Today the area remains a hub of creative activity, attracting a year-round community of architects and designers, as well as financiers and lawyers, many of whom want to live a stone’s throw away from the City and the West End.
“Clerkenwell has the highest concentration of creative sector businesses anywhere in the world,” say Jonathan Stratford, a manager at estate agent Currell Residential. “There are architectural practices, design showrooms, as well as film companies, new media agencies and graphic and interactive design studios.”
In the early 1990s, the Manhattan Loft Corporation carried out one of London’s first high-profile loft conversions in an old warehouse in Clerkenwell’s Summers Street, which demonstrated the potential of the area’s former industrial spaces. “It is authentic loft living that one associates with Clerkenwell,” says Stratford. “Loft apartments don’t come on to the market that often but when they do, they attract a lot of attention because they are more highly sought after than any other kind of property.”
Map of Clerkenwell
Stratford says that some of the best warehouse conversions can be found in the Ziggurat Building, a converted art-deco printworks located on Saffron Hill, and the Paramount Building, a former shoe factory on St John Street.
“There is a severe lack of supply and a lot of buyers,” says James Walker-Osborn, a sales manager at Stirling Ackroyd. “The market has more than recovered since the recession. It is not unusual for us to sell properties before we've taken the photos.” There is usually so much interest in these properties that the agent asks buyers for secret bids to be submitted. Sealed bids are now systematically above the £1,000 per square foot mark and can reach up to £1,200!
Clerkenwell house prices
With much of the design community commuting into the area, Clerkenwell has a more relaxed feel at weekends than during the week. “It is quiet at weekends but the people you do see walking around are on their way to breakfast with the papers,” says Walker-Osborn. As might be expected, there is a strong café and restaurant culture with popular choices including The Modern Pantry, with renowned Kiwi head-chef Anna Hansen; bar-cum-diner, Giant Robot; and St John Bar and Restaurant, famous for its “nose-to-tail” cuisine.
In terms of development, Clerkenwell has “basically been done”, according to Stratford, who says that developers are moving east into the areas around Old Street’s “Silicon roundabout”. This means that Clerkenwell now is home to a slightly older crowd than the areas to its east: “When the developments first started, the kind of people who were buying were in their mid-twenties and they have now enjoyed 10 or 15 years of capital growth so Clerkenwell is a more mature marketplace than Shoreditch,” says Stratford.
As with other areas of central London, the agents believe that the arrival of Crossrail in Clerkenwell in 2018 will have a huge impact on the area. It is expected that around 140,000 people will pass through Farringdon station each day. “Although we look at the prices today and think they have shot up since the Manhattan Loft Corporation arrived, in fact there is an enormous amount of growth still yet to come in terms of development because of Crossrail,” says Stratford. “You’ll be able to be a banker in Canary Wharf three or four stops away and come home to Clerkenwell in the evening. So there is a lot to look forward to.”
Below is a selection of the classic Clerkenwell loft conversions marketed by Estate Agents. Urban living in one of these warehouses is likely to become increasingly rare, if you are interested in picking one of these up you will have to be quick as they do not tend to stay long on the market!
Warner House, 43-49 Warner Street, EC1.
This stunning conversion of a former printworks is located in the heart of Clerkenwell. With high ceilings and spacious interiors these apartments are always in demand.
Pattern House. 223-227 St John Street, EC1.
Taking its name after the Ingersoll pattern factory that it occupies, this is one of the earliest loft developments in the area and one of the most iconic, regularly appearing as a TV and film location.
Summers Street Lofts. 1-10 Summers Street, EC1.
The revolutionary Summers Street project marked Manhattan Loft Corporation’s first development, and was identified by Vogue as being instrumental in creating a reflection of Manhattan’s SoHo in London.
Da Vinci House. 44 Saffron Hill, EC1.
Located in the former 'Punch Magazine' printworks, Da Vinci House was named after one of Italy's greatest creative minds in homage to the local community of Clerkenwell once known as London's "Little Italy".
Ziggurat Building. 60-66 Saffron Hill, EC1
The Ziggurat Building is an Art Deco printworks that was converted into portered apartments in 1997 by the architects ORMS.
Paramount Building. 206-212 St. John Street, EC1
Synonymous with loft living, the Paramount Building, a former shoe factory, was designed by John Randle of Circus Architects.