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78-year-old volunteers to personally rip up tarmac to restore historic Clerkenwell street’s former glory

PUBLISHED: 13:06 14 May 2012

The cobbles are showing through the tarmac in Clerkenwell Close. Photo by Dieter Perry

The cobbles are showing through the tarmac in Clerkenwell Close. Photo by Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

»A 78-year-old has offered to grab a pickaxe and rip up the tarmac blighting an historic street to restore its former glory.

Malcolm Turner says he will pitch in with the manual labour if a team of volunteers could be recruited to re-expose the hidden cobbles in Clerkenwell Close.

Mr Turner – who was married in the Close – believes it could recapture its historic charm with the facelift, while Islington Council might save a fortune on the cost of patching up the cracked asphalt.

He wed there in St James church in 1964 – exactly 100 years after his great-great-grandfather tied the knot at the same place.

He said: “Clerkenwell Close is one of the most unique streets in London, there’s nothing to compare to it in the whole of the metropolis.

“The tarmac over the cobbles is a horrible sight to look at for such an historic street.

“It’s looking so horrible and tatty, with patches where the cobbles come through. There are beautiful cobbles underneath.

Complicated

“If we could get a group of volunteers, I personally would clear 10 square yards of it and I’m 78. I would do it with a pick and shovel. It’s a simple job, not an expensive job, but they’re spending fortunes patching it up.”

However, the council says it’s a much more complicated and costly exercise than simply getting a squad of do-gooders together.

It also warned that many of the stones are probably missing due to trenches dug by utilities firms over the years.

Cllr Paul Convery, a member of Islington Council’s executive, said: “With one or two caveats, we love the idea of re-exposing historic cobbled streets.

“We’re trying to encourage more people to cycle and cobbles are not always the best surface for cyclists, and we’d be bound to find a lot of the stones missing.

He added: “You would have to rip up the tarmac just to see what’s there and you wouldn’t want to do that unless you’ve committed to do the whole thing, but it would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to restore.

“The cobbles are very expensive and laying them is a skilled task.”

Between 2002 and 2003, nearby St John’s Square was re-cobbled at a cost of around £250,000.


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