Sunday, 24 March 2013

From the Ridiculous to the Aedicule-ous

Our Friday walks - "London Wall" in the morning, and "Tower to Temple (Heart of the City)"  in the afternoon - relate closely to Bob's book 'The Lost City of London', published in October 2012. 

Here are a few photos offering glimpses to whet your appetite, including the wonderful 'get you' boys who strike a pose to strike the hour on Fleet Street...

A short way off the “London Wall” walk is this, possibly the most tenuous of the many tenuous Shakespeare links in London, on Carter Lane. (There are of course more substantial Shakespeare connections to be found elsewhere on our walks, and we certainly include them, but this particular plaque amused us with its laboured effort for significance!)

In the very heart of the city is this dramatic vista, featuring, from left to right, the church of St Andrew Undershaft, the Willis Building -  the “Walkie-Talkie” - and the Lloyd’s of London Building.  

And on the “Tower to Temple” walk are these bell-ringers, on the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West, on Fleet Street.  They are thought to represent Gog and Magog, and to date to the late seventeenth century.   

The late sixteenth-century statue of Queen Elizabeth I that stands above the  entrance to the vestry is unfortunately obscured by scaffolding (until autumn 2013).  The late sixteenth-century statues of the mythical founder of London, King Lud, and his sons Androgeus and Theomantius, can, though, still be seen, in the porch.   The aforementioned statues of Lud and of Elizabeth stood above the entrance to the City at Ludgate until it was demolished in the late eighteenth century, the site being marked by a Corporation Blue Plaque on St Martin Ludgate (toward the top of Ludgate Hill).

For further details, including how to book any of the walks featured in this blog, please follow the link below to our website

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Exploring the Lost City - North and South

On Thursdays, our morning walk "Aldgate, Bishopsgate and beyond" starts in Shoreditch High Street and explores the area immediately to the north of the city before continuing through its heart, finishing at Monument.

Exploring a little way off the beaten track of our usual route, we found this plaque, in Hoxton -

marking the site of the “Pimlico Tavern”, where Ben Jonson killed Gabriel Spencer in a duel.    Spencer is buried in the church of St Leonard, Shoreditch, which is on the walk. Jonson himself is buried (famously upright!) in Westminster Abbey, which is on the “St Paul’s to Westminter Abbey” walk (please note - entry to Abbey is not included on the walk itself).

Also, again a little beyond the scope of our usual route, in Devonshire Square, we found this rather remarkable Denys Mitchell sculpture, 

symbolising and commemorating the “Cnihtengild”.  The explanatory plaque reads as follows:  

“King Edgar (959-75) granted  this derelict land to thirteen knights, on condition that they each perform three duels, one on land, one below ground, and one on the water.  These feats having been achieved, the king gave the knights, or Cnihtengild, certain rights over a piece of land, ‘from Aldgate to the place where the bars now are, toward the east, on both sides of the lane, and extended it towards the gate now known as Bishopsgate in the north, to the house of  William the Priest ... and to the south to the Thames as far as a horseman riding into the river at low tide can throw a lance’”.

Back on track, our "Aldgate, Bishopsgate and beyond” walk passes this plaque 

marking the site of the “Cross Keys” Inn on Gracechurch Street, near the junction with Cornhill (and the church of St Peter, Cornhill, with its  weather-vane bearing the saint’s crossed keys).   

Inns such as the “Cross Keys”, the immediately adjacent “Bell”, and the “Bull” on Bishopsgate, among others, offered entertainment as well as accommodation in post-Medieval London (see Julian Bowsher’s excellent recent book “Shakespeare’s London Theatreland”).

On our “Historic Southwark” walk, available on Thursday afternoons (or by private arrangement at other times)  one of our favourite sights is this bizarre coat of arms (for the Wicked Witch of the West perhaps??)  in the grounds of Guy’s Hospital.

For further details, including how to book either of the above Thursday walks (or to request one as a private walk), please follow the link to our website

Monday, 11 March 2013

Walking in Chilly Weather

Today Bob discovered that it is difficult to hand around his laminated illustrations when his bare hands are numb with cold!

It really was horribly chilly today. Fortunately everyone was well wrapped up (apart from Bob's hands, that is!)

Highlights of today's Tower to Temple walk included:

- a helpful explanatory compass just outside Tower Hill station, giving a good preliminary over-view of the sights to come

- the Whitefriars monastery: tucked away where you'd never expect to find it!

