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Thread: London Tour

  1. #1

    Default London Tour

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

  2. #2

    Default London Tour

    Great tour by Chris Szabla. *For some reason, I thought that forum has closed, or was it just

  3. #3

    Default London Tour

    Just the site, although the forum was practically dead for a while.

  4. #4

  5. #5

    Default London Tour

    Didn't know you still visited, Christian.

    You may be interested to know (if you didn't already) that the site has returned at a new domain,

  6. #6

    Default London Tour

    Oh, and I added an accompanying tour of nearby Cambridge

  7. #7
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    New York City

    Default London Tour

    Cambridge is absolutely gorgeous. *I went there last April on my trip to London.

  8. #8

  9. #9

    Default London Tour

    I decided not to visit Cambridge during my month-long stay in London, which seemed stuffy enough.

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  12. #12


    The secret city

    London's architecture conceals a fascinating history. But how much of it is invented?

    Simon Bradley
    Saturday January 3, 2004
    The Guardian

    A few years ago, I fell into the habit of reading the Sunday paper by the City bank of the Thames, not far from my house. Pleasure cruises made up most of the river traffic, and their amplified running commentaries soon became familiar. A favourite was the Anchor Tavern on Bankside, "mentioned in the diaries of Dr Johnson and Samuel Pepys".

    It would be nice to think that Dr Johnson's diary might turn up one day, and the scholars are not certain that the Georgian building of the Anchor is the successor to the riverside ale house Pepys records. But the commentator's dilemma was easy to understand. Their passengers expected history, colour and anecdote, but the passing show was made up mostly of offices, warehouse conversions and developers' flats. So, anything even faintly old was a name-checking opportunity too good to miss.

    Better still, the site just beyond the tavern was that of Shakespeare's Globe, the late Sam Wanamaker's replica Elizabethan theatre, then just starting construction. No longer would the commentaries have to fall back on distant glimpses of Middle Temple Hall, where Twelfth Night was performed in 1601, for a peg on which to hang the national poet.

    This lack of visible connection with the famous past, especially on the literary side, is a problem for lovers and promoters of London. Shakespeare is a case in point: even in the 19th century, Stratford-upon-Avon, with its timber-framed houses and grammar school, must have seemed closer to his life than any part of the city that made his reputation.

    Publications emphasising the decay and loss of the capital's built history begin as far back as 1791 with JT Smith's Antiquities of London, and culminate with the conservation movement of the early 1970s. The destruction of older buildings has become much harder since then, of course, but London still seems an amnesiac city by the standards of, say, Edinburgh, Paris or Rome.

    A consequence of this is that London's older buildings are often invested with associations that do not belong to them. For instance, there is a 17th-century house just upstream of Shakespeare's Globe that is commonly said - on no evidence at all - to have been the home of Sir Christopher Wren while St Paul's Cathedral was being built across the water.

    Not far downstream is the Clink prison museum, which trades on associations with the Bishop of Winchester's ancient jail of that name. But it is a 19th-century building standing hard up against a railway viaduct, the prison itself having been burned down in the Gordon Riots of 1780. Another tourist attraction whose name may mislead is the Old Curiosity Shop in Portsmouth Street, just off Lincoln's Inn Fields. This humble, picturesquely sagging timber-framed house is certainly worth a detour to see, but it answers neither to Dickens's descriptions in his novel, nor to the much more ordinary house represented in the illustrations that accompany it.

    Elsewhere, Dickensian associations have been perpetuated by renaming streets, sometimes just when the buildings the writer would have known were levelled in pursuit of a scheme of general improvement. The Southwark cluster made up of Dorrit Street, Weller Street and Quilp Street is a case in point: far from being an old-world backwater, the area is largely made up of grittily utilitarian artisan housing blocks of a later Victorian generation.

    As for poor Dickens Square, a little way to the south, this is now a near-figment, set between a park and waste ground, its only buildings a half-finished mosque and a council youth club. But how intriguing this area of the London A to Z map must look to lovers of the novels.

    The A to Z lists 19 other addresses named after Dickens, which is about level pegging with Shakespeare. It is difficult to think of artists in any other medium who have inspired such commemorative zeal in London, and the common diagnosis that English high culture is predominantly literary in character seems relevant here.

