I haven't done a 'weekend roundup' for a while, so thought I'd make amends. On Saturday morning I was joined by Lynne and her cohorts from Hertfordshire, Sarah & Suzie from Leeds and London and Udit and Prianka from India. The walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's cathedral heads through Covent Garden and Paul (who was on the walk) mentioned about the recent addition to the piazza; an art installation by Alex Chinneck which is on the opposite side of Covent Garden to St Paul's Church. I'd also not seen it myself, so we went to have a look. Basically, Alex Chinneck specialises in architectural sculptures and along with a massive team of builders, engineers, set designers and numerous other people, they've managed to recreate a large section of the market buildings (that were added to Covent Garden in the 1830s) and made it look as if the top half of the building has been torn off and is floating away. If you happen to be in the area go and have a look. It's quite intriguing.
On Saturday afternoons I do a walk which begins at St Paul's cathedral, then heads over the Millennium Bridge to Bankside & Borough on the south side of the Thames. After a minor mooch around Borough we head back over London Bridge to finish by Monument. Here are Saturday afternoons group in a pretty nondescript location at the end of the walk.
The Sunday walk involves a wander around the east London areas of Shoreditch, Old Street, Columbia Road and Spitalfields. This weekend I was joined by Gitte, Jacob and Nikolina from Denmark and Ron who was down for a few days from Blackburn. There's a fair bit of street art knocking around in east London and I took the photo of them standing in front of a piece by veteran French street artist Thierry Noir.
And ... because I've been a bit lapse, here are some of the previous weekend walkers this month.
Best beard - Ed
Second best beard -Fred
Third best beard - Ron
Best moustache - No winners
A visit to London isn't complete without stopping off at the Tower of London. I recently accompanied some people who had said they wanted to “pop in” to the Tower, as part of a morning we spent together. We ended up spending the best part of four hours there.
The name itself is a little misleading, as the Tower of London actually comprises of 21 different towers, the most prominent being the White Tower, situated in the centre. The people I was with on our visit were surprised how big the Tower of London is. It has a village feel to it once you're inside, a fact heightened by the presence of the Yeoman Warders (or Beefeaters) who live there with their families. Because of the sheer scale of the place, both in terms of its size and also the incredible history, it’d be impossible to condense the whole lot in to a short blog post, so I’ll just pick out a few bits and pieces.
Development of the Tower
It is important to remember that the Tower of London didn’t magically spring up, fully formed in the incarnation you can visit today. What you see today is the result of centuries of additions and also subtractions in the form of fires, bombing and alterations. The Tower of London began life during the reign of William the Conqueror (1066–87) and has constantly been tweaked and changed right up to the present day. Major additions took place in the 13th Century under Henry III (1216–72) and Edward I (1272–1307) which included pushing back the Thames, building St Thomas’s Tower, the Beauchamp Tower, the Bloody Tower, Wakefield Tower … and many of the other towers for that matter.
Prisoners and Execution
The Tower of London has always held in the public perception, the mantle of being at the centre of England’s blood soaked history; as a place of torture, execution and of course as a prison. It was initially built as a palace and fortress and in fact only ten people have actually been executed inside the Tower walls on the tranquil Tower Green. Two of them, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard had the misfortune of being married to Henry VIII. In effect, it was a VIP execution site. Sculptor Brian Catling has marked the execution site with a memorial on which is written the names of the ten men and women condemned to death on Tower Green, in the centre of which rests a glass pillow. Non VIPs were executed on Tower Hill just to the north of the Tower.
Perhaps the most well known and intriguing story relates to the Bloody Tower (originally known as the Garden Tower) which actually gets its name from the disappearance and supposed murder of two young princes, Edward V and his younger brother Richard who after their father, Edward IV died in 1483 were taken under the wing of their uncle Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. The two boys were declared illegitimate and their uncle was crowned King Richard III. The two young boys disappeared and rumours of murder not surprisingly spread quickly. Skeletons of two boys were found hidden beneath a staircase in the White Tower in the 17th century and are generally believed to be the two princes. Their bones were reburied in Westminster Abbey.
Some prisoners had it better than others. Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) for instance spent almost 14 years as a prisoner in the Tower of London, but whilst he was there wrote a book, grew vegetables and was visited by his family. His son Carew was both conceived and born at the Tower whilst Raleigh was held prisoner.
The Lower Wakefield Tower will give you a brief insight in to the use of torture at the Tower. The main instruments used were the Scavenger’s Daughter, manacles and of course the Rack; the mere mention of which was often enough for prisoners to tell the authorities whatever it was they wished to hear.
