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Vava Zoom!

August with no walks, no boat trips upon the Thames…not strictly true, there was guiding by zoom application


Actually as you can see there are options when zooming… you can get great close ups of pediments, you can get an aerial view and see that St Paul’s is actually a Gothic Cathedral in disguise and you can mute the audience [no mutterings at the back]

Using Eventbrite a number of successful virtual tours were undertaken during the month and a huge thank you to our loggers-in.

Nervously waiting for the appointed time. At the mercy of a stable connection. The protocol of mute all, questions via chat function and the thumbs up icon to the hopeful request of can you hear me?

Zoomer tours are all now ninja level function button operatives


What a brave new virtual world with such virtual tours in it:

Virtual Tour – London secrets around the Tower Gateway to Island Gardens DLR

Virtual tour – Revealing the Beasts of the City of London walking tour

Virtual tour – Bridges and Brunel on the Thames

Virtual TOUR – The Roman City of London Daytripper’s guide

Virtual TOUR – The Thames Tunnel and Museum Rotherhithe

And in the pipeline for the virtual Open House in September:

Virtual TOUR – The Saints and the City of London walking tour


Virtual tour: City of London central walking tour – A semi-circular walk for a square mile 1 – St Paul’s to Bank North

also, also with…

Virtual tour: City of London central walking tour – A semi-circular walk for a square mile 2 – Bank to St Paul’s -South


Self motivated revision for a City guiding course that began in September 2019, ought to have ended in May 2020 but is ongoing with no end in sight!

A tribute to the endurance class of 1920 City Guides

JULY 2020

Hey USA!

It’s Wonder Woman!

It’s the City of London

It’s Wonder Woman and the City!


It’s Wonder Woman , the City of London and Lady Justice of the Old Bailey!

And justice isn’t blind…

As a tribute to 4th July here are 5 of my favourite places in London that have an American connection:



Plaque: Charing Cross Station – US President. December 26th 1918. The President of the United States Woodrow Wilson was welcomed at Charing Cross station by King George the Fifth. The war had been won; the Americans had helped us and everyone was feeling celebratory so there was a magnificent procession via Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner and Constitution Hill. Maybe every British PM should listen to Wilson’s words at Buckingham Palace December 27th 1918 – “You must not speak of us as cousins still less brothers – there are only two things which can establish closer relations between us – community of ideals and interests”



Originally known as the Shippe Inn, the pub was renamed Mayflower in 1957 in honour of its historical past. Captain Jones docked the Mayflower at the Shippe Inn and from  the pub jetty in Rotherhithe, the Mayflower sailed with 65 passengers on its first leg of its journey to America. The Pilgrim Fathers were Puritans who decided to make the journey to the New World to create a better “New England”

On August 21, two ships Mayflower & Speedwell set sail for America from Plymouth. On December 25, 1620, the Mayflower landed at what they called Plymouth Rock [now USA], and began to settle. The Mayflower returned to England 1621. In 1622 the ship was abandoned at the pub jetty to rot. Much of its timber was used for seating in nearby St Mary’s Church



Eleanor and Ananias Dare who had been married at the church were the parents of Virginia Dare, the first child born to English emigrants to North Carolina in 1587. The event is commemorated in a touching bust of a little girl, which is made all the more poignant for the fact that Virginia was fated to disappear along with other members of Raleigh’s Lost Colony Roanoke. What became of Virginia and the other colonists remains a mystery.




Captain John Smith, became the leader of the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Smith set sail from Blackwall to found the colony of Virginia in 1606. Smith returned to London in 1610 and was buried in St. Sepulchure’s in 1631. The statue was placed at this location by St Mary Le Bow as it was close to the old site of Cordwainers’ Hall, the worshipful company to which Smith belonged. Our intrepid captain is also famous for being rescued by Pochahontas.



The church of All Hallows by the Tower ranks among the oldest churches in London. William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was baptised here in 1644 and his father watched the Great Fire 1666 from the steeple alongside Samuel Pepys and then helped fight the fire. John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, married Louisa Johnson here 1797 and the Marriage Register  is on display in the church Museum.

JUNE 2020

Tipplers Tales Vintry style

Vintry is one of the 25 wards that elect [ahem] the, to be frank, Medieval system of governance of the City of London.

Vintry meaning a place where wine was bought is a word that many of us would have thought had gone the way of cove [replaced by American bloke] and bunce [money]

So what is the link between Swans, Cleary Gardens and St Martin of Tours?

Answer: Vintner meaning a wine merchant

On 6th June 1671 Vintners Hall was opened. The original hall 1446 like most of Medieval London was burnt down 1666. The present building on Upper Thames Street in the ward of Vintry dates from 1910.

The Worshipful Company of Vintners added the motto ‘wine gladdens the heart’ in 1822


But what is a Worshipful company?

Also known as Guild it’s Royal Charter gives a monopoly deciding who could work its craft, regulate prices and quality. Guilds were associated with a particular church hence ‘Worshipful Company of…’

Guild members were known as liverymen due to the distinctive livery or uniform that they wore to distinguish them from people of other trades.

Wine was England’s principal import during the early Middle Ages which is why part of city became known as Vintry

And the Swans?

An old custom is Swan Upping. Dyers and Vintners share the privilege of owning swans on the River Thames with the monarch. King Henry VIII ruled that these royal birds ought to be counted once a year and the Dyers and Vintners have been following this rule since 1609. Dyers mark them with one nick on the beak and Vintners with two. The unmarked swans belong to the monarch.


Cleary Garden on Huggin Hill is named after Fred Cleary. As Chairman of The City Open Spaces Committee for 30 years he gained the nickname ‘Flowering Fred’ for establishing over 150 green spaces in the city where today lunchtime grazers could enjoy their meal deal. Originally the garden was created following bomb damage during The Blitz as an example of where the ‘scars of yesterday are being turned into the gardens of today’

A plaque on the upper level indicates that this section of the garden is the Loire valley wines legacy garden. The refurbishment 2007 commemorates the medieval vintners trading site. Vines and aromatics were donated and planted to evoke the flavours and bouquet of Loire vineyards.


Why the Loire?

King Henry II was born in the Loire Valley 1133. Henry II controlled substantial vineyards so he ordered that Loire wines be served at court. Soon, everyone wanted to be like Henry II

Viticulture [another great word] in the Loire dated back to its invasion by the Romans. The Romans believed that wine was a daily necessity and was drunk with hot water, each diner adding it to taste, sweetened with honey or spices

Local tradition had it that the first Loire Valley vintner was Saint Martin

Which delivers us unto:

St Martin who just so happens to have a city church dedicated to him on Ludgate Hill

You would be forgiven for hustling pass St Martin within Ludgate on your way to St Paul’s Cathedral. Dedicated to Martin, the Roman soldier martyred at Tours, who in cold weather gave his cloak to a beggar

The church was built within city wall, hence the name within Ludgate. First recorded in 1138 and yes you guessed it, destroyed 1666 .Wren rebuilt the church 1677-86 and fortunately it sustained the least damage of all City churches during World War II.

Martin converted to Christianity and decided to follow Christ’s command of not killing people, left the army to study theology and destroy pagan shrines instead

Martin died 397 AD but that didn’t stop Frankish kings claiming they found his cloak in 679 AD.  The cloak was carried into battle for divine protection, a case of completely missing the point with warlords being protected by the cloak of a conscientious objector!


