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The Historic Houses, Gardens, and Walks Gay Group

Pictures courtesy of London-GB.com

EARLIER WALKS AND VISITS

Hyde Park & Knightsbridge

Starting at Hyde Park Corner the first stretch of the walk runs through Hyde Park, before turning south to explore the garden squares and mews of one of the most affluent areas of the capital, Knightsbridge. The walk finishes at the Star Tavern in Belgravia, associated in the 1960s with a criminal and showbiz clientele.

Clerkenwell and its LGBTQ heritage

April’s Walk explored the Clerkenwell district of London with particular emphasis on its links with the LGBTQ+ heritage.  So as well as buildings of architectural and historical interest such as Florin Court (TV home of Hercule Poirot) and the Charterhouse, both located on Charterhouse Square, and St John’s Gate, one of the few tangible remains from Clerkenwell's monastic past, we visited the sites of the Dream City Cinema, the London Lesbian and Gay Centre, Trade Nightclub, and Mother Claps Molly House. The walk finished at the Sir John Oldfield pub, near Farringdon Station, not far from the site of Chariots Sauna.

Stamford Brook to Kew Bridge via Chiswick House

This walk explored a stretch of the north bank of the River Thames starting at Chiswick Mall and finishing at Kew Bridge. The first important section of the walk was along Chiswick Mall which has several claims to fame, as well as now being lined with attractive houses. In 1864, John Isaac Thornycroft, founder of the John I. Thornycroft & Company shipbuilding company, established a yard at Church Wharf at the west end of Chiswick Mall. The shipyard built the first naval destroyer, HMS Daring of the Daring class, in 1893. The gardens of Bedford House on Chiswick Mall were the original site of the Griffin Brewery. Beer has been brewed in the area for over 350 years. Lastly, the novel Vanity Fair (1847/8) by William Makepeace Thackeray opens at Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies in Chiswick Mall. The last section of the walk was along Strand on the Green. The area is renowned as a particularly picturesque part of London. A footpath runs along the bank of the river, overlooked by numerous imposing 18th-century houses and local pubs. One of the houses overlooking the river (No.65) is marked with a blue plaque noting that the 18th century portrait painter Johann Zoffany lived there at the end of his life. The actor Donald Pleasence lived in Strand-on-the-Green, as did the film director John Guillermin at No.60 (The Dutch House). The newspaper publisher Sir Hugh Cudlipp, and the botanist and explorer of Australia Allan Cunningham have both lived at No.21. The painter Joshua Compston lived at No.75. The musician Midge Ure lived at No.70 (Zachary House) in the 1980s.  Other more recent residents in the area include the actor Rhys Ifans, and the television entertainers Ant and Dec.

Tower Hill to Surrey Quays Walk

This walk explored a stretch of the Thames starting at Tower Hill and extending to Rotherhithe before turning inland to finish at Surrey Quays. Shad Thames at the start of the walk was once an area bustling with shipping and warehouse activity but is now a trendy area with restaurants and apartments.  Rotherhithe too has changed since the demise of the London docks but still retains a village character. It was here that the Mayflower set sail for America in 1620. Surrey Docks once comprised nine docks, six timber ponds, and a canal, but much of the area was drained in the 1970s. The only surviving areas of open water were Greenland Dock, South Dock, remnants of Canada Dock (renamed Canada Water), and a basin renamed Surrey Water. British Land is now working with Southwark Council to bring forward a mixed use development for the Canada Water Masterplan, as part of a new town centre for the area

St James’s Walk – Green Park to Trafalgar Square

After 300 years of constant building and rebuilding St James’s is a honeycomb of hidden passages, alleyways, courts and mews. This walk explored the heart of this exclusive and fascinating enclave, starting at Green Park and finishing at the Lord Moon of the Mall pub, just off Trafalgar Square.

River Thames Walk – Westminster Bridge to Tower Hill

This walk explored the north bank of the River Thames between Westminster and Tower Hill. This covered several of the bridges across the river, a number of historic buildings closely linked with the riverside activities, and lastly some of the famous people associated with the river.

Bloomsbury People - Warren Street to Chancery Lane

This walk explored the many famous people associated with the Bloomsbury district of London.  Besides the Bloomsbury Group, noted for their artistic activities as well as their flexible and complex sexual relationships, the area has been home to scientists, physicians, military figures, and many more. Starting at Warren Street tube station, the walk finished at the Penderel’s Oak pub near Chancery Lane station.

A Legal Walk - Blackfriars to Chancery Lane

In this walk we explored an area strongly associated with the legal profession, both past and present.  The walk started at the Black Friar pub in Blackfriars, an important political and religious centre during medieval times. En route we visited the site of the Bridewell House of Correction; the Old Bailey; Newgate Prison and St Sepulchure’s Church; the Royal Courts of Justice; Lincoln’s Inn Fields; and High Holborn, Staple Inn and the London Silver Vaults, before finishing at the Penderel's Oak pub near Chancery Lane tube station.

Westminster Abbey to Westminster Cathedral via Petty France

Designed to link Buckingham Palace & Belgravia with Whitehall & Westminster, Victoria Street was one of the four major streets created in the 19th century. An apt description is 'once lined with second-rate Victorian architecture; now lined with third-rate modern architecture'. Consequently the walk mainly avoided Victoria Street itself but instead took in the back streets to the north covering themes of education, housing, healthcare, law & order, industry, transport, religion and leisure. The walk finished near Victoria station, not far from the Willow Walk pub.

Westminster Abbey to Westminster Cathedral via Millbank

This walk explored the area south of Westminster Abbey an area once strongly associated with politics.  This includes Smith Square where the Labour and Conservative Parties once had their headquarters, Cowley Street, once the HQ of the Liberals Democrats, and Lord North Street, where many politicians have lived down the years. On route to Westminster Cathedral, Marsham Street and Tufton Street were linked to the movement for women’s suffrage.

The Flaming City Walk: Monument to Farringdon

This linear walk traced the route of the Great Fire of 1666, an event that created a demand for new furniture! Londoners in the 17th century must have wondered what had hit them when, within months of fighting off the Great Plague, a fire of monumental proportions began at a bakery in Pudding Lane. It took five days to contain the fire, partly because of the high number of houses with timber roofs and the rudimentary fire-fighting equipment available at the time. The event at least offered an opportunity to give the City a facelift but, due to the sheer cost and to property rights, most of the rebuilding followed the original street lines. It did, however, create a safer, more sanitary capital than before, and with the new houses came a demand for new furniture, which was excellent news for cabinet-makers. Perhaps one of the most common items produced by a cabinet-maker was the table, candle-stands and mirror ensemble, which had been introduced from France and soon became a standard item of furniture in many English homes. Cabinets were made by skilled craftsmen and therefore more expensive. However, the same techniques were later used for chests of drawers. To meet heavy demands furniture was, for the first time, offered across a range of quality and price. Brisk trade with North America, the East Indies, East India and the Far East introduced new styles such as lacquer-ware. Although France led the way in furniture design, Oriental items such as screens were very popular. Most Londoners made do with 'japanned' furniture that was varnished in a cheaper imitation of lacquer, many of which survive today. Cane chairs too, were introduced from the Far East and most middle class homes had one or more of these so-called 'English chairs'. With the demand for furniture of all types and to match all pockets, the working life of a tradesman in the late 1600s was a happy one indeed.

Stratford to Stepney Green

This walk took us back to East London to explore part of  the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which in summer is awash with prairie type planting, before heading to the Hertford Union Canal, to the south of Victoria Park, and then along part of the Regent's Canal, bounding the Millennium Park. The walk finished at the Half Moon Pub near Stepney Green tube station.

Highgate to Hampstead Heath and Kenwood House

This walk took us to North London to explore a little of Highgate Village , before we made our way to Hampstead Heath and hence to Kenwood House. The latter has undergone extensive refurbishment in recent years but still has free entry. The architect Robert Adam described Kenwood as ‘a beautiful villa belonging to Lord Mansfield, the friend of every elegant art and useful science’. The villa that Adam remodelled in the 1760s and 1770s stands in 74 acres of gardens and woodland affording fine views towards the City of London , and is home to a renowned collection of paintings. There are also good refreshment facilities here, which is where the walk ended.

Riverside London Walk - St Paul's to Tower Hill

This walk explored the stretch of the River Thames running from St Paul's Cathedral to the Tower of London, encompassing both the north and south banks of the river. Starting at St Paul's the sights en route included the College of Arms, the Millennium Bridge, the Tate Modern, Southwark, Canon Street and London Bridges, the Fishmongers Hall, St Katherine's Wharf, Trinity House and of course the Tower of London.

Regent's Canal Walk - Haggerston to Stepney Green

This walk was an opportunity to explore the stretch of the Regent's Canal running from Haggerston to Mile End. The Regent's Canal was built to link the Grand Junction Canal's Paddington Arm, which opened in 1801, with the Thames at Limehouse.  One of the directors of the canal company was the famous architect John Nash.  Nash was friendly with the Prince Regent, later King George IV, who allowed the use of his name for the project.  The Regent's Canal today is a mixture of commercial and residential living.  You are as likely to see warehouses as townhouses. The final section of the canal walk encompassed Victoria Park with its Chinese Pagoda as well as the Millennium linear park.

Whitehall Park and Holloway Road

The Whitehall Park Conservation Area lies immediately below the Highgate-Hornsey Ridge (along which runs Hornsey Lane) and slopes considerably, falling from north to south. The streets south of Hornsey Lane were laid out as a late Victorian residential estate and tend to fan out slightly, following the contour pattern of the slope. The area includes a variety of residential properties with differing architectural qualities and styles. Whitehall Park contains the grandest houses with the best views, mainly large 3-storey, late Victorian, red brick terrace properties with Westmoreland slated mansard roofs, cast iron decorative railings and gabled dormer windows and, on the end houses, significant turrets. Gladsmuir and Harberton Roads consist of similar, but less grand houses than Whitehall Park. The properties on these three streets are of exceptional architectural merit. Fitzwarren Gardens and some Hornsey Lane houses contain good examples of high quality 1920’s semi-detached family dwellings some with strong influence of Lutyens and Voysey.  This is therefore a particularly desirable residential area, in close proximity to Highgate to the north and Highbury & Islington to the south. Holloway Road - the A1- on the other hand is one of the busiest roads in London.  However it has a variety of interesting architecture, as well as cultural links ranging from John Betjeman, Edward Lear and Mr Pooter to Joe Meek, a pioneering record producer.

Angel Islington to Highbury Corner via the Regent's Canal

This walks started near the historic Angel road junction, heading to one end of the Islington Tunnel and the Regents Canal, the latter lined with house boats on one side and modern apartments on the other, before turning back to Essex Road via the attractive Arlington Square and recently renovated Union Square.  Having skirted St Mary's church, the walk continued towards Canonbury, briefing encompassing a stretch of the New River, before finishing near Highbury Corner.

