Category Archives: Guided Walks

Old St Paul’s

July 2nd – On this day in 1462, “old” St Paul’s cathedral received a new spire.
Model in the Museum of London, showing the new spire.
Almost exactly 100 years later, the spire was destroyed by a fire after being struck by lightning.
Detail from Visscher Panorama, 1616

Medieval London

Today I took Paul on the epic “Medieval London” special walk, through not only the City but also Spitalfields, Southwark, Smithfield, Clerkenwell, Holborn and Westminster.

As always, it was so good to see all the sites on one walk – even if it does make it a bit of a monster!

The Seven Surviving Medieval Churches in the City of London

All Surviving Medieval Churches in the City of London

The Surviving Medieval Churches

 

Top row, left to right: All Hallows Barking; All Hallows Staining; St Andrew Undershaft; St Ethelburga.

Bottom row, left to right: St Helen; St Katharine Cree; St Olave Hart Street.

How “Of Alley” Got its Name

 

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The story may be said to have begun at least as long ago as 1237 or thereabouts, when a house was built on the banks of the Thames for the Bishops of Norwich.  The  house was later handed over by Henry VIII to his brother-in-law Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk,  during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, and then by Queen Mary to the Archbishop of York  in 1556, at which point it  came to be known as “York House”.  York House was then in turn owned or occupied by Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, from 1558; by his son Francis Bacon, from 1617;  by  George Villiers Senior, the First Duke of Buckingham, from 1621; by Villiers’s widow, from 1628;  by General Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax, during the Civil War; and eventually by Villiers’s son, George Junior, the Second Duke of Buckingham, after the Restoration  (by which time he had married Fairfax’s daughter Mary).  The house  survived the Great Fire of 1666.  However, it was substantially demolished in the 1670s, whereupon Nicholas Barbon re-developed the site, and in deference to its former owner set out new streets named George, Villiers, Duke and Buckingham –  and an alley named Of!

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(Incidentally, of York House, only the Water Gate, believed to have been designed and built by the master-mason Nicholas Stone in 1626, survives to this day, in  Victoria  Embankment Gardens).

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The Mother of Parliaments

The Ship of State
Forever teatime

Today (3rd October) I went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament,  also known as The Palace of Westminster (*).  I found it a strangely moving experience, simply being in the space where so much history has been made.  And felt a particularly strong  surge of emotion on being reminded by the guide of Charles I’s  attempted unconstitutional arrest of five Members of Parliament here in 1642 – essentially the last in the series of events that led to the Civil War.  One of the said “Five  Members” was my distant relative John Hampden, who went on to fight on the Parliamentarian side in the War, and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chalgrove Field. 

The Old Palace was purportedly originally built for Cnut in around 1016, and subsequently rebuilt by Edward, “the Confessor” in 1042-65, and extended by succeeding kings, with Westminster Hall eventually becoming the seat of Parliament, to be succeeded, in 1548, by the then-secularised Royal Chapel of St. Stephen.

Westminster Hall exterior
Westminster Hall interior
Some of  the palace complex was  destroyed in a fire in 1512; and most of what remained, in another, in 1834, with essentially only Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower surviving to this day, together with parts of the Royal Chapel of St. Stephen, including the St Mary Undercroft.
Jewel Tower exterior
Jewel Tower interior
Westminster Hall was originally built as a royal residence cum banqueting house by William II, Rufus,  in 1097-9; and rebuilt, with a spectacular hammerbeam roof, by Henry Yevele, for Richard II, in 1394-1401.  The Jewel Tower was originally built by Henry Yevele, for Edward III, in 1365-6.
The New Palace was built by Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, in the Victorian Gothic style, in 1837-58.
Victoran Gothic extravagance
Victorian Gothic aspiration

(*) For those wanting to see inside the Palace of Westminster – here is a link to the official website with details of how to book …
http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/

Open House London

This is Open House London weekend (21st-22nd September 2013), meaning that many buildings or parts of buildings of architectural or historical merit that aren’t ordinarily  open to the public are, and for free.

Today I went on tours  of the triforium gallery in St Paul’s cathedral, and of the church of St Helen Bishopsgate.

I had to queue up for an hour-and-a-half to book a place on the tour of the triforium gallery in St Paul’s, and then wait another three hours until it started.

Some salvaged  bits of old St Paul’s

But it  was totally worth it, and utterly magnificent.

The Geometric Staircase (this is as close to the edge as I could go with my acrophobia)

The Wren Library  there is now officially  one of my very favourite places of all.  The atmosphere inside is as rich, dark and deep as a cup of coffee from the “Giddy Up” stall in Guildhall Yard – the best anywhere, by the way!

The Wren Library

Link to Open House London :  http://www.londonopenhouse.org/

 

 

Shakespeare and London

12th September 2013 – I’ve just got back from a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the London Metropolitan Archives (www.cityoflondon.go.uk/lma), organised by the London Historians (www.londonhistorians.org).
The highlight was the “Shakespeare and London” exhibition, which features not only “The Shakespeare Deed”, a property deed signed by Shakespeare (one of only six surviving examples of his signature), but also other documents from his lifetime, along with maps, photographs, prints and models which explore his relationship with London.  The exhibition runs until 26thSeptember 2013.

Walking in Chilly Weather

Today Bob discovered that it is difficult to hand around his laminated illustrations when his bare hands are numb with cold!

It really was horribly chilly today. Fortunately everyone was well wrapped up (apart from Bob’s hands, that is!)

Highlights of today’s Tower to Temple walk included:

– a helpful explanatory compass just outside Tower Hill station, giving a good preliminary over-view of the sights to come

– the Whitefriars monastery: tucked away where you’d never expect to find it!

– the London stone (hidden in clear view)

-the Monument (some decided to make a return visit after the walk finished, to climb up to the top for the excellent views!)

– exploring inside the Inns of Court

Unfortunately the Roman Amphitheatre, under the Guildhall Art Gallery, was unexpectedly closed to visitors today, due to a rehearsal of some kind (not mentioned on their website – grrrrr!) Everyone strained for a glimpse through the glass doors to the Amphitheatre basement, and had to make do with that for today. Such a shame. Here’s hoping those on today’s walk will take the opportunity to make a return visit another time.

A running joke with today’s group was the plethora of vanished churches along the route – marked only by plaques or parish boundary markers. That’s the Great Fire for you – it really did wipe out a lot of buildings!

But various street names, many surviving from medieval times, did provide interesting glimpses of that long-gone London. For example, today’s group were interested to learn that Cannon Street’s name has nothing to do with artillery, stemming instead from the name of the local trade conducted there way back in 1183…. Any guesses?