CLERKENWELL, a district on the north side of the city of London, England, within the metropolitan borough of Finsbury (q.v.). It is so called from one of several wells or springs in this district, near which miracle plays were performed by the parish clerks of London. This well existed until the middle of the 19th century. Here was situated a priory, founded in 1100, which grew to great wealth and fame as the principal institution in England of the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Its gateway, erected in 1504, and remaining in St John's Square, served various purposes after the suppression of the monasteries, being, for example, the birthplace of the Gentleman's Magazine in 1731, and the scene of Dr Johnson's work in connexion with that journal. In modern times the gatehouse again became associated with the Order, and is the headquarters of the St John's Ambulance Association. An Early English crypt remains beneath the neighbouring parish church of St John, where the notorious deception of the "Cock Lane Ghost," in which Johnson took great interest, was exposed. Adjoining the priory was St Mary's Benedictine nunnery, St James's church (1792) marking the site, and preserving in its vaults some of the ancient monuments. In the 17th century Clerkenwell became a fashionable place of residence. A prison erected here at this period gave place later to the House of Detention, notorious as the scene of a Fenian outrage in 1867, when it was sought to release certain prisoners by blowing up part of the building. Clerkenwell is a centre of the watch-making and jeweller's industries, long established here; and the Northampton Polytechnic Institute, Northampton Square, a branch of the City Polytechnic, has a department devoted to instruction in these trades.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)