Rebels, Radicals and Rough Justice: Historic Clerkenwell
Stop here while I tell you about the gruesome history of Smithfield, the area we’re in now.
First, look back at the gateway you have just come through. The Tudor half-timbered frontage was plastered over for centuries and only rediscovered after a Zeppelin bomb damaged it in the First World War. Above the gateway you can see a wooden statue of St Bartholomew, carrying a knife. The saint had been martyred and killed by flaying him alive, as represented by his knife.
[SMALL AUDIO PAUSE]
Now look at the entrance to the building with two Ionic columns on your left. On the left of the entrance is a memorial to John Rogers and other protestant martyrs. They were burnt at Smithfield in the reign of Queen Mary in the 1550s.
The memorial on the right of the entrance is to William Wallace, the Scottish patriot. He was defeated by Edward I and brought to Smithfield to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
Now turn back in the direction we were heading before we stopped. Then continue straight, keeping the traffic circle on your right.
As you can see, Smithfield was historically a place of slaughter, of both animals and humans. It was also the site of the annual Bartholomew Fair which was run from the 1100s until 1855. It was then suppressed for rowdiness, drunkenness and debauchery.