Service in memory of Islington clown in jeopardy

Clowns gather together to celebrate the annual church service in memory of English actor Joseph Grim

Clowns gather together to celebrate the annual church service in memory of English actor Joseph Grimaldi at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston. - Credit: Archant

Clowns fear a world ­famous annual service celebrating the father of their art is in jeopardy after they were asked to leave their historic home.

The event dedicated to King’s Cross entertainer Joseph Grimaldi started life in St James’ Chapel in Pentonville Road in 1946 but the building was gutted by fire and was forced to move to Holy Trinity Church in Dalston in 1959, where archives and memorabilia from the clowning world remain today.

But Clowns International has warned the future of this historic institution is now under threat.

It comes after the church asked it to remove belongings from the premises to make way for temporary classrooms to accommodate students at the Holy Trinity Primary School opposite, which is set to be rebuilt.


Secretary of Clowns International, Tony Eldridge saidthe clowns currently have no alternative space in which to house their gallery items, and it’s unclear if they will be able to continue using the church for the annual clown service.

He said the gallery is “a cultural ­asset” and is appealing for a sponsor to house the archive and “save it from obscurity”.

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He continued: “If there has been a meeting of some sort regarding the use of the church, Clowns International has not been informed of the outcome.”

“The trustees are concerned about the final outcome of all this uncertainty,” he added.

The London Diocesan Board for Schools confirmed that a “temporary nursery” would be housed inside the church, and that a log cabin is being constructed in the nave.

Vicar, the Rev Rosemary Hudson-Wilkin, who also serves as Speaker’s Chaplain in House of Commons, declined to comment on the matter when approached by the Gazette.


Performers come from around the world attend the annual service at Holy Trinity, commonly known as the Clown Church, to celebrate Mr Grimaldi’s life and lighting candles for other ­deceased clowns.

Mr Grimaldi, who started out treading the boards at Finsbury’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre and lived in Islington all his life, was born in 1778 and was known as the most popular entertainer of the Regency era before his death in 1837.

He was the first to don the red lips and nose synonymous with clowns today, and clowns are often called ‘Joeys’ after their famous namesake.


He was buried in the courtyard of the St James Chapel on Pentonville Road- now known as Grimaldi Park, where his tombstone remains to this day.

The unique grave plays music when you touch its tiles, to the tune of ‘Hot Codlins’, the song Grimaldi immortalised through his pantomime performances.

n Clowns International is encouraging anyone willing to house the items to contact Mattie Faint 020 7608 0312 or Tony Eldridge 020 8550 3021.