A special priest called cappellanu was appointed to look after the holy cloak relic when it was on military duty. Eventually all priests serving in the military were called cappellanu or chaplain in English. Also the temporary churches built to shelter the relic whilst on duty were called capella from whence we get the word chapel

So there we have it

Cheers or Salud as Martin might have said


Vintners give 5 cheers instead of the traditional 3 as a reminder of entertaining 5 kings in 1357


MAY 2020

May, Maypole and a church called Undershaft

On the corner of St Mary Axe and Leadenhall Street is the church St Andrew Undershaft. Until 1517 the corner of St Mary Axe hosted a maypole on feast days. This maypole shaft was taller than the church’s tower so the church became known as Undershaft or in the shadow of the shaft. When not in use the maypole was stored under the eaves of the local houses in nearby Shaft Street, hence the name. Today, the church should be called St Andrew Undergherkin but to be honest that would be just plain silly


Tradition had it that our month’s names come from the Romans and May Romans is from the goddess Maia and she was associated with growth and the spring and fertility. Apparently Romans celebrated the arrival of spring by dancing around decorated trees thanking their goddess.

The folk custom of maypole dancing was done around a pole garnished with flowers and ribbon to symbolize a tree. By the middle Ages, most villages had an annual maypole celebration or as John Kirkpatrick put it:

‘It’s a fertility dance. You’ve seen it, yeah? In theory, the idea is that when your crops aren’t growing very well, you haven’t got enough children, oh you know, those sort of things, you do a dance like this. And you do this dance, all over your garden, flatten your crops, knacker yourself. That’s the theory’

The church is one of the very few surviving pre-Fire churches in the City of London. The current church building dates 1532 having made it through The Great Fire 1666, The Blitz 1940 and an IRA bomb in 1992.

Unfortunately the maypole festival didn’t survive the brilliantly named the ‘Evil May Day’ riot of 1517. A mob of apprentices removed the pole as a relic of pagan idolatry. The riot was probably more about apprentices attacking foreigners stealing their jobs [in this case foreigners did not mean from abroad but simply the ‘masterless’ men that didn’t belong to a city craft guild]


The maypole finally perished entirely 1549 when the vicar of St Katharine Cree preached against ‘pagan’ maypoles. The listeners were so enthused they cut the maypole into pieces and then burned it. The crowd were Tudor religious fanatics but were looked upon with fear by those in the area that preferred their streets not to go up in flames.

Today across the road and under the ludicrously named  Cheesegrater  is a replica of the may pole as a reminder of this piece of  history.


In recent years the church has been used by a young Christian group of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, who administer the building, and both churches are normally closed to the public. Closed access is a shame as St Andrew has the monument of John Stow, the author of the Survey of London 1598.


Stow died 1605 and is commemorated holding a quill pen. The quill is replaced every three years in a solemn ceremony run by the Merchant Taylor’s Company.

APRIL 2020


Just participated in the third weekly clap for carers 9/4/20 which has now rightly been expanded to include supermarket staff, deliverers, post workers and teachers. The lock-down probably is not going to end anytime soon so we persist.

So no covidiots, just a huge thanking you to the NHS, volunteers, The Queen and her ‘We’ll meet again’ speech, self-isolators everywhere and a  Doctor who stood his duty during the Great Plague 1665


St Stephen Walbrook church was destroyed in the Great Fire.

On 2nd September 1666 the City had finally discovered an enemy more potent than the Normans, Danes or plague: Thomas Farriyner , the baker of Pudding Lane who accidentally started the fire by neglecting to douse his oven in contravention of curfew law passed 600 years previously by William I [curfew comes from Normans meaning cover fire]

The Fire was compared to an animal, leaping across street to street, hiding under thatch before exploding into view ambushing the firefighters at every turn. After 4 days Medieval London was no more including 87 churches

Rebuilt by Christopher Wren 1672-79, St Stephen is considered one of Wrens masterpieces. Wren lived close by in  15 Walbrook and this was his parish church. The dome was a dry run for St Paul’s Cathedral.



Within the church is a memorial to Nathaniel Hodges buried here 1688 who bravely stayed during the plague to help the infected. Hodges was at ground zero as located at the east end of the church was Bearbidder Lane the source of the outbreak.


Hodges was a member of the College of Physicians since 1659 and developed his ideas about the Plague as it happened. After hours of visiting victims where they lived he walked home and, after dinner, saw more patients until nine at night and then put quill to parchment. Hodges wrote up his medical notes  in his book Loimologia 1672

His account should be up there with Defoe, Pepys and Evelyn. Hodges detailed the symptoms and admittedly his wacky cures.

Hodges used ‘powdered unicorn horn’ that he purchased from a non-too public spirited merchant. Credit to the good doctor, Hodges soon realised that this didn’t work and started to question the existence of unicorns. He also prescribed ‘Plague Water’ a combination of berries, nuts, flowers, wines and vinegar

The point is he was one of the few that stayed and he attempted to find natural remedies

Sadly his practice dwindled. Finally he was arrested as a debtor, sent to Ludgate Prison, and died. He was buried at St Stephen.

As we walk in our moment of history , let us agree that those that stand their duty, as Nathaniel Hodges did, receive proper remuneration

And Nathaniel Hodges – next Thursday 8pm think of him as we again clap for the carers



MARCH 2020


Jane Austen wrote in her novel Emma [1816], “Ah! my poor dear child, the truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be. It is a dreadful thing!”

Anyway, no negativity , no Charterhouse Black Death stories 1348 , no Pepys plague extracts 1665 and no relating of the Trafalgar Square celebrations in contributing to the Flu pandemic 1918.

Only positivity , in 1665 , the University of Cambridge temporarily closed due to the plague and Sir Isaac Newton was forced to work from home. In a state of boredom and with a deft use of his abacus he developed his theory of gravity and optics.

The time of coronavirus – ‘a tale you will tell your grandchildren and mightily bored they will be’ to quote – General  Horrocks in relation to the Battle of Arnhem 1944

So if you have to self isolate for 7 -14 days during the reign of Boris the Bold here are 3 books about our great and gallant city that I have read and re-read and totally recommend.

All are readily available , all cost less from kindle books , but digital lacks the tactile in my book [see what I did there]

In no particular order:

The Phoenix – Leo Hollis 2008


War , politics , religion and the ‘resurgem’ of St Paul’s Cathedral. Always so dramatic. The story of the birth of modern London through the lives of John Evelyn, Samuel Pepys and Christopher Wren. Such events chronicled,The English Civil War, The Republic , Restoration , Plague and Fire. Full of small details among the big moments. Evelyn introduces Wren to his future Master Carver Grinling Gibbons, Thornhill almost falling from the whispering gallery as he stepped back to admire his painting of the dome of St Paul’s and Pepys burying his Parmesan cheese to protect it from the Great Fire , great stuff!

Beastly London –  Hannah Velten 2013


Unusual and full of fantastic beasts. Beautifully illustrated , within its pages meet Roman elephants, Hodge a very fine cat indeed, the escaped tiger from Jamrachs, the origin of Houndsditch,tales from Smithfield and the Tower of London polar bear 1272. So much more than cheat the meat propaganda, it is a well balanced exploration of how the co-existence of human and animal shaped our city, a future tour in the making.

Johnson’ life of London – Boris Johnson 2011


It’s Boris Johnson , it’s questionable,thought provoking, laugh out loud, it’s a rip roaring read. Easily the best of the London through a list of famous people genre. A great list including Boudicca, Hadrian, Alfred the Great, Chaucer, Dick Whittington, Dr Johnson and Keith Richards [say what!]. The book is highly focused upon their contribution to the city and what a turn of phrase, my favourite being the description of Boudicca as one of the first ‘banker bashers’ after the Romans confiscated all the Iceni property to help consolidate the debts of Romano-London traders.

And finally,

1348, 1665, 1918 and 2020

All asking the same two questions and hearing the same answers

What do we do? – isolate

How long will it take? –who knows


The real name is the thing

In 1769 the third bridge over the River Thames was built. I t was named the William Pitt Bridge in honour of Prime Minister Pitt the Elder. However, then as now the bridge is more commonly known by its location: Blackfriars Bridge.

In 2000 was opened my favourite bridge on the Thames

On many a Sunday a Thames Clipper will pass beneath the Millennium Bridge sometimes called the Wobbly Bridge, but like Blackfriars, the real name is the thing.


