Here's a handy guide to what you'll see en route.
You'll begin queuing in Southwark Park, south east London. When I was there earlier, the sign was warning of a 14 hour queue. You'll have lots of time to take in what's around you. Here are a few highlights and fun facts.
After about 10 minutes you'll find yourself down by the river at Bermondsey. You'll be walking alongside the river Thames for the entire route.
The River Thames
The Thames is the entire reason why London exists and the Roman's settled here over 2000 years ago. It's 215 miles long and flows through 9 counties, its source being in Kemble, Gloucestershire. A few years ago I walked the whole thing from the 'Sea to the Source'. It was once a tributary river of the Rhine in Germany (when we were still landlocked to the rest of Europe). In central London the Thames has a tidal change of about 23ft, so see if you can see any 'mudlarks' looking for things that have washed up. It's basically a massive archaeological site and in the 19th century a politician called John Burns referred to it as 'liquid history'.
The City of London
From this point on the river you'll see the City of London opposite. It looks very modern but was the Roman city of Londinium founded in about 48AD. It's the original financial district. You'll see a number of tall buildings including 'the Gherkin' (No. 30 St Mary's Axe) and the 'Walkie Talkie' (20 Fenchurch Street).
Fun Fact - During the hot summer of 2013 (a year before completion) the 'Walkie Talkie' acted as a massive magnifying glass and was melting and scorching things including a car parked on the street below. The architect Rafael Vinoly said "it's not my fault, the sun was in the wrong place".
You'll also get your first glimpse of:
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic structures in London, Tower Bridge was completed in 1894. It's a 'bascule' bridge allowing the road to lift to allow ships through and is actually a steel structure with stone cladding.
Fun Fact - The winning design was chosen as part of a competition, judged by architect Horace Jones. He chose his own design as the winner.
St Saviour's Dock
You'll pass around where one of London's subterranean rivers, the Neckinger meets the Thames. In the 17th and 18th century it became known as Jacob's Island, a notorious place of execution. In 1838, Charles Dickens described the area as "the filthiest, the strangest, the most extraordinary of the many localities hidden in London".
Fun Fact - The name is thought to derive from 'devil's neckcloth' in reference to the nooses used to hang people here.
Next you'll pass through old riverside warehouses, once used to unload the myriad of goods that arrived in London from across the globe and now turned in to super duper apartments. You'll pass beneath the south side of Tower Bridge which is where all the engine rooms are housed, as originally the bridge was powered by coal furnaces.
Fun Fact - Tower Bridge has its own mortuary on the north side of the river, where bodies from the river were pulled out.
Tower of London
As you pass City Hall, on the other side of the river you'll see the Tower of London. It's actually 21 separate towers, but the White Tower in the centre dates back to 1090, a couple of decades after the Norman conquest.
Fun Fact - The Tower was London's first zoo. From the 1200s until 1835, animals given to monarchs as gifts were housed there, with the public paying to see them.
A WW2 ship that was used during D-Day in 1944. It has been a museum open to the public for over 50 years.
Fun Fact - If the guns on the front were to fire they'd hit a service station on the M1 motorway (over 12 miles away).
The original London Bridge opened in 1209 and was the longest inhabited bridge in the world. It remained there until the early 1800s. The bridge you're passing is the third on the site and opened by the Queen in the early 1970s.
Fun Fact - The 2nd London Bridge was sold to an American called Robert P. McCulloch who shipped it over to Arizona and created a man-made lake around it called Lake Havasu and made it into a tourist attraction.
Next you'll pass Southwark cathedral which was founded in the early 12th century. It's a beautiful church, originally called the Collegiate Church of St. Saviour and Mary Overie. The 'Overie' was short for 'church over the river'.
Fun Fact - William Shakespeare's younger brother Edmund was buried there in 1607.
You'll pass by a replica of Francis Drake's galleon, the 'Golden Hind' which left to circumnavigate the world in 1577, returning to Deptford (near where you started queuing) in 1580. They were really pirates, but we called them privateers to make us feel better.
Fun Fact - The ship was originally called 'the Pelican' but its name changed during the journey in honour of one of the main financiers, Christopher Hatton whose family emblem was the golden hind (a female red deer).
