Rebels, Radicals and Rough Justice: Historic Clerkenwell
Marx Memorial Library
Stop here. Look at the building on your left, with the pointed arch above the second floor. That’s the Marx Memorial Library.
This juxtaposition of the old law courts and socialist revolution defines the dramatic nature of Clerkenwell. From 1872 the radical London Patriotic Society used this building. The aristocratic anarchist Kropotkin and Eleanor Marx both visited. Then, in 1892, the 20th Century Press backed by William Morris was set up here. They published the revolutionary journal, 'Iskra', and Lenin himself worked here from 1902 to 1903. He lived in North Clerkenwell in Percy Street.
On the 50th anniversary of Marx's death, in 1933, a library of socialist works was opened here. You can visit the library most afternoons. Inside is a mural showing workers trampling on capitalists in the City of London.
Today it is hard to imagine the radical turmoil of the past history of Clerkenwell Green. In previous centuries, many massive protest movements gathered in the peaceful open space on this road. These included the Lollards, Chartists and Communists, as well as the Peasant's Revolt of 1381. We will hear about them later.
For now, walk on past the Marx Memorial Library. Then take your first left, and walk up the street.