As you wander around you’ll undoubtedly notice a number of men and one woman dressed in blue and red uniforms. These are Yeoman Warders, popularily known as ‘Beefeaters’. There are 35 in total and they have all completed at least 22 years military service and upon appointment, they must be within 40 and 55 years of age. Although they spend a great deal of time giving tours of the Tower, they’re officially the Sovereign’s bodyguards, and as such can be seen accompanying the Queen on state occasions. As previously mentioned, they all live inside the Tower with their partners and families and each night at exactly 9:53pm perform the ‘Ceremony of the Keys’ during which they formally lock the Tower. They’ve been doing it pretty much exactly the same since the 14th century.
Medieval monarchs had a habit of giving each other gifts of exotic animals, and as such they became housed in the Tower of London, known as the ‘Tower’s Menagerie’. The Tower in essence was a pre-cursor to a zoo with the public paying to see them, often with catastrophic consequences. In 1686, Mary Jenkinson died after thinking it a good idea to stroke one of the lions. Over the centuries, the Tower housed animals such as lions, bears, a wolf, eagles, an ostrich, monkeys, an alligator, an African elephant, polar bears and baboons … to name but a few. As you wander around you can see some great sculptures by artist Kendra Haste which allude to the Tower’s animal past. The Menagerie came to an end in the 1830s and some of the animals that remained, formed a new zoo in Regent’s Park which is still there today and known as ZSL London Zoo.
The White Tower
The imposing structure in the centre of the Tower complex is the White Tower, built in the 11th century as a fortress and amongst other things, a reminder to Londoners of the power and authority of their new Norman rulers. Although today, the White Tower is dwarfed by the likes of the Shard and other buildings close by in the City of London … it was, at the time of its completion the tallest building most people would have ever seen. Today the White Tower houses a collection from the Royal Armouries including armour worn by King Henry VIII. The entrance to the White Tower is via a wooden staircase. The main door is set well above ground level, which was for security purposes. The original staircase was temporary and could be dismantled in case of attack, thus making it much harder to gain entrance.
There are loads of other fascinating aspects to a visit to the Tower of London, not least the Crown Jewels, a massive collection of Royal bling housed in the Waterloo Barracks. You’ll notice during your visit, that the walls are festooned with centuries old pieces of graffiti from numerous prisoners left to fester within the Tower of London and a number of other exhibitions relating to different episodes in the Towers long and varied history. It can get pretty crowded at the Tower of London in the summer, but well worth a visit and don’t forget, if you’re in the area, you might want to pop in the nearby church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower or nip to St Katharine Docks just to the east, which you’ll probably do via the ominously named Dead Man’s Hole.
I kicked off my weekday private walks in September with Todd, Mark & co from the States. We covered a huge swathe of London and I took the photo of them (top left) in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in east London. Founded in 1570 during the reign of Elizabeth I, they're officially the oldest manufacturing company in Britain and probably most well known for casting 'Big Ben', the bell that nestles inside the Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament. Todd & co are actually standing inside the cross section of 'Big Ben' that adorns the entrance to the museum as you walk in, and gives you a good idea just how big the bell is. Next up we have a group of German school kids I took around Borough and Bankside, standing next to the Millennium Bridge. Bottom left is Cathy from the States standing on Cannon Street in rush hour as City workers ... well ... quite literally rush to get their trains home. Bottom right is Bret, Jean & Peggy on College Green outside the Houses of Parliament.
Top left we have Arlene, Steve & Darrell posing for the obligatory red telephone box shot. Top right is Duncan, Natalie & Hannah standing on a horse block on Waterloo Place 'erected by desire of the Duke of Wellington, 1830' so he could get on and off his horse more easily when frequenting his favourite club. Bottom left is Barbara & Paul standing outside the old Reuters news agency building on Fleet Street, and last but by no means least we have Lillian & Allen outside St Paul's cathedral. Allen had been tracing his family history and knew that many of his family lived and worked around the Strand and Covent Garden, and had connections to the churches of St Martin in the Fields and St Clement Danes, so we made sure we included all those on our walk.
I did two walks last month with Grace & Tchai from Singapore. The first photo is taken just near their hotel by Leicester Square and the second one inside Leadenhall Market in the City of London.
Finally, we have Cathy & Colleen from Canada standing with the statue of Beau Brummell on Jermyn Street, then Grace from the States on the Strand outside Charing Cross station after a wander around Westminster. Bottom left is John, Corey & Bob standing next to the Temple Church which is hidden away between Fleet Street and the Thames and to finish off, you can see Noel, Mary, Mal & Jann in Green Park after we spent the morning together seeing many of the sights in the Westminster area.
So there you have it ... the weekday walks I did in September. They were all different and we explored all over London, saw the sights and lots of other places along the way. If you're visiting London in the next couple of months and would like me to show you around London, then please do get in touch.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.