London has so many things to see and do, it…
The City, the financial heart of London, has been the subject of much vilification and harsh denigration – it has been seen as the symbol of excess and has been blamed for the current recession. It has also been deemed soulless and lacking in character. Is this a fair portrayal of the City? Or is there anything to redeem the core of London’s business district?
Take a walking tour of the City in London and all of your vague and unjust prejudices about the City are sure to be dispelled. The City does hold its own distinctive character, and its historical significance cannot be debated. After all, Fleet Street was once at the heart of the newspaper industry and great writers, not least of all Samuel Johnson, flourished in the City. The City bears the marks of its cultural past everywhere, and some of its architecture is truly spectacular.
Steve, my guide on this walking tour, possessed an intricate and deeply impressive knowledge of many of the lesser known as well as famed sights of the City. Here are just a few facts I was especially struck by (if you wish to delve more deeply into the City’s charms, I would highly recommend a walking tour):
- The Monument is, incredibly enough, the tallest isolated stone column in the world. The cage at the top of this column was added in the mid-1800s to prevent deaths, as between 1788 and 1842, six people committed suicide from the Monument.
- London Bridge was re-built a number of times, following fires and natural disasters. In 1212, perhaps the greatest of the early fires of London broke out on both ends of the bridge simultaneously, trapping many in the middle and reportedly resulting in the death of 3,000 people. It is still unknown how it was that a fire broke out on both ends of the bridge at precisely the same moment.
- The Bank of England’s nickname of the “The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street” first appeared in print as the caption “Political Ravishment or The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street in danger” to a cartoon published in 1797 by James Gillray. It depicts William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister of the day, pretending to woo the Bank, which is personified by an elderly lady wearing a dress of £1 notes seated on a chest of gold. This satire is a protest against the introduction of paper money.
- St Etheldreda’s Church is named after Princess Etheldreda, who was born in 630, daughter of King Anna, a prominent member of the ruling family of the Kingdom of East Anglia. She was nothing if not a revolutionary: she set all the bondsmen on her lands free, and, most fascinatingly, her body was claimed to be perfectly preserved even 450 years after her death.
- Dr. Samuel Johnson himself said that “there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn” and Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is one of the most hidden, if not arguably the most hidden pub in London. Incredibly enough, Ye Olde Mitre is technically not in London, but in Cambridgeshire. The original tavern was built during the reign of Elizabeth I for servants of her court, so it has a rich history. It will be the final stop on your captivating walking tour.