Aside from my regular weekend walks, I also do private walks during the week if people so desire. I've been fortunate to have done a few such walks recently, and they all tend to be quite different, generally for people visiting from abroad (I believe they're called tourists) who would like to explore London. Having said that, the other day I did a walk for someone's 65th birthday. He was called Charles (a non tourist), and what a nice chap he was, as was his extended family and friends.
Sometimes people like to see 'the sights', some people even like to visit them, go inside and get lost within Westminster Abbey or the Royal Courts of Justice (we have done both of these) and other people have seen the sights and want to experience London beyond the tourist hotspots and explore the back streets and alleyways or jump in and out of cabs on their way around. I am very happy to help people uncover all these things, and here are a few of the people that have joined me over the last couple of weeks.
Mark and Jo from Australia standing outside St James's Palace, built by Henry VIII (although I doubt he helped much) in 1536. Those two guards were a laugh a minute.
Kevin and Ji standing in front of what is officially, the oldest door in Britain, which apparently was installed in about 1050. Even with my limited maths ability, I know that's quite a long time ago. You can find the door inside Westminster Abbey, which is chock full of lots of other interesting things aside from old doors. Actually, my favourite part of that particular visit, was when we asked an official where the toilet was and were told 'It's just behind William Shakespeare'. Excellent. (He's not actually buried there, it's a statue).
Howard and Jessica from the States just before taking cover inside Camden Market. In fact, we managed to fit in three markets that day, along with Spitalfields Market and Borough Market.
The birthday boy Charles and his entourage. Little did his daughter Ellie (or me for that matter) envisage when she booked the walk months ago, that it'd be such a hideous, wet and cold day. Still, they were all very good about it.
Tracy, Tabetha and Dimitri standing in the midst of Piccadilly Circus on what was an all day London extravaganza walk punctuated by a spot of lunch in the west end.
The first thing you'll notice about the two 'camouflaged' buildings I'm about to mention, is that on the photos below, they are quite visible, which would suggest they're not very well camouflaged. However, they're still officially camouflaged, and both as a result of the Second World War.
Stoke Newington Town Hall
This Art Deco building, completed in 1937 resides on Stoke Newington Church Street, just next to Clissold Park and opposite quite a nice pub called the Rose & Crown, should you happen to be in the area and fancy a drink.
If you look very closely at the exterior of the Town Hall, you'll notice faded swirling shapes of camouflage paint, which were applied in 1939. I think it was because the building was used as the area's civil defense headquarters, rather than because they were worried about loosing it through bombing, when they'd only just built it in the first place. It's a Grade II listed building and apparently due to the rarity of the feature, every effort is made to preserve the camouflage paint.
The Admiralty Citadel
This rather grandly named, monstrosity of a building is right in the centre of London, backs on to The Mall which leads from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, looks over Horse Guards Parade and is a hop and a skip from St James's Park. It looks like a massive concrete fortress that has been plunged in to the centre of Whitehall and actually, that's exactly what it is. The amazing thing is, that most people pass through Horse Guards Parade without even noticing its existence. Usually, it's completely covered in ivy, but when I took the photos of it the other day, it was devoid of its leafy cover, so was basking in all its practical and nondescript glory.
It's the building on the left, in case you were wondering. The Admiralty Citadel was built at the beginning of WWII as the Admiralty communications centre. It was basically supposed to be a bomb proof bunker, has a 6 metre thick roof and is apparently still used by the Ministry of Defence today. If you're interested to discover what life was like for those working there during WWII, deciphering codes and keeping the naval war effort going, then the BBC have a couple of accounts in their archive of WWII memories which are quite interesting.
According to 'London's Strangest Tales' by Tom Quinn, when the building first appeared, the press were forbidden to mention its existence and to ensure that the Citadel looked like part of the nearby park from above, the roof was laid with grass and that even today, in the summer, a guy goes up there with a lawn-mower and cuts it.
It was such a wet and cold weekend, that I was quite frankly amazed that anyone turned up, but on Saturday I did both walks. In the morning Gill and Ian from Winchester were joined by Abhi and Ivan for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's. Seeing as it was St Patrick's Day weekend (that's right, St Patrick's Day was a whole weekend), it seemed fitting to take their photo standing outside The Tipperary on Fleet Street.
This tiny pub on the opposite side of the road from Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese has a rather enigmatic history, depending on what you read, but either way, it stands on the site of the old Whitefriars monastery (it's on the corner of Whitefriars street), and a pub has stood on the site for centuries. The current name dates back to the end of the First World War and the well known song, sung in the trenches, 'It's a long way to Tipperary'. It was previously called The Boar's Head and its Irish connection started in about 1700 when it was bought by a guy from Dublin called S. G Mooney. The Tipperary claims to be the first pub to sell Guinness in England.