East to West India Quay

One of the attractions of Docklands is the juxtaposition of new and old, evident on this 3 mile walk. The walk began at East India and finished at West India Quay - both DLR stations.  (The Wetherspoon pub "The Ledger Building" is quite nearby.) En route there was the opportunity to visit Trinity Buoy Wharf, recently described as "Dockland's Most Exciting Arts Quarter", but once best known as the site of London's only lighthouse. The East India Dock Basin is the last remaining section of the once grand East India Docks, famous for transporting spices from the Far East in the 1880's. Now the site is a nature reserve. The warehouses at West India Quay were once used to store imported goods from the West Indies, such as tea, sugar and rum. Both of the two remaining warehouses are now Grade 1 listed.

Finsbury Park (Manor House) to Highbury Fields

This walk started at Finsbury Park in north London and finished at Highbury Fields. The part of London called Finsbury is in fact much further south, near the City, but the initiators of the park lived in Finsbury and thought it would be nice to be remembered in this roundabout manner. The park itself soon became a setting for important demonstrations such as pacifist rallies during the First World War, and much later a popular venue for open-air music events featuring amongst others Bob Dylan, the  Sex Pistols and Oasis. Further south is Highbury Square, once the home of Arsenal FC, and now a residential complex. The football club moved to the nearby Emirates Stadium in 2006.  Residential growth began in Highbury in the 1770s with the building of 39 houses in Highbury Place. The elegant houses which now surround the Fields are particularly good examples of Georgian and Victorian town houses. The walk ended there, not far from the J D Wetherspoon PH "The White Swan".

Walking with Communists

Frederich Engels left Manchester in disgust after the 1868 elections – the first in which the proletariat were entitled to vote – because they’d all voted Tory as they hated the Irish. ‘The proletariat have made an awful fool of themselves,’ he said. He moved to 122 Regent’s Park Road in Primrose Hill. It is therefore appropriate that Ralph Milliband, the Marxist intellectual, should have set up home here, and it is of course here that the current Labour leader, Ed Milliband, grew up. Starting in Regents Park, with its grand Regency villas, the walk took us to Primrose Hill, and hence to Hampstead Heath in order to explore the links of the area with those pillars of the left, Marx and Engels.

City Walls Walk

For nearly 1500 years the physical growth of the City of London was limited by its defensive wall. The first wall was built by the Romans in about AD200 and formed the foundation of the later City wall. With the exception of a medieval realignment in the Blackfriars’ area, the City wall from the Tower to Blackfriars retained its original line unaltered over the centuries. From the 17th century, as London expanded rapidly in size, the Wall was no longer necessary for defence. Much of it was demolished in the 18th and 19th centuries and where sections survived they became buried under shops and warehouses. During the 20th century however several sections have been revealed by excavations and preserved. This walk followed the course of the wall from Blackfriars to the Tower of London, finishing at the Liberty Bounds pub on Trinity Square.

Dalston

In April 2009 the Guardian published an article claiming that Dalston was the “coolest” place to live in Britain. "For architectural beauty, cleanliness, stench factor, road safety and trying to walk at a normal pace down the pavement, definitely not. For being somewhere exciting, absolutely." In fact, this does something of a disservice to the area, which architecturally is a mixture of 18th and 19th century terraced houses and 20th century council estates. The grand houses of De Beauvoir Square have long been popular with those who could not afford Islington. This was because of poor public transport links. However the development of the London Overground has transformed the transport situation, so that gentrification is now proceeding apace. Other places of interest include Fassett Square, inspiration for the BBC soap “East Enders”, the Peace Mural adjoining the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, and “Snake Park”, home to the blue snake, a large mosaic play and art feature which dwells in the play area.

Medical Meander – Euston Square to Lincolns Inn Fields

Bloomsbury , the area between Euston Road in the north and High Holborn in the south, is renowned for its literary connections, as well as having many attractive Georgian terraces. However, starting at Euston Square and finishing near Chancery Lane, this themed walk concentrated on the area’s association with the medical profession, exploring medical history from the 17th century to the present day.

St Pancras

For many centuries, the name St Pancras was used for various officially designated areas of London, which today encompass Camden Town, Somers Town, and the recently redeveloped Kings Cross area. The original focus of St Pancras was St Pancras Old Church, which is in the southern half of the parish, and is believed by many to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in Great Britain. However, in the 14th century the population abandoned the site and moved to Kentish Town. In the 1790s Earl Camden began to develop some fields to the north and west of the Old Church and this became known as Camden Town. In the mid 19th century two major railway stations were built to the south of the Old Church, one of them called St Pancras and the other King's Cross. A residential district was built to the south and east of the church, but it is usually known as Somers Town. The term St Pancras is sometimes applied to the immediate vicinity of St Pancras Station, but King's Cross is the usual name for the area around the two mainline stations as a whole. However, away from the hustle and bustle of the main line stations, there are oases of tranquillity, including the Camley Street wildlife nature reserve, the St Pancras Gardens with the so-called “Hardy Tree”, the St Martin’s Gardens (former burial ground of St Martin’s–in-the-Fields church), as well as the smaller Oakley Square and Harrington Squares gardens.

Kennington Oval to Elephant & Castle

Property in Kennington has belonged to the Duchy of Cornwall since the time of James I. However widespread residential development did not begin to the 17th century, and continued well into the 20th century.  Unfortunately, the area suffered from bomb damage during WW2, and has been blighted by some rather unattractive municipal housing, while many of the fine private houses degenerated into bed-sits. While there have always been enclaves of desirable private housing, and the area's convenience for the House of Commons has attracted MPs, it is only in the last 20 or so years that true gentrification has been evident.  Moreover, redevelopment of the area around the Elephant & Castle should further enhance the area's reputation.

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park, one of the Royal Parks of London, is a former hunting park and was the first to be enclosed (in 1433). It covers 74 hectares (180 acres), and is part of the Greenwich World Heritage Site. It commands fine views over the River Thames, the Isle of Dogs and the City of London. The Park is rich in buildings, monuments, historic sites, and gardens. There is also a small herd of deer.

West Ham Park and Stratford

Stratford is now part of the London Borough of Newham, site of the Olympic Park and the new Westfield Shopping Centre.  However, when the West Ham Park was created in 1874, Stratford was technically part of Essex, though in 1889 it became part of the County Borough of West Ham. (The borough was notable as being the first Labour control council in England.) The park has been managed by the Corporation of London since its creation.  Though there are various sports facilities on the 77 acre site, of more importance to the visitor are the 7 acre Ornamental Gardens. The walk started and finished in Stratford so to and from the park there were a number of buildings of architectural, cultural or historic significance.

South Kensington

While perhaps best known for its museums, South Kensington covers some of the most exclusive residential real estate in the world. It is home to large numbers of French expatriates (mainly employed in the financial City centre), but also Spanish, Italian, American, and Middle-Eastern citizens. Development of the area began at the beginning of the 19th century but the overwhelming majority of the housing which we see today was built, predominantly in the Italianate style, in the second half of the century on land belonging to the Henry Smith Charity Trustees, under the direction of one man, Sir Charles James Freake. Nevertheless, other developers built in the area, most notably The Boltons, part of the Estate of the Robert Gunter the Elder and Younger. It was here that Beatrix Potter lived as a young child.

Southwark – A Dickens Childhood

In 1824 Dickens’ father was imprisoned for debt at the Marshalsea Prison in Southwark. Charles, aged 12, was forced to leave school and start work in a blacking warehouse to support his family. He felt abandoned, recalling that “It is wonderful to me how I could have been so easily cast away ... My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so, if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar school, and going to Cambridge.” For years Dickens told no-one, before confiding in his close friend John Forster that the devastating experience had haunted him his whole life: “My whole nature was so penetrated with the grief and humiliation ... that even now, famous and caressed and happy, I often forget in my dreams that I have a dear wife and children ... and wander desolately back to that time of my life”. The walk explored the Southwark Dickens knew during his childhood, the experiences he had and the influences the borough had on his work.

Camberwell

Up to the mid 19th century, Camberwell was visited by Londoners for its rural tranquillity and the reputed healing properties of its mineral springs, but like much of inner South London, Camberwell was transformed by the arrival of the railways in the 1860s. The exodus of middle class families resulted in many of its fine Georgian properties becoming houses in multiple occupation, home to a tightly knit working class community. However, in recent decades streets such as Camberwell Grove have turned full circle, back to middle class affluence. Camberwell today is therefore a mixture of relatively well preserved Georgian and 20th century housing, including a number of tower blocks. The walk explored some of the best preserved Georgian houses in London, as well as Camberwell Green, a small area of common land which was once a traditional village green on which was held an annual fair of ancient origin which rivalled that of Greenwich. The walk finished in Ruskin Park, convenient for the Wetherspoon pub “Fox on the Hill” and Denmark Hill rail station.

Kensal Green to Little Venice

Originally part of one of the ten manors within the district of Willesden, Kensal Green is first mentioned in 1253, translating from old English meaning the King’s Holt (King’s Wood). Its location marked the boundary between Willesden and the then Chelsea & Paddington. In the 15th century the then Archbishop of Canterbury Henry Chichele (1414–1443), acquired lands in Willesden and Kingsbury. In 1443 he founded All Souls College, Oxford, and endowed it with the same lands in his will. Consequently, most of Willesden and Kensal Green remained largely agricultural until the mid-1800s, well into the Victorian era. In 1805, the construction of the Grand Junction Canal passed through the district to join the Regent's Canal at Paddington. As the combined Grand Union Canal, this allowed passage of commercial freight traffic from the Midlands to London Docks, and hence onwards to the River Thames. The walk mainly followed the towpath along the section of the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal between Kensal Green and Little Venice.

Barnsbury

The area known as Barnsbury, west of Upper Street Islington, was predominantly rural until the early 19th century. The name is a corruption of villa de Iseldon Berners (1274), being so called after the Berners family - powerful medieval manorial lords who gained ownership of a large part of Islington after the Norman Conquest. Though developed in the 1820s-1840s, soon after the railways tempted people further out and until the 1960s the area was out of favour. This meant that its attractive villas, terraces and squares, in a variety of styles, escaped “improvement”. Like many areas of inner London, Barnsbury became gentrified in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, in the late 1990s a new group of super wealthy professionals, working in the City of London, started to impose their mark in a way which differentiates them and the area from traditional gentrifiers and the traditional urban upper classes. This concept has been dubbed “super-gentrification”. The area also proved attractive to those associated with the media and in particular New Labour, though of course Tony Blair has long since left the area.