- the London stone (hidden in clear view)

-the Monument (some decided to make a return visit after the walk finished, to climb up to the top for the excellent views!)

- exploring inside the Inns of Court

Unfortunately the Roman Amphitheatre, under the Guildhall Art Gallery, was unexpectedly closed to visitors today, due to a rehearsal of some kind (not mentioned on their website - grrrrr!) Everyone strained for a glimpse through the glass doors to the Amphitheatre basement, and had to make do with that for today. Such a shame. Here's hoping those on today's walk will take the opportunity to make a return visit another time.

A running joke with today's group was the plethora of vanished churches along the route - marked only by plaques or parish boundary markers. That's the Great Fire for you - it really did wipe out a lot of buildings!

But various street names, many surviving from medieval times, did provide interesting glimpses of that long-gone London. For example, today's group were interested to learn that Cannon Street's name has nothing to do with artillery, stemming instead from the name of the local trade conducted there way back in 1183.... Any guesses?


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Finding New Paths in London

I love London. So does my husband Bob, if not more so. I have lived in West London for over 25 years (and elsewhere in London for a few years before that). When our boys were little we certainly took them up to the various museums now and again, but for years we largely stayed very suburban and hardly took advantage of our proximity to this amazing, historic capital city. Neither Bob nor I commuted into London for work - once I left Hammersmith Council, I wasn't even travelling that far east; and for years Bob was travelling out, to Sunbury then Reading.

I'm not sure when or how Bob rediscovered his love for the City - perhaps he never lost it, but simply let it hibernate for a while. Back in his bachelor days he had LOVED living in a studio flat in Russell Square, with everything in easy walking distance. He would often annoy me by speaking wistfully about 'those days', wishing there was some way of living once more in such a central urban location. I have never shared that hankering - happy to visit, but happier still to return home, a mere hour or less by tube ride, to our green suburb in the West.

But now our relationship with London has taken on a new dimension. Bob became intrigued by the Great Fire of London of 1666, and in particular the question of what survived it - both within the area of the conflagration and just beyond it, but still within (or just outside) the 'square mile' - the City of London itself.

London has such a long history, but when you walk around it today, you seen mainly modern buildings. Even the wonderful city churches - and St Paul's Cathedral  - mostly date from the rebuilding phase directly after the Great Fire, as orchestrated by Sir Christopher Wren. These are of course wonderful and beautiful OLD buildings - and deserve our attention - but where (if at all) is the city from before the Great Fire - is there anything left to be seen? The time of Shakespeare, the time of Chaucer, the time of the Romans - all these earlier Londons are seemingly lost to us. But, as Bob discovered, if you know where to look, the Lost City of London can still be glimpsed. Some hints remain only as street names or parish markers, but there are also walls, ruins, actual surviving buildings.....if you know where to look.

And what started as curiosity became fascination, and then fascination turned into full-scale research. In due course that research found an outlet in the form of a fully-fledged book, published in October 2012 by Amberley Publications. Despite his many previous publications in a different academic field, this was the publication that Bob was most excited about, the book of which he is most proud. Seeing it for sale on the shelves of various branches of Waterstones (and in the window of our local Pitshanger Bookshop!) was a real thrill.

But that's not the end of the story! The book seems to have been selling well (and it's still available, both via local bookshops and online), but Bob is also keen to share his enthusiasm for - and knowledge of -  'Lost London' by showing people where to find it - in person. He has therefore designed six different Guided Walks, which he is now running on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays each week (although other days/times are possible by special arrangement).

Full details of all the walks, and how to reserve places, can be found on our website
You can also get our latest news (including promotions and special offers) via our Facebook Page

I know you will suspect me of wifely bias, but in recommending Bob's Guided Walks, let me simply outline the three things I particularly like about what he's offering -

1. He restricts the size of each group to ensure a more personal and interactive experience (6 to 8 people max) - but without charging more per head than the companies that operate with groups of 15 to 40 per walk!

2, He provides additional hand-around laminated illustrations at various stopping points (inspired by a similar use of illustrations by the excellent London in World War II specialists )

3. He has a friendly, genial style and imparts his extensive knowledge in an engaging way.

So, there you go. It's an exciting time of new directions for us. New pathways, new adventures, new enjoyments. I hope that some of you reading this will feel inspired to join in - it's such a fascinating City to discover on foot....especially with a good guide to show you the way!

Lost City of London Facebook page