Weekend Roundup - 15th / 16th Nov '14
On Saturday morning for the regular guided walk I do from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's cathedral, the group of four were all on their second walk with me. Janet & Mitch from Toronto had done their first walk a year ago, whilst Nick & Selina from Australia had come for the first time, just last weekend. Here they are in Trafalgar Square next to what was once the smallest prison in the UK; a tiny lock up (or drunk tank) secreted within a pillar on the south east corner of the square.
Nick & Selina carried on for the afternoon walk that takes in Bankside & Borough on the south side of the river, thus joining the illustrious group of people that have completed 'The Trilogy' (all 3 weekend walks). Here they are on the Millennium Bridge talking to Ben Wilson (The Chewing Gum Guy) painting a bit of chewing gum on the bridge, and then later towards the end of our day together on London Bridge, with Tower Bridge just visible in the background.
For Sunday's east London walk, the small but perfectly formed group hailed from Norway, Italy, Gloucestershire and even Camberwell in south London. Here they all are at the end of the walk (complete with flowers from Columbia Road flower market) outside one of the Georgian houses on on Wilkes Street in Spitalfields.
Yellowest footware - Viviana
Completing 'The Trilogy' - Nick & Selina
Best moustache - No winners
Most likely to be able to tell a guy's age from his ear hair - Lucy
Keenest answerer of questions - Kat
London's Iconic Tower Bridge
Yesterday I went to Tower Bridge to check out the new glass floor they've installed in the west walkway that runs across the top of bridge. It means that visitors to the Tower Bridge Exhibition get a unique view from one of London's most iconic landmarks and if you time it right, can watch the bascule bridge lift up to allow a ship through. I contented myself with watching pedestrians and assorted bits of traffic passing beneath my feet as if I was floating 140ft above the river Thames. It looked very much like this.
Afterwards I went to the exhibition currently showing at the Guildhall Art Gallery celebrating the 120th anniversary of Tower Bridge. It was a Tower Bridge kind of a morning, so thought I'd write some stuff about it. To start with I'll go back in time a little bit.
London only had one bridge for 600 years and that was London Bridge completed in 1209. The next bridge in central London was Westminster Bridge in 1750. Having only had one bridge for so long, we then over the course of the next 100 years had a bridge epidemic with 9 bridges being built. However, despite this, London Bridge remained the most eastern bridge. The stretch of the river between London Bridge and the Tower is known as the 'Pool of London'; historically London's hub of trade and wealth. Because of this, by the late 19th century, east London had a population of over 1 million ... but no bridge.
Another important thing to note is that during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901) we went from being a largely agricultural country in to an industrial power house, due to the development of steam power and civil engineering. All this sets us up nicely to drop in to Victorian London and discover that London Bridge is struggling with the amount of traffic passing over it. They've tried alternatives like tunnels or expanding ferry services, but eventually and somewhat controversially, it is decided that a new river crossing is needed close to the Tower of London. The criteria are that the design must not only be suitable for pedestrians and vehicles, but allow large boats to pass in and out of the 'Pool of London'. Architects were therefore asked to submit plans.
The winning design was by Sir Horace Jones with important tweaking from engineer John Wolfe Barry (son of Charles Barry, the guy that built the Houses of Parliament). Work began in 1886, but Jones died the following year, meaning that responsibility fell on to the shoulders of his assistant George Daniel Stevenson. It took 432 construction workers (10 of which died) 8 years to build Tower Bridge at a total cost of £1,184,000 and is actually a steel framework surrounded by stone-cladding.
If you visit the Tower Bridge Experience you can walk through the engine room and find out how the hydraulic power worked (not really my forte) and discover why at the time, Tower Bridge was the most sophisticated bascule bridge ever built.
Tower Bridge opened on 30th June 1894 to great fanfare, attended by the Prince & Princess of Wales and it would seem ... most of London. In the first month of use, the bridge opened 655 times. Today it opens about 15 times a week ... and you need to give them a fair bit of notice too. The steam-driven power system was replaced in 1976 and there's also a speed restriction for traffic on the bridge itself as well as weight restrictions. You have to remember that Tower Bridge was built to accommodate horse drawn carriages.
