I have started to add walks for 2023 on my Eventbrite page, which can be found at this link:
Welcome to the page dedicated to my London Guided Walks. Based on the blog, these walks will take you on a journey through the history of an area of London, discovering how the city has evolved to the place we see today.
Limehouse – A Sink of Iniquity and Degradation
Sunday 30th July at 11:00(Sold Out) Sunday 6th August at 11:00(Sold Out) Thursday 10th August at 13:00(Sold Out) Saturday 19th August at 11:00(Sold Out) Sunday 20th August at 11:00(Sold Out) Thursday 24th August at 13:00(Sold Out) Sunday 27th August at 11:00(Sold Out)
- Thursday 31st August at 13:00 (Sold Out)
Sunday 10th September at 11:00(Sold Out)
The title for the walk “Limehouse – A Sink of Iniquity and Degradation” came from the book “Limehouse through Five Centuries” written in 1930 by the Reverend J.G. Birch of St. Anne’s, Limehouse. He used the phrase in his introduction to the book, and also added that he hoped that the book would help dispel this myth.
Limehouse has always had an air of mystery and intrigue, an exotic and dangerous place to those who did not live or work along the river.
The 1916 book Limehouse Nights by Thomas Burke featured a number of short stories centred on Limehouse, the opium dens and the Chinese community, which were also the background to the stories of Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer. The works by Burke and Rohmer featured appalling stereotypical views of the Asian community then living in Limehouse.
Stories about Limehouse exploited themes of violence, crime, sex and drugs and how the import of opium resulted in the exploitation of English women, often to sell opium in the fashionable West End.
The image of Limehouse as a place of intrigue and mystery continues to this day, with the 1994 book Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd, on which the 2016 film The Limehouse Golem was based.
Whilst there were opium dens, crime and violence, Limehouse was a hard working place, based around the trade and industry that grew along the Thames. The Chinese population were frequently sailors who had settled in Limehouse and married local women, along with a temporary increase in numbers when ships with Chinese crew docked. Their numbers though were relatively low, not as large as popular literature of the time might suggest.
Limehouse was an early site of ship building. From Limehouse, sailors and traders set out along the Thames to cross the oceans of the world. Industry, warehouses and docks lined the river, with cramped housing alongside polluting factories.
Limehouse provided access to the Thames for the inland waterways, with the Limehouse Cut and the Regent’s Canal providing access to the river from the rest of the country. In the Regent’s Canal Dock (now the Limehouse Basin), ships unloaded all manner of cargo, including coal, timber, fruit and ice.
There was technical innovation, hydraulic power and an electricity generating station running on coal delivered via the river. The London & Blackwall Railway cut through Limehouse on a brick viaduct, paving the way for the Docklands Light Railway.
The decades after the 2nd World War were not kind to Limehouse as trade along the river slowly declined and industry closed or moved away.
From the late 1980s onwards, Limehouse was transformed, with some major projects being driven by the developments on the Isle of Dogs just to the east.
I have long been fascinated by Limehouse, a place that for centuries was shaped by the relationship between the land and the river. Whilst today that contact is maintained by Limehouse Basin, the rest of Limehouse is now just a spectator to the activity on the river.
This walk will explore the history and development of Limehouse from the 15th century to the present day. The people, those who settled in Limehouse, the relationship with the River Thames, trade, waterways, tunnels, streets, pubs and church, along with some of the reality of the opium dens.
As with the Reverend J.G. Birch, my aim with the walk is to dispel some of the myths about Limehouse and focus on the real history of this fascinating part of east London.
The walk will start at Limehouse DLR station and end at Westferry DLR station. It will take around 2 hours 30 minutes and is a walk of slightly over 2 miles.
Wapping – A Seething Mass of Misery
Wapping – A Seething Mass of Misery. So wrote Francis Wey in the 1850s in his book, A Frenchman Sees the English in the Fifties.
As London’s docks expanded to the east, Wapping developed to serve the docks and the river, and this expansion resulted in living conditions that would lead to Francis Wey’s description.
Wapping was different to the rest of east London as it developed a nautical subculture, one that existed to serve and exploit sailors arriving on the ships that would moor on the river, and the docks and wharves that lined the river.