1996 Southwark Council organised a competition for design of a new bridge across the Thames

Event won by blade of light design of Sir Anthony Caro. Construction began 1998 the bridge opened 2000 when it is said that up to 93,000 people attempted to cross. Not surprisingly the pedestrians felt an unexpected swaying motion. The new bridge closed on its opening day.


The bridge closed almost for two years whilst supports were attached. Reopening in 2002 the bridge is fully stable, which is a pity; because it isn’t a bridge it’s a hammock and was supposed to sway!

And the bridges real name?

The Blade of light


How magnificent

Superb views along the, South bank and St Paul’s Cathedral the bridge links layers of History. The London Borough of Southwark that only joined London 1886 now easily accessed from the oldest part: Roman Londinium.

And on the ancient side of the city directly beneath the bridge is the Millennium Measure situated in Paul’s walk

A three sided obelisk of glass and steel.  It was a gift presented to the City Of London by the worshipful company of scientific Instrument Makers in celebration of the millennium.


Designed by Joanna Migdal it’s fantastic. It has three panels of glass joined together and along its steel edging are century markers from the birth of Jesus to the year 2000.

Each panel is etched with events from history with a  panel representing the city, another religion and the last represent scientific events and inventions .

So what kind etchings are on it?


Events like the Great fire of London, construction of bridges such as the 1894 Tower Bridge.

Examples on the religious panel the construction of St. Paul’s and the temple of Mithras

And the science panel is  very enlightening, who knew there were canal locks in China in the 10th century or India had a decimal system in the 6th

I recommend you go see





The name Smithfield is derived from, “Smooth Field”, a place outside the City of London wall that had been the main marketplace for meat  since the Medieval era due to nearby River Fleet being perfect for watering Cattle. The obvious main visible attractions would be the 1866 Meat market designed by Horace Jones and the Church of St Bartholomew the Great founded in 1123 by Prior Rahere

However each street competes for your attention. Just behind the church is the not easy to find Bartholomew’s Close and Cloth Street where you can discover a number of Livery Company Halls [note that the Halls are usually closed excepting for Open House weekend and the hiring for private functions].

The Halls belong to Worshipful Companies or Guilds – say what?

In the City of London there are 110 Livery companies, the oldest being the Weavers from 1155 and the latest being the Art Scholars of 2014. Originally formed to regulate various trades they have now morphed into charitable organisations [giving around £42 million] and run the City of London Corporation.

Called livery because of their distinctive ceremonial robes and Worshipful because they are usually linked to a particular City church

In 1555 an order of precedence was established with the Mercers at number 1. Interestingly the phrase “at sixes and sevens” arises because the Skinner’s and Merchant Taylor’s alternate each year as a compromise over disputing their allocated position. The banners of the Great 12 hang from the roof of the Guildhall itself.

Three Halls worthy of consideration:


The Fletcher’s and Farmers where old and new have conjoined to collect revenue from hall sharing. The Fletcher’s  fletch, that is make the feathers for arrows [but not the arrows, that would be the Bowyers!] were formed in 1371 where as the Farmers were one of the first modern companies formed in 1952


Secondly, The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, the 100th company formed in 1992. The motto on their crest is “cito” meaning swift as in internet swift, a nice combination of Latin having a double meaning for the millennial age. Their Hall is also of an age, 1737, to be exact as it was an old inn.

From one of the newest to one of the oldest associated with St Bartholomew the Great.


The Butchers are one of the oldest of the City’s Livery Companies, as there are records of them stretching as far back as 975AD. A Guild controlled killing and selling of meat in nearby Smithfield. Their Hall was damaged seriously in 1944 and eventually rebuilt 1960

The crest motto is from Book of Psalms   “Thou hast put all things under his feet, all Sheep and Oxen. “Their Coat of Arms was granted in 1540 having has Bulls on either side and axes ready for the blow – just like Roman bull sacrifice!

In forecourt of Roman temples a large bull was washed and dressed for the occasion with red ribbons. It was a good omen if the bull consents to slaughter. Muttering a prayer the priest uses a quick trick. Holding a handful of feed under mouth the bull instinctively bows. The bull has nodded and tonk, the throat is cut!

Not unlike Kosher or Halal but very unlike the industrial killing that later developed at Smithfield

Livery companies had odd ceremonies and the Butchers have the annual Boar’s Head ceremony.


A certain tell-tale sign that makes you suddenly aware that Christmas is just around the corner is the annual Boar’s Head Ceremony is a true gem when it comes to the unusual. In essence, the Worshipful Company of Butchers, resplendent in their fur-trimmed robes, process from Bartholomew Close and make their way, via Cheapside to Mansion House. The centerpiece of this street pageant is a red gloss papier maché model of a boar’s head – which, on arrival at Mansion House, is presented to the Lord Mayor. Until 1968 the head was real. This ceremony can be traced back to 1343.

The butchers had managed to offend the monks at the Greyfriars by discarding their waste nearby. The monks made an official complaint and the City granted the butchers “…a parcel of land adjoining the Fleet River, for the purposes of disposal of the offal in the Flete Ditch’

And the cost to the butchers?

They and their successors, for ever present a gift to the Mayor of London, at Christmas, a boar’s head.” Despite the fact it’s been many years since they actually washed any beast entrails in the River Fleet, a contract is a contract and so the butchers, sticking to the “for ever” clause continue to pay up.

Let us conclude with the aptly named Boar Head Carol

Anybody else think that the Starbucks logo is a rip-off the Mercers maiden?



Anybody else find the Saddlers crest motto mildly amusing and a little alarming!




“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs, as if to say, well done. Well done, everyone. We’re halfway out of the dark. Back on Earth, we called this Christmas, or the Winter Solstice. On this world, the first settlers called it the Crystal Feast. You know what I call it? I call it expecting something for nothing”

KASRAN SARDICK: Dr Who A Christmas Carol 2010

Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’  1843 is a ghost story, a meditation on the undeserving poor and a London travel guide. Best version: Alistair Simm and make no mistake!

Ebenezer ‘geezer’ Scrooge is a money lender who is out grinching the Grinch that stole Christmas at his counting house in Newman’s Court, which is in a tiny alley overlooked by St Michael Cornhill church. It is a shame that no chocolate confectioner has ever thought to release a Bar-Humbug in the same way as the Golden bar of Willi Wonka

The Ghost of Christmas to be drags Scrooge to the Royal Exchange. Scrooge is shown that his death is blithely dismissed by his old trading associates and as the musical version explains, his funeral is the nicest thing he had ever done for his clients.

The Royal Exchange no longer trades except as expensive restaurants and loan inducing retail outlets. No ostentatious consumption there then.


When Scrooge awakens a changed man, one of the first things he does is to ask a passing boy to fetch a prize turkey and have it delivered to the Cratchits. The bird is fetched from Leadenhall Market.


Oddly enough Christians didn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus simply because no one knew the date. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated was in 336AD. Pope Julius I decided that although Jesus was not born on December 25th the important point was that he was born.  By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional pagan festivals, Julius increased the chances that Christmas would be accepted.

The Roman Festival of Saturnalia took place between December 17th and 23rd and honoured Saturn the god of agriculture. It was a debauched time with food and drinks a plenty. The festival of the unconquered sun’ was held on December 25th and was the ‘birthday’ of the Sun god Mithra. In Mithraism, the holy day was Sun-day which is where we get that word!

Christmas spread to England by the end of the sixth century. Cromwell and his Puritans cancelled Christmas 1647 but King Charles II [the merry monarch] restored it in 1660. Thanks to Prince Albert the Victorians added trees and the writing of cards

And we will end with Steeleye  Span

Merry Christmas to one and all


The greatest showman…no…not Hugh Jackman but William Russell!

