What’s one of your top picks for a London Heritage Hotspot? Here’s what I heard from a few of those in the know, starting with the historic George Inn.
The George Inn in Southwark with Mike Paterson
Out of the six contributors today, Mike Paterson of London Historians is the only one I know in person (so far). I’ve always wanted to get to the George Inn, and after reading what Mike has to say, I’m even more sure it would be a great choice for an outing.
One of my favourite heritage hotspots is the George Inn in Southwark.
This large pub is the last surviving example of a galleried coaching inn left in the capital. Until the arrival of trains in the 1830s and 1840s, there were dozens like this in London, but they all disappeared within a few decades, like melting snow.
The George was just one of several coaching inns which lined Borough High Street immediately south of London Bridge, the most famous being the Tabard from the Canterbury Tales which was just next door.
The George itself existed on this site from at least the 15th Century with the current building dating from 1677. It was certainly frequented by Dickens whose life assurance certificate is proudly displayed on the wall. Pete Brown, author of Shakespeare’s Local, suggests that the Bard himself and his fellow thespians would almost certainly have drunk here too.
Today the Grade 1-listed building is owned by the National Trust and managed by Greene King, who brew the beer George Inn Ale exclusively for this pub.
There is no television, no piped music, no gaming machines. Just a wonderful historic ambience. For historic pub-goers: heaven! The only note of caution is that the inn can get very busy, particularly on summer evenings.
About Mike Paterson and London Historians
Mike Paterson is the Director of London Historians. As a member I can say this is an excellent group to belong to if you want to get out and explore London’s history with like-minded people. The newsletter is a solid source of ideas and information.
London Historians on Twitter: @londonhistorian
Upcoming event: Pocahontas in London, on March 21st, 2017.
Link for tickets to Pocahontas: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/history-in-the-pub-pocahontas-in-london-tickets-31837569026
Savile Row with Michael Duncan
This is from Michael Duncan, a guide with Footprints of London. Michael chose Savile Row, the home of the bespoke suit.
Savile Row goes back a long way.
In 1733 the London Daily Post reported that “a new pile of buildings” was going to be built by the Earl of Burlington. It was to be called Savile Row after his wife, Dorothy Savile. It was the place to be, close to the Royal Palaces and a welcome addition to a part of London that had continued to expand rapidly after the Great Fire of London.
By 1846 the tailors who had crowded round the area to serve the well-to-do found a foothold on the Row itself when Henry Poole became the first company to move in, and in doing so became the “Founder of Savile Row”.
Walk down the road today and it is lined on both sides with some of the world’s greatest tailors;
- Huntsman, who dressed Ronald Reagan and Gregory Peck,
- Kilgour, who made Cary Grant’s suit in “North by North West” ( the greatest suit in the history of cinema),
- Gieves and Hawkes, who’ve had a royal warrant from every British Monarch since George III.
The list goes on. And the so called “millionaire tailors” do as well; maintaining traditions but adapting with the times.
About Michael Duncan and Footprints of London
Michael Duncan is a qualified Westminster Guide. His walks include
- the Wild and Wonderful Women of Soho
- the Scandals of Belgravia
- James Bond and the Spies of Mayfair and
- the Americans in Mayfair.
The next Savile Row walk is on April 8th, 2017. All of Michael’s currently available walks can be accessed via his listing on Eventbrite.
Short link to Michael on Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/2km27OF
You can ask Michael about bespoke walks or address general enquiries via this address email@example.com.
“Footprints of London is a London guided walks company with a difference; we’re owned by our guides, all our guides are qualified and accredited and all our walks are researched and written by the guides leading them.
“Walks by and for those who love London delivered with care, professionalism, insight and enthusiasm, that’s the Footprints of London difference.”
The Guildhall with Tina Hodgkinson
Tina Hodgkinson guides in London and Westminster. Her pick was the Guildhall. This is a great choice, especially if you want to see a lot without going far from your starting point.
I’ve chosen the Guildhall Yard as my London Heritage Hotspot because it has a fascinating history and there’s lots to see.
