If you're wandering around Mayfair and Piccadilly, which as I've mentioned before has a reasonably high concentration of pretty swish shops and certainly quite a few that hold Royal Warrants, then you might find yourself in what is the longest covered shopping street in Britain. It's called the Burlington Arcade and has been providing the discerning and generally wealthy customer with antiques and silver, jewellery and watches, shoes, perfumes and fashion accessories since 1819.
Like a lot of places in London, there is often a story attached, and the Burlington Arcade is no exception. The Royal Academy of Arts is now next door, occupying a rather grand building called Burlington House, which gets its name from Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Burlington who bought it in the 17th century. It was a much later occupant, Lord George Cavendish, who in the early 19th century reputedly got so fed up with people throwing rubbish from the adjoining street in to his garden, that he decided to cover the entire street. He did also state that the newly covered street should also be "for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females", which strikes me as being somewhat ambiguous.
Either way I can only surmise that Lord George Cavendish was a bit of a worrier and perhaps a bit of a kill joy. My reason for thinking this (aside from the fact that he covered the whole street in the first place), is because he also employed some former members of the Cavendish family's regiment, the 10th Hussars to act as a sort of police force on his covered shopping street. In fact, you can still see them there today (different guys obviously) dressed in Edwardian frock coats and top hats, forming what is apparently the smallest private police force in existence. You can see one of them on the above photo, his back turned, looking down the arcade. They're known as Beadles and still uphold the rules and regulations of the arcade, so if you do happen to go, remember ... no whistling, no open umbrellas, no singing or playing of musical instruments, definitely don't even think about carrying a large parcel and please, please, please ... no babies' prams thank you very much. Oh yes, there's no running either.
As you walk in, you'll notice that there are a couple of rather sturdy looking bollards in the centre of both entrances. They're a reasonably new addition in the grand scheme of things, another security measure, added in 1964 after six masked men drove straight down the arcade in a Jaguar Mark 10, smashed in to a jewellery shop, stole £35,000 worth of bling and drove off again and were never caught. The funny thing about this incident is that it's mentioned in various sources and the car is always, without fail described as a 'Jaguar Mark 10'. Now I've just done it. I know nothing about cars, but evidently this piece of information seems to be of vital importance to everyone and I doubt if it had been ... I don't know ... a Fiesta, it would get mentioned quite so much. Therefore I wonder whether it's because it was a swish car (I'm assuming it was) and that in itself is unusual, or whether the car could accommodate six fully grown men that is so startling. I have no idea.
Either way, it's not particularly important, so I'll end by saying that if you are in the vicinity, then check out the Burlington Arcade and if you're feeling particularly mischievous, then why not see what happens if you whistle, or run. You could even go all out and play a musical instrument. Once you've been swiftly ejected, then head along to the Royal Academy of Arts, and there under the arched entrance you'll find a rather unusual thing ... a wooden telephone box. It's one of the original prototypes known as the K2 telephone box, made in the 1920's and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. I think three were made and placed discreetly around to see how the public got on with them after a competition had been set to find a new design for the now iconic red telephone box. Just thought I'd mention it.
Aside from doing my regular 'pay what you want' weekend walks, I also do weekday walks if people enquire and would like me to do a special walk for a group. They don't have to be any of the three I do on Saturdays and Sundays and actually, the walks I've done just recently have all been completely different.
An epic stroll through the City of London - Peter, Liesbeth and Ezra were over for a few days from Holland, and were very kindly put in touch with me via Dutch blogger in London right now who not surprisingly writes about what she would do if she was in London ... right now. I put together a few suggestions for walks based upon various things they wished to see and they chose a walk that began in Covent Garden, moved down the Strand, taking in the 12th Century Temple Church, nipped in and out of the streets around Fleet Street, then after a brief stop off at St Paul's Cathedral cut through the City of London, through Leadenhall Market and down to the Tower of London. Here they are standing by the statue of Hodge, the beloved cat of Samuel Johnson who was responsible for compiling the first definitive English dictionary in 1755. Samuel Johnson compiled the dictionary, not his cat ... as far as I'm aware.
Fire of London walk - Just last week, I was asked to do a walk that followed the path of the Great Fire of London, a catastrophic event that occurred in 1666 and in just four days burnt down a vast swathe of the City of London. We began at the Monument, just a short distance from where the fire began in the bakery belonging to Thomas Farriner (or sometimes Farynor) and walked through the City towards Bank and then up to St Paul's Cathedral, which was engulfed in flames on the third day of the fire. Here you can see the group with the new St Paul's Cathedral in the background, the masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren, who was responsible (along with a lot of help) for rebuilding the City after the fire.
A Westminster Wander - On Monday I had the pleasure of taking a school group on a walk around Westminster. We met in Trafalgar Square, then headed down Whitehall past the spot that was used as the entrance to the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix film, saw Banqueting House which was the real location for the execution of King Charles I in 1649, had a few photos taken with Horse Guards on their horses and ordinary guards without their horses, then nipped through St James's park to Buckingham Palace (which is currently hidden behind a recently erected temporary stadium for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations) then past St James's Palace and up to Piccadilly. Here they are outside the Royal Academy of Arts where I left them in time for the next activity on their schedule.
So there you have it. If you'd like me to do a weekday walk at some point, then let me know. The next regular weekend walks are on the 9th & 10th June.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.