“CLERKENWELL, a parish and suburban district of London, in the Finsbury division of the hundred of Ossulstone, in the county of Middlesex, 1 mile N. of St. Paul's.

At the time of the Conquest this parish is supposed to have formed part of the great forest of Middlesex, and to have been included under the name Isendone, as it does not appear separately in Domesday Survey. The first mention of it as Fons Clericorum, or Clerkenwell, is made by Fitz-Stephen, under the reign of Henry II., when describing the mysteries or sacred dramas, which were acted by the clerks and inferior clergy of London, who selected the well in Ray-street, now covered by the pump, as their stage, it being in the centre of gently rising grounds, which formed an extensive natural amphitheatre for the accommodation of the numerous spectators who attended on such occasions. The most celebrated of these festivals took place in 1391, in the reign of Richard II., and continued for three days, during which several sacred dramas were performed by the clerks in presence of the king and queen, attended by the whole court. In 1461 Edward IV. was proclaimed king here; and in 1603 a new way was cut through the fields, nearly in a line with the present Northampton street, to welcome the entry of James I. into London. The manor, which includes parts of this and the neighbouring parishes, retains the Saxon custom of "borough English," and has for many generations belonged to the Comptons, who formerly resided at Northampton House, a mansion occupying the site of the modern square of that name. Clerkenwell forms part of the borough of Finsbury, for which it is a place of election, and includes St. John-street, with the whole district lying between St. Sepulchre Without, the Charterhouse, and Goswell-street, covering an area of 320 acres of very uneven ground, and containing 7,088 inhabited houses. There are six squares, viz., Wilmington, which was once Spa Fields, Granville, Myddelton, Lloyd, Claremont, and St. John's. The whole is now built over, and is considered a healthy spot, having a gravel soil. Its population, according to the census of 1861, was 65,681 of whom several thousands are engaged in the watch and clock manufacture, besides jewellers, goldsmiths, enamellers, and other branches of manufacture. Here are Reid's brewery Nicholson's and other distilleries; Sadler's Wells Theatre, where Grimaldi acted; the county sessions-house, on Clerkenwell Green, built by Rogers, in place of Hick's Hall, in 1782; the county house of correction, built in 1794, at the cost of £70,000; the new prison, now called the House of Detention, on the separate system, for prisoners awaiting trial; the police station and court for the G division of the metropolitan police force, near Bagnigge Wells; the Finsbury dispensary, reformatory, London Female Mission House, &c. The space formerly occupied by the reservoir of the New River Company is now levelled and built over.

from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868


Church Records

Clerkenwell churches are included in our list for Finsbury.

Some of the registers of St James Clerkenwell have been published in the Harleian Society Register Series:

9Christenings 1551-1700Available on the internet archive
10Christenings 1701-1754 
13Marriages 1551-1754 
17Burials 1551-1665 
19Burials 1666-1719 
20Burials 1720-1754 



Correctional Institutions

Coldbath Fields Prison was a House of Correction in Clerkenwell. There is a brief description and picture on the Spartacus Educational website.


Description & Travel

Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"CLERKENWELL, a parish and suburban district of London, in the Finsbury division of the hundred of Ossulstone, in the county of Middlesex, 1 mile N. of St. Paul's. " (There is more of this description).

"COLNEY HATCH-LANE, a hamlet in the parish of Clerkenwell, in the Finsbury division of the hundred of Ossulstone, in the county of Middlesex, adjoining Muswell Hill, and 1½ mile from the Colney Hatch railway station."

"PENTONVILLE, a suburban district of London and chapelry in the parish of Clerkenwell, Finsbury division of the hundred of Ossulstone, county Middlesex, 1½ mile N.E. of St. Paul's. " (There is more of this description).

Description(s) from "The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland" (1868), transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003; intended for personal use only, so please respect the conditions of use.

You can see pictures of Clerkenwell which are provided by:





The two main modern sources for the history of Clerkenwell are:

Pinks The hIstory of Clerkenwell published in 1881 is also of interest but is not entirely accurate. It is available onlin at the Wellcome Collection https://wellcomecollection.org/works/h89hgmkd



You can see maps centred on OS grid reference TQ312822 (Lat/Lon: 51.523484, -0.110256), Clerkenwell which are provided by:


Poor Houses, Poor Law

An index to the Clerkenwell St James Settlement Examinations 1778-1851, has been produced and is available on microfiche from LWMFHS.