Most of our family and friends know that we are big fans of family history. It should be warned, however, that it’s a very addictive pastime and once you get started you can so easily get hooked !!!
I started by researching my father’s side of the family, the Richards family – Tin Miners from Cornwall, the Davies family – Coal Miners from Ammanford in South Wales and the Houghagan’s from County Mayo / County Galway in Ireland and in Swansea.
Next we began researching Paul’s Shapcott family from Whitestone / Exeter in Devon. This got us well and truly hooked and we went on to liaise with several other Shapcott researchers, and we have put together a large database of information. Consequently, we registered our Shapcott interests with “The Guild of One-Name Studies”. We were interested to discover just how far and wide Shapcott’s are dispersed from their native homeland of Knowstone in North Devon, and to learn more about their individual stories and varied ways of life.
Here is our Shapcott Family Website: http://www.shapcott-family.com
And then of course there was my Italian side of the family. My maternal grandparents originated from the beautiful mountain community of Atina, Frosinone, Italy, overlooking the River Melfa and the Meta and Mainarde mountains, on the edge the Abruzzi.
My Atina website: http://atina.shapcott-family.com/
However my grandparents chose to leave behind their beloved Atina to make a new life in London. In the Summer of 1911 they first set foot on English soil, and made their way to “Il Quariere Italiano” of Clerkenwell, the district known as “Little Italy” by the English and “The Hill” by the Italian residents.
They rented a dilapidated Victorian house at the lower end of Little Saffron Hill which was to be their home for many years to come.
My mother, Tina (Concetta), was baptised in St Peter’s Italian Church in 1920 and made her First Communion there.
She married my father there in 1955.
Then I was born and was also baptised at St Peter’s and I lived in Clerkenwell until, in 1957, we moved away to the countryside of Hertfordshire, away from the smogs of old London town.
My mother would, however, return every so often on a Sunday to attend Mass at St Peter’s. We also came at special times of the year, such as for the Italian Procession in July, which I walked in on two occasions, just as my mother had done before me. We also enjoyed attending the Christmas Bazaar in St Peter’s School hall, Herbal Hill, where my mother had attended school.
Sadly I did not have the good fortune to get to know my maternal grandparents, as they had both died well before I came along. However, as I grew up I developed a true passion for Italy and all things Italian. My mother (Tina) would fondly recount stories of her childhood in Clerkenwell and I decided to write them down and record them for future generations to learn from and to enjoy, to preserve them for posterity. I am so happy to be able to share my mother’s memories with you at my new website entitled “Clerkenwell Our Little Italy”.
Tina’s story is about a child growing up in Little Italy
during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
In addition it includes descriptions of living in London through the Blitz during WWII, the internment of “enemy aliens” and the terrible tragedy of the Arandora Star.
The website also has a section dedicated to the history of Clerkenwell over the last few centuries and the influx of Italian immigrants to this area. There is information regarding the padrones, the organ-grinders, the street musicians, the artists’ models, the immigrants’ various crafts and trades, the terrible living conditions in the slums and, of course, the manufacture of ice cream.
Another section is devoted to St Peter’s Italian Church and the annual procession in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
During this project, I have met through the wonders of the internet, a number of interesting people who share my passion for Clerkenwell’s Little Italy and its social history, and also the history of London. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone that has helped me.
A special thank you to those photographers who kindly gave me permission to use their wonderful images to illustrate the website.
So, here it is: Clerkenwell Our Little Italy
I have also created a Facebook Group by the name of
Please do feel welcome to join !!!