Updated: 24 October 2020
About My London Walks
HOW THE WALKS ARE PUT TOGETHER
When starting to write a new walk I look for another area of London that interests me and then start exploring. I walk it from various angles, trying out many different routes in order to find one that enables the walker to get a real flavour of the area’s history, visiting as many of the historical and interesting places as possible. Once I am satisfied, I start to make more detailed notes of places I’ve seen on the route, and when I’m home using both the invaluable resources on the internet, as well as delving into the considerable library of several hundred books on all aspects of London that I have amassed.
WHO ARE THESE WALKS AIMED AT?
Let me be honest and say from the outset that these walks are not for the average tourist or visitor to London. When I’m walking a city – be it London, Venice, New York, Paris (all favourites of mine!) – I quickly like to see beyond the ‘top ten sights’. Instead I prefer to walk the areas that aren’t necessarily in the city centre so as to get a real feel for its history, how the city developed, etc. I like to delve into the background of places, buildings and the events that have happened there in the past.
So, if you are like me and see something interesting and wonder how it came to be there, what the history or background to it is, and who the people were who were involved in it, then these walks are maybe for you. If that isn’t the case, then they probably won’t be!
HOW I BECAME INTERESTED IN LONDON
I first went to London when I was around fourteen years old. And that was on my own. However, that was in the early 1960s when things were a lot more relaxed – we didn’t seem to know or at least worry about some of the things that could possibly happen to a young boy on his own in London, or indeed anywhere else back then.
From the moment I stepped off the train at Paddington I was fascinated by everything I saw; even just working out how to get a ticket for the tube (of course no Oyster cards in those days!) and working out which line to get and where to get off … it was all just so exciting! And course in those days there was no internet to plan or research in advance or even help if lost!
But I was hooked and had made several more visits before my 16th birthday. Then during a period in my late teens I was working on a morning newspaper in Bristol which meant finishing work in the early hours, I would sometimes get in my old Ford Prefect and head up the A4 (very little of the M4 existed then!) and do such things as drive to Smithfield Market in Farringdon, enjoy the buzz of what was then a much busier meat market than today and have a pint in one of the local pubs that opened around 6am – which of course was for the market workers their lunch time!
For many years – in fact until retirement – I worked in the travel business which involved plenty of meetings in London and rather than join the ranks of the weary, red-eyed businessmen travelling on the early morning trains from Bristol, I would go up the night before. That gave me time to explore more of the city – both in the evenings and the following day as well as not having to get up so early!
Later I began travelling to New York, both for business as well as pleasure, and immediately became captivated with that city as well. Back in the late 70s and 80s not that many British tourists were travelling there, put off by the cost and reports of crime and grime. As New York later became more popular and people realised I had been going there – and loved it – they began asking my advice as to what to see, where to go etc. As a result, I began writing suggested walks that included my favourite places.
By the time I retired from the travel business, New York was becoming very popular and, as a result, the cost of both flights and hotels were getting very expensive. And of course, by then I had to start paying for it!
So, instead I began visiting London more often, and exploring the many diverse areas of the city. Gradually I began making notes of where I was walking and things I had seen and when I returned to Bristol would do the research, adding that to my notes on the walk.
Talking to friends about where I’d been and some of the interesting things I’d discovered, they began asking me if I could give them a written copy of the walks. Their feedback and encouragement has culminated in this “My London Walks” website.
ALL VIEWS AND COMMENTS EXPRESSED ON THIS WEBSITE ARE MY OWN
I have tried to provide plenty of background information to the walks, which is the result of considerable amounts of research. I have gleaned some information from the numerous books on London that I have accumulated over the years, spent many more hours looking at websites and then whilst ‘walking the walks’ have often spoken to local people and asked for their help and advice.
Despite ‘testing’ these walks over and over again, it is still very possible that I have made errors, not only with the directions but also with the content.
Besides that, a city like London is changing all the time. Old buildings (and sometimes not so old) are regularly being demolished and new ones erected in their place; streets become closed off; renovations or changing circumstances result in buildings that were previously open to the public no longer being so. To me it’s a part of what makes a city like London so fascinating. It is also why I decided not to publish these walks in book form, but instead on a website, where it can more easily be updated.
So, I apologise for any errors or inconvenience caused as a result – and would really welcome any feedback on any aspect of a walk – whether that’s correcting a historical fact, pointing out a venue that has closed or now has different opening hours, or just simply making a suggestion that may make the walk even more interesting for other people in the future.
You can send a message to me via the contact page.
Although I have spent several years walking and researching these walks, this website would not have been possible without the enormous help and support from my long-suffering wife Jane, and Ron, my extremely patient and very great friend of many years.
Between them, they have not only ‘test walked’ each of the walks (several times!) to help ensure their accuracy, paying particular attention to making sure that the directions I have given do indeed make sense.
In addition, both have read the copy, correcting numerous grammatical errors as well as deleting paragraphs where, in their words, I have ‘waffled’ too much!
So … thanks Jane and thanks Ron!
And equally special thanks to Russ Willey. I spent a lot of time looking for someone who could not only create a website for my walks but was also interested in the concept I had in mind.
Fortunately, I came across Russ’s own excellent website that features enormous amounts of information about some of the lesser-known areas of London and noticed that it also said that he was a website designer and provided links to other sites he had built.
I liked what I saw and tentatively contacted him to see whether he felt he might be able to help and quite frankly I was amazed at the enthusiasm he showed. He offered to build a trial site, which he did within a couple of days, and it was exactly what I wanted!
Since then Russ has been a ‘right-hand man’ on this project and I can honestly say that without his help, support – and as I say enthusiasm – this website would never have come to life. So, thanks Russ!
During the course of researching these walks I have used so many resources I cannot possibly list them all.
However, I would particularly like to acknowledge the following –
The Museum of London, The Museum of the London Docklands and The London Metropolitan Archives have excellent resources.
I have found fascinating and in some cases a great source of information include Walter Thornbury’s Old and New London; Docklands – an illustrated historical survey; London in the 19th century, by Jerry White; Docklands Past & Present, by Prof S K Al Waib; A Wander in London, by EV Lucas; Arthur Mee’s London; The London Encyclopaedia, by Ben Weinrich and Christopher Hibbert; London, by Walter Bessant; Chambers London Gazetteer, by Russ Willey; How to Read London, by Chris Rogers and many more.
Websites can often provide further information, and for people interested in London, I can thoroughly recommend a number including –