London is one of the most exciting, contemporary cities in the world and yet hidden in its midst lie plenty of stories from it’s past. Explore the city of London and see how it’s history is still woven into everyday life.
This is a 3 or 4 mile walk suggested by the kind folks at Fancy Free Walks. However, there is so much to see and discover that we never finished the tour. We just ran out of time fascinated by all we saw.
We uncovered some hidden treasures in places that even a Londoner is unlikely to know. But we also visited some big tourist attractions like the Tower of London and The Monument. We were captivated by this tour through London’s history from Roman times all the time surrounded by the ultra-modern. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Journey to Bank
The Fancy Free instructions suggest you begin at Bank Station, but because of Covid, we decided not to travel by tube. We, therefore, drove in and parked just near Smithfield Market. This area itself has a long history and is about to change again when the Museum of London moves here.
Across the road from the Market we came across the entrance to the Priory Church of St Bartholomew The Great.
The church is all part of the old St Bart’s Hospital founded in 1123 and still providing care for the sick.
We hurried on from here without even glancing as we passed St Paul’s, and walked via Cheapside and onto The Bank. This junction, the start of the walk, is the heart of the city. It has the imposing buildings of the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange on different corners. In addition, between Cornhill and King William St sits the church of St Mary Woolnoth.
By coincidence, on the morning of the walk I’d received a newsletter from A London Inheritance about this very church. If you are interested in London and it’s history I highly recommend The London Inheritance web site and suggest you sign up for the weekly newsletter. This newsletter will help you explore the city of London in much greater detail.
The church crypt was destroyed in the 1890’s and the human bodies removed to make room for the entrance to the first iteration of Bank underground station. Today the site is another Starbucks.
In and out of the city alleys
After a short walk along Cornhill we turned into a whole series of alleys and courtyards steeped in history. One of the curiosities we found was The George & Vulture which is currently a restaurant.
This little venue has a long history that goes back to 1175. The building barely survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was later Dickens’s setting for Mr Pickwicks antics.
We moved on through further alleys and courtyards and arrived at Leadenhall Market. The market has its origins going back to Roman times. In the 15th Century London’s most famous mayor, Dick Whittington, acquired the land and generously donated it to the City of London.
Throughout the medieval period Leadenhall was one of London’s most important markets. Customers could buy meat, poultry, dairy products as well as leather goods. Today the market is in the shadow of some of London’s most iconic skyscrapers. There is no longer a butchers in the market, if you’re shopping you’re more likely to buy an upmarket suit.
The market itself is a masterpiece of Victorian extravaganza.
Old and new side by side
After leaving the market we wandered through to Cullum St. As we entered the road there sat a modern sculpture, part of the Sculpture in the City project. This contemporary artwork reminded us of Mondrian’s paintings, but was actually by Marisa Ferreira.
Again, we see a sharp contrast between this work of 2018 and the much older surroundings in which it is situated.
We continued to explore the city of London and turned into Fenchurch Street. Here the old nestles in with the new and we are reminded that they are both part of one city.
We didn’t really give Fenchurch Street Station the attention it deserved, as we passed by. It’s façade is an excellent example of Victorian railway architecture.
Onward to St Olav’s Church in Hart Street and into a road called Crutched Friars. This street is named after a religious order, probably founded in Belgium, who settled in this road in 1249. Their name is derived from a staff they carried with them surmounted by a crucifix.
The Tower and more
A couple more turnings and we arrived at Tower Hill underground station. Just beside the station is a large section the original London Wall built by the Romans around 200 AD. Here we sat looking at the reputed statue of Roman Emperor Trajan and ate our picnic lunch.
It’s amazing that this wall has lasted this length of time, but then we turn and are confronted by the Tower of London which is almost 1000 years old.
There are so many stories associated with this grand historical monument that probably the best place to find more information is from the Historic Royal Palaces web site.
We were hoping to have a close look at the Tower and continued to follow the excellent Fancy Free instructions. However, we had to retrace our steps. The route around the Tower was closed. COVID 19 had struck again. Because we couldn’t walk along the river side of Tower we missed out on Traitors Gate.
We were soon back on track and the next landmark was nearby is All Hallows by the Tower. This is the oldest church in the City of London first built in the late 7th century.
It was to All Hallows that your corpse was first brought after you were beheaded in the Tower.
The next stop is Trinity Gardens with it’s memorial to the merchant seamen of WW2. A couple of further turns and we entered Seething Lane where Samuel Pepys once lived. Pepys acquired the use of his property here as part of role with the Navy Board.
We walked on, back to Fenchurch St and down Mincing Lane and across to Saint Dunstan’s Hill. We turned left up some inconspicuous steps into St Dunstan-in-the-East a spot of tranquility in a frantic city.
St Dunstan’s was one of the highlights of the walk. It was so unexpectedly beautiful. The church dates back to the 1100’s and is named after Dunstan who supposedly fought with the devil and became Archbishop of Canterbury in the 10th century.
We spent awhile in this enchanting enclave and watched as other visitors enjoyed it too. From here, we turned a few more corners and arrived at the Monument. This structure is the city’s reminder of the Great Fire of London in 1666 which started at Pudding Lane.
We sat down on one of the seats in the square and decided that we had been sightseeing for long enough. We had enjoyed a very entertaining 4 hours roaming the streets of London, but it was now time to return home.
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