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Answer 116. Oliver Twist. Clerkenwell was a very different place in his day.


ClerkenwellThis is the church at Clerkenwell, just around the corner from the last photo. Hard to imagine now, but these were the streets roamed by the Artful Dodger and his gang, stealing handkerchiefs for their grown-up boss Fagin to sell.

Fagin was later hanged at Newgate (see Questions 15 to 17)

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The building on Clerkenwell Green (below) was a school in the 18th century. It was later used as an office. In 1902, it housed a printing press devoted to socialist publications, including the works of Marx and Engels.

In April of that year, a foreign revolutionary came to work here. He had chosen London for his political exile because the proletarian class struggle was more advanced in England than elsewhere.

Clerkenwell1The man was given a small room on the first floor (the floor above the ground floor). The room had a single window looking out onto a blank wall. His arrival meant that everyone else had to budge up, as he later remembered:

‘The British Social Democrats, headed by Quelch, readily made their printing-press available. As a consequence, Quelch himself had to squeeze up. A corner was boarded off at the printing-works by a thin partition to serve him as editorial room.

‘This corner contained a very small writing-table, a bookshelf above it, and a chair. When the present writer visited Quelch in this editorial office there was no room for another chair.’

Undeterred, the man produced a copy of his revolutionary newspaper Iskra every fortnight for ten months while working here.

HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 117. The man later became notorious for his revolutionary zeal. Who was he?

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