Farringdon to Angel
Apparently there are more designers and architects jam-packed into Clerkenwell than in any other location anywhere on the planet. That’s a lot of egos for one neighbourhood to handle. And it should also mean that there would be a better-than-average class of stationery shop. So when visiting the recent Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW) we decided to put this theory to the test. We met at Farringdon station and meandered our way through Clerkenwell up to Angel. And we were not disappointed. We found some great stationery shops in Clerkenwell!
You can follow the route on Google Maps here. The walk is approx. 2 miles so it is more than manageable in a morning, allowing for coffee stops and shopping dwell time of course. Or you can adapt it to suit your needs. Oh, and do please comment if you find anything we missed.
We started our trip at Fabric, one of the venues for CDW, an unusual place to find yourself at 10am. Unlikely you’ll be taking in a nightclub on your walk but it’s there if you want to. In fact before hitting the stationery trail we took in a bit of unusual history. Everyone is familiar with WWII, the blitz and the destruction it left but considerably less is mentioned about the air raids during WWI. On Farringdon Road there is a building aptly named The Zeppelin Building as it was destroyed during a zeppelin raid in 1917 (61 Farringdon Road). Round the corner in St John’s Lane is another building partly destroyed by a Zeppelin bombing raid – you can find this one opposite Briset Street. See the plaques on both buildings for more details or watch more about the raids here. It’s hard to imagine a huge Zeppelin in the sky here raining bombs down but it happened. Also Passing Alley, a strange cut-through which is surely used for Victorian horror films and was formerly known as Pissing Alley.
Stuart R Stevenson
Once on Clerkenwell Road you will be rewarded with the first of our stationery shops today, and what a treat it is. Stuart R Stevenson is a not particularly arresting name for what is quite an extraordinary shop. From the outside you might think it is only artists materials, but you would be so very wrong. Inside it is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of stationery treasure with a fine selection of Lamy, Kaweco and Caran d’Ache pens as well as MT tape, all the major notebooks and some lesser known brands too like Tools to Live By. All of it is beautifully displayed with care and reverence for the colours. There are art supplies here too, making you want to take up painting or some other craft activity, anything for an excuse just to buy something. They don’t really seem to offer much by way of online shopping, so you’ll have to get yourself along to this shop to enjoy it!
If by now you need a quick pit stop then (surprise, surprise) we found a nice café just round the corner. J + A café is a lovely spot, located in a former diamond cutting factory with a pretty courtyard and what must be very atmospheric lights in the evening. It is an Irish establishment so lots of traditional soda bread and home baked cakes plus big pots of Barry’s tea. Their chocolate brownie was one of the best! They also do a good lunch menu with pies, soups and some great salads. The staff seemed a little disinterested so maybe plan for that.
Heading north towards Exmouth Market there is The House of Detention. It was a prison built in the 1800s and now mostly demolished, but its catacombs remain and are often used for filming the likes of Sherlock. Sadly it is now rarely open to the public but is on occasions like CDW, hence why we got to enjoy the damp underground vaults on a hot sunny day. A peculiar place to wander round looking at taps and cushions. It can also be booked out I believe.
Marby & Elm
Our next destination was Marby & Elm, a pretty shop on Exmouth Market which makes its own products mostly centred around letterpress design. They even have presses there in the shop making you appreciate that they do make their own stationery. Letterpress means lots of cards and notebooks with slogans and pencils, stickers and their own range of scented inks. The liquorice black ink smells amazing. They have also themed their inks around London colours – think Blackfriars for black, Clerkenwell for green, Leather Lane for brown.
Exmouth Market is something of a hot spot for unusual food and shops, and a nice place to take a break if you need one. For lunch there is no end of options here, from street stalls to places like Moro. It’s hard to believe that such a central spot was until fairly recently quite a rundown place. It is now a pedestrianised and fully gentrified place, but in a nice way.
The Postal Musuem
Depending on your time and interest levels you could take an easy detour here and visit The Postal Museum, just round the corner from Exmouth Market. Here you will be able to ride on the Mail Train, part of the now redundant mail train system under London. For more on that and booking tickets click here.
After Exmouth Market the points of interest start to thin out, but there are still two stationery crackers to go. The walk also works its way through some stunningly beautifully residential streets packed full of perfect Georgian terraced houses, including the wonderful Myddleton Square.
The next stationery shop up is Quill London, very well established in calligraphy circles running regular workshops and selling all the equipment needed to take up the hobby. This smart and minimalist shop was founded by celebrated calligraphy artist and author Lucy Edmonds and it is the perfect place to pick up beautiful notecards and correspondence cards, and other little accessories to go with them, as well as a great source of pens for calligraphy and just as a source of inspiration.
Present & Correct
Finally, tucked away in a back street as you near Angel tube, you cannot talk about stationery in London and not visit Present & Correct. This tiny shop mixes new and vintage stationery and is like a gallery of beautiful things, foraged from all over the world and displayed exquisitely. Here you will find 1970s desk trays, sets of collectible postage stamps, vintage pencils in their original packaging and unusual graph paper notebooks together with Kaweco, Blackwing, Delfonics, Life and other interesting brands. There is nowhere else like this and every time we stop by we are in awe. Their Instagram account is a thing of beauty too.
Then it is a 5 minute walk up to Angel tube and the walk is complete. A short, sweet but rewarding walk we feel.
The places mentioned in this walk
The Zeppelin Building, 61 Farringdon Road, London EC1M 3JB
Fabric, 77A Charterhouse St, Farringdon, London EC1M 6HJ
Zeppelin damaged building, 28 St. John’s Lane, London, EC1M 4BU
Stuart R Stevenson, 68 Clerkenwell Rd, Farringdon, London EC1M 5QA – http://www.stuartstevenson.co.uk/
J+A Cafe, 1-4 Sutton Ln, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 5PU – http://jandacafe.com/
House of Detention/Clerkenwell Prison – Sans Walk, London, EC1R
Marby & Elm,53 Exmouth Market, Farringdon, London EC1R 4QL – http://www.marbyandelm.com/
Quill London, 37 Amwell St, Islington, London EC1R 1UR – https://quilllondon.com/
Present & Correct, 23 Arlington Way, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 1UY – https://www.presentandcorrect.com/