In the city

  • Radicals and Revolutionaries: a walk through the old streets of London's Clerkenwell

    Our circular walk through historic Clerkenwell starts and ends at Farringdon Station.

    The Walk

    1. Leave the station and head up Turnmill Street.  Take the first right into Benjamin Street. Walk alongside St John’s Church gardens.

    2. Turn left into Britton Street. Just ahead of you is the modern wing of the Goldsmiths Centre, established as workshops and studios for jewellery making, gold and silversmithing. It is funded by the Goldsmiths Company, one of the City’s medieval guilds, set up to control the quality of craftsmanship and protect trade. The Goldsmith’s Centre runs the Bench Café, which is open to the public. Walk up Britton Street, passing the Ochre showroom and the tiny and historic Jerusalem Tavern pub with its wonky green painted paneling and bench seats. The Jerusalem Tavern has had several incarnations around Clerkenwell since the14th century and was the drinking hole of the likes of the writer Samuel Johnson, satirist William Hogarth, actor David Garrick and the young composer Handel on his visits to London. Locally, quart bottles of beer were called ‘Jerusalems.’

  • Adventures through Spitalfields

    After writing an article on Dennis Severs' house for the current edition of Selvedge Magazine, we were inspired to create a new walk for anyone who wants to explore the real eighteenth century heart of Spitalfields and its history - plus the best places to shop and eat. We thought we'd put it online for all to enjoy! Let us know your thoughts or put photos on our facebook page if you have been on any of our walks.

    The Walk 

    Aldgate East Tube (Hammersmith and City Line, District Line)

    End:   Shoreditch High Street (Overground)

    Leave Aldgate East station via Exit 3 Northside emerging just outside the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1). Founded in 1901 to bring great art to the people of the East End of London', its first exhibition, which included the Pre Raphaelites, Constable, Hogarth and Rubens, attracted 206,000 local people.

    Walk along Whitechapel Road to Brick Lane, named after the brick and tile industry that was here in the 15th century.  It has since become the centre of London’s rag trade with its successive waves of immigrants settled around Brick Lane from the 17th century beginning with the Huguenot silk weaver. The Irish weavers followed them and in the 19th century the Ashkenazi Jews fleeing persecution in Russia worked as tailors. In the 20th century 

    Bangladeshi immigrants continued in the tradition of the textile trade and brought with them their culture. Brick Lane is lined with tempting Indian sweet and cake shops, shimmering sari shops, Bangladeshi signs boasting best curry in London, all to the strains of Bangla music.

    On the corner of Fournier Street is the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid Mosque (2). This little building captures the history of the East End and is one of its oldest buildings. It began life in 1742 as La Neuve Eglise, a Huguenot Chapel but by 1809 it was known as the Jew’s chapel with the purpose of promoting Christianity to Jews. By 1898 it had become the Spitalfields Great Synagogue. In 1976 it became a mosque.

    Turn left at Princelet Street (3) to see some of the best-preserved eighteenth century houses in London distinctive wooden shutters painted in reds, aubergines and greys. Many are still forlorn and neglected with peeling paint and faded colours, others have been rescued and painstakingly restored. These houses were originally built for the Huguenot master weavers who had made a success of their trade in London after arriving with nothing, having fled religious persecution in France in 1685. The Huguenots adorned their houses with window boxes and caged singing birds, French style and nearby streets acquired French names: Fleur de Lys Street, Fournier Street and French Place. Look out for the wooden spindles that still hang outside some of the houses demonstrating their history.

    Wander down this atmospheric street and turn left into Wilkes Street.  Turn right onto Fournier Street. Step into Townhouse (4) at no 5, with its 18th style painted wood panelled walls and roaring fires, crammed with curiosities and antiques. Take the creaky stairs down to the originally basement kitchen and its cafe.

    At the top of Fournier Street is the impressive Christ Church (5) built by Hawksmoor in 1729 for the East End’s ‘godless thousands’ who were settling here, the first of 50 that Queen Anne had commissioned. The church is worth stopping in for a few moments if only to admire its grandeur. Virtually derelict in the 1960s it has recently been beautifully restored.