William Russell the 2019 Lord Mayor of London & the Lord Mayors show


That’s Lord Mayor of London…not Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The government of the City of London is older than parliament itself and its Guildhall is a rival to the Palace of Westminster – If Westminster is the mother of parliaments then Guildhall is the grandmother of parliaments

In 1215, King John showed how important London had become by granting the city the right to elect a Lord Mayor every year. Only the Monarch is higher than the Lord Mayor for influence.

One of the conditions for the freedom to elect their man , the Lord Mayor had to “show” himself and this  has morphed into the annual Lord Mayors show.

Some Lord Mayor moments


  • The first was Henry FitzAilwyn 1189
  • William Hardel was one of those appointed to monitor adherence to Magna Carta by John
  • William Walworth killed Wat Tyler the leader of the Peasants Revolt in Smithfield 1381
  • The most famous is Dick Whittington, who was Lord Mayor four times between 1397 and 1420.
  • Thomas Bloodworth who badly underestimated the ferocity of the Great Fire 1666 by being quoted as “ a maid might piss it out” and going back to sleep
  • The first female office holder was Dame Mary Donaldson 1983

The Lord Mayor’s Show dates back to 1215. Every year since, the newly elected Lord Mayor has traveled from the City of London to Westminster to pledge allegiance to the Crown. Originally the show was water borne along the Thames which is probably why we still call the elaborate parade of today floats. The Lord Mayor has used the same coach since 1757, pulled by six horses, only the Monarch has more. However, there was no show in 1852 because of the state funeral of the Duke of Wellington.

The show is held on the second Saturday in November and in 2019 and 1888 they shared the same date but not the same atmosphere. The 2019 show was a joyful parade with marching bands, dancers and a plethora displays.

Not so 1888. On the morning of the parade the mutilated body of Mary Kelly had been discovered at Millers Court off Dorset Street in Whitechapel. Jack the Ripper had struck again and if we look at the painting of the show by William Logsdail we see a tenseness hanging over the scene. Poignantly Mary Kelly  had said that she hoped the weather would be good because she aimed to go to the Lord Mayor’s parade.


Finally let us elevate our mood and return to Dick Whittington. Hearing the sound of Bow Bells, so legend goes, he turned again with his cat at Highgate and returned to fame and fortune.


Whittington is a London legend, an inspiration to see London as a means of getting on, where the streets are paved with gold or more likely in the words of Alexei Sayle, kebab.


Open House

Last month was the annual Open House fest. Once again we failed in the lottery to gain access to Downing Street and this time wanted to avoid huge lines of punters.

We explored two gems , they may have been small but big on interest.

First up Sands Films studios in Rotherhithe. Totally enthralling as Sands runs its own studio , prop and costumes workshops. Since making Little Dorritt there probably hasn’t been a costume drama in the last 40 odd years that hasn’t been attended to by Sands.


What an iconic list:  Tales of Beatrix Potter, Pride and Prejudice , Gangs of New York , Marie Antoinette,  Victoria , Wolf Hall and Peterloo to name way too few.


The tour took in the stage area from their latest production, ‘The good soldier Schwejk’ , the costume area and various workshopSands can be visited by appointment and why not visit the Brunel Museum next door whilst you are there.

Next up the Crystal Palace subway, what a find!


The Crystal Palace of the Great Exhibition 1851 was moved from Hyde Park to err… Crystal Palace. Unfortunately the great glass palace designed by Joseph Paxton burnt down in 1936.

Hidden under Crystal Palace parade the pedestrian subway gave access for the better class of rail passenger to the Crystal Palace from the purpose built rail line.


The subway has also been used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War,  a favoured haunt of local youngsters for raves and a film location.



The Great Thames Disaster

The Princess Alice sank in the River Thames on 3 September 1878 killing about 650 from about 900 passengers.

Why is this event forgotten and not memorialised in the same way as the Marchioness disaster of 1989?

Maybe it is merely the passage of time and people forget or maybe, unlike the Marchioness, the Alice met her end further out at Beckton rather than amongst the major bridges of London or as a few suggest, most of the people on board were lower / upper working-class families and considered less important than if they had been wealthy.


Simple information chart in a desolate location

On the morning of the disaster the passengers were excited as the pleasure boat; Princess Alice made the routine trip from London Bridge to catch the end of the summer sun and the fresh sea air of Sheerness. The day-trippers went either  to Rosherville Pleasure Gardens, walked along the promenade at Sheerness or wandered around Gravesend.

On return att about 7:40pm, the Princess Alice neared Beckton, a huge collier the Bywell Castle ploughed straight into the starboard side of the Princess Alice. The vessel sliced the Princess Alice in two. In 5 minutes the Alice had sunk.

Very few passengers would have been killed by the collision, many were trapped inside the Alice and but most were thrown into the Thames. Most Victorians could not swim and their heavy clothes dragged them down. Just as disaster struck, the sluices at Beckton and Crossness of the Great Interceptor Sewers opened and tons of untreated sewage spewed from outlets near where the boats collided. The water bubbled with raw sewage. The men, women and children thrashing about in the water breathed in and swallowed pints of human waste.


Flag of the Princess Alice [retrieved from the wreck] at the Thames River police museum

Small boats came to the aid of drowning passengers, but the rescue mission soon became an effort to recover as many bodies as possible. About 175 were saved but In a matter of minutes children had been orphaned, husbands and wives widowed, and whole families wiped out [ 70 children had lost both parents and 19 who had lost one]. Bodies washed up from Limehouse to Erith. Nearly 500 bodies were recovered in the first week after the collision.

The dead were laid down in their hundreds in temporary mortuaries that popped up across east London. Many of the bodies were unrecognisable after being in the water for weeks. Some were identified from their clothes. Despite considerable efforts, around 120 unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave at Woolwich Cemetery.


Pubs were named after the disaster such as this [now renamed the Culpepper]

Maybe it is time for a fitting memorial.



August, the summer holidays , August the month where there is a run on the bank balance , August named after the first Roman Emperor!

Once Octavian had defeated Mark Anthony [of Carry on Cleo fame] at Actium he became Emperor with the title Augustus [ 27BC – 14AD]

Augustus mausoleum in Rome


How about taking a look at Roman London at the cost of a few steps and around £10 with us

The city of London was enclosed by the Roman wall. A fantastic section is preserved just by Tower Hill tube.



The Mithras Temple at Walbrook [closed Monday but otherwise open 10am – 6pm]. The temple experience is free but you need to book an entry time online


The Roman arena beneath the Guldhall art gallery [open 10am -5pm]. Just turn up and admire the art and arena for free


The grave of an unknown Roman teenage girl, reburied where she was found during the digging of the foundations of the Gherkin at St Mary Axe.


The Billingsgate Roman House and Baths on Lower Thames Street is tour only, held on Saturdays between 1 April and 30 November [11am, 12noon and 1pm (except 21 September during Open House Weekend. Cost £10]


Finally the excellent Roman galleries at the Museum of London. The museum on London Wall is free and open 10am-6pm



JULY 2019

On 6th July 1535 the former favourite of Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More who had been Lord Chancellor was executed at Tower Hill after refusing to recognise the King as Head of the Church.


Henry VIII was a loyal Catholic, and in 1521 Pope Leo X conferred the title of Defender of the Faith on Henry for his book ‘Sacramentorum’, which said the Catholic Church was correct and Protestants was wrong. The 1534 Split with Rome occurred because King Henry VIII’s desire to be rid of his first wife of eighteen years Katherine of Aragon. Henry was worried that he had only one surviving child, Mary. Cardinal Wolsey was to appeal to Pope Clement VII for an annulment so Henry could marry Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement VII refused. Henry VIII committed murder, theft, robbery, vandalism on a massive scale in order to break away from Rome.


