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Posts Tagged ‘City of London’

Jack the Ripper’s London walk

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

An intriguing point was raised on the Jack the Ripper Tour last night. One member of the group, who has done several London walks with us, asked  how the rest of London would have viewed the East End of London in 1888?

The truth is that in 1888 this area consisted of some of London’s worst slums. One of the great things about joining our Jack the Ripper London walk is that we start the tour right in the heart of the district where the murders occurred and, as a consequence, participants get a genuine “feel” of the character of the area.

One of the tragedies about the victims of Jack the Ripper is that they all came from a class of women that, whereas certainly not middle class, were, what could be described as “respectable” working class. But they all shared a common trait that consisted of a downward, drink-fuelled spiral that had seen them separated from their families and living transient existences in the Common Lodging Houses that peppered the East End of London at the time.

Meanwhile the Middle class citizens in the west end of London had plenty to fear about the massive under class that dwelt to the East of the City of London. There was a general fear that a revolution was iminent and that, were it to come, it would come out of the East End of London. Jack the Ripper, although being a danger to a certain class of women, i.e prostitutes, in a very small part of the vast Victorian Metropolis, became in many ways a physical embodiment of the nebulous fears that the Middle classes had about the vast underclass in the East End of London.

City of London walks

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The City of London features on our Walks in many different guises.

We, for example, include it on several of our secret London walks. These are the tours that delve into the old alleyways and hidden courtyards that snake their way through the centre of the one square mile.

Included on these London walks are places that seem untouched by time. These are the places that really do give you the thrill of uncovering parts of London that you would never dream still existed.

Then there are our ever popualr haunted London walks. We have several of these that take in some truly atmospheric and very spooky parts of the City.

For example, our Ghosts, Ghouls and Graveyards walk takes in the spot where William Wallace, Braveheart, was executed.

Our Alleyways and Shadows Old City London Ghost Walks take in the wonderful medieval palace of the City, Guildhalll, the walls of which have stood proud and defiant against fire and bombing for nigh on 600 years.

If you are a lover of literature then why not take one of our Charles Dickens London walks. Dickesn features London in virtually all his novels and it is great to explore the streets that he wrote about and see them through his eyes, or to be more precise through the yes of his characters.

So there really is a great deal to discover and experience on our London walks that explore the one square mile. So why not have a look around our site and choose a tour that appeals to you?

Secret City Walks of London

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Are you looking for something that is a little bit different to do as an office social or company outing? Then why not enjoy one of our Secret City London walks?

We have been offering the Secret City Walk in the City of London since 1982 and have seen many, many changes in The City.

The great thing about a Secret City of London walk is that you get away from the busy main roads, and are able to explore the hidden courtyards and tucked away passages where so much of London’s reach and varied history occurred.

You can see the Medieval Palace of London – Guildhall – built between 1411 and 1440. You can walk through narrow alleyways and discover hidden courtyards that have changed little, if at all, since the days when Charles Dickens knew them and wrote about them.

You can learn many fascinating facts that you’ll just want to dine out on for years to come, not to mention learn a great deal about the history of what is, without doubt, one of the world’s greatest and most fascinating capital cities.

But best of all, you’ll be enjoying a gentle and realxing form of exercise, because walking really is good for you.

Can you think of any other social activity that combines entertainment, education, fascinating information, exercise and true discovery?

Our London walks are available for private groups of 20 or more people and they can cover many places in the City of London.

Walks last around two hours and can be planned out to end at a pub or a restaurant of your choice. In addition you can also end the walk with our great Walkers Quiz, a service we introduced onto our London walks in 2002 and which has proved extremely popular with our regular clients.

Ensconced within the walls of their end venue, participants are treated to a quiz relating to what they’ve seen and heard on their Secret City London walk.

So, if you’re looking for something fun and different to do in London, why not explore the hidden City with us?

Walks in London – Jack the Ripper

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Today is the anniversary of what has come to be known as “the night of the double murder.”

It was in the early hours of 30th September 1888 that the body of Elizabeth Stride, Jack the Ripper’s third victim, was found in Dutfield’s Yard, off  Berner Street; and the body of Catherine Eddowes, Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, was found in Mitre Square in the City of London.

Our London walks will be following on the trail of Jack the Ripper tonight at 7pm, and will tell you the full history of this series of East End murders.