     

    Leave the church down the steps, cross the road and walk down the side of Spitalfields Market (6) on Brushfield Street. Pass a row of tempting cafes, buy some sweets from a the old fashioned sweet shop A Gold and nip into writer Jeanette Winterston’s cafe, Verde & Co (7) crammed with delicious jams, elderflower wines, fresh bread and seven-day marmalade.

    Cross the square and explore the market, leaving via Spital Square on the far side. Turn into Folgate Street. At number 18 is the atmospheric Dennis Severs’ House (8), described as a ‘still-life drama’, an intriguing recreation of a Huguenot weavers house through the life of a fictional family. 

    Walk down to Elder Street to see some of the finest surviving Master Weavers’ houses.  The tiny doors to the side of the front door, found on some of the houses, were trade entrances leading into a courtyard and showroom. Look out for no 32 the charming Spitalfields Atelier of bespoke tailor, Timothy Everest (9).

    Cross Commercial Street into Quaker Street and turn left towards the railway arches and Shoreditch High Street Overground (10). Extend the walk to explore some of London’s best independent shopping on Redchurch Street (11), just across the Bethnal Green Road where you will find such gems as Labour and Wait at no 85, Maison Trois Garcon at 45 and the Story Deli at no 3.

  • Top 10 London Days Out

    The inspiration behind our London Adventure Walks Book and our Adventure Walks London Map was to pick out new and exciting ways to explore the city with kids.

    We've picked out ten of our favourite ways to have a good time in London: 

    Climb aboard a Thames clipper boat, speed up the river to Greenwich and the newly restored Cutty Sark, once the fastest tea clipper in the world. Picnic in the park and then straddle time at the Greenwich  Meridian and star gaze at the Harrison Planetarium before racing down Greenwich Hill to the market and dare to pick up a pot of jellied eels or pie and mash at Goddards - traditional London street food. Spook yourself by walking under the Thames through the Greenwich foot tunnel, the entrance is just by the Cutty Sark. Pick up the space age Dockland Light Railway back to the city on the other side of the river.

    Pull on some rubber gloves and head down to the shores of The Thames at low tide to sea what treasures you can find with some good old fashioned mudlarking. Try the patch below the Millennium Footbridge that runs between St Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern.  Keep an eye on the tide in comes in very fast and it is possible to get caught out. Check out the tide on the Thames Tide Tables.  When you've found enough treasure, follow the Thames Path east along the riverside towards the Tower of London and see more of London's treasure - the Crown Jewels.

     

    March with the soldiers at theChanging of the Guard (every other day in winter, on even dates of October 2, 4, 6 etc) at 11 am. The best place to start is at Horse Guards at about 10.30am and get up close to the gleaming horses before running through St James's Park and out by Wellington Barracks to catch the soldiers as they cross the road to the Palace.  Follow the marching band of soldiers up the Mall to St James's Palace, and take your picture with the Guards.

    Reward yourself in the upstairs Parlour at Fortnum and Mason, the Queen's Grocer, on Piccadilly with a great big Knickerbocker Glory.

     

    Be a tourist for the day and take in London's famous landmarks. Start at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster and and gaze up at the biggest four-faced clock in the world (the minute hand is the length of a black cab).  Listen out for Big Ben, London's second largest bell (the largest is Big Tom at St Paul's Cathedral) to chime before heading down round the corner to a child sized piece of history at the 14th Century Jewel Tower.  It is a rare survivor of the fire that destroyed the medieval Palace of Westminster in 1834.  Walk up Whitehall to the centre of London:  Trafalgar Square.  Look for the official plaque under the statue of Charles I at the top of Whitehall.  Explore the lions and admire Nelson's column. Nip into the National  Gallery to see the spooky Hans Holbein painting, The Ambassadors.  Room 4, level 2.  In the foreground is the distorted image of a skull, symbol of mortality. Look at the painting from the right edge of the picture until the skull comes into focus. Nip into China Town for some Dim Sum. One of our favourites is New World on Gerrard Place, behind Leicester Square tube.

