John Ellis is a born and bred Londoner who has been walking the streets of our great city for over 60 years. He runs guitar workshops for The Indytute and lives in the East side of town. With Summer finally here, ditch your iPhone, don your trainers and discover an area of London you might not know that well. And don't forget to look up!
In this self-guided walking tour you will be following in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, Dr Johnson, Dan Brown, great newspaper reporters, legal eagles and British kings and queens.
I’m going to break the Strollabout into 3 mini-strolls that will take us from Temple Station on the District and Circle Line to St Paul’s Cathedral on the Central Line, so all very accessible by public transport.
Stroll 1 takes us out of the tube station and into an area of London that was a haunt of my favourite writer, the great Charles Dickens. The Temple is famous for many things. Lawyers and barristers occupy almost every building in the Temple. That’s not surprising as it is so close to the famous Royal Courts Of Justice just on the other side of Fleet Street. The whole area has a unique and peaceful atmosphere and many City workers come here for lunch, or to admire the old buildings that belong to a bygone era.
The area gets its name from the Temple Church. Fans of Dan Brown will recognise the old Templars Church from the film ‘The Da Vinci Code’. This is a remarkable survivor of London’s medieval history and a ‘must see’ on our stroll. As you walk from the tube to the Temple church take time to look at the architectural detail in the old layers offices. You can easily imagine yourself in a scene from Dickens novel ‘Bleak House’.
All that walking and culture should have given you a thirst, so it’s time to move on.
Stroll 2 takes us from The Temple church up to a wonderful old London pub called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.
As you come away from the Temple Church and up to Fleet Street (named after the river Fleet that flows beneath the road) take a moment and turn left. A very short walk will take you to the Temple Bar memorial that is located in the middle of the road. This marks the boundary between the City of Westminster (and the rest of London) and the famous ‘square mile’ of the City Of London. As you travel around this part of London, watch out for the griffons like the one on the top of the memorial. They mark and guard the boundary of the old medieval City. There was a tradition that any monarch wishing to enter the City needed to bang on the old bar in order to be allowed to enter.
Now, turn around and walk back along Fleet Street, taking time to look at the wonderful old buildings on both sides of the road. For many years Fleet Street was the home of the British Newspaper industry and you will still see signs of its association with this part of London. Soon you will come to your destination. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade II listed public house at 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office Court. Rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666, the pub is known for its literary associations, with its regular patrons having included Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton and Mark Twain. The famous Dr Johnson lived just around the corner. It’s a wonderful place for a drink and it still has a ‘chop room’ if you are feeling like a bite to eat.
Assuming you are still sober, Stroll 3 takes us further along Fleet Street via St Bride’s church and on up to St Paul’s Cathedral.
As you head East cross the road and when you come to Bride Lane, take a short detour and head for St Bride’s Church.
The story of St Bride's is inextricably woven into the history of the City of London. By the time the Great Fire of 1666 left the church in ruins, a succession of churches had existed on the site for about a millennium, and the area had already assumed its unique role in the emergence of English printing. It took nine years for St Bride's to re-appear from the ashes under the inspired direction of Christopher Wren. The church is also known for 2 things. The spire is supposed to have inspired the design of wedding cakes. It was also the official church of the newspaper industry.
Now head back onto Fleet Street and turn right. You will soon be crossing a major junction and on to Ludgate Hill. This ancient road might is named from the legendary King Lud who is supposed to have given his name to London. This particular spot is rich in the history of London and is worth researching on the web.
Now move on and you will soon come to Christopher Wren’s great masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral. There is simply not enough space in this blog to go into any detail about this magnificent building so I am going to leave you to enjoy your time here while I get the tube home.
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