Hackney

The principal landowners of Hackney in the Middle Ages were the Order of St John of Jerusalem, but in Tudor times the lands were seized by the Crown and Hackney became a retreat for the nobility. (The oldest surviving house in Hackney, Sutton House, was built by a Tudor diplomat, Sir Ralph Sadleir.) The village of Hackney flourished from Tudor to late Georgian times as a rural retreat. However, this was brought to an end with the arrival of the railways in the 1850s, leading to extensive industrialisation. Post-war development and immigration totally transformed the image of the area, but many Georgian and Victorian terraces are now being gentrified, and new up-market housing has been built.  Moreover the Borough of Hackney has been described as the greenest borough in inner London, with over 62 parks and open spaces, covering 815 acres.

Regent’s Park and St John’s Wood

As the name implies, St John’s Wood was once a wooded area owned by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. The area developed in the 19th century with the formation of Regent's Park and the construction of the Canal. There are attractive buildings in a wide variety of styles to be seen. The former churchyard of St John's Wood Church has been made into a pleasant park. The London Central Mosque with its copper dome and minaret was built in 1977. The area is however perhaps best known as the site of Lords Cricket Ground and as the home of someone who never existed, namely Sherlock Holmes, who lived at 221B Baker Street with Dr Watson his friend and Mrs Hudson his housekeeper.

The walk started at Baker Street tube station, skirted Regents Park, and eventually finished near St John’s Wood station, having explored some of the best streets in the area, where the cost of a house is measured in million of pounds.

 “Light at the end of the Tunnel” – Vauxhall to Waterloo

“Light at the End of the Tunnel” was a masterplan, launched in 2002, to deal with the six miles of railway viaduct with nearly 1000 arches in South London, transforming the environment from intimidating spaces into bright, safe passageways and innovatively renovated arches. The walk explored the section from Vauxhall station to Waterloo station.

Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury was laid out between the late 17th and early 19th centuries, mainly by the Dukes of Bedford, and became a highly fashionable area. Bedford Square is probably the finest surviving Georgian Square in London. The district has of course been long associated with those who lived an alternative life style – the Bloomsbury Group of artists and writers. However the district has also has strong links with a variety of other famous people including J M Barrie (creator of Peter Pan), Isaac D’Israeli (father of the Prime Minister Benjamin), Oscar Wilde, Charles Darwin, and George Orwell - the University of London Senate House was the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth. The walk explored both Bloomsbury’s architectural heritage and its people.

The Canary Wharf Estate

The walk explored the history of the West India and Poplar Docks.  Outraged at losses due to theft and delays at London's riverside wharves, Robert Milligan, a prominent English merchant and ship-owner, headed a group of powerful businessmen who planned and built West India Docks, which was to have a monopoly on the import into London of West Indian produce such as sugar, rum and coffee for a period of 21 years.  The Docks' foundation stone was laid in July 1800, when Milligan was Deputy Chairman of the West India Dock Company - his strong connections with the political establishment of the day were evident from those attending the ceremony – the Lord Chancellor Lord Loughborough and Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger as well as Company chairman George Hibbert and himself.  The Docks officially opened just over two years later in August 1802.  Poplar Docks, though initiated by the West India Dock Company, never came under the control of the Port of London Authority as it was classed as a railway facility.  It was eventually sold to the London Docklands Development Corporation by British Rail in 1983.

The City Gardens

Though only a square mile in area, at least nominally, the City of London has a huge number of immaculately tended gardens, often used by city workers for their lunch-time breaks. Most are relatively small in size, with a good few occupying the sites of former churchyards, or even churches destroyed in the Great Fire or later years. Starting at Liverpool Street station, the walk was essentially circular, albeit finishing near Bank tube station.

Golders Green to Hampstead via the Hill Garden

The walk started in Golders Hill Park, which was opened to the public in 1898 and has been managed as a discrete and historically important part of Hampstead Heath by the City of London since 1989. Beautiful plant displays enhance the peaceful setting of the Mediterranean and water gardens. There is even a free zoo!.

The Hill Garden is one of London's hidden treasures. In its current form it is basically the creation of Lord Leverhulme who lived at what is now called "Iverforth House", then called "The Hill", a huge Edwardian mansion he built just off North End Way, Hampstead. The garden incorporates a magnificent Edwardian extravaganza, the Pergola, which would be the setting for garden parties and summer evening strolls and be a striking addition to the existing garden of the house. Though the house now comprises luxury flats, the gardens at the rear can be viewed from the Pergola Walk, which then leads to the another beautifully manicured formal garden, which like the Pergola itself, is open to the public for free.

Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park

London is renowned for the large green swathes of parks which punctuate its centre. This walk explored two of the most extensive, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Kensington Gardens were in fact part of Hyde Park until 1689 when William III commissioned Wren to extend an existing house on the site of what is now called Kensington Palace - the king and his wife Mary intensively disliked Whitehall Palace down by the Thames. Besides the palace Kensington Gardens are notable for the Italian Gardens, created in Victorian times, and the “Peter Pan” statue donated by the author J M Barrie in 1912. In the Serpentine Pavilion 2011 the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has created a garden within a garden, which we visited.  There was not time to visit the Albert Memorial so the next point of interest en route was the Diana Fountain in Hyde Park. Adjacent to this is “Isis”, a large bronze by the British sculptor Simon Gudgeon. Further along, just beyond the end of the Serpentine, is the Holocaust memorial erected in 1983, and further still the “Achilles” statue of 1822 (a tribute to the Duke of Wellington). North of this is the new 7 July memorial, unveiled in 2009. The walk ended at the Queen Elizabeth Gate (1993) by the metal artist / sculptor Giusseppe Lund.

Paddington Basin and Little Venice

Paddington Basin was opened in 1801 to provide a link from London to the rest of the country via the Grand Junction Canal (now called the Grand Union Canal). Later, Paddington Station and the Great Western Railway were built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1837. Queen Victoria made her first railway journey to Paddington in 1842. Paddington Basin is over 400 metres long and about 30 metres wide. The building of the canal and the railway changed Paddington from a small village on the edge of London to one of its main industrial areas. It was surrounded by warehouses and industry, including wharves for hay, salt, coal, china, glass, bricks, timber, manure and beer. Rubbish from all over London was brought here and taken by barge to be dumped at sea. By late Victorian times, it was already a very unpleasant place!

By the end of the 20th century the area had become an industrial ruin, rundown and neglected. In January 2000, Paddington Basin was drained for the first time since 1909 at the start of a large building project to improve the area. There are now many new offices, flats, shops and restaurants next to the canal. There are new towpaths for walking, linking the basin to Little Venice to the north.

Maida Avenue, Warwick Crescent and Blomfield Road, the streets in the south of Maida Vale overlooking Browning's Pool, including the section of Randolph Avenue south of Clifton Gardens, are known as Little Venice. The name is believed to have been coined by the English poet Robert Browning who lived here from 1862 to 1887. Browning's Pool is named after the poet, and is the junction of Regent's Canal and the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal. This is one of London's prime residential areas, and it is also known for its shops and restaurants, as well as the Canal Cafe Theatre, the Puppet Theatre Barge, the Waterside Café and the Warwick Castle pub, where the walk will end.

Bow & Stepney Green

Early in the 12th century Bow was an isolated village, often cut off from the parish church at Stepney by flood.  Permission was therefore granted to build a chapel at ease as a local place of worship. (During the reign of Mary many people were brought by cart from Newgate to be burnt at the stake in front of Bow Church.)  However it was not until the early 18th century that the building became a parish church in its own right.  In 1950 the church was locally listed as a building of historic importance.

In the 17th century Bow developed as a centre for the manufacture of fine bone china, but manufacture ceased in 1770. Bow came again to industrial prominence in the late 19th century when the match girls of the Bryant & May factory went on strike.  Subsequently, the area became closely associated with both the Labour Party and the Suffragette movement.  However the Tredegar Square Conservation area boasts many fine Georgian town houses, which today command high prices.

Stepney grew out of the medieval village surrounding St Dunstan’s church. In the 19th century the area rapidly expanded, mainly to accommodate immigrant workers and displaced London poor, and developed a reputation for poverty, overcrowding, violence and political dissent. It was severely damaged during the Blitz, with over a third of housing totally destroyed; and then, in the 1960s, slum clearance and development replaced most residential streets with tower blocks and modern housing estates. Some Georgian architecture and Victorian era terraced housing survive in patches; the eastern side of Stepney Green is particularly impressive..

The walk explored the most attractive features of both Bow and Stepney, linked by the Mile End linear park, and finished at the Half Moon pub.

Twickenham

While it has been said that famous people never stay long in Twickers, the area is still the base for a number of reasonably famous celebrities, such as Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio, and Steve Hacket, former guitarist with Genesis.  However, despite this slur in its character, Twickenham still has much to offer in terms of historically interesting buildings, and of course an attractive riverside location. The walk centred on the St Maragaret’s district, and included the impressive Marble Hill House, York House (now the HQ of the London Borough of Richmond), the Octagon (all that remains of Orleans House), as well a number of smaller but attractive properties.

Crystal Palace Park

The Great Exhibition, in a building designed by Joseph Paxton, opened in May 1851 in Hyde Park and was a great success. The Crystal Palace, as it became known, was rebuilt in Sydenham in 1852-4 where it was increased in size and set within a park providing additional attractions. It had mixed fortunes until in November 1936 it was destroyed in a spectacular fire. The walk, which is about 3 miles in length, looked at the legacy of the Crystal Palace.

Deptford (Surrey Quays to Greenwich)

Deptford lies on the south bank of the River Thames. It is named after a ford of the River Ravensbourne, and from the mid 16th  century to the late 19th  was home to Deptford Dockyard, the first of the Royal Dockyards. This was a major shipbuilding dock and attracted Peter the Great to come and study shipbuilding. Deptford and the docks are associated with the knighting of Sir Francis Drake by Queen Elizabeth I aboard the Golden Hind, the legend of Sir Walter Raleigh laying down his cape for Elizabeth, Captain James Cook's third voyage aboard Resolution, and the mysterious murder of Christopher Marlowe in a house along Deptford Strand.

Though Deptford began as two small communities, one at the ford, and the other a fishing village on The Thames, Deptford's history and population has been mainly associated with the docks established by Henry VIII. The two communities grew together and flourished while the docks were the main administrative centre of the British Navy, and a few grand houses like Sayes Court, home to diarist John Evelyn, and Stone House on Lewisham Way were erected. The area declined as first the Royal Navy moved out, and then the commercial docks themselves declined until the last dock, Convoys Wharf, closed in 2000.  A major regeneration project for the area by the Richard Rogers Partnership has now been approved.