    Climb to the top of Parliament Hill with a kite tucked under your arm for fantastic breezy views, the second highest point in London.  Pick out the silhouettes of famous buildings on the sky line.  Fly your kite and then stride out across the Heath, favourite walking spot of poet John Keats.  Play in the woods and build a shelter of sticks and leaves with your kids.  Treat yourself to a cup of tea and a bun at theKenwood House café.  Inside is an impressive collection of art by Greats such as Turner, Reynolds and Gainsborough if you can persuade anyone to go and have a look with you.

     

    Walk along the Regent’s Canal from Angel Islington, site of the longest tunnel on the canal, and head east to the bustle and charm ofBroadway Market, one of London’s coolest food and vintage markets, Saturday mornings only.  Drink a fresh coffee and brace yourself for a swim in the London Fields Lido across the park in London’s biggest and best heated outdoor pool.

     

    Get yourself a certificate for climbing the 311 steps of The Monument, the world’s tallest stone column, in the City of London.  Flame topped and looming large at the end of Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London famously started in 1666, it was built by Sir Christopher Wren to commemorate the horror of the fire.  Rewardingly great views of the City from the top.  Wend your way through the city’s narrow streets to St Paul’s Cathedral, Wren’s masterpiece, and the Whispering Gallery high up in the great dome.  Race across the Millennium Foot Bridge to the free and wonderful Tate Modern and take the lift to the café for one of the best free river views of London.  There is always something free and fantastic in the Turbine Hall so make sure you make a detour to it.

     

    Pack a picnic, an Indian headdress and a pirate hat and take the tube to Queensway andKensington Gardens, the place where J.M. Barrie was inspired to write the Peter Pan stories for the Llewelyn children (the fictional Darling family) who played there.  The Princess Diana Playground is a delight for younger children, conveniently complete with other Pan-ish accessories such as a vast wooden Pirate ship and rows of teepees.  Row a boat on the Serpentine and seek out the Peter Pan statue at the far end of the Gardens.  The Orangery at Kensington Palace, Queen Victoria’s childhood home, is a good place to end up for a posh afternoon tea of cucumber sandwiches.

     

    Grab your bikes and get the wind in your hair on the Wombles Bike Ride on Wimbledon Common. A seven mile, predominately off road trail that takes you round the Common and around Richmond Park, one of the best bike rides in London.  End the day worn out and happy.

    Brick Lane is fast becoming the hippest place in London. With a history of being the entry point of London’s immigrants, from the Hugenots in the 17th Century to Bangaldeshi’s in the 20th Century, Brick Lane has morphed itself into the epitome of all that is great about multicultural London. Teenagers will love the achingly cool market stalls at weekends and the Banksy graffitti. A 1950s style All Star Lanes Bowling alley is a good distraction, but one of our favourite things is the meticulously recreated 17th century house on Folgate Street, Dennis Sever’s House. A haunting time travelling trip, open on Sunday afternoons and some evenings. One of the best streets to walk up is Fournier Street, cutting through from Brick Lane to Spitalfields Market, with its grand houses shuttered from the outside, French style.

    Treat the kids to ice creams at Patisserie Valerie at the far end, and treat yourself to something delicious from one of our favourite London cafés, Verde’s at 40 Brushfield Street, owned by the writer Jeanette Winterson.

    Discover the city with the London Adventure Walks book

  • A Christmas Carol Walk

    London is as much a part of Charles Dickens’ own life as it is of his books. As a child, he was made to work in a blacking factory near the Thames while his father served time in the debtors prison at Marshalsea in Southwark. His experiences at this time affected him deeply and gave him an insight into the lives of the London poor. As a young lawyer’s clerk and a journalist, he spent many hours walking the streets of London. He wove the streets of London into the pages of his stories, with landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral and London Bridge as a backdrop. 

    Explore the secrets of Dickens’ London with this Christmas Carol walk: from the Temple, where Dickens both worked and set several stories, to the City, where Scrooge famously learnt his lessons of kindness and Christmas spirit.

