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Posts Tagged ‘St Paul’s Cathedral’

Start the New Year With a London walk

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Happy New Year. Why not blow away the cobwebs by taking one of many London walks that will show you the hidden places of this magical City?

A good starting point for this London Walking Tour is Temple Underground Station.

Turn right out of the station and then swing left along the Victoria Embankment. Having crossed over Temple Place pause to admire the ferocious silver dragon that stands on a plinth by the road. He is the guardian of the City of London and marks the boundary where the City of Westminster ends and the City of London begins.

Continue past him and go left through the first gate you encounter.

The arch ahead might look familiar if you’ve seen the new Sherlock Holmes movie as it features in the film.

Keep going up the incline of Middle Temple Lane and pause in the courtyard on the left. To your left is Middle Temple Dining hall which dates from the 1570′s.  A little further along go right through the arch and enter Pump Court. High up on he wall on the left is a sun dial that dates from the 1680′s and on which you will read the motto “shadows we are and like shadows depart.”

Keep ahead through the cloisters and on your left is one of London’s true treasures Temple Church which was built by the Knights Templar in 1185. It features in the film and the book of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

Go clockwise round the church and when on its other side cross to the railings where, on the ground, you will find the tomb gravestone of author Oliver Goldsmith.

Backtrack and, at the end of this first walk, go right and out through the fate onto Fleet Street.

Take a stroll along Fleet Street looking our for the magnificent clock on St Dunstan’s In The West, which dates from 1683 and where two giants still chime the hour.

If you keep going all the way along Fleet Street and then over and up Ludgate Hill you will come to St Paul’s Cathedral.

On just a short walk you will have seen much, explored some lovely old parts of London and ended at one of her iconic sights and sites.

These are the sort of things that our London walks make possible. If you would like a print off free tour of London then why not enjoy our Harry Potter London Tour simply send an email request to


and our automated dispatch will send it to you by return.

There’s More to London than Walks.

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

It might seem an odd thing to say for a compnay that conducts London walks but there is a lot more to do in London than just walking about.

Don’t get me wrong on this, Walking is a great way to discover all the wonderful places that this wonderful city has to offer, but if it was just about taking a walk, well you could quite simply pick up a map or and A to Z and head off through the streets of the capital on your own voyage of discovery.

Whereas that’s a great way to get about London, come to think of it it’s an excellent way to get about, but we like to think that we offer you just that little bit more than just, plain simple London walks.

You see the thing about being taken on a guided tour is that you get a full, dare I say it, theatrical experience. A good London walking tour guide will be able to really bring the past to life or, as we like to say, will breathe life in to the history that surrounds you.

It’s one thing, for example, to know that Shakespeare lived and worked in Southwark, on the south side of the River Thames from St. Paul’s Cathedral, but it’s quite another thing to learn about the people he lived and worked with, to hear great little anecdotes that bring his life and his times to vivid life.

Likewise, it’s great read in a book that a certain building in London is haunted by the ghost of a woman in white, but when you hear the tale on one of our exciting  London walks you have it told by a masterful storyteller whose narrative will creep you out and have you looking over your shoulder lest the white lady in question is sneaking up on you at that very moment.

These are just a few examples of the difference between just walking around with a map and having a guide take you round on one of our London Walking Tours.

Haunted London walks – Ghosts of the City.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Join us for a sample of our haunted London walks and experience some of the old City’s more chilling spots.

Start your London Ghost Walk on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral itself is haunted by a whistling clergyman who shuffles across the chapel to the left as you ener via the north (left hand) door.

Stand and watch through the gate. See if the air goes chilly. If it does then listen carefully, for you might hear the dull tuneless whistle that marks the beginning of Whistler’s apearance. This is the first of your Haunted spots in London.

Walk away from St Paul’s Cathedral and turn first right into Ave Maria Lane. We have been exploring this thoroughfare on our Londoon walks for nigh on 28 years, and a real surprise awaits you.

