Design in a Dungeon | Historic Sites

Clerkenwell Design Week is famed for street art spectacles and eyecatching exhibitions – but don’t forget the venues.

Katie Treggiden guides you through the historic sites hosting CDW on 19-21 May…

There’s been a prison on this site since 1616, and a plaque marks its final rebuilding in 1847. An estimated 10,000 prisoners passed through its gates every year. It was demolished in 1890 to make way for the Hugh Myddelton School. The dungeon and its creepy tunnels remained under the playground (it came in handy as an air-raid shelter). In 2001, the former classrooms were converted into loft-style apartments. So today’s residents are well situated for CDW’s subterranean exhibition, Platform, focusing on emerging talent.


Designed by Lewis Henry Isaacs, the Grade II listed building was completed in 1868. Home to sheet-lead and glass manufacturer George Farmiloe & Sons until 1999, it has since been used for large-scale events and film production (The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes and Inception). A full-height atrium provides a dramatic view of the Victorian warehouse space. During CDW, the Farmiloe becomes the Design Factory, showcasing furniture, lighting and product design from around the world.

the order of st john

Built in 1504, St John’s Gate was the entrance to the Priory of St John. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it housed the office of the Master of the Revels (where Shakespeare licensed his plays). It was later home to William Hogarth and the Gentleman’s Magazine (Dr Johnson worked here). Having been restored by Victorian architects, the Gate now houses the museum, which also occupies the Priory Church and its 12th century crypt. This former monastic location will be transformed into CDW’s luxury interiors showcase, Detail.


Until a century ago, the crypt under St James’s Church was used for burials. It was excavated to create a new church hall, and opened in 1912 by Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig- Holstein (Queen Victoria’s granddaughter). It’s now used as a venue (it’s unusually well lit and airy for a crypt). Katie Melua shot her Two Bare Feet video here, and it recently hosted folk trio The Staves. Last year it became the home for Additions, CDW’s exhibition for small design pieces and interior accessories.

Clerkenwell Design Week returns for its sixth year on 19-21 May. Register now online for free entry: