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CHOOSE YOUR WALK

Selection of walks around the City and beyond

ALONG THE EMBANKMENT

Starting from St. Pauls, the walk continues to the new station complex at Blackfriars and along Embankment, created in the 19th century when Sir Joseph Bazelgette came up with a scheme to solve London’s health and sanitation problems.    Yet the history of the Embankment  gardens goes back to the time of Christopher Wren who had ambitious plans for the north bank of the Thames.  It was over 200 years later that the reclamation of the riverside took place to create the gardens and green spaces appreciated by Londoners and visitors today.

BERMONDSEY

Close to the River Thames, Bermondsey trade  grew dramatically in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It was also the centre of leather industry.   Small workshops were established and then manufacturing grew.  People worked long hours in grim often dangerous conditions;  families just about survived in sub-standard housing.   In the 21st century, we see an area with a number of high tech industries, boutique shops and fashionable restaurants.

BETHNAL GREEN

Some of the Huguenot silk weavers, escaping from persecution in 17th century France, chose to settle in Bethnal Green and try to revive their fortunes.  It’s hard to believe that market gardening also flourished here at the time but the rapid population increase changed the character of the area with poorly-built homes replacing elegant mansions.  The worst civilian disaster of the Second World War happened on 3rd March 1943 at Bethnal Green tube station when 173 men, women and children died in a crush on the stairwell as they tried to reach the underground shelter. Then came the Government cover-up which lasted several years - but on this walk you will hear what actually happened when we visit the Stairway to Heaven memorial.

BLOOMSBURY SQUARES

Style and elegance, grand houses and squares created by some of the famous developers and gardener designers of the 18th century are the hallmark of this area on the fringe of the City. It has always been home to many well-known statesmen, aristocrats and literary figures.  The dramatic Senate House, once the tallest building in the capital is at the centre of the University of London complex. Strange to think that Hitler considered it as his London headquarters!

CHANGING CITY SKYLINE

The Gherkin, the Shard,  the Pinnacle, the Cheesegrater, the Can of Ham and the Walkie Talkie.   These are names that identify some of the latest skyscrapers to appear in London. This walk looks at the changes now taking place and reflects back to the time when Sir Christopher Wren, Inigo Jones, Sir Horace Jones, John Rennie  and other trend-setting surveyors and architects were making their contributions. Today the work of Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and the stunning innovations of Renzo Piano and Rafael Vinoly are re-shaping the skyline.

 

CITY CHURCHES

They may be dwarfed by many of the office blocks now being constructed but the city churches remind us of a time when London was a village and life revolved round the parish churches.  Before the Great Fire of 1666 there were over 100 churches in London but 87 were destroyed.  Sir Christopher Wren spent re-designed 51 of them and today we can marvel at his architectural talent. 

COVENT GARDEN

The Opera House and Covent Garden Market are well-known but here there is a chance to talk about the Bow Street Runners, George Peabody, the carriage makers of Long Acre and St. Giles, one of the most overcrowded and unhealthiest slums in 19th century London.  The walk starts at the Temple station and also includes Somerset House.

DLR DISCOVERY

This journey via the Docklands Light Railways takes us to the King George V, Victoria and Albert docks. No longer do ships come here from around the world to unload their cargoes.  Instead, London City Airport carries passengers to Europe and America and the old dockside activity has given way to conference centres, penthouses and new community villages.  This walk from the past into the future ends at the Thames Barrier, the massive engineering achievement which prevents the capital from being overwhelmed by a surge tide.

 

FIRE AND PLAGUE

The Great Fire of London  which started in a baker’s shop  in the early hours of 2nd September, destroyed the city in just five days. It was a total catastrophe and followed on from the Plague which killed many thousands the previous year.  These two tragic events were to shape the future of the city and this is an opportunity retrace our steps through such a harrowing  period of London’s history.

HOXTON AND OLD NICHOL

This area, within a mile of Liverpool Street Station,  is seldom visited by casual tourists but historians know it well through associations with Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan, William Blake and Charles Booth.   Close by is the John Wesley  chapel, the  home of Methodism, while  Hoxton also has links with  the music hall era and Shakespeare.  Now designers, smart restaurants and computer software companies have moved into an area close to Old Nichol,  once one of the worse London slums in the 1880s with a notorious reputation for crime, disease and abject poverty.

 

INK SPOTS

Fleet Street evokes memories of newspapers and the great press barons Northcliffe and Beaverbrook but they are now consigned to history.  The memories are revived by seeing the buildings that housed the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express and the wall plaques and statues of journalists and writers who left their mark on this street.  This was the birthplace of printing and St Bride’s, with its wedding cake spire, is still known as the journalists’ church and well worth a visit.

INNS OF COURT

This fascinating walk begins near Aldwych and takes in the four ancient Inns of Court - Inner Temple and Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn.   Away from traffic around Holborn and Fleet Street are some of the best-kept gardens in the capital with buildings that date back before the reign of Elizabeth the First.  This was the home of the  Knights Templar between the 12th and 14th centuries before the lawyers moved in and established the area as the home of Britain’s legal profession.

INTRODUCTION TO THE CITY

The Square Mile has been dominating trade, industry and commerce since the Romans arrived 2,000 years ago to set up Londinium.  Every street, alleyway, square and passage has a story to tell.  Behind the towering office blocks you can hear why this was the hub of the World’s greatest Empire and admire the influence and talent of the greatest figures in British history.

 LIMEHOUSE AND DOCKLANDS

The streets around Limehouse were alive with activity in the 16th century but many of the old buildings disappeared as the Luftwaffe targeted the dock communities in the war.  There are still some fascinating glimpses of past centuries but the development of the Isle of Dogs in the 1980s gave a whole new meaning to the word docklands.  It’s a walk of stunning contrasts and finishes at the Museum of Docklands.

MURDER, MEAT AND MEDICINE (around Smithfield)

Smithfield Meat market was at the heart of a notorious area of the City where crime festered, religious martyrs were burned and the Peasants Revolt of 1381 ended when Wat Tyler was stabbed by the Mayor of London, William of Walworth.  Don’t  be put off by that because some of the finest medical brains – and an ex-Python – have worked at St. Barts, London’s oldest surviving hospital.

RAILWAYS AND REGENERATION (Kings Cross)

Forget the sordid reputation of this area.  Now it is known as King’s Cross Central and is currently undergoing a multi-million pound transformation that will be completed in 2018.  The two great railway stations, St Pancras and Kings Cross, have been refurbished and some modern structures like King’s Place, a new concert hall and exhibition centre, and the University of the Arts, occupy the rail marshalling yards and rebuilt engine sheds.  So be prepared for stories about unscrupulous 19th century railway developers, Angela Burdett-Coutts the richest woman in England and the novelist Thomas Hardy.

ROTHERHITHE VILLAGE

London was always a collection of villages and those outside the City walls developed their own character and traditions.  This area on the south side of the River grew in importance as river trade expanded and it became the docks which handled cargoes coming from the Baltic.  Timber was one of the great imports and that brought Norwegian and Swedish seafarers to the area.  Some settled and founded their own communities bringing with them the traditions and religion from across the North Sea.

 

ST. GEORGE IN THE EAST

A small but fascinating area of Tower Hamlets which takes its name from the magnificent Nicholas Hawksmoor church built in the early 18th century.  The area has always been a mix of different races and cultures. Crime and poverty was part of daily life in the Victorian era.  There are stories of murder, fascism and remarkable heroism but that also belongs to another age!

SOLICITING IN HOLBORN

Lincoln’s Inn Fields, close to the legal heart of London, is an open space where villains and traitors were once hanged from a scaffold. Today it is well-manicured park surrounded by some grand buildings which echo the names of great figures from the past.  John Soane, a prominent architect, lived here and his house is now a museum.  The Hunterian Museum, named in honour of the great Scottish surgeon John Hunter, has some intriguing as well as gruesome exhibits.

THE FLOW OF HISTORY

Walk along the Thames Path between the Tower of London and the Millenium Bridge and hear about the importance of this great river.  Once the Pool of London was the busiest port in the world, crammed with ships bringing cargoes from distant lands and exporting some of the goods which Britain had to offer.  Today the river of commerce is a river of leisure but along each bank are some iconic buildings.

SECRET GARDENS

There are over 150 green spaces within the Square Mile of the City.  Many are former churchyards and bomb-sites that have been restored and now are maintained by large companies and the Corporation.  Greenery  and wild life is a necessary and essential part of any modern metropolis. London is fortunate that within a few yards of busy streets and heavy traffic, history and nature exist together.

SHADOW OF THE SHARD

Southwark has a history stretching back to Roman times.  Borough Market, the Hop Exchange, Guys Hospital and the Marshalsea Prison are featured on this fascinating walk.  There is still evidence of  the old coaching inns and some grim stories in the back-streets which Charles Dickens  and Octavia Hill knew so well.  All is revealed in the shadow of the Shard.

SPITALFIELDS

In recent years, Spitalfields has been transformed from a run-down, overcrowded area blighted by crime and poverty into a centre of fashionable shops, smart restaurants and expensive homes. There are streets of fine houses built at the time when the Huguenot silk weavers lived here. Hear about Jewish synagogues, the Great Mosque which serves the Muslim community in and around Brick Lane, links with Henry VIII, the brewing industry – and Jack the Ripper.  The population today speaks 57 different languages…but you only need to understand English to enjoy this walk!

 

STRIPPING SOHO BARE!

Does this area deserve its dubious reputation?  It certainly does but  also consider theatreland, famous thespians, Mozart, John Logie Baird, the film industry and punk rockers as you stroll through streets where classy restaurants are everywhere and aristocrats, politicians, show business celebrities and business tycoons still like to wine and dine and rub shoulders.

WANDERING ROUND WHITECHAPEL

The multi-cultural aspect of London life in the 21st century cannot be missed.  Mosques, synagogues, churches, chapels and even a German Lutheran church are evidence of the diverse background of immigrants who have been coming here for well over 1,000 years. The shops, the restaurants, the parks and the variety of housing reflect the cosmopolitan atmosphere.  Tradition does survive.   This is the home of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry where the walk finishes.

WAPPING

There are some fascinating secrets to be revealed in the back-streets of this once-busy dockland areas.  In Victorian times it was over-crowded, dirty, dangerous.  Thousands of desperate families lived in squalid conditions.  All that has changed.  The riverside warehouses have been converted into multi-million pound homes although the maritime heritage is still there if you know where to look.  We pass the oldest surviving music hall in London, get to know the painter J.M.W. Turner, the pirate Captain Kidd and notorious Execution Dock. 

 

 

These walks appear on the regular programme which is distributed via email and are featured on the web site www.londonfootsteps.co.uk

Societies and clubs who want to have their own private walk based on any of those listed should contact David Williams to discuss arrangements and confirm a suitable date.

LONDON FOOTSTEPS:  David-Williams, City of London guide-lecturer

Tel: 01702 710232  Mob: 07831 857382   email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

All Available Walks

The following articles represent the entire portfolio of walks that are available from London Footsteps.  Please view the 'Scheduled Walks' list for information about those walks that are on the current calendar.

If you would like to suggest a new walk, we would be delighted to hear from you.  Please fill in the form on the 'contact us' page.


 

Inns of Court

The four Inns of Court – Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Grays’ Inn – are the heart of Britain’s legal community. Here the great names of British law have studied and practised for centuries. The history of the area dates back 1,000 years to the days of the Knights Templars.


 

Introduction to the City

This walk often surprises those who are familiar with London – but not its history. It’s a gentle stroll through the streets and alley-ways which are much quieter at the weekend so you won’t be up against the noise and bustle of daily city life. Starting at Liverpool Street Station we trace the history of the City since Roman times moving on to the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange, Cheapside and then on to Guildhall before finishing at St Paul’s Cathedral and the new shopping arcades of the 21st century.


 

King's Cross: Railways & Regeneration

One of Europe’s biggest re-development programmes is taking shape around what was once an area better known for prostitutes and cheap hotels. Shops, apartments, a university and concert hall are the modern face of King’s Cross. The slums of Agar Town have gone but the memories linger. The Regent Canal is being revitalised and some Victorian writers and philanthropists are remembered in and around St. Pancras Church; all this nearly 200 years before Eurostar arrived.


 

Knolly's Rose Ceremony

This is one of those fascinating City ceremonies which originated back in the 14th century. Representatives of the Watermen and Lightermen as well as local clergy and dignatories have been making an annual pilgrimage to Seething Lane to cut a red rose from the garden in Seething Lane. Why? Find out on this walk – and you also discover more about London’s recent political upheavals as we move on to step out in Stepney!


 

Limehouse to Canary Wharf

The contrast between the narrow streets around Stepney and Limehouse and the towering office blocks of Docklands are testimony to a part of London’s East End which has seen staggering wealth and abject poverty. From the late 18th century onwards, the docks grew rapidly importing amongst other things, spices, ceramics, sugar, timber and many products from a world-wide empire. Now it is equities and investment bonds which are traded in billion-pound business deals. We finish close to the Museum of Docklands which is well worth a visit.


 

Murder, Meat and Medicine

The walk starts outside Barbican Station and continues to Smithfield meat market - an appropriate place to discover that hangings, riots and bawdy entertainment have being going on here for many centuries. The surgeons and doctors at nearby St Bart’s Hospital, founded in the 12th century, were always busy but their skill has saved many lives over the past 900 years. From the back streets of Clerkenwell, once a notorious Victorian slum area, we continue to Hatton Garden and finish at Holborn Circus.


 

Pearly Kings and Queens

In September the Pearly Kings and Queens from all over London meet for their annual festival. Our walk takes in the alleyways and passages of the City and finishes at Guildhall Yard to see and meet the Pearly families and watch their entertainment. This is one of the most colourful celebrations of traditional London.