In the afternoon, the weather cleared up a bit and I was joined by Hana and Pouyan for the walk from St Paul's cathedral to Monument via Borough. Here they are standing on London Bridge. The white, block like building you can see to their left, right next to the bridge, is called Adelaide House and believe it or not, when it was built in the mid 1920's, it was the tallest office building in London. It is now completely dwarfed by its neighbours. The Shard looms menacingly over from the other side of the river, and in the background you can see a number of other significantly taller buildings currently in the midst of construction. It's a Grade II listed building and at one time had a golf putting green on the roof. You can see a wonderful photo of the putting green in full swing at Pete Berthoud's Discovering London website.
Most international couple - Pouyan & Hana
Best moustache - No winners
Most hardy - Ivan, Abhi, Gill & Ian
Even after the briefest of strolls around the area known as The City of London (or London in general) you'll very probably be struck (pun intended) by the number of public clocks, adorning buildings or hanging off churches. Quite often they're rather grand, ornate, pretty big and in many cases have their own unique history and back story.
Going back to the 16th century, clockmakers' tended to be members of the Blacksmiths' Company, as they worked with ferrous metals and utilised many of the metal work skills that were required as part of their own trade. With the growth of domestic clocks, requirements changed and as different and quite specific skills were essential to domestic clock and watchmaking the two groups separated and domestic clockmakers developed their own identity and market. Inevitably, resentment grew between clockmakers within the City and those from outside plying the same trade who threatened their monopoly. After many years of lobbying, they managed in 1631 to obtain from King Charles I a Royal Charter, recognising them as 'The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers' and thus protecting 'the Art or Mystery of Clockmaking of the City of London.'
Although the Clockmakers' Library was founded in 1813, the current museum is housed inside a modern annexe at Guildhall.
The original library of ancient manuscripts belonging to the Company gradually grew to include books, horological portraits and of course many examples of time pieces throughout the ages. It's all housed within one room, but never-the-less is chock full of information pertaining to the Company's formation and history, numerous 'celebrity' clockmakers and a collection which includes 600 English and European watches, 30 clocks and 15 examples of marine timekeepers, instrumental in the development of the science of navigation. In fact, you'll find yourself surrounded by the oldest specific collection of clocks and watches in the world, the earliest dating from c.1600, up until c.1850.
The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers' motto is 'Time is the commander of all things', so I'd suggest that if you find yourself in the area, you could pop in and see their museum for yourself ... but only if you have time of course. If not, then maybe you should make time.
The Clockmakers' Museum is situated in Guildhall Library -Aldermanbury, London, EC2V 7HH and is open Monday to Saturday (9:30am - 4:45pm). It's FREE to visit.
It was a reasonably quiet weekend as walks go, but none-the-less, still very enjoyable. On Saturday morning I did the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's with Margriet, from Holland. Aside from stopping for a drink in Covent Garden, we popped by the 12th century Temple church en route to St Paul's, which if you've ever seen the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, is where Tom Hanks comes when he arrives in London.
There are lots of other things I could have said about it other than mentioning Tom Hanks, but there you go. I've mentioned it before, but think I'll write a brief post about it soonish. Here's Margriet at the end of the walk outside St Paul's cathedral.
On Sunday, Triona and Martin who were over from Ireland came for a wander around the east end. Here they are standing in front of street artist Stik's piece on Princelet Street, just off Brick Lane.
Most Dutch - Margriet
Best moustache - No winners
Most Irish - Triona & Martin
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is one of what I regularly refer to as the 'Big Three' where all things literary are concerned in England, taking in to consideration a prolific output, and also the effect he has had on the English language, whilst solidifying a firm presence in the public consciousness. The other two are William Shakespeare (obviously) and Samuel Johnson, compiler of the first definitive English dictionary, who also bestowed us with the words 'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life ...' which I either hear or read about on an almost daily basis.
Anyway, back to Charles Dickens. He is a well known London personality and the Victorian era in which he predominantly lived oozes from the pages of his books, as well as highlighting many of the social hardships that people faced at the time. You can go on Dickens themed walks and visit the places that featured in his novels, or where he worked, or indeed lived. Aside from such places, there are also streets, cafes, pubs and buildings that pay homage to either the man himself, his books or the fictional characters he created. Below is a selection of them I have spotted (not including the Charles Dickens Museum on Doughty Street). If you know of any others (and I'm sure there are), feel free to let me know.