Pinner

“Pinner”.  No name is more redolent of comfortable Home Counties suburbia. Yet few of London’s villages are more ancient and picturesque. Pinner’s chief glory is its wonderful High Street, a broad sloping thoroughfare stretching uphill from the River Pinn at one end to the parish church at the other. Lined with houses, shops and pubs built over the last four centuries or so, it is a wonderful lesson in architectural styles and building materials. Surrounding the old village centre, many of the timber-framed cottages and farms that once lay scattered among fields may now be embedded in modern housing developments, but the best of them are still well worth seeing.

Perhaps the most famous resident of Pinner was William Heath Robinson, the cartoonist and illustrator, whose name is now synonymous with complex and implausible contraptions.  The house he occupied from 1913 to 1918 also featured on the walk.

Alexandra Palace to Highgate

Alexandra Palace was built in an area between Hornsey, Muswell Hill and Wood Green in North London, England, in 1873 as a public centre of recreation, education and entertainment and as North London's counterpart to the Crystal Palace in South London. The Great Hall and West Hall are used as an exhibition centre and conference centre operated by the trading arm of the charitable trust that owns the building and park on behalf of the public. There is also an ice-skating rink. Since 1995 the palace has been a Grade II listed building. Designed to be ‘The People’s Palace’ and later nicknamed "Ally Pally" (allegedly by Gracie Fields), in 1936 it became the headquarters of the world's first regular public 'high definition' television service, operated by the BBC. The vast, tree-lined sloping hill has wide views over London. On a clear day, the Crystal Palace Transmitter in the London Borough of Bromley is visible.

The walk continued through Highgate Woods along part of the “London Loop”, finishing near Highgate tube station, and passing en route the modernist “Highpoint” development.

Tower Hill to Rotherhithe via Shad Thames

Shad Thames, also known as Butler’s Wharf, was once the largest warehouse complex on the Thames.  During the 20th century the area went into decline as congestion forced shipping to unload goods further east, and the last warehouses closed in 1972. However, Shad Thames was regenerated in the 1980s and 1990s, and is now a bustling mix of expensive flats, restaurants, bars, shops, etc.  Rotherhithe was originally a low-lying area known as Redriff, which became a tight-knit community of shipbuilders and sailors until the closure of the docks in 1970. The old village around the church is nevertheless attractive and has been designated as a conservation area.

Richmond to Kew Bridge via Old Isleworth and Syon Park

Part of this walk follows the Capital Ring, a network of walks which encircle London, and it therefore mainly encompasses the north bank of the Thames (thereby complementing an early walk which followed the south bank).  From Richmond Lock, it twists through the attractive village of Old Isleworth, sometimes away from the river, before continuing through Syon Park, passing the great mansion of the Dukes of Northumberland.  The walk continues to Old Brentford, before finishing at the Express Tavern by Kew Bridge.

Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead Cemetery is perhaps the least known but most attractive as well as being the second largest of London's Victorian cemeteries.  This pleasant 52-acre cemetery is a tranquil wilderness. Its formal avenue of towering limes and the Gothic gloom of original Victorian planting give way to paths which recall country lanes of a bygone era.  An Anglican chapel overlooks a large woodland area. Ash and sycamore conceal headstones, angels and impressive gothic tombs.  Four hundred interesting personalities were laid to rest at Nunhead between 1840 and 1998.

A Thames Walk- Richmond to Kew along the south bank

Richmond, Surrey, takes its name from Richmond Castle in Yorkshire, the ancestral home of the Earl of Richmond, better known as Henry VII.  Royal palaces had in fact existed here since 1383, when Richard II made Sheen his main residence.  By 1649 Henry’s palace was no longer in residential use; and by 1779 the bulk of it had decayed, yet there are a few surviving structures which will form part of the walk.  However, the walk principally runs along the south bank of the River Thames, with the Old Deer Park and Kew Gardens on the right and, looking across the river, Old Isleworth on its left.  The walk finished at Kew Bridge.

Inns of Court

The walk centred around London’s four ancient Inns of Court where barristers first train and then practise.  The four Inns are: Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn.  Apart from the inns and their old courts and quiet gardens, features on the walk includd St Clement Danes Church, the law courts in the Strand, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and Staple Inn.

Hammersmith to Chiswick

Chiswick established itself on the north bank of the Thames a few miles west of London.  Its one and only street – Church Street – led north away from the river towards the main road heading west out of London.

The village tended to regard the river as its main livelihood.  The parish church was dedicated to the patron saint of fishermen – Nicholas – and a ferry ran from the foot of Church Street until 1934, the year after Chiswick Bridge opened.

From as early as the mid 15th century Chiswick was known to city-dwellers as an attractive and healthy place to live.  The Russell family, later Dukes of Bedford, lived to the west of the village from 1542.  In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, people began to build fine houses in Church Street and along the riverside lane, which eventually became Chiswick Mall, one of the finest riverside promenades along the Thames.

The walk in fact stretched from Hammersmith Bridge all along the riverside as far as Chiswick Wharf, before turning inland to see Chiswick House, a fine Palladian style villa, Hogarth House, where the artist lived from 1749 to his death in 1764.  It finished at the Tabord Pub, a grade 2 listed building near Turnham Green tube station.

Highgate

Historically Highgate adjoined the Bishop of London's hunting estate.  The Bishop kept a tollhouse where one of the main northward roads out of London entered his land.  A number of pubs sprang up along the route, one of which, the Gatehouse, commemorates the tollhouse.  In the 1500s wealthy merchants and lawyers from London were attracted by its healthy position and fantastic views.  One such resident was Sir Roger Cholmeley who ideas for founding a grammar school eventually led to the public school now known as Highgate School.

The walk provided an opportunity to see a vast range of architecture, ranging from the red-brick Victorian school, through grand Georgian houses, half-timbered mansion blocks built for “lady workers”, the gothic Holly Village development, and the modernist Highpoint I and Highpoint II, designed by Berthold Lubetkin.

Harrow-on-the-Hill

Harrow-on-the-Hill must be the most conspicuous village in London.  Perched on the top of a high hill, largely bare for three-quarters of its circumference, it is visible for miles around.  The 60-metre spire of St Mary’s Church rising up above the trees further advertises its presence.  When the trees lose their leaves previously blocked vistas open out.  This walk took in some glorious panoramas of north-west London, including one celebrated in verse by Lord Byron.  The village itself consists of Georgian and Regency buildings, nearly all catering to the needs of the famous Harrow Public School.

Highgate Cemetery (East)

When burial conditions in London became intolerable in the early 19th Century, Parliament authorised the creation of seven private cemeteries (the so-called Magnificent Seven) within the periphery of inner London.  Of these Highgate was opened in 1839 (the West Cemetery) and extended in 1854 (the East Cemetery).  Highgate, like the others, soon became a fashionable place for burials and was much admired and visited.  Today the cemetery's grounds are not only a place of rest for the dead, but also provide a habitat for an abundance of wild life, full of trees, shrubbery and wild flowers. Famous “residents” of the East Cemetery include Douglas Adams (author of the “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”), the actor Sir Ralph Richardson, the comedian Max Wall, the writer George Eliot, the investigative journalist Paul Foot, and of course Karl Marx.

Across the City

This walk snaked its way across the City, starting at Liverpool Street station and finishing near Waterloo.  Among the features en route are the Bevis Mark Synagogue, the “Guerkin”, the Church of St Botolph (which survived the Fire of London), Tower 42 (formerly NatWest Tower), St Margarets Lothbury Church, the Guildhall and St Lawrence Jewry Church, No. 1 Poultry, St Mary-le-Bow Church, the Stationers Hall and the Apothecaries Livery Hall, Blackfriar’s Bridge, the OXO Tower, and the Bernie Spain Gardens.

Bow and Victoria Park

This walk began by exploring the Tredegar Square Conservation Area of Bow, where there are many fine examples of Georgian houses, as well as attractive public buildings.  We also learnt something of the history of the area, and the notable persons associated with it.  Leaving the Mile End Road, the walk then followed the course of the Regent’s Canal to reach Victoria Park, a Grade 2 listed open space.  Though many of the original architectural structures of the park, such as the lido, have now been lost, it still contains some interesting features such as the Burdett-Coutts fountain and the imposing “Dogs of Alcibiades”.

Upper Chelsea and Belgravia

This walk explored the Georgian and early Victorian garden squares of upper Chelsea and Belgravia.  Along the way we met some of the notable characters who have lived there over the years.

Putney and Fulham Walk

This was a circular walk, starting and finishing at Putney Bridge tube station in Fulham, where there was an opportunity to visit Fulham Palace, once the home of the bishops of London, and the associated gardens.  The walk continued on the other side of the River Thames in the section famous for its rowing connections. It then skirted the London Wetland Centre and the Barn Elms area, before heading back towards Putney proper, and finally re-crossing the river back to Fulham.

Regent’s Canal – Islington to Primrose Hill

The Regent's Canal was built to link the Grand Junction Canal's Paddington Arm, which opened in 1801, with the Thames at Limehouse.  One of the directors of the canal company was the famous architect John Nash.  Nash was friendly with the Prince Regent, later King George IV, who allowed the use of his name for the project.  The Regents Canal today is a mixture of commercial and residential living.  You are as likely to see warehouses as townhouses.  This walk explored the stretch from Islington to Regent's Park, finishing in fashionable Primrose Hill.

Tower Bridge to Limehouse

The River Thames has supported human activity from its source to its mouth for thousands of years, providing habitation, water power, food and drink. It has also acted as a major highway both for international trade through the Port of London. The river’s strategic position has seen it at the centre of many events and fashions in British history, earning it a description by John Burns as “Liquid History”.The Port of London stretches along the tidal Thames, from Teddington Lock to the North Sea, with many individual wharfs, docks, terminals and facilities built incrementally over the centuries. As with many similar historic European ports the bulk of activities has steadily moved downstream towards the open sea, as ships have grown larger such that the docks and wharves closest to central London, predominantly to the east, became increasingly redundant and run-down. Regeneration over the past 20-30 years has however transformed the area with new housing and leisure facilities. This walk explored the section from Tower Bridge to the Limehouse Basin, taking in Wapping on route.

Millennium Bridge, Bankside and Southwark

St Paul’s Cathedral epitomises the wealth and power of the City of London. Regulated for centuries by the Corporation of London, the City was no place for the pursuit of pleasure and licentiousness. It was for this reason that the south bank, around Bankside, developed as a centre for theatres, drinking, and other pleasures of the flesh. Starting at St Paul’s the historic buildings and sights included the College of Arms, The Tate Modern, the Bankside Gallery, Hopton’s Almshouses, the Jerwood Space, the Southwark Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Anchor Pub (from which Samuel Peyps watched the destruction of London by the Great Fire of 1666), a full-size replica of the Golden Hinde, Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market,and finally the George Inn, London’s only surviving coaching inn.

