Sir James Steere, 1738
37a Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU
Grade II listed, built as a Welsh Charity School in 1738. A library with a focus on Marxism and Socialism since 1933. Lenin worked here 1902-03 and his office is preserved. Fresco by Jack Hastings in 1st floor. Late 15C tunnels.
55, 63, 243
Marx House was built in 1738 as a Welsh Charity school. It educated boys and later a few girls – the children of Welsh artisans living in poverty in Clerkenwell. Gradually the intake became too large and the school moved to new premises in 1772. After this the building was divided into separate workshops (examples, mattress & cabinet makers). Including coffee house where International Workingmen’s Association met. Marx himself spoke on this site. One of the workshops became home to the London Patriotic Society from 1872 until 1892 – important questions of the day discussed including women’s suffrage and Fenian question. The Twentieth Century Press occupied 37a and 38, and expanded into 37 by 1909 .
The Twentieth Century Press was founded by the Social Democratic Federation as printer for its journal Justice (can see copy in Lenin Room). It was the first socialist press in Clerkenwell. An early benefactor was William Morris, who guaranteed the first year’s £50 rent of the Patriotic Club to the Twentieth Century Press in 1893. During its time in Clerkenwell Green, the Twentieth Century Press produced several of the earliest English editions of the works of Marx and Engels. The Twentieth Century Press remained at the building until 1922. (good time to make reference to the Hammersmith Socialist Society banner recently on display at NPG).
During this period Lenin himself worked at the library for a period - more on that later. Good time to mention Lawrence Bradshaw’s Lenin bust at the end of the main Hall – same artist who designed Marx's grave at Highgate cemetery. The Library still plays a key role in organising the annual oration mid-march.
Even before it became the library – a history rooted in radical tradition. It is outside the library that crowds still gather on May Day.
In 1933, the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, a delegate meeting comprising trade unionists, veteran socialists belonging to the Labour Party and Communist Party, and representatives of the Labour Research Department and Martin Lawrence Publishers Ltd., considered setting up a Permanent memorial to him. That year also saw the Nazis in Germany burning books. In these circumstances the meeting resolved that the most appropriate memorial would be a Library. Thus the Marx Memorial Library and Workers School (as it was then known) was established at 37a Clerkenwell Green that year. Study classes, held in the evenings, became the distinguishing feature of the Workers’ School, which was divided into faculties of science, history and political economy. Prominent speakers included J.D. Bernal, J.S. Haldane, Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hill, Tom Mann.
For over eighty years the library has continued its work collecting published and archival material on the science of Marxism, trade unionism and the working class movement. We also continue to have an education programme with weekly lectures etc – these take place here in the Main Hall. One of our main collections is the archive of the lnternational Brigades who volunteered to fight fascism during the civil war 1936-39. These cabinets in the hall contain the archive and library of the IB. Here you can also see the banner that was presented to the IB in 1938 by the ‘women of Barcelona’ when they left Spain. More recently we have acquired this painting by Rosa Branson who depicts various aspects of the conflict including Spanish Medical Aid, La Pasionaria and Guernica.
Other core collections include the Printers Collection – which will show you shortly; the Bernal Peace library, collections of soviet posters and the archives of the Daily Worker/Morning Star. We have a total of around 50,000 books. We also have a huge number of rare periodical and pamphlets.
The premises achieved Grade II listed building status in 1967 and in 1969 the façade was restored to the way it had originally looked in 1738. During further refurbishments in 1987, tunnels were discovered underneath the library. Their origins are obscure but they significantly pre-date the building.
Explore parts of this Grade II listed former Victorian primary school, once the HQ of Zaha Hadid Architects and now home to the new Zaha Hadid Foundation. Discover how and why this building was created, and its dynamic history.
Edward Robert Robson, 1874
Drop in / Guided tour
community/cultural, museum, library
St John's Gate in Clerkenwell dates from 1504 and was built for the Knights Hospitaller. 19th and early 20th century additions by Richard Norman Shaw and John Oldrid Scott. Grade I listed. Home to the Museum of the Order of St John.
Richard Norman Shaw, 1874
architectural practice, offices, residence
Set in a Grade II listed Georgian townhouse, Tonkin Liu's studio has been extended. Designed and built by the practice, an innovative timber roof and reflecting pool gathers the bouncing rain, to make it a good place to be on a bad day.
Tonkin Liu, 2017
Join us to find out more about our incredible journey to create a new museum for London. Apply to join a special tour of the General Market (currently in construction), or come along to meet the architects and take part in free family-friendly drop-in activities.
Sir Horace Jones (1883) and T P Bennett and Son (1963) New Museum of London scheme: Stanton Williams Architects Asif Khan Julian Harrap Architects, 1883
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