Clerkenwell once known as London’s “Little Italy” because of the large number of Italian immigrants living in the area from the 1850s to the 1980s, is an area of London particularly steeped in history. Yesterday, I was fortunate to attend a fascinating historical exhibition and talk, held at Holborn library in North London. The talk was lead by Tudor Allen, who’s in-depth knowledge and enthusiasm of the subject matter was as impressive as his royal themed name.
Allen took the audience on a journey from early 19th century Italy to modern day London Town, along the way highlighting the key events which helped to shape England’s capital. The complexity of such a task would have been daunting to most, but Allen with his confident approach and authoritative style, illustrated with ease how much Londoners owe their modern lifestyles to the pioneering efforts of the 19th century Italian immigrant community.
When it comes to describing Italian culture, it’s often associated with tomatoes, basil, pizza and pasta. These 4 words, thankfully were not even mentioned during the talk. Little Italy, has a rich and somewhat troubled history, but cultural highlights and industrial developments included the popularisation of street (barrel) music, ice cream, the growth of ice imports, the transportation of goods via canals, coffee houses, chocolate and even, arguably, pioneering free healthcare and education models.
Sadly the exhibition at the Camden Local Studies and Archive Centre in Holborn library has now closed after a run of 5 weeks. However, the exhibition will form part of the forthcoming Canal Museum exhibition. More details as I receive them.
I highly recommend if you are visiting London and have an interest in all things Italian, to visit the Canal Museum later this year. You will certainly learn that there is more to Italian culture than Pizza, Pasta, Passata and Prada!
Thanks to Mr Tudor Allen, for providing the flyers used in this post.