Thursday, 26 February 2009

My Favourite London Walk No’s. 7 & 8 (Part Two)

The second part of David’s two parter (scroll down for yesterday’s Part One)… When last we met, he was warming to the topic of Zeppelins (pictured)…

“…Then in Hampstead – well, strictly speaking in the Vale of Health (Hampstead's village within a village) – there’s this. It's from a letter the novelist D. H. Lawrence wrote. He was living there at the time.

‘We saw the Zeppelin above us, just ahead, amid the gleaming of clouds... quite small, among a fragile incandescence of clouds. And underneath it were splashes of fire as the shells from earth burst...It seemed as if the cosmic order were gone, as if there had come a new order*... So it is the end – our world is gone, and we are like dust in the air.’

Quite a contrast to our Vale of Health of a Sunday morning – especially the two white swans on a pond!”

(*In an upcoming post David explains why that long-ago, World War I aerial bombardment damage has survived – and, conversely, why there's so little World War II damage left. Stay tuned.)

In yesterday’s post, David wrote "Hampstead is London's skybox." That also happens to be the first note David sounds in his chapter on Hampstead in our book LONDON STORIES. Here are the opening bars: "Hampstead is London's skybox. It's fabulously well appointed. It's steeped in privilege. It affords the best views in London…"

David guides both Hampstead and (Shakespeare's and Dickens' Old City) this (and every) Sunday.


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

My Favourite London Walk No’s. 7 & 8

A post from London Walks Pen David on his Sunday sojourns in town and country. A tale of two cities? Almost. His Sunday morning soliloquy on The Heath, it should be pointed out, is effortlessly more decorous than old King Lear’s (illustrated, left), hopefully a little-less “blasted” (weather permitting) but is no less passionate for all that.

Here’s Himself (as they say in Ireland):

When you ‘summit’ on my Sunday morning Old Hampstead Village walk, part of the patter you'll hear runs along these lines:

‘Okay, as this old Whitestone mile marker tells us, we're only four miles from the centre of London. That's very central. Especially when you bear in mind that Greater London is something like 40 miles across! But it doesn't feel at all as though we're near the middle of a great metropolis. It feels like a country village.’

That kind of thing is what I like to call the ‘texture’ of London. It's one of the reasons I’m so smitten with London. In the American Midwest you can go for hundreds of miles in any direction and the texture is unaltered – nothing much changes. In London you go round the corner and the texture changes – you're in a different century, different place, different historical (or biographical or architectural or whatever) drama!

My Sunday segue – from airy, green, leafy, vista-y Hampstead on my morning walk to gnarled little alleyways on my afternoon one (Shakespeare's and Dickens' Old City) – is a case in point.

Vive la difference!

But there are also some astonishing ‘links’. On the afternoon Shakespeare's and Dickens' Old City walk one of the things I'll call your attention to is the shrapnel damage to the wall of St. Bart's Hospital. Look closely and you'll see it's mottled – pockmarked – with shrapnel damage from a bomb dropped a Zeppelin in the First World War…

Then in Hampstead – well, strictly speaking in the Vale of Health (Hampstead's village within a village) – there’s this. It's from a letter the novelist D. H. Lawrence wrote. He was living there at the time.

‘We saw the Zeppelin above us, just ahead, amid the gleaming of clouds... quite small, among a fragile incandescence of clouds. And underneath it were splashes of fire as the shells from earth burst...It seemed as if the cosmic order were gone, as if there had come a new order*... So it is the end – our world is gone, and we are like dust in the air.’

Quite a contrast to our Vale of Health of a Sunday morning – especially the two white swans on a pond!



Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Sunday Gallimaufry

Our weekly round up of London stuff…

Here Comes the Sun…

A glimpse of spring? This shot (below) was captured by Adam on a ramble heading east along the River last Thursday.

Yes, Prime Minister…

Radio buffs should keep an ear out this week for the first of a new series on Britain’s Prime Ministers. BBC Radio 4's The Prime Ministers kicks off with Robert Walpole (illustrated) this Tuesday 24th February at 9.30a.m (repeated Sunday nights at 10.45p.m.) (See London Links, right)

Check out the heart of British government for yourself on one of the Westminster walks running this and every week.