Bayswater

Bayswater is one of London's most cosmopolitan areas, with the significant diversity of the local population added to by having one of London's highest concentration of hotels. Notably, there is a significant Arab population towards Edgware Road, a large number of Americans, a substantial Greek community attracted by London's Greek Orthodox Cathedral, the area is also a centre of London's Brazilian community and a substantial local population. Architecturally, the biggest part of the area is made up of Georgian stucco terraces and garden squares, mostly, although not exclusively, divided up into flats. The property ranges from very expensive apartments to small studio flats. There are also purpose built apartment blocks dating from the inter-war period as well as more recent developments, and a large Council Estate, the 650 flat Hallfield Estate, designed by Sir Denys Lasdun and now largely sold off. Among the garden squares is Connaught Square, whose most famous resident is of course now former Prime Minister Tony Blai

Greenwich

Although Greenwich was established as a fishing port long before the Norman Conquest, its recorded history begins in the 9th century when King Alfred and his daughter granted it to the Abbey of St Peter in Ghent. However Greenwich's real history begins with its acquisition in 1427 by Henry VI's uncle Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Humphrey built a mansion called Bella Court which was subsequently enlarged by the Tudors into the great royal palace of Pacentia, a favourite residence of Henry VIII and birthplace of Elizabeth I. In the 17th century Pacentia was replaced by two new buildings: the early 17th century Queen's House, the first classical domestic building in England, and the later 17th century palace commissioned by Charles I after his restoration. The Queen's House was returned to its former domestic glory in the 1980s, but a subsequent so-called restoration has transformed it into a rather disappointing naval picture gallery. On the other hand the transformation of Charles's palace, into the Royal Hospital for Seaman and Royal Naval College has left behind both the magnificent Painted Hall and a fine College Chapel. In the late 18th and 19th centuries elegant streets were built to the west of the original village, which itself was rebuilt in the 1830s in Regency style. The walk provided an opportunity to visit both the Painted Hall and Naval Chapel, as well as exploring many of the surrounding attractive streets.

Wimbledon

Wimbledon has been one of London’s most select suburbs for over two centuries, but its history goes back to prehistoric times. For instance Caesar’s Camp on the Common is actually an Iron Age hill fort. The village grew up to the east of the Common, on the edge of high ground overlooking the valley of the River Wandle. The church and the rectory stood, as they still do, on the lip of the plateau, enjoying fine views to the north and east, now however obscured by trees and buildings. The manor house joined them later. The two main roads of the village, Church Road and High Street, lay further back between church and common land where the villagers grazed their animals and gathered turf and firewood.

Although over the years there have been four great manor houses built in Wimbledon, not one has survived. Nevertheless other fine houses were built and well into the 19th century Wimbledon’s shopkeepers and tradesmen relied on the custom from these for their living. Then came the railway and with it the tide of building that eventually filled in all the open land between the once-isolated village and central London. Luckily, however, the railway was built in the valley bottom, about half a mile from the centre of the village, so Wimbledon village was able to preserve much of its individual identity.

Bloomsbury to Kings Cross/St Pancras

Bloomsbury was developed by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries into a fashionable residential area. It is notable for its array of gardened squares, its literary connections (exemplified by the Bloomsbury Group), and its numerous hospitals and academic institutions.

The King’s Cross area on the other hand once had a reputation for being a red light district and run-down. However, rapid regeneration since the mid 1990s has rendered this reputation largely out-of-date. Since November 2007 the area has been the terminus of the international rail service at St. Pancras International station where Eurostar trains now arrive and depart to and from France and Belgium. Regeneration continues under the auspices of King's Cross Central which is a very major redevelopment in the north of the area.

Today, Kings Cross most famous export is children’s favourite Harry Potter. Harry’s train to Hogwarts left from platform nine and three quarters.

Brompton Cemetery

The Brompton Cemetery is one of the finest cemeteries in the country. Its listed buildings are set within a formal landscape crowded with monuments and great historic interest. It is also a haven for wildlife including birds, butterflies, foxes and squirrels. The graves of thirteen Victoria Cross holders are to be found in the cemetery, together with many other famous people such as Richard Tauber the Viennese tenor, and Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragette leader, as well as several members of the exiled Russian Royal family. This was also the most popular cemetery for the Polish community in exile in London, with over three hundred buried here, including two Polish Prime Ministers. There are over 35,000 memorials in Brompton Cemetery, including a monument to 2,625 Chelsea Pensioners who were interned here between 1854 and 1893.

The Secret City

Hidden away behind the busy streets and main thoroughfares of the old city of London there exists a secret city of narrow alleyways, timber-framed buildings and hidden courtyards. Behind the hustle and bustle of the 21st century there lies a bygone world of places that have changed little in over a hundred years. The walk provided an opportunity to learn of something of the events and people associated with them.

Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill is both a hill and the name for the surrounding district located on the north side of Regent's Park. From the hill there is a clear view of Central London to the south-east, as well as Belsize Park and Hampstead to the north-west.

Like Regent's Park the area was once part of a great chase appropriated by Henry VIII and became Crown property in 1841. In 1842 an Act of Parliament secured the land as public open space. The built up part of Primrose Hill consists mainly of Victorian terraces. It has always been one of the more fashionable districts in the urban belt that lies between the core of London and the outer suburbs, and remains expensive and prosperous. Notable residents have included the journalist and broadcaster Joan Bakewell, the author Alan Bennett, the model Kate Moss, the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools, the horse racing pundit John McCririck, the current Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the co-founder of Communism Friedrich Engels as well as actors such as Simon Callow, Helena Bonham Carter, Jude Law, Sean Pertwee, and Ewan Macgregor

The Regent's Canal was built in the early 19th Century to link the River Thames at Limehouse to the Grand Union Canal junction at Paddington.

The walk started in Baker Street, passing through Regents Park and on up Primrose Hill before descending to the Regent’s Canal and hence to Little Venice.

The Vanishing Jewish East End (Part II)

This walk explored the history of the Jewish community in the East End of London, encompassing rabbis, radicals and Yiddish Theatre. It began with one of the most beautiful houses in the East End, home to elderly Jews from 1870 to 1913. Other places and buildings of historical interest en route included the Stepney Green Jewish School, the East London Synagogue (built as a great Cathedral Synagogue with a beautiful Byzantine interior, but now flats), the Dunstan Dwellings (once virtually an anarchist commune), Rinkoffs (the last Jewish bakery in the East End), Sidney Street (the scene of London’s most notorious siege), the Fieldgate Street Synagogue (now closed, but until October 2007 one of the few active synagogues left in the area and today dwarfed by one of the largest mosques in Britain), the site of the so-called Hatton Garden of the East End (where 18 jewellery shops were until recently to be found), the site of “Gardiners” (the “Harrods of the East”), ending at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and Library.

Richmond Walk

This walk provided an opportunity spend a relaxing afternoon in one of the most attractive outer London boroughs. Richmond upon Thames possesses a timeless charm, more akin to a village than a town. The name however only goes back to 1501.

When a fire accidentally destroyed the manor-house of Sheen (formerly Shene) belonging to Henry VII, the king built a palace here and renamed it after Richmond in Yorkshire – he was once Earl of Richmond. The gateway of his magnificent Palace, favoured by Elizabeth I, and where she died in 1603, still remains. This can be found on Richmond Green, once the scene of tournaments and pageants, and today surrounded by elegant period houses. Henry VIII lived at Richmond Palace until he moved to neighbouring Hampton Court Palace. More recent residents of the town have included the actor John Mills and his daughters Juliet and Hayley, as well as Mick Jager with his former wife Jerry Hall.

The view from the top of Richmond Hill, a source of inspiration for artists and poets throughout the years, has been protected by an Act of Parliament since 1902, while Richmond Bridge, the oldest spanning the Thames, sits alongside a riverside development which evokes memories of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Squares of Islington

This walk explored some of Islington's many and varied squares and other garden spaces. The 18th-century village of Islington was once a hub of dairy farming, supplying much of London's milk. It was a place of healthy recreation for city-dwellers, with its clean air and the fresh water spas which developed around the New River, built 1609 to 1613 to bring fresh water from Hertfordshire to London. In the early 19th century, as more houses were needed, country estates were broken up and the second wave of London's great network of residential garden squares took shape.

Vauxhall and Pimlico

As well as facing each other on opposite sides of the River Thames, Vauxhall and Pimlico are both characterised by a mix of upmarket private developments and social housing. Moreover both have become popular residential areas for Members of Parliament and civil servants because of their proximity to the Palace of Westminster and Whitehall, though the Thomas Cubitt houses built for the Grosvenor Estate in the early19th century give Pimlico the distinct social edge.

The area now called Vauxhall was, until the mid 18th century, flat and marshy, with parts poorly drained by ditches, and provided market garden produce for the nearby City of London. Though the origins of the name Vauxhall go back to the time of King John the area only became generally known by this name when the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens opened as a public attraction. Though now a major transport hub within minutes of central London, Vauxhall was neglected for many years. Many of its streets were destroyed during German bombing in World War II or ravaged through poor city planning. However in recent years, Vauxhall's riverside has undergone major redevelopment with the construction of a number of modern residential and office blocks, most notably the distinctive MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross

Development of Pimlico began in the early 19th century, when Thomas Cubitt developed the area in the form of a grid, with handsome white terraces (sometimes with mews behind) and large garden squares. Yet as early as the latter half of the century, Pimlico saw the construction of several Peabody Estates - charitable housing projects designed to provide cheap, quality homes for the poor. In addition, in the post-World War II period, several large public housing estates were built in the area - on land cleared by German bombing - and many of the fine Victorian houses were converted to other uses, e.g. bed and breakfast hotels. This led to the area developing an interesting social mix, and an unusual character combining exclusive restaurants and residences with Westminster City Council run facilities and working-class shopping arcades. In 1950, embarrassed by the slums and brothels with which Pimlico had become associated in the press and criminal courts, the Second Duke of Westminster sold the part of the Grosvenor estate on which it is built. Now, as in Central London in general, Pimlico property prices are high, and the area is again fashionable. A large number of houses have once again been put to new use, being divided into one or two bedroom flats intended for young professionals.

A Green Lambeth Walk

This circular walk took in parks, garden squares, churchyards, community gardens and other green spaces of historic interest in Lambeth and west Southwark. The first stop was the church of St John the Evangelist, one of the so-called Waterloo churches built to commemorate Wellington’s victory over Napoleon. Other gardens en route included the Bernie Spain Gardens, named after a local campaigner Bernadette Spain, Christchurch Gardens with its 1960 church built to replace the original destroyed in WWII, the Hopton’s Almshouses complex with its two garden squares, the Gambia Street and Nelson Square community gardens, and the Waterloo Millennium Green. In the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park (perhaps better known as the setting for the Imperial War Museum) was to be found a section of the Berlin Wall, a Soviet War memorial, and a tree trail linking 34 native trees that colonised Britain after the last Ice Age. The final section of the walk took in the Archbishop’s Park, and the gardens of St Thomas’s Hospital.