The Jack the Ripper Tour is a fascinating look at the social history of a quarter of London that has its own distinctive feel and even flavour.

At the time of the Jack the Ripper murders it was a melting pot for many different nationalities, many of whom were low class Eastern European Jews fleeing persecution in Russia and Poland.

In addition it was also home to a huge criminal underclass who had a vested interest in lending as little assistance to the police as possible.

But the night of the double murder had another impact on society as a whole in Victorian London.

Many of the more “respectable” middle class and upper class citizens of London, who lived a good distance away from the district where the murders were occurring, had long believed that a revolution was inevitable. Furthermore they believed that if that revolution occurred it would come out of the slum districts of the East End of London.

On our London walks that explore the streets where the crimes occurred we explain how, up until 30th September 1888, these middle class citizens might gaze nervously towards the East End of London and the events that were occurring there, but it didn’t impact directly on their lives because there was a very district boundary between the East End and the City of London.

But,as we point out on our City of London walks, in the early hours of 30th September, not only did Jack the Ripper murder twice in less than an hour, and right under the noses of police officers who were searching for him, but he also crossed the boundary and murdered Catharine Eddowes in the City of London.

Thus, in the minds of the middle and upper classes, he became a manifestation of all their nebulous fears that they had about the east End of London. Because if the ripper could cross into the City of London and strike at the heart of polite society, then what was to stop the great mass of dispossessed, poverty stricken East Enders doing likewise.

So the 30th September was a turning point that saw the fear of the unknown miscreant spread all across London and into the national consciousness in a way that no lone killer had done before and would never do again.

So why not join us on one of our Jack the Ripper Tours, or enjoy some of our other East End London walks?

London walks – Postman’s Park

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

The City of London walks that we offer include some great themes and visit some absolutely wonderful places.

A little way from St. Paul’s there is a lovely little garden known as Postman’s Park. At first glance it seems a peaceful and tranquil place until you take a closer look at the walls behind its bushes and plant beds and you notice that several have tombstones stacked against them.

This is because the garden was once the combined burial ground for several churches that stood hereabouts. Thee have been no burials here since the 1830′s and it has been a garden since the late 19th century so there aren’t actually any former Londoners lying beneath its lawns.

Until the 1980′s this lovely little garden was surrounded by postal buildings and the post men used to use the garden to relax in during their breaks and to eat heir lunches – hence its name Postman’s Park.

When we take people into the garden on our City of London walks we point out the church of  St. Botolph Aldersgate which can be seen in the north east corner of the garden. If the church is open we even go inside it, and it really is a high point on our London walks.

There are three churches dedicated to St Botolph in the City of London and the all stood next to a City gate, remembering the days when London was a walled city.

The other two churches to share this dedication are St. Botolph’s Aldgate and St. Botolph’s Bishopsgate.

The reason they were built by City gates is that St. Botolph was a patron saint of travellers and when, in the Middle Ages, people used to leave the safety of the City of London to Walk the dangerous highways and byways that stretched away from the walls, they would stop off at the churches to say a prayer to St. Botolph for protection for their journey.

Should they return safely to London then they would be sure to re-visit the church in order that they might say a prayer of thanks to St. Botolph.

So just an ordinary little church that stands on a busy London thoroughfare really does give you something to look at and provide you with a few nuggets of information that, although perhaps not earth shattering, are certainly interesting.

It’s the discovery of this sort of fact and building that makes our London walks such a great way to see so much more of the City.

Exploring Paternoster Square – London walks

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Standing in the middle of Paternoster Square and looking up at the mighty and glorious dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, you can’t help but draw breath in wonder and the splendid vision that unfolds around you.

Paternoster Square, which we cover on several of our London walks, is a lovely mix of old and new London.

On one side of the square is an arched gateway which is Temple Bar. It is the only one of London’s City gates to survive and gives you an idea of what London would have looked like when it was a walled and gated City.

Temple Bar used to stand at the junction of Strand and Fleet Street, a little to the west of its current location. For over two hundred years the daily life of London moved in and out through this gate.

It was built in 1672 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the same man who designed St Paul’s Cathedral, which towers over you as you stand in Paternoster Square.

It was the gate that separated the City’s of London and Westminster and the statues that you see on it are of James 1st and Anne of Denmark, plus Charles 1st and Charles 11.

