Tudor buildings — some of the rarest in London. Then to Charterhouse where was a frightening lantern-framed plague pit where bonfires were burned to thwart the pestilential miasma in the air. We will continue north, to Clerkenwell, where, in its tagliatelle of twisting, winding streets, we will meet the nightwalkers of Old London, the transgressive figures who lent London a unique menace.

Immersive Experiences

Mingle with Bloody Mary as she drinks red wine, eats roast chicken, and watches Protestants burn.

Gaze up at St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, as a drunken watchman yells down at you, demanding to know why you have broken the curfew, his lantern a pinprick of light through the battlements, arrow by his side. 

Feel what it’s like to walk down an alleyway in Clerkwenwell in the pitch black, the footsteps of a stranger right behind you, the silhouette of a link boy with his lantern ahead. 

See some of the earliest street lamps.

Drink in a tavern lit only by candle. 

Put your ear to the only drain in London where you can hear the River Fleet, gushing and gurning below, consigned, forever, to the darkness of burial.

Crouched beneath a colonnade, torch illuminating his face, we’ll hear the harrowing memoirs of a London link boy.

In Passing Alley, the confessions of the Clerkenwell mollies, huddled outside the tavern where they used to meet, mourning a love they could not obey.

The chairmen who had to navigate ‘the ruggedness of the unequal streets’ and those of the fair sex who had fallen into the pavement, and drowned.

The wherrymen who could only look on in horror as the River Fleet dried up, along with their livelihoods.

Hear the stories, too, of the Clerkenwell Marxists with their coloured ink and quixotic design. Of lank merchants and jelly-house millionnaires. The blind fiddlers who scored the orgies of the good and the great. And of pickpockets, highwaymen, and whores.

Lantern in hand, the swirl of your breath in the champagne air, the tour will reveal the origins of our all-night city — a far cry from medieval London with its curfew — conveying too how it was not just the physical fabric of London that was transformed but, as well, the human faculty itself — in a mental and physical Enlightenment.


Contact and Booking Details

This event has finished Took place on: Saturday, 24th Feb 2024

 £48.02

Booking details and information at this website.

Reserve tickets at this website

Disclaimer: All information given is correct at the time of compiling the listings. Any questions about the event should be directed to the event organiser. Photos and images used in this listing are supplied by the organiser.

2024-02-24 2024-02-24 Europe/London The London Night Walk: a dark, immersive tour of Smithfield and Clerkenwell An immersive night walk through bloody Smithfield and old Clerkenwell exploring how over years London went from darkness to light As winter falls join actors musicians and Dr Matthew Green on an immer https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/calendar/2024/02/24/the-london-night-walk-a-dark-immersive-tour-of-smithfield-and-clerkenwell-360508 Smithfield Market,Grand Avenue,,London

Location

Smithfield Market,

Grand Avenue,
London,
EC1A 9PS

Map
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Nearest tube and train stations to Smithfield Market

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