    Walk Start: Temple Tube station

    1. Turn left as you leave Temple station, climb the steps and turn right on Temple Place.  Cut into Temple Gardens and come out the other end, on the left hand path.

    2. Head up the narrow Milford Lane, and follow the way, up steeply worn steps to Essex Street.

    3. At Devereux Court take a right, and pass through the black gates to Temple, the home of Barristers at Law since the fourteenth century.**

    To your right is Fountain Court, described in Dickens’ novel, Martin Chuzzlewit.  Look for the plaque by the fountain with its quote. Walk on, past Middle Temple Hall, where Shakespeare first performed Twelfth Night to Queen Elizabeth I.

    Keep going through the archway and turn left to Temple Church, one of London’s few round buildings and home of the Knights Templar.

    4. Take the narrow passage up the left side of Temple Church, called Inner Temple Lane. Walk out through the ancient wooden gateway and onto Fleet Street.

    5. Turn right and walk along Fleet Street until you reach Salisbury Court on your right. Cut down here, looking for the plaque to Samuel Pepys.  Take the first left into St Bride’s Avenue and take a peep in this beautiful church.  Its tiered steeple is said to have inspired a nearby baker to make the first tiered Wedding Cake.

    6. Follow the path round the front of the church and straight on pastThe Old Bell Pub. Turn right at the bottom into Bride Lane and follow it round to the main road, past the Bridewell Theatre.

    7. Cross at the lights to the right and take the small side turning Stonecutter Street. Climb the giant staircase straight ahead and down again, to Apothecary Street and the old Apothecaries’ Hall.

    8. Turn left along Blackfriars Lane. At the junction of little roads, turn right into Carter Lane and meander along for a while enjoying the narrow lanes off to the side. Turn left up Deans Court and out to St Paul’s Cathedral.

    9. Cross the road to admire the Cathedral close up. Walk alongside the Cathedral, with it on your left.  Cross over New Change and turn left, then right, down Watling Street.  Take a left into Bow Lane to St Mary Le Bow church famous for its Bow bells: being born in earshot of these bells makes someone a true cockney.

    10. Turn right on Cheapside and walk all the way to Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London. In Dickens’ day, the Lord Mayor ‘gave orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor should.’ 

    Carry on past the grand front of the building and cross Lombard Street to the Royal Exchange. Climb up the steps to the pillared portico and head inside. No longer a place where deals were done, it is now full of luxury shops. The Royal Exchange is where the last of the Christmas Spirits took Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Here he hears bankers and traders from the City dismissively chatting about his death.

    11. Walk straight out of the far side of the Exchange onto Royal Exchange Walk. Turn right and then left onto Cornhill, where Scrooge had his Counting House.  Cross the road.

    12. Walk down here as far as St Michael’s Court on your right. St Michael’s Church is most likely the church whose ‘gruff old bell was always peeping slyly down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window’ in the story.

    Wiggle your way down the narrow alley, alongside the church, passing the old Jamaica Wine House. This is London’s first coffee house, dating back to 1652.  Look out for Simpsons Tavern in Ball Court, where Scrooge might have enjoyed a ‘melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern’.  Turn left along the side of the churchyard to the end and bear left and then right down some steps, through a passageway into Corbet Court which opens into Gracechurch Street.

    13. Cross over Gracechurch Street into the Victorian splendour of Leadenhall Market, where Bob Cratchit would have run to get his Christmas Turkey.  

    14. Head back to Gracechurch Street and turn left to Monument Tube station at the far end.

     

    ** At weekends the entrances to Temple are closed except for one on Tudor Street. To get here, follow the passage around Devereux Court and onto Fleet Street, alongside the George Pub. Then turn right down Fleet Street and eventually turn right on Bouverie Street, then right on Temple Lane, following it round to the Temple gateway on Tudor Street. Cross the car park and head straight towards a building with a large clock and weathervane on top. Take the alleyway to the right to cut through into Elm Court. Walk straight across and through the arch to get to Fountain Court. Explore as you like and pick up the walk from point 3. Although the gates are shut at the weekend it is possible to exit from any of the closed entrances.

     

     

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