This walk will discover the history of Wapping, and will run from near Tower Hill underground station, along Wapping High Street and Wapping Wall, across the old Ratcliff Highway to Shadwell Overground and DLR stations.
We will explore the development of the docks, the ancient gateways between land and river that are the Thames stairs, lost and surviving pubs, the history of the River Police, a sailor’s experience of Wapping, warehouses, crime and punishment, murders and a burial at a crossroads.
We will also meet some of the people who lived, worked and passed through Wapping, such as the Purlmen who worked on the river, and John Morrison, a ship’s boy on a collier, who in 1832 almost froze to death whilst waiting to row his master back to his ship after a night in Wapping’s pubs.
The walk will use some of my father’s photos to show the area post-war, and will look at how Wapping has developed to become the place we see today, and should be considerably more enjoyable than Francis Wey’s description.
The walk is about 2.5 miles and will take between two and a quarter, and two and a half hours.
The following dates for my tour of Wapping are available to book on Eventbrite. Click on any of the dates to go to the site where they can be book.
Bankside to Pickle Herring Street – History between the Bridges
This walk explores the remarkable history of Bankside and Southwark between Blackfriars and Tower Bridges.
Looking at how the river bank along the River Thames has developed, and using my father’s post-war photos to show just how much the area has changed, and what was here when this was a working part of the river.
From the sites of Roman discoveries to recent development of old wharfs and warehouses, the walk will explore pubs, theatres, Thames stairs, lost streets, the impact of electricity generation, fires, alleys, and the people who lived and worked along the river.
The walk will also look at how being opposite the City of London led Bankside and Southwark on a unique path through history.
Lasting around two and a quarter hours, the walk will start near Blackfriars Bridge and end at Tower Bridge.
Full details of the meeting point will be sent in the week prior to the walk.
Dates for 2023 will be added soon.
The South Bank – Marsh, Industry, Culture and the Festival of Britain
In the 70th anniversary year of the Festival of Britain, come and discover the story of the Festival, the main South Bank site, and how a festival which was meant to deliver a post war “tonic for the nation” created a futuristic view of a united country, and how the people of the country were rooted in the land and seas.
We will also discover the history of the South Bank of the Thames, from Westminster to Blackfriars Bridges, today one of London’s major tourist destinations, and with the Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre, also a significant cultural centre.
Along the South Bank we will discover a story of the tidal river, marsh, a Roman boat, pleasure gardens, industry, housing and crime. The South Bank has been the centre of governance for London, and the area is an example of how wartime plans for the redevelopment of London transformed what was a derelict and neglected place.
Lasting around 2 hours, the walk will start by Waterloo Station and end a short distance from Blackfriars Bridge.
At the end of the walk, we will have covered almost 2,000 years of history, and walked from a causeway running alongside a tidal marsh, to the South Bank we see today.
Dates and links for booking are:
The Lost Streets of the Barbican
On the evening of the 29th December 1940, one of the most devastating raids on London created fires that destroyed much of the area north of St Paul’s Cathedral and between London Wall, almost to Old Street.
The raid destroyed a network of streets that had covered this area of Cripplegate for centuries. Lives, workplaces, homes and buildings were lost. Well-known names such as Shakespeare and Cromwell and their connection with the Barbican and Cripplegate will be discovered, as well as those lost to history such as the woman who sold milk from a half house, and that artisan dining is not a recent invention.
Out of wartime destruction, a new London Wall emerged, along with the Barbican and Golden Lane estates that would dominate post-war reconstruction. Destruction of buildings would also reveal structures that had been hidden for many years.
On this walk, we will start at London Wall, and walk through the Barbican and Golden Lane estates, discovering the streets, buildings and people that have been lost and what can still be found. We will explore post-war reconstruction, and look at the significant estates that now dominate the area.
Lasting just under two hours, by the end of the walk, we will have walked through almost 2,000 years of this unique area of London, the streets of today, and the streets lost to history.
Dates and links for booking are:
I will be adding new dates for the above tours, and new tours in the coming weeks and months which will be listed on this page.