Tower Bridge is an instantly recognisable London landmark across the world ... even if a lot of people seem to think it's London Bridge. Still, you can't have everything.
Private Walks - October 2014
During the week I do 'private walks' for people, which could be individuals, couples, families or work trips. Often I show first time visitors to London around and give them an introduction to the city, taking in the sights so they can get a feel for the place and get an idea where everything is. Either way, each walk is different and here are a few a did in October.
I did two half day walks with Laura and JT from the States. The first was around Westminster which has a host of well known sights such as Big Ben & Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace to name just three. On the second day, we actually spent most of the morning at the Tower of London. The photo of them on the right is just in front of the White Tower, which built in the late 11th century stands in the heart of the Tower of London. In the centre, you can see Lisa and her family standing inside what remains of St Dunstan-in-the-East, a church bombed during WWII and turned in to a lovely, calm, walled garden in the middle of the City of London.
One evening I did a short walk with the staff of a Soho based company, around the area where their office is based, finishing up in Trafalgar Square. The street they work on, Frith Street, has a fascinating array of characters who throughout history have lived or worked on the street, including a young Mozart, John Snow, the 19th century physician whose studies in to the Soho cholera epidemic revealed that cholera was a water born disease, and the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird who gave the first demonstration of his television set at his workshop in 1926, above what is now Bar Italia. Opposite is the famous Jazz club, Ronnie Scotts where Jimi Hendrix gave his last live public performance in 1970, just two days before he died. The photo in the centre shows Teresa, Karen & Vanessa in front of the National Gallery and on the right Frank and his colleagues in Spitalfields market at the end of a walk that combined the City of London with east London.
Lastly, we have Michael outside St Paul's, the Actor's Church in Covent Garden. In the centre is Sheryl and her friend outside their Hotel in Charing Cross. We spent the whole day together, which included a boat trip down the Thames. Last, but not least is Joe in Fortum & Mason, the rather splendid shop known as 'the Queen's grocer' on Piccadilly.
So there you have it. If you're visiting London before Christmas, or even planning a trip to London in 2015 and would like me to give you a guided tour of London, then please get in touch.
It was a reasonably quiet weekend (walk wise) but kicked off November on Saturday morning with Krisztina an Cornelia from Hungary, who now both live in London. I've noticed that quite a number of people who join the weekend walks are foreigners who have moved to London and use my walks as a way of getting to know the city a bit better. They were joined by Nick from Australia, who is in the middle of a 6 month travelling extravaganza around the world. I took their photo with the statue of Samuel Johnson's cat Hodge in Gough Square.
In the afternoon I was joined by Kelly, Jasper and Miriam from the Netherlands, and took their photo as we walked over the Millennium Bridge (otherwise known as 'The Wobbly Bridge') which spans the river Thames between St Paul's cathedral and the Tate Modern.
On Sunday it rained pretty much non stop for the entire morning, and not surprisingly a few people decided they'd rather not get completely drenched. Juergen & Ulla from Austria however had their umbrella and waterproofs and seemed quite happy to do a mildly abridged version of the east London walk. The weather did eventually clear up, and by the time I took the photo of them outside the Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields ... it was positively glorious ... sort of.
Also ... whilst I think about it, the previous weekend, I just did two walks. On the Saturday morning Kate (from the States) was asking me about Sweeney Todd (the Demon barber of Fleet Street) as we walked down Fleet Street ... so we stopped off at Hen & Chicken Court, a tiny alley, generally regarded as being the site of Sweeney Todd's barbershop in the story which was first published under the title 'The String of Pearl's' in a Victorian 'Penny Dreadful'. Not surprising it's where I took the group's photo.
On the final Sunday in October I attempted to do an 'action shot' of the group as they descended the steps of Arnold Circus in Shoreditch ... which I achieved with limited success. Liz, Thomas and Anna were all back for their second walk with me.
Most Beardy group - Sat 25th Oct (Sebastien & Steve)
Greenest coat - Ulla
Curliest hair - Steve
Best moustache - No winners
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.