You'll pass the remains of the 14th century palace of the Bishop of Winchester who once had jurisdiction over the area. The imposing wall and its rose window were discovered after a warehouse fire in the 19th century.
Fun Fact - The area of Bankside in the Elizabethan period was known as the 'City of Sin' as it housed the brothels and theatres. The church made money from the prostitutes and the women were known collectively as 'the Bishop of Winchester's Geese'. To be 'bitten by a Winchester Goose' meant you had contracted a sexually transmitted disease on Bankside and features in one of Shakespeare's plays.
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Finished in the late 1990s by American Sam Wanamaker, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is a recreation of an Elizabethan Theatre and memorial to the bard. The original site is actually on the street behind.
Fun Fact - It has the only thatched roof in central London (after thatch was banned following the Great Fire of London in 1666).
Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge
The Tate Modern was a 1960s power station built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed the now iconic red telephone boxes. It's now a modern art gallery.
The Millennium Bridge opened in the year 2000 and is a pedestrian foot bridge that joins the Tate Modern to St Paul's cathedral in the City.
Fun Fact - The Millennium bridge was open for 2 days and closed for 2 years because it had a massive wobble. It will be forever known as 'the wobbly bridge'.
Blackfriars Bridge & Blackfriars Railway Bridge
The Victorian pedestrian and traffic bridge gets its name from the monastery that stood on the north side until the 16th century. It was run by Dominican monks who wore black, hence the 'blackfriars'.
The railway bridge leads in to Blackfriars station and Underground station which is the only underground station in London to have exits on either side of the Thames.
Fun Fact - The railway bridge has solar panels on the roof which generates half the electricity for the station. It's the largest solar powered bridge in the world.
The National Theatre
Founded in 1963 by Sir Lawrence Olivier (you'll pass a statue of him outside), the current brutalist building opened on this site in the late 1970s. The new King Charles III once said "it's a clever way of hiding a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting."
Waterloo Bridge was bombed at the beginning of WW2, rebuilt largely by women and therefore nicknamed 'the ladies bridge'.
The area now known has the Southbank was destroyed in WW2. It was rebuilt to house arts venues such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Festival Hall, the first building to open here in 1951.
The London Eye
Opened as 'the Millennium Wheel' in the year 2000 and renamed the 'London Eye'. It takes 30 minutes to go all the way around.
Fun Fact - It has 32 pods. Each one represents one of London's 32 boroughs.
Westminster Bridge and the Royal Palace of Westminster
Westminster Bridge is painted green, the same colour as the benches in the House of Commons.
The medieval Palace of Westminster burnt down in 1834. A few bits survived including the Great Hall, where the Queen is Lying-in-State. It was rebuilt by architect Charles Barry and completed in 1870. 'Big Ben' is actually called the Elizabeth Tower and the tower on the opposite end is called the Victoria Tower which houses documents and bills of parliament dating back to the 14th century.
Fun Fact - Big Ben is the name of the 14 tonne hour bell, not the tower.
Lambeth Palace has been home to the Archbishop of Canterbury since the 1200s. The oldest part of the current building dates back to the 15th century.
Fun Fact - Behind those walls is a garden of just over 10 acres, making it one of the oldest and largest private gardens in London.
Lambeth Bridge was completed in 1932 to replace a Victorian Bridge. It had originally been the site of a ferry that took horses across the Thames, which is why the road on the opposite bank is called Horseferry Road. You'll notice the paintwork is largely red, the same as the benches in the House of Lords.
Once you've crossed Lambeth Bridge, you'll be on the final stretch before you enter the Great Hall to see the Queen Lying-in-State.
Private walks - January 2014
If you are under the impression, that I only do my regular 'pay what you want' weekend walks around London, then I should perhaps correct that assumption. During the week I also do what I call 'Private Walks' which can pretty much take any shape or form. I often split them up in to either half day or full days walks for which I suggest a fee, although at the end of the day, I just like showing people around London so even if you just have a spare hour and a half then we can usually sort something out.
