The City Walk - part two: hidden London

"I came suddenly upon such knotty problems of alleys, such enigmatical entries, and such sphinx's riddles of streets without thoroughfares, as must, I conceive, baffle the audacity of porters, and confound the intellects of hackney-coachmen. I could almost have believed, at times, that I must be the first discoverer of some of these terrae incognitae, and doubted whether they had yet been laid down in the modern charts of London"
Thomas de Quincey, The London Magazine, 1821

Extras relax on location during a break
                        filming Nicholas Nickleby, shot at St
                        Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe In part one we ended up at Old Bailey - if you're continuing the walk then head due south onto Ludgate Broadway and Lane, - and down onto Queen Victoria Street, near Blackfriars Tube. If you're doing the walk as a separate entity, begin at Blackfriars Tube This part of the walk focuses on passageways and alleyways which criss-cross many of the areas of the city, forming a warren in which it is easy to get lost - remember many of the smaller courtyards and alleyways won't be on the map.

A subway exit from the tube brings you out on Queen Victoria Street opposite the College of Arms - which apart from tracing family coats of arms, is the home of the heralds, who are responsible for the pomp and circumstance at state ceremonies, such as coronations, state funerals and the opening of Parliament. Their other work is genealogy and they can trace a family, if it originated in England, for a fee - they have the best archives in Europe. Only the front quad is regularly open though you can book a fascinating tour - see their website.

                      Black Friar Pub - stunning on the insideOn the corner of Queen Victoria Street and New Bridge Road is the Black Friar pub one of the most beautiful in England - noted for its Pre-Raphaelite murals inside. It's sadly only open Monday-Friday, but definitely worth going into if it's open.Apothecary's Hall

Behind the Black Friar is Blackfriars lane, which leads up into Apothecary Lane. On your right half way up is Apothecaries' Hall, in a pleasant courtyard, open during office hours, that also houses the Honourable Company of Spectacle Makers. It has the finest preserved old offices of any guild, virtually unchanged since 1700. You can visit the hall by prior arrangement by contacting the beadle or clerk Tel: 0207 236 1189.  

At the top of the road (which becomes Ludgate Broadway), turn right into Playhouse Yard, which itself becomes Ireland Yard before it hits St Andrews Hill. Down on your right is St Andrew's by the Wardrobe church - a beautiful old building, often used as a backdrop in historical films. Sadly the interior doesn't live up to te promise of the exterior. When we were last there, a film version of Nicholas Nickleby was being shot.

The WardrobeRetracing our steps north up St Andrew's Hill we turn right into Carter Lane. On your right - not on the map - is the Wardrobe - a courtyard recently restored, where the King used to robe himself for ceremonial occasions, a plaque on the wall commemorates the destruction of the original building in the great fire of 1666. There are luxurious studios and apartments to be hired here if you prefer that to a hotel.The Wardrobe

If your budget is at the other end of the scale, opposite the entrance to the courtyard is the italianate facade of the city youth hostel. We walk past it and emerge opposite St Paul's Cathedral

Continue along Cannon Street - if you are a fan of old churches, to your right, south on Garlick Hill is St James Garlickhythe. Founded in the 1100s it was rebuilt after the great fire in 1680 by Wren. If you ask nicely they'll show you the mummified body, though the 10 Lord Mayors of London buried in the crypt are no longer on view.

Bow Lane Pub SignAlso off Cannon Street, but north is Bow lane, which is flanked with pleasant courtyards, shops and pubs. Turn right on Watling Street - an extension of the ancient Roman road that links London and Dover, in a straight line. Here is the Church of St Mary Aldermary which has a magnificent painted organ dating from 1781 - please give some small change to their organ restoration fund as otherwise the organ may not be there next time you visit. Backtrack and continue up Bow Lane.

Bow BellsThe title 'Aldermary' means that it's older than Mary-le-Bow at the top of Bow lane but the latter is world famous as being the home of Bow Bells. If you're born within hearing of them you're a cockney (from the anglo- saxon word for rotten egg').  

Tuning east on Cheapside (a cheap was a market in old English) we take King Street up to the GuildhallGuildhall at the top. Dating back to Edward-the-Confessor whose death prompted the Norman Invasion of 1066. It's the official seat of the Lord Mayor of London - indeed part of the original building was paid for with money the famous 'Dick Whittington' left in his will. Most of the building however, dates back to 1440, and the exterior walls survived the Great Fire, and the Blitz, though the interior portions were somewhat burned - large portions of the medieaval structure surviving, though displaced. We think the modern additions to the courtyard spoil the effect of the original building. The art gallery has several important works including significant collection of pre-Raphaelites. 

