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Posts Tagged ‘Londinium’

Fire of London and The Blitz on our Walks

Monday, September 28th, 2009

2,000 years ago the Roman’s established a trading port on the banks of the River Thames at a point where the river could be bridged.

Ever since then, that port, which they called Londinium and we call London, has been a major trading city. We have several London walks that explore the streets of the city tracing it from its Roman origins to the present day.

London’s history has not always run smoothly. Almost from its beginnings it has faced down triumph and disaster. In AD60 the Iceni Queen, led a revolt that almost saw the end of Roman occupation in England.

Leading a swarming army of angry tribes folk she swept into London, fired its buildings, and slaughtered in the region of 70,000 Romano-Londoners.

To this day, about 18 feet below the current street level there is a level of red ash, known to archaeologists as the Boudica layer, that remembers this first major disaster in London’s history.

It seems also that at some stage in the 120′s the city was again destroyed by fire.

The Romans departed these shores between AD407 and AD410 and since their departure London has seen many fires. The two most notable were in 1666, when the Great Fire of London destroyed the medieval City of London (we actually do this on our Great Fire of London walk) and again in the 1940′s when the bombs of the London Blitz razed the City once more.

This latter destruction is covered in great detail on our Blitz London walks, which tells the story of how, between September 1940 and May 1941, the bombs rained down as the Nazis tried to obliterate the financial powerhouse of the British war effort, demoralize the the population and destroy the historical centre of London. A huge amount of damage was inflicted on the City, thousands were killed and thousands more made homeless.

But the spirit of London stood firm. “London can take it” was the can do attitude that the people adopted and, spurred on by their great wartime leader Winston Churchill, London did indeed take it.

After the war, with much of the City a wasteland of destruction, London did what it has always done when faced with fire. It rose from the ashes, stronger and more vibrant. But, as happened so many times in it past, little pockets of the old city were left and still survive today, sometimes hidden away behind the new gleaming offices of the 21st century financial hub that the City of London has become.

This is the City that our London walks set out to explore and on our tours you can see Roman remains, medieval walls, ancient street patterns and lovely old churches, some in ruin, some still standing proud.

And on every street to the left of the street name you will see the coat of arms of the City of London, the emblem of  the white shield with the red cross of St George. In its top left corner the short sword of St Paul, the patron saint of the City of London and the City’s motto emblazoned beneath it Dios Dirige Nos – O Lord Guide Us.

So why not join us on one of our London walks that explores this historic heart of the city where 2,000 years of fascinating history are just waiting to be discovered and uncovered.

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?