Who Are We?

Shooting the breeze with David over at The Mothership recently, the conversation took a decidedly existential turn.

“Who are we,” he mused, tipping back his beret, pulling on an unfiltered Gallois and tossing back his fourth espresso and fifth cognac (he wasn’t really, but he should have been).

“Er… we’re London Walks, David,” I offered lamely.

“But who ARE we? WHO are we? Who are WE?”

(Folks, I’ll be frank: He frightens me when he talks like this.)

“What I mean,” he pressed on, “is this: we – the LW Guides – know all about London. But what else do we know? Who are the real people behind the sheaf of white leaflets. Let’s get ‘em to reveal their innermost secrets right here on The Blog.”

So we will – from time-to-time on The Sunday Gallimaufry, we’ll tell you something you don’t know guide-by-guide about every guide. This week, Angela:

'Angela has long been interested in the Standard Model [quantum mechanics] so entirely overexcited by Cern where they are going to hurl 3000 bunches of 100 billion protons at each other at 99.99% the speed of light [186,000 m.p.second]. Amongst other things they may discover the elusive Higgs boson, a force carrying particle, and even maybe what the mysterious dark matter is made of, possibly Weakly Interacting Massive Particles - WIMPS! I know! Fabulous stuff!'
(Phew: Ed.)

(Angela guides Old Westminster by Gaslight, Legal London, The Old Palace Quarter and Jack the Ripper)


Thursday, 19 February 2009

My Favourite London Walk No.6: The London by Gaslight Pub Walk

Illuminating stuff from Fiona

“Footpads huddling in a corner, waiting for the link man to bring them their prey… A dark alleyway, lit only with the soft glow of gaslight, inhabited by the ghost of an actor, stabbed years ago in a jealous fit… 1,300 working gaslamps around London, but where does the gas come from?

The first hotel in London to be lit with electric light, where the first Martini in England was drunk (see also the London Walks Reading List No.3 in the Archive.)

Under the blaze of a chandelier, in a theatre auditorium, the audience as much on display as the actors, who is sitting where? the gossip starts to spread… Flashbulbs popping, paparazzi catching stars, dressed to the nines for a moment of triumph… Gleaming, sparkling, cut glass and mirrors, a warm glow to entice you in and spend your hard earned money on gin.

By the light of a single flame I’ll tell you a tale of dancing girls who cure the sick.

Who would have thought the history of lighting could be so interesting?”

Join Fiona this Saturday 7.15p.m at Embankment tube, London by Gaslight Pub walk. (Fiona adds: “We’ll pause along the way for a drink or two.”)


Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The London List No.9: The First Five London F.A Cup Winners

The First Five London F.A Cup Winners

1. Wanderers* (1871/72, 1872/73, 1875/76 – 1877/78)

2. Clapham Rovers (1879/80)

3. Tottenham Hotspur (1900/01, 1920/21)

4. Arsenal (1929/30, 1935/36)

5. Charlton Athletic (1946/47)

* Wanderers were based in Battersea


A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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Monday, 16 February 2009

On this Day in London History…

16th February 1742. Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington (right) becomes Prime Minister. A Whig (see earlier post below or in the Archive), he succeeded Sir Robert Walpole. He died while still in office in July the following year, and is famed for his Bill to curb public drunkenness by taxing spirits – a not entirely popular move.
(Explore the heart of British government tonight with Angela on the Old Westminster by Gaslight walk.)


Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Sunday Gallimaufry

View From Westminster Bridge
By Shaughan Seymour

Earth hath not anything to show more fair;
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty;
A huge wheel, rising in the air,
That some consider an aesthetic travesty;
This wheel of wonder, without ceasing, rolls
Each gondola replete with gawping proles
Who paid a fee – extortionate – too much
Conceived by Britons, but built by the Dutch,
The steel is German – Sheffield‘s loss it is –
The capsules French ( look like suppositories)
The wires Italian, and the hub is Czech
Apotheosis of Euro-High-Tech.
But wait – what value does this wheel bestow?
Do tourists god-like gaze on us below,
Descend enlightened from Olympian heights
And knowledge-crammed, share with us their insights
Of London and its history? I think not:-
As mystified as ever – not a jot
Of minted information is inside;
The London Eye just took them for a ride.
Our City’s Vintage - we release the cork –
Go take yourselves upon a London Walks!

And there’s more where this came from… ask the man himself on one of his walks. Shaughan guides The London of Shakespeare & Co and Legal & Illegal London on Mondays; The Along the Thames Pub Walk on Wednesdays; Old Westminster & Jack the Ripper on Thursdays; Hidden London & Jack the Ripper on Fridays; The London of Shakespeare & Co, Little Venice and Ghosts of the Old City on Saturdays; The Old Jewish Quarter and Haunted London of a Sunday. And what of Tuesday? That’s when he writes poetry, of course. (He’s also a contributor to LONDON STORIES.)

Nick was equally inspired by the London Eye. Here’s his take on the big wheel…

Find Nick in Greenwich, Knightsbridge and Haunted London. And he’s as deft with pen as with the lens. Read his Greenwich chapter in LONDON STORIES.

Alan Bennett’s play about Guy Burgess, An Englishman Abroad gets an airing on BBC Radio7 this week (Wednesday 10.15a.m, 9.15p.m & 2.15a.m). It stars Michael Gambon and Penelope Wilton. If it whets your appetite for all things espionage, join Alan on his Spies & Spycatchers walk.

Shaughan a pensman. Nick a lensman. Any other special skills among the London Walks guides? Well Blue Badge Guide of the Year winner Karen makes snowmen. (Ruining husband Adam’s rather natty porkpie hat in the process, thanks for asking!)

Very nice, Karen, ta. But in truth, for those of us out on London Walks, let’s hope we’ve seen the last of his kind. At least for a wee while…


Friday, 13 February 2009

Quick History Lesson for Visitors

And now, it’s over to our Political Editor, David:

“The two largest political parties in this country are the Labour party (or New Labour as Tony Blair's restyling would have it) and the Conservative party aka the Tory party. The latter have been around for some three centuries. The Labour party only pitched up following the demise – a hundred years ago or so – of the Whig party.

Now as to those names – Tory and Whig...

They were introduced in the 17th century during the struggle between people who opposed and backed the accession of James II, who was Roman Catholic. A whig was the common name for a cattle or horse thief. It was connected with Presbyterianism and rebellion. The name was applied to the people who wanted to keep James II off the throne.

The word tory was hardly less "ripe". It meant a Papist outlaw. It was applied, abusively, to those who approved of James' accession.

Nor was it just the James II ‘question’. Toryism stood for the rural squirearchy. Whiggism for the great landowners, the aristocrats and the city business interests.

And a London Walks connection? Well you might try Angela’s Old Palace Quarter walk on Monday morning. You'll see the two ‘gentlemen's’ clubs that harboured the leaders of the two parties during, for example, the American War of Independence. Brooks, the Whig hangout, has the single best American ‘connection’ in St. James's Street. But you're going to need Angela to point it out - it's that hidden, that special!"

(Both David and Angela contribute to the London Walks book LONDON STORIES out now.)


Tuesday, 10 February 2009

London Walks Zodiac: Aquarius

Each month the London Walks Astrologer, the esteemed St John Featherstonehaugh (that's him on the right), reads London’s astrological chart. This month:

January 22nd – February 21st
Symbol: The Water Carrier (pictured below)

Great Leaders

• Surgeon John Hunter (13th February 1728) (a born Scot who studied at St Bart’s – see his bust in Leicester Square)
• Philosopher Jeremy Bentham (15th February 1748) (Visit him ALMOST in the flesh on THIS walk!)
• Writer Len Deighton (February 18th 1929)

The Royal Exchange opened 23rd January 1571
Ritual Execution of Oliver Cromwell 30th January 1661
First soccer match broadcast on radio, from the now defunct Highbury Stadium, North London where Arsenal hosted Sheffield United London 22nd January 1927

Later this month, if LW Blog can find help to pick St John Featherstonehaugh off the floor of the Coach & Horses, the old poltroon will regale us with his thoughts on Piscean London.