    But "visitors' London" struggles to live up to the legend of the city as a literary centre. It has just four house-museums to writers, fewer than the Lake District. Of these, three are early 20th-century foundations - Keats's in Hampstead, Dr Johnson's off Fleet Street and Dickens's in Doughty Street, Holborn - boasting a mixture of relics and effects, instructive displays and reconstructed interiors. Only Thomas Carlyle's in Chelsea, established not long after the author's death, has the feeling of unbroken habitation. (Other fields of endeavour do better: the houses of two artists, Lord Leighton and Linley Sambourne, and two architects, Sir John Soane and Ernö Goldfinger, are preserved complete with their contents, as is Freud's final residence, in Hampstead.)

    Statues of writers are surprisingly rare, too: we have Burns and Byron, Carlyle and Dr Johnson, and - in Leicester Square - Shakespeare himself, but not many more (Milton's statue has been moved inside the church of St Giles, Cripplegate, where he is buried, and so is generally missed). Nor did London pick up the continental habit of lining the walks of city parks with marble busts of notables; the four weatherbeaten busts that accompany Shakespeare in Leicester Square are the nearest equivalent. The most recent literary figure with a free-standing monument in central London seems to be the naturalist and traveller WH Hudson (1841-1922) - a remote figure to modern readers - and his little enclave in Hyde Park with its relief by Epstein is easily overlooked.

    But a literary or associative reading of the city is not the only possible one. Architectural historians and urbanists prefer to start with the how, when and why of the buildings and spaces themselves. By these standards, the most significant residents are those who commission or alter buildings, and so have some share in the form in which they come down to us.

    So 15 Poland Street in Soho is most significant as a typical late-Georgian town house of medium size; the fact that Shelley chose to stay there in 1810-11 is marginal. It comes as a surprise to many that this approach has the upper hand in historic buildings legislation. The most recent test case concerned the house in Tufton Street, Westminster, where Siegfried Sassoon lived after the first world war.

    Lovers of the poet's work joined local campaigners to defend the house from a redevelopment scheme, but to no avail: it was judged not good enough to be "listable" as architecture, so down it came. But had Sassoon swapped digs with TE Lawrence, who lived nearby at 14 Barton Street, then his admirers would still be able to look up at his house: it is protected by listing, not because of Lawrence's stay, but as the end house of a run of good town houses of the 1720s.

    The process of listing buildings is under review, and there is surely a case for a more protective attitude in cases like Sassoon's. After all, an exceptional history is already enough to earn listing for certain otherwise unremarkable buildings, such as the nondescript property in Frith Street where John Logie Baird developed television in the mid-1920s.

    One can speculate about what is thought worth commemorating in a similar way. For instance, the street running parallel to Frith Street contains a rather more notorious Soho landmark, the Groucho Club. Its premises are hardly listable under current standards, but future generations may judge differently. And it is worth remembering that the famous blue plaques on London house fronts do not bestow any protection in themselves.

    It would be good to see a few more memorials to writers, artists, scientists and creative individuals of all kinds, to counterbalance the present crop of large-scale war memorials such as the ANZAC installation being built at Hyde Park Corner. They need not follow the old conventions of statue, bust or portrait relief. We already have Maggi Hambling's engagingly dotty Oscar Wilde monument on the Strand, a stone bench-cum-sarcophagus with the writer's head and cigarette-waving hand poking out at one end.

    What might a monument to Virginia Woolf or TS Eliot look like, for instance? Even if the results were not universally acclaimed, such memorials always represent the taste of the day in ways that will intrigue future generations.

    The same holds for the houses of writers and artists: even when posterity is less than convinced of the subject's immutable greatness, as in the case of Carlyle, the contents and furnishings will always have their own "period" interest. Here it is much harder to see where new examples might come from (the most recent such museum commemorates Handel, who died longer ago than any other Londoner honoured in this way). Or is there anyone now writing, painting, sculpting or composing who fancies his or her chance of immortality by this unorthodox route? It would certainly give future generations of tour guides something to talk about.

    London 6: Westminster, by Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, is the latest in the Pevsner Architectural Guides series published by Yale University Press.

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