Last night, after she’d cooked a lovely Italian meal, a friend and I went on a guided walking tour in London. I didn’t book it through one of the companies I usually use for these things; I’d booked it through Groupon. It was called City of Conspiracy, which I’ve since discovered has its own website and Twitter account:
The tour started at 8pm at Covent Garden Tube Station, and we walked along Long Acre until we reached the Freemasons’ Hall at the corner of Great Queen Street. I’m going to confess right now, I worked around the corner from here for three years and I have never been inside. Not yet anyway, I plan to change that very soon. It is a pretty magnificent building, and our tour guide explained in detail the significance of various pieces of architecture.
From here, having stopped by a couple of shops that sell Masonic regalia, we made our way along to Lincolns’ Inn Fields, which is the largest public square in London. Incidentally, apparently, although the shops won’t sell anything to non-Masons, you can go into these shops and they will tell you all about the things they sell. Seems as though they’d be interesting places to visit alone. The first place of interest in Lincolns’ Inn Fields was number 66 – Powis House, where the charter of the Bank of England was signed in 1694. The Bank of England started its life as a private company that loaned the government money, because it was boracic lint (no change there, then).
Further along in Lincolns’ Inn Fields is Sir John Soane’s house – what is now a museum. Sir John was a very wealthy man, and also a Freemason, hence the link with the City of Conspiracy Tour.
From there, we made our way along to Aleister Crowley’s house, another Freemason. Of course I’d heard of Aleister Crowley before, but he’s not someone I’ve ever really felt the need to research too much, and to be honest, nothing about that has changed since last night. Suffice it to say that I don’t think he’d have been one of my drinking partners.
I didn’t take a note of the name of the road, but it was adjacent to Fleet Street. We walked down to Fleet Street, where it junctions with The Strand. It’s at this point here, at the site of the Temple Bar, is where Westminster stops and the City of London starts. There’s a lot of history in this area: The Temple Church, built by the Knights Templar, the Royal Courts of Justice, The Old Bank of England pub (which is on the site of the Law Courts branch of the Bank of England. No, I didn’t know that there had been one there either.) It’s also the home of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Was he a real person? Who knows? Official records of the time don’t seem to support the story though.
Moving on from here, we walked up near to St Paul’s, to Stationer’s Hall, home of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers. This is one of the old City trade associations; there are a number of them that still exist . Apparently, to become Lord Mayor of London or a City Alderman, you have to be a member of one of these companies. That was where the tour ended.
It was an interesting tour and our guide was so knowledgeable, he even did a little rap for us! If you get the chance to go on this, do so, it wasn’t expensive and well worth it.
© Susan Shirley 2014