Smell the Coffee of Olde in Clerkenwell

You may think that Starbucks owns the rights to caffeine, but coffeehouses flourished in London from the 1650s. One of the most notable was in St John’s Gate, the former southern entrance to the Priory of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, a monastery that gave care to the poor and sick, founded in around 1145. Very Da Vinci Code.

The monastery was disbanded by Henry VIII, but by 1700 the gateway had become a coffee house, run by no other than the young William Hogarth’s father.

The classically educated man served coffee and encouraged customers to speak Latin – eventually going bankrupt and being sent to prison – while the budding child artist quietly sketched the characters he saw from a corner. They saw Handel, actor David Garrick, and writers Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Johnson pass through their door.

Visit St John’s Gate today, and you’ll find the Museum of the Order of St John, which gave its name to the St John Ambulance Association –  an organisation that, to this day, looks after people’s personal safety and health. Rest assured, you won’t be expected to speak Latin, but you will find plenty of history, not to mention coffee shops.

every destination has a story to tell

Recommended places to stay: The Zetter Townhouse