Caledonian Road & The Cally festival

Posted on September 16, 2013 by Toothpicker There have been 2 comment(s)

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When the weather was still fine last Sunday ( sadly it's no longer the case), I joined a free walking tour provided by the Footprints of London as part of the Clerkenwell and Islington Summer Free Walks Festival. I had previously joined their lunchtime walking tour in Clerkenwell, and so decided to sign up for another one in Caledonian Road since I knew very little about the area.

Although 11 people signed up for the tour, only 3 of us showed up, which is a typical trait whenever free events are offered... People tend to sign up and then not show up for it, which means those who are genuinely interested can't get a place. How very annoying!


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This walk coincided with The Cally festival, an annual event that started in 2011 which celebrates the vibrant and multicultural neighbourhood with live music, workshops, street market stalls and food.

Before the walk, I had no idea that Caledonian Road is almost 1 mile long, stretching from Kings Cross all the way to Holloway. Along the route, there are many historical and interesing sights and architecture including the Keystone crescent ( completed in 1846), the wonderful and artistic Thornhill Bridge Community Gardens, an unique and unexpected castle: Crumbles castle adventure playground, the Tolpuddle Martyrs mural painted by Dave Bangs ( to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs demonstration), an architectural gem: the West library on Thornhill Square ( built in 1906 with 26 letter of the alphbet engraved on the façade), the historical but imposing Pentonville prison, and Gifford Street where Bob Marley shot the video for "Is this love" ( unfortunately, the Keskidee Centre that later became a church in the video was destroyed by a fire last year). The video also features a young Naomi Campbell!


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Top left: Keystone Crescent; top right: Crumbles castle adventure playground; Main: architectural façade details of the West Library at Thornhill Square; middle left: Copenhagen Park Clock tower; middle: art project at a housing estate; Middle right: Gifford Street; Bottom left: the retained façade of Mallett Porter & Dowd Ltd; Plaque at the Copenhagen Park


Out of all the sights that we visited, what took me by surprise was the discovery of the Copenhagen Park Clock tower, on the site of where the 17th century Copenhagen House once stood ( demolished in 1855). The site was replaced by Metropolitan Cattle Market, which had moved from Smithfield, and then turned into a secondhand/ Bric-à-brac market after WW2. The tower is what remains of the market and now looks quite out of place surrounded by rows of semi modern housing estate and an odd-looking children's playground...

After the tour, I wandered around the area and saw a bizarre new building with the retention of a historical façade of a company called, Mallett Porter & Dowd Ltd. It looks so out of place that I had to find out more about it online when I got home later. It turns out that the building is the 2013 winner of the Carbuncle Cup, an award that celebrates the year's worst new building! There was even an article about it published in the Guardian last month... click here to read more.


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Top left & right: Thornhill Bridge Steel Artwork made by a local artist and young people; Main & middle left & right: Thornhill Bridge Community Gardens developed by Cally Arts founder Lisa Tang; Bottom main: Tolpuddle Martyrs mural painted by Dave Bangs; Bottom left: Edward Sqaure; Bottom right: at Copenhagen Park


Despite the recent development and regeneration ( some are rather distasteful like one above) going on in the city, there is still much history and many interesting stories to be discovered in different neighbourhoods. No matter how long you have lived in this city, you will always learn something new about it... this is the reason why London is one of most fascinating cities in the world.


This post was posted in London, Architecture, Photography, Hiking & walking, Street life and was tagged with London, architecture, walks, Caledonian road, street life

2 Responses to Caledonian Road & The Cally festival

  • Hi only just found this article, but thanks for writing about my walk. Really loved your pictures.


    Posted on May 28, 2014 at 6:44 pm

  • Rebecca says:

    Hi Rob, thanks for the comment. That was a fun walk, will try and join some other ones again soon!

    Posted on May 28, 2014 at 7:00 pm