The Guildhall is the City of London’s Town Hall. The Great Hall, a magnificent medieval building, is one of the largest civic halls in England. In the 1500 – 1600s a number of state trials were held there, most famously that of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen, and her husband Lord Guildford Dudley, who were both found guilty and executed for treason.
Today it’s the venue for events from state banquets to local council meetings.
Next door is the Guildhall Art Gallery, which houses an impressive collection, most notably a fine display of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite works, as well as temporary exhibitions. In the basement of the gallery are the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre. In Guildhall Yard there is a curved black slate line on the pavement. This outline of the amphitheatre gives an idea of its size.
Also housed within the Guildhall Complex is the Guildhall Library, a public reference library with a specialist collection on London. It also holds regular events and hosts small, temporary exhibitions. The recently opened City of London Police Museum has a small display about the City’s own police force and the history of crime.
Also in the Guildhall courtyard is St. Lawrence Jewry, one of the many small parish churches within the City of London designed by Christopher Wren and dating from the late 1600s, with a richly decorated interior.
Useful links for the Guildhall
All the above have free admission, but there many be a charge for special events. For more information please check their websites.
Tina Hodgkinson is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide, offering private walking tours around London.
Westminster Abbey’s 20th century Martyrs with Colin Davey
Thanks to Colin Davey for pointing out the 20th century Martyrs. This is an easy and worthwhile sight for any London tourist to see. We almost all pass Westminster Abbey at some point, even if only a few of us go inside to explore it.
For the first-time visitor to London, Westminster Abbey is a must-see – 1,000 years of English history, as well as being an important religious institution. The history is well served up as part of Jill’s post on 6 Places the Queen would show you on a tour.
By the time you are near the end of the standard tour, you will be within a few metres of, first, The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, and secondly, the Coronation Chair.
So by the time you exit the Abbey by the Great West Door, you will probably feel maxed out on the Abbey’s treasures, and you might understandably overlook the 10 statues over your shoulder and higher up on the West Front.
If, however, you turn and look (and the good news is that you can still get a reasonable view from outside the gates), you will see them clearly.
Martin Luther King is one of the 10 martyrs
Here is the back story. In 1995 the Abbey was completing a 25-year programme of restoration of the building’s exterior. However, there remained these 10 niches.
The Abbey’s statuary generally proclaims saintly or worthy people from the past, some of it very distant past. The Abbey authorities thought that here was an opportunity to record a more modern message, namely that the 20th century was a century of Christian martyrdom.
The 10 characters reflect a diversity of sexes, countries of origin, and strains of Christian belief. And what is powerful for any visitor is that each individual story is one of good work done for fellow human beings. Thus the stories can be acknowledged by any visitor, whether the person is of faith or of no faith.
From left to right facing the West Front, the characters are:
- Maximillian Kolbe (Poland; Roman Catholic)
- Manche Masemola (South Africa; Anglican)
- Janani Luwum (Uganda; Anglican)
- Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Russia (Orthodox)
- Martin Luther King Junior (USA; Baptist)
- Oscar Romero (El Salvador; Roman Catholic)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Germany; Lutheran)
- Esther John (Pakistan; Presbyterian)
- Lucian Tapiedi (Papua New Guinea; Anglican)
- Wang Zhiming (China; Christian missionary).
Naturally the eye goes to Martin Luther King, but all the stories have interest. Take for example, the first character, Maximilan Kolbe, a Polish monk imprisoned by the Nazis in Auschwitz for dissent, and murdered in 1941 after taking the place of another prisoner rounded up arbitrarily for punishment (starvation to death) following a prisoner break-out from the camp.
The Abbey website – http://www.westminster-abbey.org – has more information: do research if you have time.
Colin Davey is a professionally qualified tour guide, including being a volunteer guide for Westminster Abbey’s Education Department. He runs walks and does talks on an eclectic mix of London subjects, but as a former partner of a large City law firm, he has a niche specialism in Legal London. He tweets @colinwalklondon, and has a website – www.colinwalkslondon.com. The site contains independent reviews of his work.