(Where did we find our Aquarian Water Carrier pictured above? In Sloane Square, that’s where.)


Monday, 9 February 2009

Knightsbridge: A Bon Vivant Writes…

“History,” states Dominic Sandbrook in the preface to his excellent White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties, “should be entertaining as well as informative.”

He has a kindred spirit in London Walks guide Nick

"It's not so much a walk,” says Nick of his Knightsbridge Pubs outing, “it’s more of a street party!

“Over the years, we’ve been invited into four homes. There was the 21st birthday party (that was hard to leave), the artist's studio, Bairnsfather's house, Anastasia's lovely regency home. People,” he adds, “are just so friendly.

“One time we stood outside a Thanksgiving dinner looking admiringly at the jolly people inside and they came out and gave us all pecan pie!

“At the end of a long working day I often feel I just don't have the energy and drive to do a walk, but the sheer fun of it, the REALLY nice people who come along, the jokes, the laughter, give the whole thing such a buzz, I go home on a high every time!"

Tag along with Nick on his regular Friday jaunts Knightsbridge Pubs meeting at South Kensington Tube, 7.00p.m.

(Nick also contributes to LONDON STORIES, the London Walks book OUT NOW.)


Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Sunday Gallimaufry

“What the Dickens is ‘gallimaufry’ when it’s at home?” asks Blog Follower Don via email. (Don dropped us a line last week to say he enjoyed our little Buddy Holly tribute.) Gallimaufry is a French word meaning a stew or mixture of unusual, exciting and stimulating ingredients. Which is what we endeavour to present each Sunday. Now that’s cleared up, onwards…

… onwards and, indeed, upwards. LW Blog loves the work of ariel photographer Jason Hawkes, a fetish shared by the The Boston Globe. The Globe has an outstanding selection of his work taken over London posted on their website. Shot at night, the results are startling, dramatic and even moving. To view the images at the Boston Globe’s site click HERE.

For an extra-special St Valentine’s Day, there’s only one place to go – especially in this year of years. With Charles Darwin celebrating a big anniversary, the best place to take your loved one is surely The Darwin Building in Malet Place WC1. Huh? How so? Well there you’ll find the Grant Museum of Zoology where they will be hosting their annual ANIMAL MAGNETISM night for St Valentine’s lovers everywhere. The best, oddest, most unique night in town – at London’s finest unsung treasure trove. Be sure to give the staff a big Valentine’s kiss from all at London Walks and tell them we’ll see them on Friday on the Old University Quarter Walk. (Animal Magnestism takes place on Saturday 14th from 5.30 – 8.30, admission £3 which includes a glass of wine – see London Links, opposite right.)


David has posted an appeal on the front page of The Mothership asking for suggestions and comments on the London Walks Website. Why not click by and offer your two penny/cents-worth? Click HERE


Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Up on the Roof (Part Two)

Richard P's report continues…

“Just before the event I was called by CNN, who wanted to cover the tour. It was going to be a very special day!

I arrived in good time for the 10.45am start of the tour. Eventually about 25 people turned up, less than the maximum of 30 that Leigh said could get on the roof. I was very relieved. We were met by the CNN crew and I told the people on the tour that we were actually going on the roof. That announcement received some gasps of surprise.

We arrived at Savile Row around 11.30am and I gave a talk outside about the history of Apple and the build up to the rooftop concert. We were then met by Leigh Thomas who led the first group into the building, along with the CNN crew. We decided only a few could go up at once as the roof is relatively small.

3 Savile Row is currently being redeveloped as an office building and has been gutted. For that reason we couldn’t really stop and look through the building as some rooms were unsafe. However I did put my head around the door of what used to be John and Yoko’s ‘Bag One’ office on the ground floor, and the former press office on the first floor.