Henry VIII became Head of the Church of England by the Church Act of Supremacy 1534. Sir Thomas More disputed the temporal to use the law to legislate on theological matters. Henry executed people who stayed loyal to the Catholic Church. Catholic shrines were destroyed and the money taken to Henry’s treasury in London – Holy books burned and statues and paintings smashed or defaced.

Thomas More died for his principles, claiming the Catholic Church was the only true church. More was famously his final words were that he died “The king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Another that died because of his refusal to betray his conscience and faith in God in favour of the King was John Houghton the Abbott of Charterhouse


Henry VIII decided to close down the  monasteries. Officially, this was due to monks breaking the rules. However, Henry was also concerned that they were loyal to the Pope, and realised he could make a lot of money from their land. The Carthusian monks at Charterhouse refused to obey. The Abbot John Houghton was arrested and beheaded; his head and hands were nailed to the door of the monastery as a warning to others. Somebody blessed of a  classical education was mimicking the fate of fate of Cicero and the nailing of his head to the doors of the Roman Senate.

It has been estimated that 57,000 to 72,000 people were executed during Henry’s 37 year reign

JUNE 2019

“If you seek his monument, look around”

On the 21st June construction work started on Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

Incorrect, but often believed, the Emperor Nero was blamed for the Great Fire of Rome forever imagined as Peter Ustinov fiddling whilst Rome was consumed. The fire allowed the rebuilding of the centre of Rome into the Golden House,a huge statue and persecution of Christians in a Colosseum yet to be built!

Bizarre link!

Not so read on

The cathedral took 35 years to build and when Wren, died in 1723, he was entombed inside, under a simple slab of marble. Wren’s son placed the “If you…” dedication. The current St Paul’s was declared open on Christmas Day in 1711.


The Great Fire of 1666 led to a rebuilding of London. The Fire destroyed medieval London and much of London’s beauty until World War 2 was the work of Wren . Again, if you want to see his monument look around, not just St Paul’s but the whole rebuilt city. Wrens 52 churches defined the London skyline for about 300 years.

Why has no conspiracy theorist claimed that Christopher Wren was creeping around old London town with a box of firelighters, ready to burn baby burn and make 1666 a major job creation scheme for Wren and his craftsmen?

I believe we just did!


The real secret of St Paul’s is a Papal pun and an unknown monk!

AD 591, Pope Gregory the Great was mooching about a slave market in Rome. He spotted some slaves with fair skin and golden hair. Where had they come from, he inquired?  They were Anglos.  Gregory made his pun: “Not Anglos, but angels!”

Not a great pun but a historic one

AD 601 St Augustine drew the short straw and his monks arrived in England to convert the more discerning Anglo-Saxons. It’s tricky finding a Londoner who has heard of Mellitus. When Mellitus arrived in London, he found no evidence of Christianity.

Somewhere on the site of what is now our cathedral, Mellitus on the ruins of what had been a temple of Diana, built a simple wooden hut, claimed squatters rights and dedicated it to St Paul AD 604. Christianity was resurrected.

Mellitus was driven out of London, never to return. It was not until 654 that Cedd succeeded as second bishop but in recapturing the city for Christianity the unknown monk Mellitus deserves the dedication, “If you seek his monument, look around”

MAY 2019


31st May is London History Day when Londoners annually celebrate our unique city. The date is apparently the day when Big Ben first bonged 1859!

A crucial unique History can be visited on a Whitechapel Wonders tour. There was a point in the not too distant past when Whitechapel was as Jewish then as it is Bangladeshi now.

Mass immigration of Jews persecuted by the Tsarist Empire began in 1881. By 1914, 90 per cent of all Jews in England would live in Whitechapel & Spitalfields. The majority of refugees arrived by steamer docking by Tower Bridge. The immigrants had little choice but to settle in the East End as they could not afford alternatives. The majority had their hearts sets on the “goldeneh medina [USA] but many only made it to London.

The Tevye Stories by Sholom Aleichem are the basis of Fiddler on the Roof. In the musical the Jews of Anatevka including our heroic milkman Tevye are driven from their traditions and home by Tsarist decree.

We are shadows.


Michael Palin calls The London Jamme Masjid (Great Mosque) on 59 Brick Lane ‘One of the most remarkable places in London’. The building in Fournier Street was originally built as a Huguenot (French Protestant) chapel 1743, used as the Great synagogue 1892 – 1965 becoming  the Mosque from 1976 thereby responding to the changing needs of the local population. Upon a wall there is still to be seen the large sundial carved with the inscription “Umbra Sumus” or “We are shadows” the inscription so symbolic of immigrants arriving and then moving on leaving their shadow upon the area.

The third oldest synagogue in England


19 Princelet Street 1719, was first home to a family of French Huguenots and used for weavers’ workshops. In 1869, the garden of the house was converted to a synagogue, which remained in service until 1980. From the outside 19, Princelet Street looks nothing like a Museum of Immigration. Due to the current condition of house the Museum only opens a handful of times each year. Check the website for open days.
Soup Kitchens to feed the poor


As early as 1882 the Board of Guardians of the Jewish Poor was taking advertising space in the Russian press warning potential immigrants that if they came to England they would face hard times. In 1857 a soup kitchen was founded in Brick Lane. The Brune Street soup kitchen was built in 1902 by the Jewish community to provide charitable support to Jewish immigrants. The outside is faithful to its origins, but the inside has been converted into luxury apartments.

Sandys Row


In 1854 fifty Dutch Jewish families formed a friendly society. By 1867 as the community expanded enough funds had been amassed to purchase the chapel in Sandys Row, which the society had been renting. The consecration ceremony for Sandys Row Synagogue was performed in 1870. Visit the synagogue during open house weekend in September.

The oldest surviving synagogue in Britain


The Bevis Marks Synagogue was built by Jews from Spain and Portugal. It replaced their first synagogue, built when Cromwell allowed the Jews to return to England in 1657 after Jewish expulsion in 1290. In 1701 Bevis Marks a purpose built synagogue was designed by a Quaker architect. The exterior is an exact Quaker meeting house. The interior is based on the Great synagogue in Amsterdam.


APRIL 2019


Visit the fools church of St Bartholomew on one of our secretive City tours.


Founded in 1123 by the jester Rahere provider of much merriment for King Henry I. Rahere died in 1144 being quickly interred next to the altar where he photo-bombs many a film using the church as a location. Apparently until the end of his life it is said he walked the streets of Smithfield to occasionally show off some of the juggling and tumbling tricks he performed at Henry’s court.

The serial diarist Samuel Pepys observed a puppet show featuring an early version of the Punch character in Covent Garden.


Punch wears the bright  jester’s outfit and uses a slapstick on his wife Judy and others giving the sort of beating soon to be rightly outlawed across the whole of Britain

My pick this month courtesy of Stuart Hylton is the railways and the village idiot:


The railways can take some of the credit for ending the tradition of the village idiot. Before the railway mania of 1840-60s rural England had low mobility and as a result had a small choice of marriage options. This led to inbreeding and the rise of genetic problems oft identified as village idiocy. The rail mania that accounted for a fifth of GDP allowed for more mobility thereby widening the choice of possible partners!

That’s a whole new meaning to the old British Rail adverts for “Have an away day”

MARCH 2019


The wrapper is finally opened. The brand new Fitbit. One small step for you, 10,000 steps for  healthy kind.  Stepping out with Real London Walks we challenge you to max your step count at over 20,000 by completing three walks in a day.

But you need foody fuel…



Mapa cafe in Cable Street serves a most excellent beans on toast. Choose your bread, melted butter saturation or no, a pile of hot beans washed down with a generous mug of black coffee. Whilst eating you can amuse yourself admiring the eclectic décor of Hollywood stars. Having munched your way through aforementioned beans,an omelette, full English or just admired the poster of Gentlemen prefer blondes it’s time to head out for a Wapping Adventure. Pirates, murders, escaped Tigers and the Thames Tunnel.