The 'Private Walks' could be for families, couples or people traveling on their own. I can accommodate work outings, birthdays and holiday makers, first time visitors to London looking to get acquainted with the city and see the 'sights' or people already familiar with the metropolis who are perhaps keen to explore an area they don't know too well. Here are some of these tailor made walks around London that I did in January.
First up we have the Dingeman's who were visiting from Holland. We did a walk around Westminster, and you can see them standing outside the iconic 'Big Ben' and Houses of Parliament. On the right is Beth, Paula and Matt who were visiting from Canada. We predominantly did a tour of Borough and Bankside and I took the photo of them inside the rather splendid Southwark cathedral.
Pall from Iceland contacted me about doing a walk around east London, soaking in its mixture of migrant history and street art, a by product of the areas more recent trendification (which I don't think is a word) and subsequent gentrification. This in itself is something that has been in the UK press recently as this change; the influx of media types, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, clubs and hipsters is to apparently be echoed in the long running and popular television soap opera 'Eastenders', bringing it in to the 21st century. I took the photo of Pall and his family in front of one of street artist Jimmy C's portraits.
During the month I also did two birthday walks. The first was in central London for the extended Robertson clan who ranged in age from I think about 15 months to 70. I dropped them off at St Paul's cathedral, where they had a table booked nearby for the birthday lunch. The second was for Helen and friends celebrating her 40th birthday. They were staying near Aldgate in east London, so I met them down there and explored around the fascinating area of Spitalfields, Shoreditch and Hoxton.
The other week I did an all day extravaganza tour of London with Yong Hao who was visiting from Singapore. I met him in Green Park and we spent the morning around Westminster, which included some of the main London 'sights' like Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square. We then took the Underground to the Tower of London and worked our way back through the City to St Paul's and beyond, through Fleet Street and Lincoln's Inn. We found time to pop in to see the Roman Amphitheatre situated beneath Guildhall Art Gallery and a trip up to the top of the Monument which gives great views across London ... where I took his photo.
Finally, two quite different walks. The first with the rather excellent Ellen and Sandy from Canada, who had lived in London in the 1970's and explored around east London with me. they're standing in front of one of French street artist Clet Abraham's altered street signs (the no entry sign actually says 'freedom'). And ... last but not least, we have Christine and her son, over for a couple of weeks from the States in the lovely Whitehall Gardens, just next to the Thames in Westminster.
So ... if you're in London and would like me to show you around, then please get in touch. There's a lot to see in London, a lot to explore and hopefully you'll have fun along the way too.
The Church With a Popular Neighbour
Each year, the Tower of London apparently has something in the region of over 2.5million visitors. Most of these people will have either passed or certainly seen a church perched next to Tower Hill, quite literally a stones throw away from the Tower, one of London's most popular tourist attractions. I'd be quite intrigued to know how many of them also visit the much over looked church whose name actually acknowledges its more famous and popular neighbour. It's called All Hallows-by-the-Tower, but funnily enough pre-dates the already ancient Tower of London by about 400 years and comes with the tag line 'oldest church in the City of London.'
Founded in 675, it was originally called All Hallows Barking, as it was built by the Abbey of Barking who owned a small plot of land on the most eastern edge of the City. In the intervening years, All Hallows has undergone many changes, and seen so much of London's history and its characters come and go. It survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, and Samuel Pepys who lived nearby climbed the spire to view the destruction 'and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw' but finally succumbed to German bombs in 1940. Like many churches, it was rebuilt, but the damage caused, opened an intriguing window in to the church's past, revealing a 7th century Saxon arch and what is now considered to be one of the most perfectly preserved Roman pavements in the City, which belonged to a domestic house in the 2nd century.
All Hallows is a veritable Aladdin's cave of London throughout the ages, with pretty much every century of the city's existence represented in one form or another, not to mention forming the backdrop to a 'who's who' of famous personalities. I've already mentioned Pepys, but visitors from the USA might be interested to know that John Quincy-Adams (6th President of the United States of America) was married there and William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania was baptised there.
