May is almost upon us, so I thought I'd share with you a few of the Private weekday walks I've done for people in April, all very different, but equally enjoyable.
East London walk
First up is father and son duo, Paul and Sam who came on an exploration of east London. Paul was pretty familiar with London (they live near Basingstoke), so wanted to see an area he hadn't visited. It's true, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Spitalfields and Old Street isn't necessarily on every tourists 'must see' list of things to do on their visit to London, but it's brimming with history, fascinating characters and a healthy dose of street art which for me is now as much a part of the fabric of the area as anything else. Here they are standing in front of street artist Eine's 'Scary' bridge on Rivington Street.
All Day London Extravaganza
I met Lindsay and her mum at their hotel in St James's, Piccadilly and we set off through the sleet and the snow for what I call an 'all day extravaganza'. I started by introducing them to the area around their hotel which is full of shops that have for centuries provided all sorts of goods to the Royal family, including Fortum and Mason, Lock & Co, Paxton & Whitfield and Floris to name but a few, then passed by Buckingham Palace on a way to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. During the day, and despite the weather they saw loads of London, and we even took the underground, popping out by the Tower of London and worked our way back through the City to finish at St Paul's cathedral. Here they are outside the Houses of Parliament.
City of London - Churches
One rather wet Friday morning I did a special City of London churches walk for Peter and his family. As the City and its churches were rebuilt after the 'great' fire of 1666, it made sense to me to start at Monument, where the fire began. The first church to burn down, St Margaret on Fish Street Hill is now where the Monument stands, so the first church we visited was St Magnus Martyr and I think in one morning, we managed to visit or pass by ten churches, which wasn't bad for one morning, including All Hallows by the Tower, Samuel Pepys church, St Olave's and St Stephen Walbrook. Here they are standing in the ruins of St Dunstan in the east.
The City, Bankside & Southwark
On a slightly more clement day, I met a group which included a tiny three month old baby and a dog called Hendricks by St Paul's cathedral, starting at Temple Bar gate and took them over to Bankside, home of Elizabethan theatre, where the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre currently stands and explored the area just south of London Bridge. Here they all are outside Borough Market.
East London - Evening post-work wander
Last Friday, Andrew who had come on one of my Saturday morning walks had asked if I'd do a walk around east London for him and his colleagues. We obviously made sure there was a pub stop and I deposited them back at Spitalfields in time for dinner. Here they are standing in front of Australian street artist Jimmy C's portrait of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, which arrived in good time for last years Olympics.
If you are interested in booking a 'Private Walk' around London, whether it be just for you, your family or with colleagues, then please let me know via the Contact Form and we'll see what we can do.
I began this ostensibly, to mention a clock at the well known department store on Piccadilly, called Fortnum and Mason, which I dare say you've heard of, or if not, the name might certainly ring a bell. It's not the grand clock which adorns the outside facade, added in 1964, with little statues of Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason that come out every hour to see what's going on, but a rather grand musical clock that sits close to the lifts inside, in the midst of the quite amazing confectionery section on the ground floor. It looks rather like this.
I then decided it might be a good opportunity to mention Fortnum and Mason in a bit more detail, so basically, until recently, there was a sign next to the above clock saying that if you wanted to hear it play its tune, you had to ask a member of staff to start it for you, but now, there is a slot in which you can place a 50 pence piece, and you can hear the clock for yourself. I was only reminded about it because last week I took some people to Fortnum and Mason on a walk, and evidently, someone had done just that, so I heard it for the first time. The clock incidentally was made in Leipzig, Germany in 1898.
So, Fortnum and Mason, as you might have guessed, was started by two people; Hugh Mason and William Fortnum. Mason ran a small shop in nearby St James's and had a spare room at his house which became occupied by William Fortnum, who happened to be Queen Anne's footman. A perk of the job was that as the Queen insisted on only having brand new candles each evening, Fortnum was allowed to keep the old ones, which he of course sold on for profit. Fortnum and Mason then started their own joint business on the back of the candle selling enterprise and opened their own shop in 1707. This also explains why you see numerous candle related motifs around the shop.
The history of the shop is so rich and so varied with close ties to various Monarchs and periods of history, that I won't mention everything, but by the mid 1700's their close links with the British East India Company ensured they could get their hands on all those exotic spices and of course teas infiltrating from India, making them (in their own words) a 'unique emporium for goods sold precisely nowhere else'.
During the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800's Fortnum and Mason goods helped feed the troops and by the middle of that century were pioneers of the trend for ready to eat luxury foods and apparently invented the scotch egg. In 1855 Queen Victoria had a huge consignment of beef tea sent to Miss Florence Nightingale, embroiled in the Crimea War and ships for the Crimea were so laden with Fortnum and Mason goods that officers begged them to remove their labels to stop the inevitable pilfering.
In 1886 a young American entrepreneur called Henry Heinz turned up with five cases of his tinned food and Fortnum and Mason became the first shop in the UK to sell Heinz Baked Beans ... a luxury at the time.
Many pioneering expeditions have been achieved on the back of Fortnum and Mason, although could have quite easily been their undoing. The 1922 Everest expedition kicked off with 60 tins of quail in foie gras and 4 dozen bottles of champagne, and probably for the best, Tensing Norgay was horrified for the 1933 attempt to discover that most of their Fortnum and Mason provision had been kept by customs officials.
The shop continued through the obvious difficulties presented during the 20th century and in the 1920's added new departments to include ladies' fashions, children's clothes, kitchenware and perfumes. They're still there today, and not surprisingly have held numerous Royal Warrants dating back 150 years, so if you head down to Piccadilly, why not pop in, and if you have a spare 50 pence, you can listen to the musical clock just by the confectionery section ... amongst other things.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.