Mudlarking in Greenwich with Nicola White
When I saw Nicola White on Twitter (@tidelineart), I was intrigued. An artist and a mudlark, she makes wonderful pieces from her river finds.
A mudlark (glad you asked) is someone who goes looking for interesting things in the mud of the River Thames when the tide is out. In the 1800s and probably for long before that, this was a way of making a living, by scavenging things you could use or sell. Now it’s a hobby, with safety guidelines and rules issued by the Port of London Authority.
It’s amazing what Nicola and her fellow mudlarks find.
Without a doubt, my favourite heritage hotspot area is my own local Royal Borough of Greenwich. This is so for many reasons. It is an area rich with history and it also happens to be the place where I live, and where I do the majority of my mudlarking along the River Thames.
I never tire of the area and it is an absolutely fabulous day out, with the following places to visit:
- The Cutty Sark clipper boat
- The Royal Naval College
- The National Maritime Museum
- The Fan Museum
- The Painted Hall
- The Queen’s House
- The Greenwich Foot Tunnel
to name but a few!
For myself though, Greenwich is special as I find so many pieces of London and Greenwich history along the foreshore of the River Thames there – and these little fragments of history bring the place alive. If you wander along the foreshore near the site of the Palace of Placentia, which was a favourite palace of the Tudors, then even to this day, you can see evidence of what they feasted on during their sumptuous banquets: oysters, bones of slaughtered animals, apricot kernels and all manner of seashells. You might be lucky and even find a fragment of cooking pot or slipware.
The Palace of Placentia in Greenwich was where King Henry VIII and his daughters Elizabeth and Mary were born. The only part which now remains of it is the Queen’s House, built after their time.
One of my absolute favourite mudlarking finds, from Greenwich, is a Queen Elizabeth I half crown. It was special to find it there, as the Palace of Placentia was indeed one of her favourites so they say, and she used to sometimes arrive at the Palace by river to visit it.
To think that coin has been passed down through history from the Elizabethan era to myself, is very special. Who was the last person who held it? How did they lose it?
You can see in the pictures that it’s fairly well-preserved.
It is also along the banks of the Thames near Greenwich where I collect the glass and pottery I use to make my Thames Glass Fish.
Nicola White is an artist and a mudlark.
Nicola will be starting to sell her Thames Glass Fish at the Skylark Gallery on the Southbank (which looks out over the Thames) from March 7, 2017.
Gallery information: http://skylarkgalleries.com/ Twitter: @skylarkgallery
Along the Regent’s Canal with Stu the London Wlogger
I agree with Stu the London Wlogger that the canal paths of London make for some of the best walking. I haven’t been from end to end along the Regent’s Canal, but my last walk from Ladbroke Grove to Paddington Station was glorious. Even though it was a chilly November day, my friend and I were dressed for it. We’re Canadian, after all. By the time we reached Paddington, we were ready for a nice hot cup of coffee with our lunch, and we felt very virtuous for having made the hike.
My favourite heritage spot in London would have to be the Regent’s Canal which connects the Grand Junction Canal’s Paddington Arm with the Thames at Limehouse. It opened in 1801, and provides some of the most beautiful walks within London along the canal.
Stu explores London on foot and writes about his walks on his blog, London Wlogger.
“Every week I take a new walking route around London exploring the capital’s hidden gems, sights and history!”
London tips and stories from PerceptiveTravel.com
On London Heritage Hotspots I don’t regularly review restaurants and pubs as such, but as a human being I do like to eat and drink. I also like to know what other people enjoy in London.
One travel website that has stories from around the world, including some about interesting London pubs is PerceptiveTravel.com, run by a friend of mine, Tim Leffel.
I’m still hoping to find a London pub as good as Nottingham’s Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. If you know of anything that even comes close, do tell!
Thanks to Mike, Michael, Tina, Colin, Nicola, and Stu for the sharing.
What’s your favourite London Heritage Hotspot?
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