Go left at Amen Corner and pause by the gates that lead to Amen Court. Ahead of you is an area of bushes and beyond them is a very sinister looking wall. Beyond this once stood Newgate Prison, one of London’s most notorious prisons.

The wall is haunted by the  Black Dog of Newgate, a shapeless mass that slithers across the top of the walk, slides down into the courtyard and then melts away.

It is always accompanied by an obnoxious smell, and is sometimes accompanied by the sound of limping footsteps coming from the other side of the wall. So tread carefully!

Who’s for a drink? Or should I say spirits of another kind await. Backtrack and turn left along Ave Maria Lane, which soon becomes Warwick Lane.

Our City of London walks stop outside Cutlers Hall towards the top on the left, where there is a magnificent frieze above the window showing scenes of knife and fork making.

Turn left along Newgate Street go right at the traffic lights to cross to the Viaduct Tavern. This spectacular pub has a ghost known as Fred, that indulges in a great deal of prankish poltergeist activity.

Ask nicely at the bar and they’ll even take you down to their cellars where much of the ghostly activity appears to eminate from.

The pub makes for a nice location to wind down after your brief one of our Haunted London walks.

We’ll bring you another one later this week as part our commitment to sharing  more of London with you. 

We won’t just ask you to sit in a location and read about the places to be found nearby.  We’re proud of our reputation for giving you step by step directions so that you can actually see the places for yourself, not just read about them!

London, Trees, Walks and Art.

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Trees feature a great deal in our various London walks. For example on the Secret City Walk we point out a tree on Cheapside, close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, that the poet William Wordsworth actually wrote a poem about.

But to return to our little wanderings inside the Energy and Process wing at Tate Modern, we can even point out a tree in there and link it to our other London Walking Tours.

The tree in question is a work called Tree of 12 meters created in the early 1980′s by the Italian artist Giuseppe Penone.

It takes a while to “get” this sculpture. At first glance you appear to be staring at two very stark almost skeletal trees that appear to be almost petrified.

You could be forgiven for thinking that you are just looking at two dead trees that someone has stood upright and decided to call them art.

If that is what Penone has done then it could, of course, be a follow on to Marcel Duchamp’s breakthrough in the early 20th century when he bought a urinal displayed it in an art gallery making the belief that if he as an artist took an everyday object, no matter how mundane or basic, and displayed it in an art gallery then it became a work of art.

So, if Penone takes two dead trees and displays them in an art gallery setting, then they too become art.

And indeed, that would be exactly what the Arte Poverta movement would revel in.  An ordinary, everyday object that is used by an artist to create a work of art.

Except, Tree of 12 metres is not any every day object, it is in fact a carefully and skillfully carved work that has been created using one of the oldest forms of sculpture – carving.

We’ll return to this theme in tomorrow’s blog as our Haunted London walk is about to take place.

In the meantime, don’t forget that we have a whole  host of wonderul London walks that will show you places that you would never dream still existed.

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.

Walks Through London Art – Tate Modern

Friday, September 18th, 2009

In our last blog we were discussing the landmark that is Tate Modern which can be viewed on many of our London walks that make their way along the south bank of the river Thames.

We explained how it is housed in the former Bankside Power Station which had to close its doors in 1981, when the price of oil became so expensive that keeping this fuel powered power station open just wasn’t economically viable. But, what could they do with it?

In 1994  the trustees of the Tate Gallery acquired the building and an international architectural competition was held for a design that would transform Sir Giles, Gilbert Scott’s industrial cathedral into Tate Britain’s new museum of modern Art.

There were over 70 entrants but the winner was the young Swiss practice of  Herzog and de Meuron reputedly their design was favoured because it was the only one of all the designs that advocated working with the existing structure of the building. Other entries, so it is claimed, plans to scoop out the entire interior and start again from scratch.

The most obvious external change – and one that is truly apparent to participants on a London walks, as they cross the Millennium Bridge – that the architects made to the building was the addition of a two-storey glass light beam that spans the entire length of the roof and provides natural light for the galleries not to mention spectacular views across the River Thames towards St Pauls Cathedral.