A culinary secret is St Mary Le Bow, the home of Bow Bells just 5 minutes off St Pauls along Cheapside. The church is amazing and entry is free. The Café Below is a gem of quality food & check this out, it does take away as well! For a sit down lunch, those in the know go to the Café Below. Ever wondered about what makes a Londoner a cockney? Find out on our Secretive London Walk in the City of London that starts at St Pauls underground. Plenty of secrets actually, hence the name.


If you feel the need then Jack is back! Walk the Whitechapel  haunts of our most famous serial killer. Maybe you will be the one that listens intently and solves the unsolvable? Then end the evening with a steaming  curry at Sheraz at the bottom of Brick Lane near Wentworth Street. Bonus feature of the Sheraz is that above the curry house is a very small hotel of two rooms that sleeps four. So if you can’t face stepping to Liverpool Street station book in and bed down. In the morning you could walk to Mapa and start the saunter all over again




“Love conquers all things, so we too shall yield to love.”

Virgil – Eclogue X – 39BC


The best words, beautiful words of the poet Virgil that inspire us to this day through the works of Shakespeare, to the songs of Michael Ball and our romantic comedy films.

When ambling through London there are a plethora of locations associated with modern Rom-Coms. It may be true that we all know the narrative arc, typically, an unusual couple have a contrived meet, get together, then torn apart by circumstance and then as Vigil noted so long ago, love conquers all.

Three great Rom-Coms and a place to see a genuine location.

Notting Hill 1999

Ordinary bookseller meets Hollywood royalty, “give me it in yards”. Fame tears them asunder only for Julia Roberts to declare “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”

Location- The private communal gardens, into which Anna and William break in at night and jest about the phrase whoopsidaisies whilst climbing the gate is Rosmead Gardens


Last Chance Harvey 2008

American jingle writer but most excellent jazz pianist comes to London for his daughter’s wedding and meets Emma Thompson in full spinster looking after dotty mother mode. A failure to attend a second date is overcome and the last chance has become the best ever chance.

Location –Somerset House courtyard where Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffmann meet on a date after the longest stroll ever along the South Bank


Man Up 2015

A Blind date, wrong girl, turns out to be the right girl. Would you believe Lake Bell is actually American?  An ode to London from Waterloo station, Hungerford Bridge, South Bank and Crouch End!

Nancy: I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not really your blind date, Jack.

Jack: What? Are you even 24?

Nancy: No! Add another 10


One moment just to mention the South Bank Book Market located under Waterloo Bridge. A great place for romantic walks and talks in both Last Chance Harvey and Man Up.  Really, Dustin / Emma & Simon / Lake at least buy a book!

[Same goes for you Hugh / Andie in Four Weddings & a Funeral]

So there we have it, holding hands and running together through life is a wondrous thing. Below, in my opinion, is the greatest romantic line ever, spoken by Erroll Flynn to Olivia De Havilland in the 1941 movie They Died with their boots on.



This entry is here to help you create your own London adventure. A selection of  5 recommendations that are free at the point of entry. Real recommendations that are off the tourist trail but ripe for new year visitations.

January, traditionally FA Cup 3rd round weekend. If you cannot get a ticket to see Fulham at Craven cottage , one of the last football grounds still maintaining its cricket pavilion origins, then take a trip to Woolwich using the Woolwich Ferry. There you will find the Dial Arch Gastro Pub. The entrance is the gate to the ground of Dial Square FC who in 1886 changed their name to Woolwich Arsenal. Opposite the Dial Arch Pub there’s a sculpture of a football commemorating the founding of Arsenal FC. The Gunners moved North of the Thames in 1915


Many of us like a good cemetery. In this case a Non-Conformist cemetery with really big squirrels to feed, fattened by the sandwiches of many a city worker. Bunhill Fields Burial Ground is open from 8am to 7pm or dusk, whichever is earlier. Bunhill is the spiritual home of all those Protestants that did not conform to the Church of England. Once The Church of England splits from Rome , it would only be a matter of time before other branches of Protestants split from the C of E. Segregation in burial , among the 120,000 you can walk and lunch with the likes of William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan.


The main social rescue organisation of the nineteenth century. The British Army. Located alongside St James Park is the Guards’ Chapel,the Spiritual home of the Household Division. The Chapel is open 1030- 3 pm. The first Chapel was opened in 1838. Why social rescue?

The Chapel embodies the role of the army in being the best you can be , or as Wellington put it  when asked just before Waterloo, the redcoat was the “scum of the earth” , however, “we make such fine fellows of them”. Take the shilling and volunteer because you are provided with clothing , a home , rations , pay and a greater purpose than being unemployed and destitute. For many it was a chance to see the world , for orphans a new home and for criminals another chance. What of death on the battlefield? – until the Great War most soldiers died of disease , which was as true of civilian life as military.


A stroll along the north Thames pathway from the Tower and pass beneath London Bridge. Just opposite the Globe on the South bank is upper Thames Street. You are looking at a small inlet called Queenhithe which was once a thriving Saxon dock. Cast your eyes at the wall before you and you will see the magnificent Queenhithe mosaics. A timeline of the story of London from Roman invasion to the 2012 Olympics and feast for the eyes


A spectacular view for free. In my opinion the best aerial view of London because of its location rests at 20 Fenchurch Street. Skygarden is simply great. This is a secret getting out fast. Skygarden is open Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm and at Weekends 11am – 9pm, Better to book an entry time on the website to jump the queue rather than risk disappointment as a walk in guest. Whilst up the Skygarden, wave at the Shard visitors opposite who paid £25 for a similar experience.


So there you have it some London recommendations in no particular order.

And of course go on a Real London Walks tour with Clive or Kevin. To book your place any of our walks, please visit our contact page.Just leave us your name, email address and indicate the walk you wish to undertake then turn up and start stepping.



“It’s Christmasssss!” – once you hear Noddy Holder in the shops you know it’s November and Christmas trundles toward us with the same remorselessness as the Coca-Cola truck.

But not always.

Constantine the Great proclaimed toleration of all faiths in 321AD whilst abolishing crucifixion and giving Sunday legal status as the Sabbath. To Constantine Sol Invictus and the Christian God were the same. In 391AD Emperor Thedosius proclaimed the reign of Jupiter Maximus over. Thedosius marched to the Forum and extinguished the eternal flame in Temple of Vesta.

However, early Christianity was not above borrowing elements of the Roman religion.


In the 3rd century AD, nearly 200 years after the founding of London, a Roman Londoner, built a temple to the god Mithras next to the river Walbrook. A common part of Mithraic worship  were shared meals of bread and wine around the festival that celebrated his birth from a rock, held on 25th December. The design of the Mithraic temples became the blue print on which Christian chapels were later based. The temple had a central nave lined with pillars. Aisles run alongside and at the far end a semi-circular aspe just like a chapel. Near the apse a square hole for water for baptism of initiates into the cult was found just like the later font.

Visit the Temple on our Roman walk.

Meanwhile in Rome:

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore venerates the Virgin Mary as the protector of the Roman people. The Basilica was built soon after the Council of Ephesus of 431, which proclaimed Mary as Mother of God. Go see the relic of the Holy Crib. The Basilica was built upon the ruins of the Temple to Magna Mater, Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods.


That was then – this now that’s what I call Christmas music 18.

My favorite Christmas album- Snow on Snow by the Albion Christmas Band [2008]


So following from above we have the Seven Joys of Mary

And to sign of Comfort and Joy



Four years ago the moat of the Tower of London was filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. This November to mark the centenary of the end of the Great War the moat will be illuminated by 10,000 flames.

Watching the two trailers below it is astounding that we can watch “All Quiet Western Front” the 10th anniversary film , strongly backed by the League of Nations , in the 100th anniversary and admire the work of Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old” commemorative film for the BBC.

The following are some of my favourite 100th commemorative pictures taken totally at random as they were discovered.

