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Huge support for plans to revitalise Clerkenwell Green

The Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green. The Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green.

Saturday, March 22, 2014
9:46 AM

A bold plan to spruce up one of the borough’s most historic spaces and restore it to former glory is gathering pace.

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Clerkenwell Green, site of radicalism and scene of Dickensian thefts, could be completely rejuvenated with no cars allowed, cobbles and the return of various features from its illustrious 500 year history – including mystery plays first performed in the middle ages.

The scheme is spearheaded by the Clerkenwell Green Preservation Society (CGPS), backed by English Heritage – and the conservation group hopes to involve a company which helped research the redevelopment of King’s Cross and parts of Oxford Street.

Ann Pembroke, director, chairman and founder of the CGPS, said: “It’s such a historic place, and there has been no work on it for time immemorial.

“This plan would improve the whole area. We want to reveal the old cobbles and remove all but essential vehicles.

“We have 50,000 less cars in the city [since the congestion charge] in the last 10 years so there is no need for so many parking spots. There is huge support for the project.

“It’s very fortunate the space hasn’t really changed in the last 500 years and we want to get it back to what it once was; a very pleasant leisure spot where people could voice their protests because it was outside the city walls.”

As well as pedestrianising the green and revealing the old cobbles, plans include a petanque court, the recreation of the old temperance fountain that disappeared in the 1920s and a permanent stage to put on the plays performed for the uneducated masses in the 1400s.

Mrs Pembroke added: “It would really rejuvenate the area and it would be really sad if any funding disappeared to another part of the borough when Clerkenwell Green is in such great need.

“We want to push forward and make the green part of our National heritage.”

Clerkwenwell Green will forever be associated with radicalism, from the Peasants Revolt, the chartists, a demonstration by the London Matchgirls against poor working conditions (apparently leading to the term “strike”) and as the home of Vladimir Lenin’s Iskra newspaper. It was also the setting for Oliver Twist’s first theft in Dickens’s book.

Cllr George Allan, who represents Clerkenwell Ward, said: “There is no doubt something needs to be done about Clerkenwell Green.

‘‘My only concern is whether now is quite the right moment.”

“There needs to be a time of reflection so we do the right thing. So while I am highly supportive, it needs to be done properly and not in any sort of hurry.

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