With the building completed in 2000 Queen Elizabeth II came to the south side of the River Thames and opened Bankside Power Station for the second time.

So why not book your group onto one of our Shakespeare or Dickens, London walks and See for yourself was stunning landmark is truly vast building is?

Exploring Wren’s London on Our Walks

Monday, September 14th, 2009

In our earlier blog we looked at how many of the streets we see on our London walks were the work of one of London’s most prolific architects, Sir Christopher Wren.

Wren’s opportunity to transform the London skyline came about in September 1666 when the Great Fire of London destroyed virtually all the medieval City.

With the embers of the fire still smouldering, Sir Christopher Wren approached King Charles 11 and presented him with a comprehensive plan to rebuild the City on a grid-pattern that would consist of spacious streets, squares and elegant piazzas.

In truth, since the plan ignored the property rights of all those who had lost buildings in the Great Fire of London it had little chance of ever becoming a reality.

What it did do, however, was persuade the king that this enthusiastic young man was just the person to supervise those parts of the necessary rebuilding that could be undertaken by the Crown and the public authorities.

Wren was, therefore, made one of the three Royal Commissioners for the rebuilding and was employed almost continuously from then until his retirement in 1718.

You can see evidence of his genius on so many of our London walks. From the mighty splendour of St Paul’s Cathedral, to the graceful simplicity of his lesser known churches such as St Anne and St Agnes in Gresham Street.

According to the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, commenting on Wren’s achievement in 1932, ” There is no finer monument to his genius than the character that he gave London…”

Indeed, as Wren himself observed “architecture aims at eternity” and his vision is still apparent to us today as we make our way around the streets of the City on our London walks.

He designed 51 City Churches, four Royal palaces, Royal Hospitals at Chelsea and Greenwich, not to mention numerous minor commissions both within and without London.

When he died in 1723 at the ripe old age of 91 he had transformed London and was, fittingly buried in the crypt of his greatest achievement, St. Paul’s Cathedral beneath a simple black slab that urges “If you require a monument look about you..”

Those who join us on our City of London walks will see that it is not just a reference to St Paul’s Cathedral but to his graceful church towers that still dot the London skyline.

Sir Christopher Wren – London walks.

Monday, September 14th, 2009

As our City of London walks wend their way through the City one name crops up time and time again and that name is Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed St Paul’s Cathedral and the man who, more than any other helped shape the London skyline that we know today.

You will see examples of his work on virtually every one of our London walks, but who was he and how did he come to transform the London skyline?

Sir Christopher Wren was born on 20th October 1632 in Wiltshire. Given that today he is probably best known as the architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral, it might come a something of a surprise to learn that architecture wasn’t his main vocation in life.

He was an astronomer, a mathematician and an enthusiastic pursuer of almost every branch of science and mathematics who came to architecture via his interest in geometry and mechanics.

As a very young man he had been responsible for several inventions. These included a mechanical weather recorder, a device to enable people to read in the dark, and a sign alphabet to help the hearing impaired which was a precursor of modern sign language.

His first architectural commission came in 1663 when his uncle, the Bishop of Ely, invited him to create a design for the chapel of Pembroke College in Cambridge. His next commission was the Sheldonian Theatre in oxford which was begun in 1664.

Had it these been his only design he would, no doubt, have been remembered today but would certainly not have been the man who, more than any other, gave London the look and feel that it has today and which participants on our many and varied London walks can experience and admire.

Our next blog will look at how his opportunity to shine came in 1666 when the Great Fire of London destroyed the City of London and Wren just happended to be the right man in the right place at the right time.

The Blitz in London Continued.

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Our report on the night of the 29th December when London was devastated as the Blitz got underway continues. Our London walks blog yesterday ended with the area around St. Paul’s Cathedral going up in flames.

Before the war Paternoster Row had been the centre of the publishing trade in England.

Indeed, back in the Great Fire of London in 1666, when Paternoster Row was burned down for the first time, 500,000 books went up in smoke.

On this evening in December 1940 fifteen million volumes were to make a similar exit. The offices and stores of twenty-seven publishing firms were destroyed.