Micawber Street in Hackney - The character of Wilkins Micawber from 'David Copperfield' is generally thought to be based upon Charles Dickens' father John Dickens, who like Micawber, was incarcerated in a debtors' prison.
Manette Street in Soho - Dr Alexandre Manette features in 'A Tale of Two Cities', but if you've ever visited Foyles Bookshop, it's right on the corner of Manette Street and Charing Cross road, so the chances are you'd have passed down it.
Betsey Trotwood on Farringdon Road - Another character from Dickens' 1850 novel 'David Copperfield'. This little pub and tiny, tiny gig venue below (which I've played at many times) is named after David Copperfield's great-aunt.
Charles Dickens Coffee House in Covent Garden - We popped in here for a coffee on a walk a few weeks ago, but I'll forgive the proprietors for jumping on the Charles Dickens bandwagon, because it was in this building that Dickens actually had an office, producing the literary magazine 'All The Year Round' in which he first serialised a number of his novels.
The Dickens Inn at St Katharine Docks - Not one of the many pubs which claim Dickens' patronage as it didn't exist then and is a converted warehouse. It was however, opened by his grandson, Cedric Charles Dickens in 1976.
Pickwick House on Ebenezer Street - A double whammy, a veritable Dickens mash up of two novels; 'The Pickwick Papers' and 'A Christmas Carol'. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (or The Pickwick Papers) was Dickens first novel, but quite contentious. He was still writing under his pseudonym Boz, and the book wasn't his idea, but he developed it and made it his own. Originally conceived as illustrations with a bit of explanatory text, Robert Seymour, the originator and illustrator committed suicide after two installments.
Ebenezer Scrooge from 'A Christmas Carol' (1843) has seeped in to the English language as a way of describing someone who is miserly. You'd call them a 'Scrooge' not an 'Ebenezer', just in case you didn't know.
Little Dorritt cafe in Borough - Little Dorritt was another of Dickens' serialised novels (1855-1857) and was published in 19 monthly installments, with a couple of illustrations in each by Phiz (Halbot Knight Browne) who took over from the deceased Robert Seymour for The Pickwick Papers and became a long term collaborator with Dickens.
Pumblechooks Cafe, London E1 - I think these guys took inspiration from the nearby Dickens Inn, as the same guy who owns Pumblechooks also used to run a bar called Chuzzlewits. He may still do, but I couldn't find it. Mr Pumblechook features in 'Great Expectations' and is Joe Gargery's uncle.
And here is Charles Dickens himself, wonderfully rendered on to a door in Wilkes Street (Spitalfields) by the street artist Paul DON Smith.
So, again, if you know of any other Charles Dickens related cafes, streets, pubs or whatever in London that utilise his novels, characters or the author's own name, let me know.
My posts of late seem to have become rather church-centric. It's perhaps not that surprising, considering the sheer number of fascinating churches in London, so today, by way of a refreshing change in form, I shall mention a mosque. I noticed on my east end walk last Sunday, that I have started using the word 'anomaly' quite a lot to describe things when I'm talking to groups. Mainly because London is positively brimming with anomalies, so aside from purely liking the sound of the word, it also regularly encapsulates exactly what I'm trying to explain. This mosque I'm about to tell you about, fits incredibly snugly in to the 'anomaly' category. It's called the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid, and you'll find it on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street, right in the heart of Spitalfields.
As you can see, I managed to pick the one clement day we've had so far this year to take the photos. So, if you're familiar with the east end, you'll perhaps know that historically, Spitalfields has a long association with various immigrant populations that have settled in London, spanning centuries. The building which houses the Jamme Masjid is a Grade II listed English Heritage site and has catered for the religious needs of pretty much every wave of immigrants that have passed through the area, currently serving the largest concentration of Bangladeshi Muslims in the country.
The buildings first incarnation was way back in 1743 as a Protestant Chapel, when it was known as the 'Neuve Eglise' (New Church) for the Huguenot's who began arriving in the late 1600's, to escape persecution in France. In 1809 it became an Evangelical chapel promoting Christianity amongst the Jews, which evidently had limited success, as ten years later it became a Methodist Chapel. Then, in the last couple of years of the 19th century it became a Synagogue and remained so until the Jewish population of Spitalfields, many of whom had arrived from eastern Europe, began migrating to north London after the Second World War. This coincided with an influx of predominantly Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh and east India and the building which had closed, re-opened as a mosque at the end of the 1970s.
