London’s hidden gardens: Clerkenwell Order of St John Cloister Garden

One of the things I love most about blogging and the internet is how it connects me to people that I might never have encountered or brands I might not have discovered. Just this week we had brunch with someone I’ve known on Instagram for years and marvelled at how beautifully our kids played together and how our husbands bonded whilst we chatted away as if we’d known each other for years (which we have, I guess!).

The photos below were taken by an American blogging friend of mine from way back when before we’d even got married. I think we started following each other when we were planning our weddings and have kept in touch via Instagram. She emailed to say that she was in London for a few days and did I want to meet… We had brunch at the Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell and then I wanted to show her a couple of lovely things about London that visitors might never discover. I’ve written before about my love of London’s hidden gardens, but I think the Cloister Gardens of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell is a peaceful beauty which is well worth a visit if you are in Clerkenwell and want a break from the bustle of London.

The lavender and roses smell divine, and there is a 200 year old olive tree at the centre. We visited on rather a dull and rainy day, which meant the light was lovely for a few photographs.

The buildings are part of the Order of St John and date back to the 1140s when the Priory in Clerkenwell was set up as the English headquarters of the Order. In the eighteenth century, the Gate was briefly used as a coffee house, run by Richard Hogarth, father of the artist William Hogarth.

The modern Order of St John in England was granted a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in 1888. Humanitarian in its aims and purpose, the modern Order recognised the need for public First Aid and ambulance transport services, as no such system existed in newly industrialised England. In addition, the Order established an eye hospital in Jerusalem, following the principles of the Order’s first hospital, treating all those in need, regardless of faith or wealth. The Order’s full title is The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. Its principal charitable foundations today are the St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, and St John Ambulance.

No summer in the UK is without rain, and it certainly feels like August is our rainiest month. The light filled drowsy heatwaves of June and July are mere memories and this damp weather combined with the evenings starting to draw in ever so slightly have given recent days a, dare I whisper it, almost autumnal feel.

Lighthouse Rayna Parka Waterproof Jacket

Years of working in the city have taught me that whilst an umbrella is handy, what you really want is a waterproof coat which doesn’t look too much like one. Lighthouse were kind enough to send me this Rayna Parka which is perfect if you live in a town and want to look reasonably smart but also visit the countryside and the beach too. I chose this one as I thought it would work well in both locations and whilst I could have taken photos of it on a beach in Cornwall (where I also wear it and it looks fab) I thought showing how it works with work clothes might be more helpful.

Whilst I am wearing it here with a shirt, it also fits a jumper underneath nicely and does up smartly with the zip giving a slim silhouette. Being mid thigh rather than hip length also adds to the smartness – the contrasting chambray lining which looks nice with the sleeves rolled back. It also has a handy cord edged hood and an inner pocket perfect for phone and cards. I chose to pair it with a blue striped shirt which played on the nautical theme but which is definitely not a standard breton top.

With a matt finish rather than shiny, it feels comfortable and not sticky, aided by the chambray lining, and whilst the features do have a nautical feel, they are not overdone so you don’t have to be on a beach to feel comfortable in it.

Fashion notes: Lighthouse Rayna Parka c/o Lighthouse in Midnight colourway | Worn with Teija high necked shirt (in white here) | J Crew trousers | Sebego flats.

Photos: Top image by @MOSJ | All others by Jenna Cole

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