Here but not here statue – Westminster tube


Poppies – Waterloo station


Floodlit memorial Newbury Park


Detail Edith Cavell statue St Martins


My  boat tour RB1 Thames Clipper – Embankment pier


Installation art trail – Canary Wharf


Street decoration – Buckhurst Hill


I would like to end with the closing comments from our Great War walking tour:


Lt Dixon was crossing the channel on leave when news arrived on board of the Armistice. As his ship approached Folkestone the harbour exploded with a multitude of sirens and flares. A strange thought struck Lt Dixon, he had left France during the war and had now disembarked in peace. Lt Dixon had a future to look forward to.


“11:55, almost midnight. Enough time for one more story. One more story just to keep us warm”

So said Mr Machen the teller of ghost stories in The Fog. Feel in need of a good scare! we have such a story from our repertoire. But first…

Halloween has always been about the merging of the boundaries between the living and the dead. As Cicero pointed out “do not bury or burn the dead in the city”. Unfortunately for Cicero his hands and head were nailed to the doors of the Roman Senate after his execution on the orders of Mark Anthony. Yes that Mark Anthony, the one down Egypt way played by Sid James in Carry on Cleo.

Weirdly in 1538, when Charterhouse monks voted not to accept Henry VIII as the Head of the Church; their prior’s hands were cut off and nailed to his church door. Classically educated was our Henry VIII , he was , he was…

I digress, before Halloween became our version of the Purge, it originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. On the night of October 31 Celts believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Fires , wicker men and severed heads were used to keep the souls at bay. Samhain (pronounced sow-in) was the night before the new year.

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In the time honoured tradition of merging local and Roman worship two of Roman origin were combined with Samhain. Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead by having a meal next to the beloved in the cemetery plot [the origin of our picnics]. The second in praise of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit . The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and this probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples.

In 609 A.D. the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established. Pope Gregory III later established the observance as November 1 as the Christian appropriated the Roman festival that had appropriated Samhain, you get the picture.The evening before is known as All Hallows Eve [Halloween] where we respect the souls of the departed.


Now for our shivering tale of the living and the dead!

Told much better by us on our secret London tour…

Amelia Dyer was hanged in 1896 . Dyer began working as a baby farmer — for a fee, adopting unwanted children. Dyer assured clients that children under her care would be given a loving home. Dyer would let the child die from starvation and neglect. Dyer was tried at the Old Bailey. It took a jury less than five minutes to reach the verdict: guilty. She likely killed between 200-400 children.

A Mr. Scott was a young warden, at the time Amelia Dyer was hanged— he later became chief warden. As Amelia was taken to the scaffold, she stopped and looked at Scott. She then said in a low voice, “I’ll meet you again, sir.”- Not long before Newgate was closed down, several wardens including Scott, where gathered together, to celebrate the end of their employment. The room they stood within was next to the Women’s Yard. Scott became aware that someone was watching him. He then heard the words in his head, “I’ll meet you again sir.” He looked out the window and saw the face of Amelia Dyer. Scott rushed to the door and opened it but nothing was there except for a woman’s handkerchief that floated to the ground and landed at his feet.

Finally in the words of Danny Elfman,” Tender lumplings everywhere, Life’s no fun without a good scare”



If it’s September it must be an open invitation to Open House.The annual weekend event is free at any of the icons not usually open to the public and some that usually are. Early registration gets you a souvenir booklet to plan your 2 days of exploration and a reduced price T-Shirt. You can, if you so wish, volunteer by registering on the Open House website but be fast as it is first come first serve.

Any advice? – think carefully as long queues are very possible. whilst we queued for the Gherkin we took turns holding our place whilst the other took turns viewing close by buildings of interest .

Some pictures of interest from Open House visits:


Plan for the inevitable longest conga!


Eye evil spy at the Freemasons Hall


Lips a comfy at One Temple Place


Mosaics for mental health therapy at Hackney Downs park


Most recommended – the many walks on offer such as Art in the City

Anything from religious houses , historic buildings or the really unique by ballot [such as Downing Street], Open House , open mind.



To misquote Pulp back in the year 2000 I went on a night time NYC bus tour. The unique selling point was that whilst we were moving and therefore before we alighted to look at the city sites they played over loud speakers songs about NYC. So for instance we were treated to 42nd street at you know where, New York so good they named it twice and Ghostbusters before the fire station used in the film at TriBeCa. It was an eclectic mix, but magical, start spreading the news…

I have often thought about something similar for London, but it’s complicated with hundreds of songs and locations to choose from. It’s a pity that Midtown girl for Holborn exists only in my imagination.

The closest I get on our tours are a couple of locations. The forgotten corner where Bob Dylan filmed what is now regarded as the first ever music video at a dead-end alley called Savoy Steps. The other, being the fantastic statue of a grieving girl collapsing against Arthur Sullivan.


So here is my little list. I give you 6 songs with a recommended place to listen. So plug in your airpods and enjoy:


Lazy cover versions are so out, but reimagined covers can be amazing. I give you Bad Shepherds led by Ade Edmonson. I went to one of their 2008 gigs in Camden and loved the combination of punk and folk, what a mash up. As pointed out, half the fun was how long it took guessing the song from the introduction. The Shepherds reimagined London calling, up the junction and the following down in the station at midnight. Place to listen, outside Aldgate East station exit 4 opposite the Whitechapel Gallery.

Old Father Thames

London exists because of the River Thames. Most Sunday mornings I can be found at Embankment pier about to undertake a voyage [as the advert says] with a group of tourists looking for icons. I usually find myself humming London River by Fairport Convention from the 1989 album Red and Gold or as Simon Nichol pointed out an album not so much released as escaped. Place to listen, on a RB1 Thames Clipper, Embankment to Greenwich.


LDN by Lilly  Allen from 2006. It was only recently that I realised LDN was text speak for London duh! It doesn’t matter if you take the optimistic or pessimistic view of the images in the video as your London experience. Once heard, as I can attest, you just can’t stop humming it. Place to listen, a brisk stroll along Shoreditch High Street or Brick Lane


Specifically this ought to be the London Tour guides anthem. No place like London by Shirley Bassey from 1986. Take your pick which is the best end. Place to listen, viewing the sites from either the Skygarden or Shard

Ralph Mctell award

I confess I never liked Streets of London so not included in my playlist, so there. My name is London Town by Reg Meuross from 2013 however is superb and obviously owes a lot to McTell. Has been said, and a truism to boot, that if you call yourself a Londoner you will identify with the song. Place to listen, on steps of St Martins in the Field overlooking Trafalgar square.

Best ever

No contest really, 1967 Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks. It is a great song in its own right, a song for everybody’s of London, although rumour has it that Terry and Julie is referencing Terrence Stamp and Julie Christie. The song gets mentioned on my boat tour as the first line phrase Dirty Old River is the meaning of Tamesis. Place to listen, on the ladies bridge itself as Waterloo Bridge has the best ground views of London for the budding David Bailey [keeping that 60s vibe]. ‘As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise’

JULY 2018


Quo Vadis -Where are you going? The question asked by the risen Jesus of Peter as the future rock scuttled away from Rome along the Appian Way. Jesus was heading to Rome to be re-crucified at which point Peter decided to turn about and take up permanent residence on Vatican Hill.

Quo Vadis, February 2018 a visit to the eternal city, our itinerary was to be the icons, Forum, Colosseum and said Vatican. If you ever find yourself going to Rome check out Revealed Rome by Amanda Ruggeri.


20180211_132252But what has this to do with the London companion?

Because it’s fun to find out about the SPQR!