The employees of the publishing firms were members of St Paul’s fire watch, running on ropes around the cathedral dome hacking out IBs as their own workplaces burned down across the street.

After this night, publishing moved out, mainly to the Bloomsbury area around the British Museum, and has never returned.

By 6.30pm, fire-watchers on St Paul’s were reporting ‘fires out of control’ in the buildings without fire-watchers in the area.

By 6.30pm New Change opposite St Paul’s was a continuous blaze. Carter Lane (covered on our Dickens London walks) to the south of the cathedral was an inferno, and on the cathedral itself the fire-watchers were now using wet sacks to put out flying sparks landing from other conflagrations.

At 6.39pm St Paul’s Fire Watch phoned Cannon Street Fire Station to report that the dome was on fire. This was true but turned out to be no real threat. An IB had punched into the lead of the dome and was blazing away.

The blaze lit up the whole dome and shone through the windows at the base of the drum. The IB was only partially embedded in the lead and its own heat melted the lead, causing it to fall to the floor of the Stone Gallery where it burned on harmlessly.

It was this bomb that gave rise to Ed Morrows’ CBS broadcast to America that night.

Morrow was watching the bombing from the roof of the Press Association building in Fleet Street, and, as was his habit, was holding his microphone aloft to catch the sound of the bombs as they fell around him, conveying a vivid impression to his listeners back home in the States.

Morrow said, ‘And the church that meant most to Londoners is now gone. St Paul’s Cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren, her great dome towering over the capital of the Empire, is burning to the ground as I talk to you’. Morrow was understandably wrong.

At the same time Prime Minister Winston Churchill had sent out an order to the London Fire Brigade: ‘At all costs save St Paul’s’. Divisional Officer Cyril Demarne responded, ‘He didn’t need to tell us that’.

Our London walks and the Blitz blog will continue tomorrow.

London walks that cover the Blitz.

Monday, August 10th, 2009

London walks are a great way to get the true measure of the damage inflicted on London by the Blitz.

In yesterday’s blog we told of how the first wave of bombers swooped onto the City and dropped bombs on Guy’s hospital, the city of London and other places covered on our walks.

Today’s installment is truly gripping as we capture the excitement and fear that gripped the city residents and fire fighters as they battled to save London.

Over at Guildhall — the City Hall of the City of London — the firewatch commanded by Mr F A George was desperately trying to protect the early fifteenth century building, one of the few survivors of the Great Fire of 1666.

At 6.25pm Mr George ordered all sand buckets refilled and it was reported to him that all lBs had been extinguished. He could not know it, but this was only for the moment.

By now whole areas of Southwark, Islington and the City itself were in the grip of fires burning out of control.

At 6.30pm Aschenbrenner turned for home, sending a radio message to Sperrle: ‘Target bombed, fierce fires raging, more bombers approaching’.
At 6.20pm Major Shulz-Hein, commanding I Wing KG 51, was approaching London, leading the second squadron on this fire-raising night.

Shulz-Hein thought the whole raid was idiotic, conducted as it was in a blanket of low cloud. His semi-pubescent air-crews wanted to know how they were to find the target. Shulz-Hein didn’t know. Even more importantly, how were they to find their way back home? For this Shulz-Hein had an answer — hadn’t they heard of the compass and dead-reckoning?

Nevertheless, Major Shulz Hein was a worried man as he flew blind towards a target he thought he would never find.

Then, as he flew over Dorking, Shulz-Hein saw a ‘rose glow through the cloud’ — the fires of KG 100 marking the way to the City of London.

There was no perceptible pause in the bombing as far as people on the ground were concerned, but at 6.30pm Aschenbrenner left the scene of the crime and Major Shulz-Hein moved in. KG 51 managed a concentration of HE mixed with IBs on the Paternoster Row and Square area, immediately north of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Our London walks that cover this area really do help you to get the feel of what it was like as the buildings that surrounded St Paul’s erupted in flame.

On tomorrow’s blog we will focus on this area and tell of the events as the flames spread out of control.