Due to the renovation work going on there is no working elevator in the building so we had to go up many rather dark flights of stairs to the roof. All the while I was being interviewed by CNN about my reactions of being there on such an anniversary. Eventually we saw daylight ahead of us and made our way on to the roof. Although I’d been up a few times before, it still took my breath away to see the very familiar surroundings up there, although notice many changes too. For instance the door to the roof is now facing Savile Row, where before it was on the side. The wall around the door is now tiled, whereas in 1969 it was brick. One very familiar thing still there was the glass structure on the roof of No. 2 Savile Row, which can be seen very clearly in Let It Be. One thing that I noticed straight away is that the area where the Beatles were playing is very small. The film crew must have been right on the edge of the building to get them all in shot. I also thought of the Rutles send up of the rooftop concert when ‘Ron Nasty’ kicks a technician over the edge!

Luckily when we were on the roof it was a bright, sunny day and we were sheltered from the wind, unlike the Beatles 40 years earlier.

While I was on the roof quite a crowd had gathered by the doorway, as fans had gone to Savile Row independently to celebrate the anniversary. Some people waiting outside spotted Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones walk by! A surreal moment on a Beatles anniversary, though the Stones did rehearse at Apple for their Hyde Park concert.

While inside the building I was shown a green plaque to commemorate the concert, which the Kier Group will put on the building as soon as they get planning permission from the council. A big unveiling is planned, to which Paul and Ringo will be invited.

As only a few people were allowed on the roof at any one time I had to go up and down the steps many times to collect all the people on the tour and must have spent and hour and a half either on the roof or in the building. Finally it was time to go and I completed the tour by going to Abbey Road. We then went to Richoux, Paul McCartney’s favourite restaurant in St John’s Wood, to celebrate with a few friends. It was a great way to end a wonderful day. “

See Richard P on his Beatles London Walks this week (and every week), Wednesday 2.00p.m, Thursday 11.00a.m, Saturday 11.20a.m and Sunday 11.00a.m.


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Up on the Roof (Part One)

Today’s the day that rock’n’roll fans the world over mark the 50th anniversary of the death of one of the founders of The Music (see last Sunday’s Sunday Gallimaufry). Buddy Holly enjoyed – and enjoys – a worldwide following but his most famous acolytes came from these shores and made London their creative home. And last week they enjoyed an anniversary of their own, which was marked by Richard P’s 40th Anniversary Beatles Rooftop Concert Walk. It was quite a day. Here’s Part One of his report:

“Beatles fans got a big surprise when they turned up for a special Beatles walking tour on 30th January – they were allowed on the roof of 3 Savile Row!

That day was the 40th anniversary of the Beatles playing their famous performance on the roof of their Apple headquarters. It was the climax of the film ‘Let It Be’. The original idea of the film was that the Beatles would be perform a huge concert which would be filmed and recorded for posterity. Rehearsals, which were also filmed, began at Twickenham Film Studios in early January 1969. However there was no agreement on where to do the concert, and an exasperated George Harrison walked out, telling the others he would see them ‘around the clubs’.

George finally came back after negotiations and filming and recording reverted to the Apple Studio in the basement of 3 Savile Row. However Paul McCartney wanted some sort of climax for the film and also wanted to play live. It was therefore suggested they should get on the roof of 3 Savile Row and play a few songs. It was to be their last ever live performance.

A few days before the walk I got hold of the phone number for the Kier Group, that now own 3 Savile Row, as I wanted to find out why the Bootleg Beatles concert was cancelled. I was put through to Leigh Thomas, the site manager there. During our conversation I mentioned by special tour and asked whether we could have access to the roof. I’ve been doing Beatles tours for 20 years and never been up on the roof on a tour, so I was sure he was going to say no. But I was wrong, he said yes! He said that as long as not too many people turned up we could all go and see the roof. I was amazed – but also had a dilemma, I wanted to publicise the special addition, but wanted to make sure numbers were manageable on the tour. I therefore made it a surprise for the people that turned up…”

To find out what happened, come back tomorrow for Part Two.