From 1684 it was put to a somewhat gruesome use with parts of the bodies (usually the heads) of traitors being displayed on spikes above its arch. One enterprising tradesman actually set up a stall alongside Temple Bar and rented out telescopes for half a penny to enable people to get a closer look at their favourite or most infamous traitor!

In 1805, for the funeral of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson,  Temple Bar was covered in black velvet as a tribute to the great Naval hero. Nelson, incidentally, is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

But, by the 1870′s, London’s traffic was increasing and Temple bar was something of a hindrance to the smooth passage of the horse drawn. vehicles. Charles Dickens in his novel Bleak House refers to it as “that leaden headed old obstruction” and he pretty much reflected the attitude of London as a whole. Thus is 1878 it was taken down and moved to Theobald’s Park in Hertfordshire, the mansion of the brewing magnate Sir Henry Meux.

Over the next hundred years it was vandalised and allowed to fall into ruin. But, in 2003 when Pater Noster Square was being rebuilt, The Temple Bar Trust brought it back to central London and it was erected close to St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren’s greatest legacy to the City of London.

The room over the gate can even be hired for private dinners by approaching the Chapter House of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which will be the subject of a later blog and which features, along with Temple Bar on our Historic City of London walks.

City of London – walks and facts

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Our City of London walks include a lot of facts and figures about the history and the workings of the City of London.

Greater London occupies and area of around 640 square miles. It is divided into 31 boroughs and 2 Cities, The City of London and the City of Westminster.

It is home to some 7 million people who between them speak around 300 different languages, making London and incredibly culturally diverse place.

The City of Westminster is the Royal City and is also home to the machinery of British Government and home to Parliament.

The City of London occupies and area of just one square mile. But that one square mile is, without doubt, the wealthiest square mile on earth as it is the financial centre of London and home to over 200 banks, numerous insurance companies, investment houses

The one square mile covered by the City of London starts just alongside the Royal Courts of Justice in the west of the city,  encircles the streets as far as Clerkenwell and Shoreditch to the north of London, and goes as far east as the Tower of London with the River Thames making a natural southern boundary.

Many Cities can point to a specific act of foundation or a particular founder be he real or mythical. Not so London. Indeed there is a great deal of debate over how long the area now covered by London has seen human occupation.

But to all intents and purposes the London that we know began a few years after the Roman invasion of AD43. Having sailed up the River Thames the Roman’s found an area where the River was shallow enough to cross and where the banks on either side were gravel, opposed to the marsh that they had encountered on much of their journey up river.

Within 10 years of their arrival in Britain the Roman’s established trading port here and called it Londinium. Thus with the coming of the Romans London was established as a trading city and even today 2,000 years later it is still a place where daily trading is done.

You can enjoy the streets, squares and buildings of that City on our Historic City of London walks such as The Secret City and  The London Story.

Look At London Differently on Walks.

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

If you’re Walking to work in London then why not slow your pace down and take a moment to look around you at exactly what can be seen in the streets of  the City of London.

Walks are a great way to get around the City but, let’s be honest, when we traipse our way through the streets we are, more often than not, in a hurry to get from point A to point B. We seldom take the time to actually notice what it is we are passing, and we seldom pause and look up at the buildings that surround us. It’s our loss.

On our City of London walks we are forever pointing out items in the streets and on the buildings that we pass that our clients tells us they would never have noticed had we not pointed them out.

Take Gresham Street for example. Now Gresham Street is a thoroughfare we pass along on several of our Tours of London. At first glance it looks like any other street in London and our Walkers could be forgiven for not paying it much attention.

But Gresham Street contains several true treasures. Walking along it from St Martin Le Grand (which we will be doing a history of in an upcoming blog) you will pass on the left the delightful church of St Anne and St Agnes. If you look up at the white wooden tower that surmounts it you will see its weather vane that is made up of a golden A, commemorating the two saints.

St Anne was the mother of Mary and was therefore the Grandmother of Christ. St Agnes was a 13 year old girl martyred by the Romans in the year 300AD.

The church is delightful. After bombing in the Second World War it was restored and was rebuilt exactly as Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed it, had planned it. It is a very simple church which is now a Lutheran church.

Turning left just after the church, a little way along Noble Street, you can look over a waist high brick wall and look down at the remnants of the Roman Fort, built in the year AD120 and incorporated into the City Wall that the Romans built around their City of Londinium in about the year AD200.

