Its name now more well known as one of the City of London’s 25 wards, Aldersgate was a gate opening to the city’s north, located close to where the Museum of London now stands, and was one of the city’s four original gates.

A plaque in Aldersgate Street marks where the gate once stood (there’s also an explanatory ‘London Wall’ plaque nearby) – it was finally knocked down in 1761.

The gate’s origins go back to late Roman times – it was apparently created to strengthen the city’s northern defences against Saxon incursions – and was built with two roadways passing through the wall protected by semi-circular towers. (The name apparently has nothing to do with the age of the gate as many believe but may be a corruption of a Saxon name Ealdred or come from a type of tree which grew nearby.)

An important link to places like the fair at Smithfield, St Bartholomew’s Priory and the Charterhouse in the Middle Ages, it was used as a prison and even as late as 1660, diarist Samuel Pepys writes of seeing the limbs of executed traitors displayed upon it. It was also had residential quarters above it – these were said to have been occupied at times by the City Crier and in the mid-1500s were used by printer and stationer John Day (he is said to have printed an early copy of the Bible, dedicated to King Edward VI, there in 1549).

In 1603, it was through Aldersgate that King James I entered London (his arms were later placed over the gate), and just 14 years later, in 1617, the entire gate was rebuilt. Repaired in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666 (it’s final form was said to feature, as well as the arms of King James I, statues of the Biblical figures Jeremiah and Samuel), it was finally demolished in 1761 to improve the flow of traffic.

PICTURE: Site of where Aldersgate once stood. To the right of the picture is the Church of St Botolph-without-Aldersgate.

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The Charterhouse School was founded in 1611 – the seventh year of King James I’s reign – on the site of a former Carthusian monastery in Smithfield.

It owes its creation to Thomas Sutton (1532-1611) who bought the site – which then contained a Tudor mansion – from Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, in 1611, the year of Sutton’s death.

A Yorkshireman, Sutton (who is buried in the chapel in Charterhouse) is said to have been the “wealthiest commoner in England” at the time, having made a fortune after discovering coal. He used his resources to endow a school and an almshouse on the site.

Among the school’s alumni were John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, and novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.

The school – which is this year celebrating its 400th anniversary – moved to Godalming in Surrey in 1872 and the site was subequently occupied by the Merchant Taylor’s School while the almhouse continued to operate on the western part of the land (it still does today under the name Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse).

The school later became the medical college of the nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital and is now occupied by Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

For more on the Charterhouse, see www.thecharterhouse.org (tours run on Wednesday afternoons at 2.15pm from April until August and cost £10 per person). For more on the Charterhouse School, see www.charterhouse.org.uk.

Located just to the north of the City, the area of Clerkenwell takes its name from the Clerk’s Well which stands in Farringdon Lane.

The well was mentioned as far back as 1174 and was the scene of medieval mystery plays which were performed by the parish clerks of London. It was formerly located inside the wall of the 12th century St Mary’s Nunnery (located on the site of St James Parish Church) but is now found in the basement of a building named Well Court.

Islington Council record that a pump was installed at pavement level in 1800 to enable the public to use the well to draw water but this was closed by the mid 1800s and the exact site of the well lost to public knowledge. It was only in 1924 that the well was rediscovered during building work.

Alongside the nunnery, Clerkenwell was also home to the Priory of St John of Jerusalem, English headquarters of the crusader order known as the Knights Hospitallers. The Order of St John is still headquartered on the site of the former priory – the remains of the original priory include the Norman crypt under the rebuilt church and the priory’s main entrance, St John’s Gate, now home to a museum on the order. Also found in Clerkenwell is the Charterhouse, founded by Carthusian monks in 1370 and later a school (it’s these days home to a school of medicine and dentistry).

The area, centred on Clerkenwell Green (although apparently there hasn’t been a green here for several hundred years), become famous for its leisure-related institutions in the 1600s – these included spas, tea gardens and theatres (Sadler’s Wells Theatre still remains, albeit in a modern, dance-related form) – and gradually evolved into a more built-up residential area.

It was initially favored by the fashionable until the Industrial Revolution saw printing houses, breweries and distilleries, and clock and watchmakers move in. A survivor from the 18th century is the Middlesex Sessions House, built on Clerkenwell Green as a court around 1782 and now used by the Freemasons.

Industry declined in the area after World War II and Clerkenwell, which had also become a noted location for communists in the early 1900s (Lenin edited a paper here at one stage), was gradually transformed back into a residential area. Since the Eighties, Clerkenwell has again been going through a process of transformation – this time one of gentrification.

The well, located at 14-16 Farringdon Lane, can be visited – to arrange a visit, contact the Islington Local History Centre on 020 7527 7988 or email local.history@islington.gov.uk. For walks in Clerkenwell, see the Clerkenwell & Islington Guides Association  at www.clerkenwellwalks.org.uk.