Aside from a great crypt museum where you'll discover the Roman pavement, a model of Roman London (made in 1928) and numerous pieces of Roman and Saxon pottery and curios, the church itself is littered with fascinating artifacts. Due to its close links with the Port of London Authority there's loads of models of ships and coats of arms of shipping companies. The screen to the Mariners Chapel has a crucifix made with wood from the Cutty Sark and the ivory figure is said to have come from the flagship of the Spanish Armada. There are 17 memorial brasses on the floor, the earliest dating from the 14th century and a quite incredible font cover, carved in 1682 by Grinling Gibbons, Christopher Wren's 'go to' man where wood carving was concerned.
All in all, you could make numerous visits to this church and still not see all there is to see or absorb in full its amazing history. What I've mentioned here is just scratching the surface, but one thing remains, and for me, it is encapsulated by the huge Visscher panorama of London (made in 1616) that greets you as you walk through the main door. The church itself features on the print, and although on the photo below you can clearly see what is now Southwark Cathedral in the foreground and the old London Bridge, All Hallows is actually hidden behind the door, much like the church itself is hidden in the shadow of its more famous neighbour.
You'll find All Hallows-by-the-Tower on Byward Street, EC3R 5BJ, but basically, if you head towards the Tower, you'll find it. I'll leave you with a few other photos to whet your appetite.
Weekend Roundup - 10th/11th Dec
weekend roundup - 10th/11th dec
On Saturday I was joined by Gaby and Erica, and after meeting at The Monument, quickly decanted to a nearby coffee place, where I was able to bore them with historical type stuff relating to the area and London Bridge from the warmth that being inside often brings.
They wanted to have a mooch round Borough Market. I took this photo whilst they were mooching.
In the background you can see Southwark Cathedral. I have a copy of brilliant panorama of London, Bankside and the Thames by Nicholas John Visscher. He made it in 1616, which incidentally was the same year that William Shakespeare died. That same church (didn't become a cathedral until 1905) is in that picture. Also, Edmund, Shakespeare's younger brother is buried there. I love the fact that it's still presiding over things.
Also, just a bit further along, next to the Wobbly Bridge is a house that people say that Christopher Wren lived in whilst watching St Paul's being built. There is a plaque on the house which says exactly the same thing. He didn't, the house wasn't built then. However, I've just started reading a book called 'The House by the Thames' by Gillian Tindall, which is all about that house through hundreds of years of history, or more to the point she uses it as a way of discussing the area. So far, so fascinating.
Here are Saturday's Chalkers, and from the photo, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the height of summer, and not a cold December morning.
We finished up in Ye Old Cheshire Cheese for a drinkie poops. It's the new pub on the site, built in 1667. The previous one burnt down in some kind of fire apparently.
Sunday. Yes, Sunday. 'My neck of the woods'. A few people dropped out, but despite the prevailing greyness and coldness of the day, we carried on, and I have to say, was rather enjoyable.
It was a Sunday, and on Sundays, the Methodists at the Wesleyan Chapel near Old Street hold a service, so I would like to thank them for not only welcoming us in, despite not wishing to attend the aforementioned service, but actively encouraging us to go and see their toilets. They're very proud of their toilets at the Wesleyan Chapel, and so they should be. They're original Crappers. Thomas Crapper is often accredited with inventing the flushing toilet, but it would seem, that particular accolade goes to a guy called John Harrington way back in 1596. Either way, Crapper did much for the modern day toilet and its flushing system, the Wesleyan Chapel have original Crappers and we went and saw them.
I also like the instructions written for Victorians, unsure of how a Crapper might work; 'PULL AND LET GO.'
The thing with the east end, it's a real hotch-potch, so you see Crappers, like you've just seen, plague burial grounds, Shakespeare's stomping ground and giant animals ...
... just one of the many pieces of street art that are all over the area. This particular creature was done by Peter Roa, who also painted the crane, which Kalpana (previous Chalker) took a picture of on Brick Lane last week. Anyway ... we then went and had a cuppa at I made it for you, which is a great little tea shop place that's opened up on Pitfield Street (which you can see in my last blog 'Shoreditch/Hoxton then & now') and wandered around the area, which I have to say has far more secrets than people give it credit for, until we stopped at The Water Poet, a pub named after an Elizabethan waterman called John Taylor. C'est tout.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.