Having returned on a high it was time to explore a little bit of Londinium. To my mind London was founded by General Aulus Plautius  [check out the rather esoteric credits for the TV series Britannia]given that his Legion crossed the Tamesis [Thames] somewhere around AD43, fortified themselves on Cornhill and Ludgate whilst waiting for Emperor Claudius and his elephants to catch up. Love it that the meaning of Tamesis is in the first line of the best London song ever, Waterloo Sunset: “dirty Old River”

Londinium: and first up is the Mithras Temple at Bloomberg Space Walbrook. A light, sound and artefact experience into the mysteries of this cult from Persia. Numa, Numa is the incantation as you descend to the depths below. Mithras was to be an intermediary between gods and man. Oh and Mithras was born 25th December, died and rose again after 3 days. Sounds familiar?


Also visit the Guildhall Art Gallery because what lies beneath is the Roman Amphitheatre that held about 7,000 spectators. Are you not entertained!

Roman London erupts from beneath your feet at many a varied location from segments of the London Wall at Tower Hill, to Billingsgate Roman baths [complete with Roman dog paw imprint] to being able to walk on a real Roman floor at All Hallows by the Tower.


That is not to say that the locals completely bought into the Pax Romana. The 60AD uprising led by Boudicca killed about 30,000 Romano-Londoners and burned the city to the ground. Still the Romans had come, saw and conquered and stuck around until their own reverse version of Brexit in 410 AD.

The Romans were really into a fish sauce called Garam to be found across the Empire. You were truly Romano-civilised if you slopped this gloop over just about everything you ate. Indeed products such as Garum are the reason for the London Wall. The Romans had been in charge 150 years before building the wall, with its distinctive red bonding tiles. As a port, produce entered and exited via the gates making collecting tariffs easy.


The Romans also went in for beautiful patterned mosaics in a big way and this led to a visit to the Mosaic Workshop and a lovely addition of a mosaic top to a table acquired in a charity shop



Talking mosaics, hidden away, lining the walls of Carlisle Lane, Virgil Street and Centaur Street are a modern gorgeous collection commissioned by Southbank Mosaics. A real hidden treasure it’s amazing what you can find under London’s railway arches. It’s a large mosaic gallery inspired by the works of William Blake near the site of his former home on Hercules Road.


Quo Vadis? From Rome to Lambeth, calling at Walbrook , Guidlhall , Tower Hill , Norwood Junction and Southbank

JUNE 2018


Remember when you were a child and being sent to bed was a punishment. Now, I am at the age when going to bed early is a blissful reward. However the one place to guarantee to break that mold is Wilton’s Music Hall at Graces Alley. Wilton’s is a Grade 2* listed building, the only survivor of the early Music Hall era. Actually I have volunteered here for a number of years and like so many others have come to adore this very special place.

For a sheer joint is jumping, great night out, the free Monday night music is astonishingly good. Mind, the Mahogany bar gets packed, I tell no lie, that a bar that seats about twenty heaves to a good hundred or so, toe tapping standing room only. A particular recent favourite of mine has to be Hetty and the Jazzato band but there are many more to choose from.

As shows go I have seen some great and varied entertainment such as Christopher Green as either Ida Barr the people’s pensioner or as the singing hypnotist teaching us how to empower ourselves. Yes, I did get Christopher Green to inscribe a copy of his excellent book. Check out the Ida Barr version of London Pride.

As part of the usher team I have enjoyed some great nights with Vanessa, Eady, Rupert and Debs including getting a hand shake from Roy Hudd after a performance of Mother Goose and showing John Major to his seat whilst trying to sell Norma Major a programme. Do read John Major’s book My Old Man. I saw John Major talk about this at the British Library hosted by Christopher Green. I recommend the book because it really captures Music Hall as a wonderful, touching and participatory art form.

Unfortunately, at time of writing the Monday night History tour by Carole, Gill or occasionally myself is now no longer happening, but Gill and I can be found on a Monday and Sunday respectively telling Thames Tales on Thames Clippers.

It would be a dream to see old time music hall stars of the likes of Champagne Charlie , Dan Leno and Vesta Tilley on the stage but alas…still Carradine’s cockney sing-a-long comes mighty close. As the great Leno would say “Here we are again”

PS And the shabby chic… refers to the distressed look of the building interior that somehow looks so right!


MAY 2018


I really like popping into churches, preferably the ones I discover whilst walking or cycling around.


The church that I enjoy visiting even after many a visit is St Bartholomew the Great Smithfield. I think coffee in the crypt is something everybody should take their favourite Aunt. I really came to know the church well when I worked for Britmovietours. Many a film has used its interior from The Huntsman to Shakespeare in Love to Sherlock Holmes to most famously Four Weddings and a funeral. Founded in 1123 all you need do is see the tomb of Prior Rahere photobomb many a scene in a movie. The church has a golden statue of a flayed alive St Bartholomew if you like that sort of thing!!


St Mary Le Bow is not just the sound of Bow bells cockney church it also has a great crypt coffee shop [bit of a theme this]. Sorry to disappoint but cockney is a lot broader than an East Ender, after all Dick Whittington heard the bells at Highgate and apparently turned around. The bells signified curfew so all the cockney citizens high tailed it back inside the city gates. Like other Norman edifices you are looking at their version of Dubai – built to impress with stone from Caen Normandy. The psychological weight hits you. If you are bothered enough to bring the stone from home you intend to stay. Indeed Le Bow refers to the Norman arches, a very unusual sight to the cowering Saxons.



Talking of edifices, slammed down into the East End are these two Hawksmoor churches, Christchurch Spitalfields and St Georges in the East. Built as part of the 1714 gambit of our religion is more powerful than yours they are clearly huge, they demand you look at them. Hawksmoor is sometimes called the devils architect because his designs have pagan motifs and because if joined by lines on a map they form a pentagram! Actually he couldn’t afford the European Grand Tour so he devised his own classically inspired designs and his churches form a pentagram in the same way a selection of KFC outlets do if using a marker pen.


Lastly with the Thames having more pirates than the Caribbean, St Nicholas in Deptford is oddly very proud of being the home of the Jolly Roger. When not advertising rum, Captain William Morgan worshiped at St Nicholas. The gates decorations rather overstate that a charnel house lies within the church walls, but Morgan obviously thought the skeletal masonry would look pretty scary on his red flag or Jolie Rouge.

Talking of charnel houses, is this how we get the word bonfire from bone-fire as the occupants of graveyards were dug up so the grave could be reused? And is the rich avoiding this by being buried in the crypts and floors the origin of stinking rich as going to worship would be a bit pongy with the decaying all around the pews?

PS to my knowledge neither of the Hawksmoors have coffee bars.

APRIL 2018


A few months ago I was one of the last of the “London Weekenders” on the Robert Elms Saturday Show. One of the questions was about experiences with food and drink. I thought hard, how could I link this to tour guiding?

Well it was more about getting out of a difficult situation, although the restaurant is pretty good. Sometime in 2009 when London was suddenly hit by a blanket of snow bringing London Town to a standstill, I was already near Liverpool Street preparing to lead a Jack the Ripper walk; needless to say it was cancelled. All transport was halted. I trudged over to the curry mile, Brick Lane for something hot. At number 13 Brick Lane is the old Frying Pan pub, long converted into the Sheraz Indian restaurant. The Sheraz provided one really hot perfect meal whilst I pondered what to do next.

Difficulty solved, above the Sheraz they have [still] two lovely rooms and I was able to book one. True, not quite Jack London renting a room in the East End but the room was probably equally as welcome!


Many a Ripper tour has huddled around the location listening to various accounts of Polly Nicholls, some scholarly , some entertaining and some almost as much a work of fiction as Shakespeare [you know who you are!]

The next morning I had a traditional fry up at the 24 hour Polo Bar Bishopsgate before one of the longest train journeys back to Essex. It may be the myth of memory but those two meals seemed the hottest when needed on the coldest of days. Fortunately I was alone in the white-out so memory isn’t contested!

And what of Ripper tours, they are still as popular as ever, but what is welcome is the emphasis on the lives of the victims and the social conditions in which they struggled rather than a focus upon a deranged killer.

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