The actual name of the walk is called,
“Wren, Romans and Liverymen: A brief history of the City of London.”
A brief history it may have been, but Mark managed to pack a great deal in, making it not only a very interesting walk, but teaching me a lot in the process.
This was my first walk with Mark, and, as with all tour guides, you never really know what to expect until you meet them. I needn’t have worried though, Mark’s enthusiasm shone through, making this one of the best walks I’ve ever been on.
What amazed me most (to be fair, this doesn’t just apply to Mark, but most London tour guides) is the depth of knowledge that he had, all stored in his head. I know he studied hard to learn all of this information, but even so. He carried a binder only to show us artists’ impressions of the way the City might have looked, or photographs of the way things were. In a few hours, there was limited time for Mark to tell us what he knew, but he had a really good go at it.
We were a fairly small group so people felt free to ask a lot of questions (sometimes I think we all feel a bit constrained in a larger group) which Mark answered without any hesitation.
The walk around the City was very comprehensive and covered the founding of the City through to the plague of 1665 to the Great Fire of London right up to the present day. If you know the City even slightly, I’m sure that there must be things that you wonder about? That’s certainly the case with me. For example, why is Lombard Street so called? I know the answer now, and I also know why we used to have Lsd (not the drug, but pounds, shillings and pence) – libri, soldi and denarii.
Our tour started just outside Tower Hill underground station, in full view of the Tower of London; from there we walked a short way to see some of the remains of the old Roman City Wall. (I now know how to tell whether a wall is Roman!)
We then paused outside St Olav’s Church in Hart Street, where 300 plague victims were buried, including the woman who is alleged to have brought the plague to the City. Both Samuel Pepys and his wife are buried here. The depictions above the gate to the churchyard are a bit grisly, which may have been why Charles Dickens nicknamed it “St Ghastly Grim!” This was a church that Pepys liked to use when he was alive; working in the Admiralty, so fitting that he is buried here.
Of course, we made our way along Lombard Street but you have to go on the tour to find out why it is called that.
The photo below shows a quick stop in our tour – I thought this was a beautiful building that was once someone’s great home. Turns out it was originally a vinegar warehouse…
From there onto Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London started. The Monument to the fire stands near to the bottom of Fish Street Hill, which was once a main thoroughfare into the City, and which was the site of fish market way back in the time of Henry III. If you were to look at a map of where we’d travelled at this point, we were still very close to the start, and yet it seemed as though we had walked miles, but in a good way.
Then onto the Jamaica Wine House in St Michael’s Alley, Cornhill. The plaque on the side of the pub says,
“Here stood the first London Coffee house at the sign of the Pasqua Rosee’s Head 1652.”
Pasqua worked for Daniel Edwards who was a trader in Turkish goods, including coffee, and he helped Pasqua set up the coffee house. It was sometimes known as the Turk’s Head. I wrote about coffee houses a few months ago – see my blog:
Different coffee houses grew to specialise in different discussion areas, unsurprisingly, I suppose, when you consider how you get a different type of clientele in different pubs, bars, etc.
What surprised me was to see how close together the buildings were around here, and, notwithstanding that they had been modernised, you could see how the Great Fire spread so quickly. The photographs below give a bit of indication but really don’t show the full closeness.
Keeping in the food and drink theme, we went to what is said to be the oldest restaurant in town, Simpson’s Tavern in Ball Court. The tavern was established on this site in 1757, but ladies weren’t admitted until 1916! No going out for a romantic dinner back in those days then? I had a look at the menu, and this is somewhere that I’d definitely like to go.
We visited several other stops before we found ourselves outside St Alban’s in Wood Street. This church was medieval but had been rebuilt and was then destroyed in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, completed in 1685. Unfortunately, the Blitz caused serious damage to the church, and the remains of the church, minus the tower, were demolished in 1965. All that remains is the tower, which is now a private dwelling designated a Grade II listed building.
Then onto another stop by a different part of the Roman Wall, at the edge of where the Roman Fort would have been. Part of the wall is underground and guided tours are available from time to time courtesy of the Museum of London.
Our tour ended at an extra stop at Number One, New Change, where Mark took us up to the roof terrace, with its fabulous views of St Paul’s Cathedral and across London.
If you only do a short visit to London, really try to do this walk, it was absolutely fascinating and informative and I’ve only briefly touched on it here. There was far more to it than what I’ve described. I will be doing more walks with Mark soon, so hope to see you on one of them.
You can find out more about Mark’s walks at/ or
© Susan Shirley 2015