Mayfair

The districts of Mayfair and Belgravia came into the ownership of the Grosvenor family in 1677 when Sir Thomas Grosvenor married Mary Davies, heiress to part of the ancient manor of Ebury. The northern part of the manor takes its name from the fortnight-long May Fair, held annually until well into the 1700s. In 1720 Sir Richard Grosvenor, the eldest son of Sir Thomas and Mary Davies, started developing the area, beginning with Grosvenor Square. Throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries Mayfair, with the finest residential architecture in London, was the centre of Society. While much this fine architecture remains to be seen in Mayfair, almost all the original houses of Grosvenor Square itself were demolished during the 20th century, and replaced by blocks of flats in a neo-Georgian style, by hotels and by embassies. The very obvious security measures surrounding the US embassy are a further blot on what was once one of London’s finest residential squares.

Famous past residents have included the present monarch Queen Elizabeth II, John Adams, 2nd American president (1735-1826), Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th American president (1890-1969), Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, surgeon and mayor (1836-1917), Elizabeth Barrett Browning, poet (1806-1861), Robert Clive, soldier & administrator (1725-1774), Earl Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister (1804-1881), Sir Robert Peel, prime minister (1788-1850), Sir Henry Pelham, prime minister (1695-1754), Charles James Fox, British statesman (1749-1806), Jimi Hendrix, guitarist & songwriter (1942-1970), William Somerset Maugham, novelist (1874-1965), and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, dramatist (1751-1816).

Clerkenwell

Clerkenwell, once also known as London's "Little Italy" - due to its extensive Italian population from the 1850s to the 1960s - took its name from the Clerk's Well in Farringdon Lane, where in the Middle Ages, the London Parish clerks performed annual mystery plays, based on biblical themes. Later, the Monastic Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem established its English headquarters in the area. In the 17th century Clerkenwell became a fashionable place of residence, but was also the location of three prisons. The Industrial Revolution changed the area greatly, and it became a centre for breweries, distilleries and the printing industry. Clerkenwell Green lies at the centre of the old village, and has historically been associated with radicalism, from the Lollards in the 16th century, the Chartists in the 19th century and communists in the early 20th century. After the Second World War Clerkenwell suffered from industrial decline, but a general revival and gentrification process began in the 1990s, and the area is now known for loft-living young professionals, nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries.

Kensal Green Cemetery

The General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green, is one of Britain's oldest and most beautiful public burial grounds. One of the world's first garden cemeteries, and doyen of London's Magnificent Seven, Kensal Green received its first funeral in January 1833, and still conducts burials and cremations daily. The cemetery was innovative in having most of the site consecrated by the Church of England, but reserving the eastern spur for Dissenters and others to practise their own rites. Over 250,000 people have been laid to rest at the General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green, since 1833, as burials and cremated remains, in graves and catacombs. Amongst princes and paupers, the great and the good, the famous and the infamous, over 1500 notable personalities -- including over 550 with entries in the Dictionary of National Biography -- are buried at Kensal Green, from the children of George III to the servants of Queen Victoria. Engineers and artists, politicians and preachers, scientists and sportsmen, writers and actors, doctors and lawyers, financiers and philanthropists, explorers and wastrels, lie as neighbours in the aptly-named All Souls.

Hampstead Garden Suburb

Hampstead Garden Suburb was inspired by Dame Henrietta Barnett who was married to Samuel Barnett, vicar of St Jude's Whitechapel and founder of Toynbee Hall. The establishment of the suburb followed the campaign to preserve what is now the Hampstead Heath extension. Mrs Barnett wrote an article proposing housing for working classes and larger houses and shops in 1905. The Trust was formed in 1906 with responsibility for house type and plan and street layout. Until 1914 Sir Raymond Unwin was its chief architect. A number of other architects were involved but the Trust's control ensured harmony of character. It is internationally recognised as one of the finest examples of early twentieth century domestic architecture and town planning and is home to approximately 13,000 people.

Exploring the vanishing Jewish East End (Part I)

The walk passed through some of East London’s most handsome Georgian streets, but concentrated on the historic Jewish links with the area which go back to 1656 when Oliver Cromwell allowed Jews to return to England. The walk started outside St Botolph’s, Aldgate, in the ward of Portsoken in the City of London. Situated within the ward is one of the oldest synagogues in England, Bevis Marks. The nearby Petticoat Lane Market was once almost entirely Jewish, while in Brune Street is to be found an expensive apartment block, which was originally the Jewish Soup Kitchen for the Poor. The Jews Free School, founded in the 19th century, was located in adjacent Bell Lane, while the Sandy’s Row Synagogue is one of only four synagogues still active in the East End – there used to be 150! (It is estimated that 120,000 Jews lived in the Borough of Stepney in 1910.)

Among the most prominent members of the Jewish community associated with the area are Bud Flanagan, a member of the Crazy Gang, and Arnold Wesker, the playwright, and of course the Rothschild family, through their charitable support of the Jewish community.

Canonbury to Newington Green

This route, often following the New River, passed through two contrasting 19th century suburbs. Canonbury took its late Georgian form in the early part of the century around a medieval manor. Highbury New Town was developed on a more spacious scale in the later decades. Highbury New Park was one of the two estates laid out in the 1850s, and consisted of large detached and semi-detached houses, often in Italo-Romanesque style. Newington Green, however, was a much earlier urban outpost, starting in the 15th century as a forest clearing. Some of the earliest surviving terraced buildings in London, dating to around 1650, are to be found on the west side of the green. Newington Green was a haven for non-conformists, and the Unitarian Chapel is the old non-conformist chapel still used for worship in the UK. In the late 18th century the minister Dr Richard Price was a friend of many American revolutionaries, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, David Hume and Tom Paine, several of whom visited him on the green. Other famous personalities with links to the area are Daniel Defoe, Samuel Wesley, Mary Wollstonecroft, and Edgar Allen Poe who went to school nearby.

London’s Central Parks

This walk extended from Westminster to Kensington through green swathe made up of four Royal Parks: St James’s Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Places of interest along the route included the Treasury and Foreign Office, the Cabinet War Rooms, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Apsley House (the Wellington Museum) at Hyde Park Corner, the Serpentine, the Peter Pan statue and Speke memorial in Kensington Gardens, where the walk finished. From here it was but a short distance to the pub in Moscow Road!

Rotherhithe & Southwark Park

Rotherhithe was originally a low-lying area known as Redriff. It became a tight-knit community of shipbuilders and sailors until the closure of the docks in 1970. The old village around the church has been designated as a conservation area. The world's first tunnel under a major navigable river was constructed from Rotherhithe. Finishing in Bermondsey, this walk started at the Canada Water tube station and explored Southwark Park and the old riverside village of Rotherhithe in which major restorations and improvements have recently taken place.

Riverside London

This riverside walk started at St Paul’s Cathedral and zigzagged its way back and forth along the north and south banks of the Thames, encompassing a wide range of buildings, young and old. Many of the old warehouses and wharves, once derelict and a sad memorial to the Port of London’s former prosperity, have in recent years undergone a transformation into new offices, shops, restaurants and expensive apartments. Among the buildings en route were the College of Arms, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Southwark Cathedral, Billingsgate Market, the Custom House, the GLA Headquarters, the Tower of London, and St Katherine’s Dock. The walk finished at Butler’s Wharf, now home of the Design Museum.

Kensington and Holland Park

Kensington is an historic village suburb in West London, close to Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens. It is spread out on the south-facing slope of Campden Hill and bisected by its fashionable High Street. While Kensington Palace was in use gentry and nobility dominated the area but when the court moved out, artists and writers settled here. This circular walk started and finished in Kensington High Street and included the parish church, Kensington’s two historic squares (one now 300 years old), Holland House and Park, the Melbury Road artists’ colony centred on Leighton House Museum and Art Gallery, and many attractive streets and houses in a rich variety of architectural styles.

Woolwich

Woolwich, in Kent, situated on the Thames, nine miles from London-bridge - Can be reached by South-Eastern Railway or by the Great Eastern…….. There is no good hotel accommodation in Woolwich, but on the other side of the river dinners are well served at the North Woolwich Gardens Hotel. Woolwich is celebrated for its arsenal. Visitors must be furnished with a ticket from the War Office, obtained by personal application, or by letter to the “Secretary of State for War, War Office, Pall Mall, S.W.,” stating names and addresses, and declaring that they are British subjects. Visitors with tickets are admitted on Tuesday or Thursday between the hours of 10 and 11.30 a.m. and 2 till 4.30 p.m. Foreigners must have special tickets, obtained through their ambassador in London. The four principal departments of the arsenal, which covers 350 acres of ground, are the “Gun” Factory the “Laboratory” the “Carriage,” and “Control” Departments. A Torpedo Department, not open to the public, has recently been added.”

So wrote Charles Dickens in 1879. Things have of course somewhat changed since then. Though many of the original buildings remain, they have found new uses, and of course foreigners no longer need special tickets to visit the site. Besides the Arsenal itself the walk took in buildings of interest in central Woolwich. These are linked to the Royal Arsenal by a riverside walk which includes a new park.

Little Venice

The “Little Venice” district is a tiny exclusive area of about a square mile within London’s Maida Vale district. It comprises ten or so streets of beautiful white stucco buildings, originally built in the 1860’s, plus two little streets of shops, Formosa Street and Clifton Gardens. They all cluster around the Regents Canal Basin, originally constructed by engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel to link with nearby Paddington Station. “Little Venice” proper is so named because three canals meet here. The combination of peace, grace and style together with convenient access to the West End has made it both fashionable and expensive. The later stages of the walk explored the new Paddington Waterside district, a major regeneration project surrounding the Paddington Basin.

Bedford Park

This walk explored a Victorian residential community (Bedford Park) and a 21st century business community (Chiswick Park).

The walk started at the Chiswick Business Park which occupies a 33 acre site that was formerly a London Transport depot. Development by Stanhope began in the 1990s to a masterplan by Terry Farrell but was halted in the recession. The present project by Richards Rogers features buildings with concrete framing which can be customised by tenants. Extensive sun-screening has been devised and parking is included in the undercrofts. The buildings are set within a landscaped park with water features.