Returning to Gresham Street and turning left, you will encounter a metal arch through which is a delightful little garden. Over the arch is a golden cat. It is, in fact, a leopard and it is here because on the opposite side of Gresham Street you will see Goldsmiths Hall. The Goldsmiths had the right to test the quality of gold in London and they gave it their seal of approval by stamping their mark, the leopard onto gold and silver that they had tested here at their hall. This incidentally is where we get the word Hallmark from.

So, with in a few minutes of taking a London walk along Gresham Street, you have encountered three things that are both interesting and pleasing to look at.

That is why in London walks make a great way to explore the city. So next time you stroll down a London street, take your time and just look up, down and sideways. Who knows what hidden treasure you will encounter?

1066 and All That on our London walks

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

On our City of London walks we tell the story of how William the first is not known as William the Conqueror in the one square mile of the City of London because he never actually conquered the city of London.

However the story of the Norman conquest of England features on several of our London walks such as Westminster and the eastern city on the latter of which we gaze upon William’s most prominent and lasting legacy to the city, the Tower of London.

But what were the events that led to the Norman invasion of England? Well, to help you and gave an understanding of what lay behind what has been called “the most famous year in British history” our next few blogs will deal with the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings, in 1066.

England in 1066 was the wealthiest, best governed, and most stable country in Europe.  The Normans held its throne in great esteem, simply because of its great age.

In 1013 Edward (who would later become Edward the Confessor) was driven into exile in Normandy by invading Danish armies.

Here he was under the protection of his uncle Duke Richard, his cousin, Duke Robert, and his nephew, the young William.

Crucially, as far as English history is concerned, when Edward became King of England in 1042 he at some stage in 1051, so the Normans later claimed, promised his nephew William that he would succeed him as King of England, following Edward’s death.

Edward was childless, and he devoted many of his latter years to the building of a great Abbey to the West of the City of London, which we now know as Westminster Abbey, the graceful walls of which feature on several of our Westminster London walks.

In 1064 Harold Godwinson, one of Edwards trusted noblemen, set sail on a trip to France.  A lot of mystery surrounds this trip, and the reason for it has never been fully ascertained with any degree of certainty.  The Normans maintained that Harold was sent by Edward to reiterate, in other confesses promise, apparently made in 1051, to make William, his successor.

What is certain is that Harold was sent on some mission by King Edward and his ultimate destination of peers to have been Flanders (modern Belgium) where Edward had a few relatives.

What ever reason for the voyage, Harold was blown off course by a storm, and his ship ran aground at Ponthieu in north eastern France, a small independent enclave, whose ruler owed fealty to William of Normandy.

Harold was handed over to William and effectively became his prisoner.

We will continue with our look at 1066 in our next blog. In the meantime why not join us on one of our many and varied London walks?

London Ghost Walks With Richard Jones

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Tonight Richard Jones will be leading one of his acclaimed Haunted London walks.

Richard is a leading expert on the ghosts of London and has been doing his Walks of the haunted City now for the last 28 years.

Tonight’s walk is entitled Alleyways and Shadows and it explores some great locations at the heart of the old City of London.

Walks on a Saturday night in the City are really atmospheric because the streets, alleyways, courtyards and passages are completely devoid of living souls.

That means that London’s “other” residents, the ghosts of former citizens can roam at will through the streets and places that they once knew so well in life.

Richard’s Haunted London walks take in some very historic places. These include old alleyways that have changed little since the days when Charles Dickens knew them. Indeed, one of the locations visited is the site where Dickens began that most ghostly of ghostly tales A Christmas Carol.

Other locations that the tour visits include one of the City of London’s most paranormally active buildings, and a spectacular view of the City’s medieval Palace, Guildhall built between 1411 and 1440.

Richard is the author of the acclaimed book Walking Haunted London and of the definitive guide to the ghosts of the capital Haunted London. In addition he was the resident historian on Living Tv’s cult show Most Haunted Live from 2003 to 2005.

So who better to guide you through the twists and turns of London’s more sinister history than the man who didn’t just read a few ghost stories in a book but, rather, wrote the book?

Richard’s Haunted London walks take place on Fridays and Saturdays. They must be booked in advance.

Click here for details of our Haunted London walks.