See Richard P on his Beatles London Walks this week (and every week), Wednesday 2.00p.m, Thursday 11.00a.m, Saturday 11.20a.m and Sunday 11.00a.m.


Monday, 2 February 2009

The Presidential Sweet

That Ann: she’s in the know, you know. Ambassadors, Princes, Kings and Presidents: if they eat, Ann's on the case to find out what, when and where. How about this:

“Millions around the world watched the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. But what they didn't see was the menu for the lunch that follows. So, for foodies everywhere, here goes:

Seafood stew – lobster, scallops, shrimps and black cod

A brace of American birds (pheasant and duck), cooked with herbs, stuffed with wild rice. Served with sour cherry chutney and molasses whipped sweet potatoes, asparagus, carrots, Brussels sprouts and wax beans

Apple-cinnamon sponge cake and sweet cream glacé

More delicious menus and foodie titbits if you join me on West End Foodies, Friday February 6th , 2.30pm at Green Park tube - Ritz exit.”

(Our commemorative cut-out-and-keep President Obama souvenir paper doll in the picture comes courtesy of


Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Sunday Gallimaufry


Last September London Walks guide (and contributor of two chapters to LONDON STORIES) Adam decided to record his daily movements around the capital. Using his camera phone, he paused at 10.00a.m every morning to capture the view of the particular corner of the capital that his work as both London Walks guide and a writer had taken him that day. The results are below:

Here’s Adam: “Picture No.1 is, of course, Westminster where I was waiting for a group of German students who had booked a Monday morning walking tour. No. 2 finds me in Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London – cutting through Big Wood taking my daughter to visit grandma (sounds like a good start for a fairy story). On Wednesday (No.3) I was back at Westminster, this time waiting for American students. Thursday (No.4) the students were English and their class was compiling the school newspaper. They wanted to learn about the history of Fleet Street and the shot is of the old Daily Telegraph building (see also LONDON STORIES). Friday is a day off (!) and the picture is of the River Brent on the Capital Ring walking route – which I was researching for a feature and possible book, so not much of a day off, really. No. 6 finds me heading for my regular Somewhere Else London Walk on Saturday morning and I’m back in that neck of the woods again in picture No.7, waiting this time for an adult group to embark on a privately booked Subterranean LondonWalk.”

Adam guides In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes this Friday (6th February) at 2.00p.m.

(Share your own London pics with us: email ‘em to

[The privately booked walks referred to above can be arranged by calling Mary, Fiona or Noel on 020 7624 3978.]

It’s out! The Book – LONDON STORIES is published this Thursday 5th February.

This Tuesday (3rd February), rock’n’roll fans the world over will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly. The excellent Proud Central Gallery is currently presenting a photographic exhibition to mark the milestone, with many shots taken right here in London. Unlike his Southern contemporary Elvis, who only made the briefest British stopover (at Prestwick airport in Scotland on a refuelling stop on the way back from military service in Germany) Holly was no stranger to the U.K. He played six shows in London on his first U.K tour. Of the venues he played, two are still with us: the Gaumont State in Kilburn (now a bingo hall) and the Gaumont Hammersmith (now known as the Apollo). The third, The Trocadero at Elephant and Castle where Holly made his British debut on the 1st March 1958 lasted only four years longer than Holly himself. It was demolished in 1963 to make way for a smaller Odeon cinema designed by Ernesto Goldfinger which, in turn, returned to dust in 1988. Keep your eyes peeled for the fascinating plaque that marks the site on the New Kent Road next time you’re rushing through Elephant.

The Lew Allen image shown below is taken backstage at The Trocadero and is available for sale (a limited edition of 50 16x20 prints) at Proud’s website. Click HERE.

Walker from Exeter, to Guide on last Saturday’s Somewhere ElseWalk: “I spilled a whole cup of tea on my London Walks leaflet. It soaked up every drop. So it’s not only a fascinating read by also very absorbent!”

THIS WEEK on LW BLOG… Ann makes another assault on your New Year diet with her legendary West End Foodies walk…