The first houses in Bedford Park were designed by E W Godwin but these were criticised and he resigned to be replaced with Richard Norman Shaw. Shaw's houses, in 'Queen Anne' style, featured red bricks & tiles, tall chimneys, steep roofs & dormers, bay windows, balconies and stained glass. Trees were retained and planted and gardens had wooden fences. The houses were intended for the well-educated middle classes of moderate. A few larger detached houses were built including Carr's own home Tower House which had 16 rooms and a large garden with tennis and badminton courts. Bedford Park was popular with artists and writers and supporters of the Arts & Crafts movement, as championed by John Ruskin and William Morris.

Millwall

This walk covered just under a three mile section of the Thames Path (which is a national trail extending 180 miles from the river’s source in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier in London). The section runs on the north side of the Thames from Limekiln Dock to Island Gardens, taking in some of the most interesting riverside in London. It skirts the Millwall Dock and Cubitt Town. Cubitt Town was developed in the 1840s to 1850s and was originally a relatively prosperous area, with two thirds of the population being from the upper/middle and skilled classes, occupying a range of housing, including large villas. However the nature of the area slowly changed and by 1927 two thirds of the population was unskilled. The redevelopment of the London docks is again changing the nature of the area, with extensive, often upmarket, private housing now being built. The walk ended at Island Garden, with its Cannelletto view of Greenwich.

Highgate to Hampstead via Kenwood House

This was a hilly walk across London’s Northern Heights. Starting from Archway tube station the walk skirted Highgate Cemetery, before passing through Waterlow Park in which is set Lauderdale House, once the summer retreat of Charles II’s mistress Nell Gwyn, and now a centre for exhibitions and concerts. Along Highgate Hill and Highgate High Street there are fine views south towards the City and east towards Hornsey. The Grove is Highgate’s finest street, with some houses dating from the 1680s. The walk down from Highgate along West Hill lead to Hampstead Heath and hence to Kenwood House. Until 1927 a private house, Kenwood is now a public museum with fine 18th century Adam interiors and a notable collection of paintings.

Victoria Street (Westminster Cathedral to Westminster Abbey)

Victoria Street has some of the most banal architecture built in the post war years. Yet to the south and north are many attractive streets. This walk concentrated on the streets to the south and took in a number of attractive and historic squares such as Eccleston, Warwick, Vincent and Smith. Also on route was Westminster Cathedral and several 18th century streets with strong political links, such as Cowley Street, where the headquarters of the Liberal Democrats are to be found. Towards the end of the walk was the Middlesex Guildhall and of course Westminster Abbey.

North Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf Walk

No matter from which direction you come, the first glimpse of Canary Wharf rising out of Docklands, like a breathtaking Manhattan skyline magically transported to the East End, never fails to amaze and surprise. The estate now extends to 86 acres and rivals the City as a major financial centre. And yet amongst all this modernity there are to be found many buildings from the area’s historic past as an important part of the London docks. These include the magnificent Grade I listed West India Quay Warehouses. Starting at the West India Docks, the walk included the Poplar Dock and Blackwall Basin, the tree-lined Cabot Square and of course No.1 Canada Square, popularly know as “Canary Wharf”. As with some earlier walks the walk finished in the Limehouse Basin.

East London Canal Walk Part II

With over 200 years of history, London’s canals were originally built to connect the great docks on the River Thames to Birmingham and the industrial Midlands. The walk started at the Bow Church DLR Station and explored the Hertford Union Canal and Regent’s Canal section of the East London canal network. This included the Mile End Park with its unique Green Bridge. Limehouse Basin, where the walk ended, was the hub of the canal system nationwide. Nowadays the canal banks are worlds apart from their hectic past, instead providing a peaceful haven, while Limehouse Basin has been transformed from a working dock to a charming marina.

Hoxton & Shoreditch

Hoxton had begun as an area with large houses, fashionable squares and numerous almshouses, but from the late 18th century was overwhelmed by industrial development and the large number of people, many of them poor, who came to live and work here. Much of the industry has now gone and the slum housing cleared. Remnants of both its prosperous and hard times remain, but the area is now undergoing a dramatic transformation.

The Geffrye Museum towards the end of the walk has a series of rooms set out in the attractive former ironmongers’ almshouses. There is also a walled period and herb garden

East London Canal Walk Part I

With over 200 years of history, London’s canals were originally built to connect the great docks on the River Thames to Birmingham and the industrial Midlands. The walk started at the Bow Church DLR Station and explored the Three Mills Island area and the Limehouse Cut. Limehouse Basin, where the walk ended, was the hub of the canal system nationwide. Nowadays the canal banks are worlds apart from their hectic past, instead providing a peaceful haven, while Limehouse Basin has been transformed from a working dock to a charming marina.

Kennington

The walk started at the Oval Tube Station and took in much of the property in Kennington which has belonged to the Duchy of Cornwall since the time of James I. Even earlier the Black Prince had a palace in the area. The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens were a major attraction from 1661-1859, but especially in the 18th century. The Lambeth riverfront changed dramatically with the construction of the Albert Embankment. The walk finished at the Museum of Garden History which is worthy of a visit in its own right.

Dulwich Village

Edward Alleyn, an actor and contemporary of Shakespeare, made a fortune as a theatrical entrepreneur which enabled him to buy the Manor of Dulwich. He had built a chapel, school and almshouses and dying childless in 1626 bequeathed the manor to these establishments. The control held by the Estates Governors has enabled the village to remain largely unspoilt. The walk included the Dulwich Picture Gallery, England’s oldest public picture gallery, Dulwich College, with its chapel and almshouses, Dulwich Park and Dulwich Common, as well as a number of attractive domestic houses and cottages.

Westminster and St James’s

If the City of London represents the heart of Britain’s financial world, then the areas surrounding St James’s Park is where political power is exercised and the establishment wines and dines. The walk starts in Green Park and explores the streets to the north of The Mall where some of the most influential dining clubs in the country are located. Heading towards Whitehall we shall pass through Carlton House Terrace with its magnificent regency buildings reminiscent of those surrounding Regent’s Park, before reaching Horse Guards Parade, surrounded by impressive government buildings. Skirting St James’s Park the walk then takes in Queen Anne’s Gate, architecturally one of London’s finest streets, and the picturesque streets leading to Smith Square. The square is best known as the location of the Conservative Party headquarters, but also has at its centre the extraordinary baroque church of St John’s. Heading along Millbank and passing Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, the walk finishes at Westminster tube station.

Regent’s Park

At the time of George becoming Prince Regent in the first quarter of the 19th Century leases on farmland to the north of London expired and this provided the impetus for Nash’s grand scheme of 50 detached villas in a parkland setting surrounded by great terraces. Yet ironically had Nash’s plans been realised in their entirety there would be no public park on this site to enjoy today. In fact only 8 villas were actually built, and of these only two remain. Nevertheless the palatial cream-stuccoed terraces which surround the Regent’s Park are still an impressive sight. The walk started at Regents Park tube station taking in the terraces in the east side of the park, then crossed the park to see the two remaining original detached villas and reach the western terraces. Other places of interest on route included the Diorama, Regents College, and Wingfield House. The latter is the official residence of the American Ambassador. The walk ended on the edge of St John’s Wood church yard (now a public park).

London’s East End (Old Street to Shadwell)

The exact parameters of London’s East End are hotly debated. The walk started in the Bricklayers Arms, which is not part of the official “East End”, where Rivington Street meets Charlotte Road, just off Old Street. However the walk included some of the best parts of the East End – from Shoreditch to Limehouse. During the course of the walk there were two of Hawksmoor’s six London churches. A third is to be found not far from where the walk ended in Limehouse. On route we passed the famous Spitalfields Market. Spitalfields was the home of the first Huguenot immigrants, who were later followed by Irish driven out of their land by the potato famine, by Jews driven out of continental Europe by pogroms, and of course most recently by Bangladeshis. The area around St George’s Town Hall was the site of clashes between local residents and Moseley supporters a few years before the outbreak of WWII. The walk ended at the Prospect of Whitby pub in Limehouse. This area has since the 1980s been extensively transformed with modern flats, houses and commercial developments.

St John’s Wood

As the name implies, St John’s Wood this was once a wooded area owned by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. The area developed in the 19th century with the formation of Regent's Park and the construction of the Canal. There are attractive buildings in a wide variety of styles to be seen. Church Street is lined with stalls and shops, including antiques shops. The former churchyard of St John's Wood Church has been made into a pleasant park. Marylebone Station was built in 1899 by H W Braddock for the Great Central Railway on the Portman Nursery site. (An M&S food-store occupies the old wood-panelled ticket office.) Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust, is also associated with the area, while parts for the Spitfire aircraft were manufactured here during WWII. The London Central Mosque with its copper dome and minaret was built in 1977. The area is however perhaps best known as the site of Lords Cricket Ground and as the home of someone who never existed, namely Sherlock Holmes, who lived at 221B Baker Street with Dr Watson his friend and Mrs Hudson his housekeeper.

Regent’s Canal – Kings Cross to Camden Lock

Regent’s Canal opened in 1820, linking the Grand Junction Canal at Paddington to the Thames at Limehouse. The two canals merged in 1929 to form the Grand Union Canal. Commercial traffic was heavy until the 1940s but by 1960 it had all but disappeared. Now used for leisure, you can still see the relics of the past all along its course.

The walk took in the picturesque Keystone Crescent, the Maiden Lane Bridge with its fine cast iron work, and the St Pancras Basin which is a base for the St Pancras Cruising club – not that type of cruising! The walk ended at Camden Lock.

Kew

Kew is thought to take its name from the old Anglo–Saxon word for quay or landing place. This is plausible since the village grew up at the south end of a ford across the Thames, the north side of which gave its name to Brentford. However throughout most of its existence it was of little importance. It was only the development of Richmond as a royal residence by Henry VIII that put Kew on the map. Kew became popular with courtiers because of its easy accessibility to London. In the 18th Century Kew as we know it today started to emerge, particularly after George I moved into Richmond Lodge in what is now Kew Gardens. Ironically all the royal residences and many of the other houses in the area were eventually demolished, with the exception of Kew Palace, in order to form what we now know as Kew Gardens.

We did not have time to explore the gardens. Rather the walk took in the attractive 18th Century St Anne’s Church, with the graves of the painters Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Zoffany. There is also a fine collection of period houses, particularly around Kew Green. Directly across the river is Strand on the Green, a former fishing hamlet, where Zoffany lived in a fine five-bay house.

Fleet Street and St Paul’s (The City West)

Twenty or more years ago the western part of the City of London was the traditional centre of London’s printing, publishing and newspaper industries. All that is now gone, but this circular walk took in many places associated with the area’s literary past, such as St Paul’s churchyard and Fleet Street, the printers’ church of St Bride’s, Stationer’s Hall and Dr Johnson’s House. The walk’s other main features included the Old Bailey courthouse together with Newgate and Bridewell prisons, the College of Arms, the site of Blackfriars Monastery, St Paul’s Cathedral and other Wren churches, and Playhouse Yard where Shakespeare was an actor and partner in the Blackfriars Playhouse.