For this reason, and rather unusually for a mosque in the UK, the Jamme Masjid has a Latin inscription written above a sundial which adorns the south facing wall on Fournier Street. It reads 'Umbra Sumus' (We Are Shadows) which in itself, considering the populations that have lived in the area, and particularly with the wealth of the City of London literally eating away at the much poorer borough of Tower Hamlets (I'm thinking of Norman Foster's intrusive office building that in its construction, recently demolished half of the old Victorian Spitalfields Market) is quite poignant.
As well as being a place of worship, the mosque promotes educational activities for local Muslim youngsters, and has four classrooms used by the Evening School for teaching children to study the Quran and Islamic studies. The many Muslims who worship here also seem to be proud of their mosque's unique history and work hard with English Heritage to maintain the building's historical elements, whilst ensuring it meets 21st century technological standards and their own religious and educational needs.
Now hopefully, you can see now why I might use the word 'anomaly' to describe this particular building. It also pretty much single-handedly manages to encapsulate the rich immigrant history of the area in one fell swoop.
I'm not sure what the official number is that constitutes a 'group', but if it's one, then this weekend I had three groups for my guided tours around London.
Saturday morning kicked off with Chris and Sasha who are over from Australia and joined me for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's. Covent Garden and Soho are often just referred to as 'Theatre Land' due to the density of theatres in the area. Just behind them on this photo is the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which I think is officially the oldest (still used) theatre site in London. I say 'site' because although it opened in 1663, they're now on their fourth building. The most recent incarnation opened in 1812.
We also managed to get a peak of Temple Church along the way, the 12th century church, built by the Templar Knights that nestles between Fleet Street and the Thames.
In the afternoon, Veronica, Sam and Chris came along for the afternoon walk that starts at St Paul's cathedral. They were also joined by stalwart Keith from Canada, a veritable Bowl Of Chalk veteran, returning for his third walk with me. Here they are down in Borough, close to Cross Bones Graveyard, the unconsecrated ground where the Bishop of Winchester's Geese, otherwise known as prostitutes, were unceremoniously dumped, until it was covered over in 1853. Although 'The Friends of Cross Bones Graveyard' are campaigning to turn the land in to a memorial garden, the land is owned by TFL. Here they are standing in front of a rather large London Underground sign.
London Underground is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. The first line to open was the Metropolitan Railway and the inaugural journey on the 9th January 1863 took passengers between Paddington and Farringdon, just over 4 miles. Today, 3 million passengers are ferried around 253 miles of track in London every day.
Sunday was the mighty group of ... one; Erin from Australia, who although an individual in her own right (quite literally on that particular walk) also happens to be the sister of Robb, instigator of the coveted 'Best Moustache' award. Here she is on Hackney Road, standing in front of a piece by Paul Don Smith, who when not stenciling guys in bowler hats with a tap on their head, paints pretty natty portraits all over east London.
Youngest - Sam
Most Canadian (2nd week in a row) - Keith
Best Moustache - No winners
Most Australian - Erin, Sasha & Chris
If you're walking along Eastcheap, which connects Tower Hill to the Monument and the north end of London Bridge, and turn off towards the Thames down a narrow cobbled street called Idol Lane, you'll come across a church called St Dunstan-in-the-East.
There are no shortage of churches in the City of London, which you can visit, although considerably less than there once were, thanks to the Great Fire and the devastation caused by WWII bombing. Upon entering St Dunstan-in-the-East (There's also a St Dunstan on Fleet Street) the one thing that you can't fail to notice is that despite the church-like appearance as you approach down Idol Lane (see above photo), the church has ceased to exist. You will find yourself standing in a lovely, quiet walled garden.
The original church, which had stood since about 1100 was badly damaged during the Great Fire of 1666, and although generally classed as one of the many churches built by Christopher Wren in the aftermath of the fire, St Dunstan-in-the-East was actually mainly repaired and patched back together between 1668-71. It was then given a major refurbishment in the 19th century and then flattened during the Blitz in 1941. All that survived were a few of the walls and the distinctive steeple with its four smaller spires perched on each corner and the flying buttresses arcing up to support the main spire.
Suffice to say, the church was not rebuilt and it wasn't until 1971 that it was opened as a public garden.
In 1668, as Samuel Pepys (who I seem to manage to mention in just about every post) was wending his way through the post fire ruins of the church, he encountered what he describes as two ruffians armed with clubs, and had to make a hasty escape back to his home on Seething Lane. I sincerely hope you don't encounter something similar, and I'm sure you won't. I've visited many times, and during the week at lunchtimes, the walled enclosure, open to the elements provides a nice secluded haven for 'in the know' City workers to have their lunch. Quite often, I've seen young newly weds having their wedding photos taken amongst the flowers and trees, some of which are quite unusual, including 'Winter's Bark', once eaten to prevent scurvy.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.