Belgravia

Belgravia takes its name from a small village in Leicestershire, Belgrave, where the Dukes of Westminster once had a small estate. The same family still owns much of Belgravia, and Mayfair too. This aristocratic quarter was developed by the family between the 1820s and the 1850s, and centres on Belgrave and Eaton Squares. Eaton Hall in Cheshire is the duke’s country house. Although Belgravia as a whole is still largely residential, most of the houses in Belgrave Square are either embassies or the headquarters of various organisations. The area is also dotted with mews, once crowded with horses and carriages belonging to the big houses in the square and adjoining streets. Starting and finishing at Apsley House, the former home of the Duke of Wellington, the walk also took in one of the most attractive residential areas of Knightsbridge.

Notting Hill

Notting Hill is the scene of the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street carnival, and of the world-famous Portobello Road antiques market. However the walk, which started at Notting Hill Gate, concentrated on the area’s attractive residential developments. Though Notting Hill itself is the site of London’s finest Victorian housing, the Notting Hill district later became associated with the practice called Rachmanism, named after Peter Rachman, and defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the exploitation and intimidation of tenants by unscrupulous landlords”.

From 1957 onwards Peter Rachman bought run down houses in the area and to maximise his profits forced out existing tenants to re-let the properties at much higher rents. The new tenants were usually immigrant families from the West Indies who had nowhere else to go and had to pay extortionate rents for tiny squalid rooms. Today of course Notting Hill one of the most desirable and fashionable parts of London. The final part of the walk climbed leafy Holland Park Avenue and crossed Campden Hill Square to the top of Campden Hill, before returning to Notting Hill.

Chelsea

This small part of London, a slender triangle of land sandwiched between the river Thames and the borough of Kensington, can claim more fame to the acre than almost any other, brimming with notable residents throughout six centuries. Chelsea originated as a Saxon settlement, and later developed strong links with royalty. Henry VIII acquired the manor of Chelsea in 1536 and the future Queen Elizabeth I was a resident there for a time. James I founded a theological college on a site later to be occupied by The Royal Hospital. Founded by Charles II for the care of permanently disabled soldiers, the Hospital is still there today and its uniformed residents have become known worldwide as the Chelsea Pensioners. Among the later residents of this once bohemian district were: George Eliot, James Whistler, Thomas Carlyle, Tobias Smollett and Hilaire Belloc; and the area’s former MP is of course Michael Portillo.

Bloomsbury

This walk took us to an area of London long associated with those who lived an alternative life style – the Bloomsbury Group of artists and writers. The district was laid out between the late 17th and early 19th centuries, mainly by the Dukes of Bedford, and became a highly fashionable area. Among the six squares visited was Bedford Square, probably the finest surviving Georgian Square in London. Russell Square had of course a certain attraction for some gays, and it will be interesting to see whether the recent changes have any affect on its reputation. Other notable buildings on route included the British Museum, The Dickens House Museum and Great Ormond Street Hospital and London University Senate House.

Marylebone

Marylebone is just north of Oxford Street in the West End. It was one of the closest villages to central London until two landowners in the area began to lay out the regular grid of impressive streets and squares for which the area is chiefly known today. Many fine houses from that time (the 18th and 19th centuries) still remain, although most have been converted to offices. Features on the walk included the old High Street and parish church (grave of the hymn-writer Charles Wesley), four squares (including Manchester Square where the Wallace Collection is based), Harley Street, Madame Tussaud’s waxworks, Oxford Street, and the award-winning shopping precinct St. Christopher’s Place. One of the area’s special delights is the many and varied mews tucked behind its main streets.

London Walls

Almost 2000 years ago, the Romans were enjoying British hospitality. They were enjoying it so much that they decided to build a wall around various cities so that they were the only ones enjoying it. One such city was London. As you may realise, most of the London wall is no longer in existence. So this walk traced the 4.5 kilometres that was the City of London wall. Along the way, various historical sites and points of interest were pointed out, which included everything from Roman times to modern times, plus the few remaining bits of the original London Wall.

We also discovered such things as:

·                                            Why certain roads are called as they are, such as Houndsditch

·                                            Where some modern expressions have come from, such as 'It's Bedlam in here!'

·                                            Where some famous London residents lived

·                                            Where some of the gates within the Wall existed

·                                            Where some of the Jack the Ripper murders were committed

Old Chiswick

From as early as the mid-15th century Chiswick was known to city-dwellers as an attractive and healthy place to live. The Russell family, later Earls and now Dukes of Bedford, lived at Corney House west of the village from 1542. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, people also began to build fine houses in Church Street and along the riverside lane leading from the church to the manor house. In time the whole of this lane was built up to form a one-sided street called Chiswick Mall, one of the finest riverside promenades. Church Street, though mutilated at its top end, is still one of London’s most picturesque streets, while Chiswick House, which also featured on the walk, is one of the finest examples of the Palladian style of architecture in the country. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the interior, but we were able to visit the little country house, now called Hogarth House, once occupied by the painter and engraver William Hogarth.

Mayfair

The districts of Mayfair and Belgravia came into the ownership of the Grosvenor family in 1677. The northern part takes its name from the May Fair held annually into the 1770’s. In 1720 Sir Richard Grosvenor started developing the area. Grosvenor Square was the first square to have terraced houses grouped behind a unified façade. With the finest residential architecture in London, Mayfair became the centre of Society in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. In the 19th shops were built along Mount Street and Oxford Street, while in the 1930s commercial pressure brought bigger shops to Oxford Street. Embassies and diplomatic residences took other premises throughout the district, and along Park Lane luxury hotels were developed. After the war Grosvenor Square itself was largely rebuilt to a neo-Georgian design.

The walk through Mayfair offered views of typical Mayfair houses and other buildings. These included 53 Davies Street, originally built in the18th century, but with a 19th century front. This now houses the offices of the Grosvenor Estate. Other interesting properties were Claridges Hotel built in 1856, Bourdon House, with a pleasing Georgian façade, which was once the home of the Duke of Westminster, the “Audley”, one of the few Mayfair pubs to survive the Victorian purge on licensed premises, the Grosvenor Chapel (St George’s), and John Adams’ House, the only original house left from the original 18th century square.

Highgate

Back in the Middle Ages the Bishop of London had a large hunting park, fenced to keep the deer in, on top of the hills to the north of London. In the early 1300’s the then bishop decided to start charging travellers using the roads across the park. He put up three gates at various points and installed gatekeepers to collect the tolls and to see to the maintenance of the roads. The most easterly gate was the most important because it controlled the main road from London to the northern counties. Here the gatekeeper and road-mender was a hermit. With pilgrims visiting the hermitage chapel, and thirsty visitors requiring refreshment and accommodation, a settlement soon grew up, centred on the road to the south of the gatehouse. In time, being on a hilltop site, the settlement acquired the name of Highgate.

By the 1500s the village had begun to grow significantly. Merchants and lawyers from London were attracted by its healthy position and fantastic views of London a few miles away. By the 1660s Highgate had become the largest centre of population in the area.

In the 19th century Highgate’s hilltop position, and the fact that it was always able to attract the wealthiest and most influential residents, saved it from being engulfed by suburbia. The village benefited from the preservation of both Hampstead Heath and the private estate centred on Kenwood as public open spaces. To the north the Bishops of London continued to own land (now the Highgate gold course) well into the 19th century, which also helped limit development. And lastly the building of the Great North Road in 1867 provided the village with a bypass. All these factors result in Highgate being one of the most elegant and best-preserved villages in London.

The walk featured a fine collection of 17th and 18th century houses, Waterlow Park, Hampstead Heath and Highgate ponds, combined with spectacular views of London.

Islington

The walk explored Islington and Canonbury and covered the history of the area, including historic buildings in the area and some of its gay residents over the years.

Soho

The tour covered the gay history of Soho, including the 17th century molly trials, the gay scene of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, the haunts of its more famous (or infamous) characters and the current gay scene.

Blackheath

Blackheath takes its name from the Heath which divides it from Greenwich, its riverside neighbour to the south. The first developments were in the 1690’s when the Earls of Dartmouth built Dartford Row. Later in the 18th Century speculators built fine houses on the south side of the heath. Tradesmen moved into the area to service these houses and so the village gradually came into existence. Development proceeded apace after the opening of Blackheath Station in 1849. Much of this development took place on the largest single property in the area, the Cator Estate. The first property built here in 1695 was a large almshouse for Turkey Company merchants. This is still in existence today, and features in the walk. In the late 18th Century and early 19th Century John Cator, a self-made businessman from Beckenham, acquired the site and developed what is now Montpelier Row, South Row and The Paragon. Building on the interior of the estate started in 1806 and continued over a long period of time.

Starting at Blackheath Station, the walk took in the Cator Estate and other Georgian and Victorian developments on the surrounding heights. It also of course included the village centre and parts of the heath, but unfortunately not the Dartmouth streets of the 1690’s which are a little too far away.

Greenwich

Greenwich was established as a little fishing port on the Thames long before the Norman Conquest. However subsequently Greenwich became famous for the old royal palace and park, the former Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Greenwich meridian, as well as the concentration of maritime history in the shape of the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark and Gypsy Moth IV. From the steep hill behind the town there are panoramic views of Greenwich, the Isle of Dogs, the River Thames, and south London.

Kentish Town to Hampstead

The walk started in Kentish Town and explored some of the charming and picturesque streets tucked away from the main Highgate Road, before turning east onto the Heath towards Parliament Hill and Boadicea’s Burial Mound. In Hampstead the first port of call was Keat’s House, en route to Downshire Hill, perhaps Hampstead’s grandest street. From here Rossyln Hill leads to Hampstead High Street in which of course the King William IV pub is be to found. Continuing towards Church Row, another of Hampstead’s finest streets, St John’s Church and St Mary’s Church are close at hand, as is a house in which Robert Louise Stevenson once stayed.

Clerkenwell

This walk centred on the historic district of Clerkenwell, now the home to the well-healed, whether gay or straight. The walk started at the Barbican Tube Station and ended in Islington at the Edward VI in Bromfield Street. Smithfield was of course the home to a famous meat market, while in the 15th and 16th centuries, when cloth was the main source of England’s wealth, St Bartholomew’s Fair was the country’s biggest cloth trade fair. The area around Clerkenwell Green has links with variety of religious and radical movements, including the Fenians, Lenin and the Knights Templar. Before reaching the Angel the walk passed through the historic spa district in the vicinity of Sadler’s Wells.

 

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