Cross the courtyard and exit on the right into Basinghall St, and take the passageway marked 'Masons' Avenue' then across Great Bell Alley, another small passageway which opens onto Moorgate. Opposite is Telegraph Street, follow that through to Copthall Place and through to Throgmorton Avenue, a private road owned by the Drapers' Guild.

Behind a wall is the garden of the Drapers' Hall (you can see the greenery and fountain through the gate which used to be where Oliver Cromwell lived. The carpenters' Guild maintain their Hall at the opposite end. An interesting route, if it's pub opening hours, is through the underground pub, the Throgmorton, which has an entrance underneath Drapers' Hall and comes out on Throgmorton St - via a long set of dining rooms (not very good food), the mosaic bar and staircase. The pub is one storey below ground, but its rooms extend even below that. The entrance on Throgmorton St is close to the end of Austin Friars, home to the Dutch Kerk of London - between the two is the fine old entrance to Drapers' Hall. 

Opposite the entrance to Austin Friars is the entrance to Adam's Court - there is significant building work going on here and it is periodically shut, if so an alternative route to Fountain Court is alongside the Natwest Tower, the city's tallest building and the only one that merits the term 'skyscraper'. Fountain court in turn leads through out onto Threadneedle Street, coming out at number 40. As number 42 is a fine old wine bar, Balls Brothers, unmarked, but worth looking into.

On the other side of Threadneedle Street is Merchant Taylors' Hall which dates back to 1347, only having lost its roof in the Great Fire. it was here that the National Anthem was first sung, in 1607. 

Monument in St HelensWalk east along Threadneedle street to where it joins Bishopsgate at Gibson Hall. On the other side of the road, a couple of hundred metres north is the entrance to Great St Helen's, where you'll see St Helen's Church It is an old church which has the largest number of monuments than any other church other than Westminster Abbey - it's also run by a very friendly and helpful parish team. Its unusual shape is the result of the amalgamation of a nunnery and a parish church on the site. St Helen's Interior Shakespeare worshiped here. There are fine monuments to dead 15thC noblemen, and to Sir Thomas Gresham, who founded the Royal Exchange - look out for the grasshoppers carved on the tomb. A guide to the other monuments can be purchased for 60 pence.  

Lloyds of London When you've visited the church, go round the back to St Mary Axe a street that leads down, past the ancient guild church of the same name, to the ultra-modern Lloyds of London building which you can't fail to miss - it was a practice run for the Pompidou Centre in Paris. You can go inside and see the insurance brokers at work.

Leadenhall MarketIt stands at one corner of Leadenhall market a stunning Victorian covered market, at lunchtimes it's a bizarre mix of 19th and 20th century, with bankers and market traders sipping beer amid well-preserved victualers. Go south out of the market on Lime Street you'll come to Fenchurch Street, turn right and cross Bishopsgate once again to Lombard Street.

Between Lombard Street and Cornhill to the north is a warren of passageways which can be accessed from Birchin Street via Bengal Court. Here is The George and Vulture a restaurant/chophouse/pub that's full of Victorian atmosphere. Round the corner up St Michael's Alley and left on Castle Plaque outside the Jamaica Inncourt is Simpsons Tavernthe entrance to its major rival, Simpsons of Cornhill a Victorian chophouse serving cheap grills. The clientele is very formally dressed, and if the weather is fine you can eat out in Ball Court

Explore the maze of alleyways behind St Michael Cornhill and emerge from Ball Court onto Cornhill. St Michael's with its azure vault, has the distinction of being built by Wren, and modified by both Hawksmoor and by Gilbert Scott.

Follow Cornhill St
                      Michael Cornhill west (note the number of old banks that have been converted to pubs along this and neighbouring streets) to the Royal Exchange .

It was founded as a place for merchants to conduct business - they had been doing so informally on Lombard street (actually in the street) for hundreds of years, but Sir Richard Gresham, a member of the English Merchant Adventurer's company which had its headquarters in Antwerp, decided to build a copy of the bourse there on his return. Finance and Royal Assent was not forthcoming and it was his son who carried the mission to completion, following in his father's footsteps. He used a lot of his own money to build the bourse, but the land was paid for by subscription from merchants. Bank AreaWork started in 1566 - and when Queen Elizabeth toured in 1570 she was impressed and gave it a Royal charter. The building was rebuilt after the Great Fire, and never really became the success Gresham had hoped for - it fell out of use in 1939, became offices, and is now luxury shops. Do go in and have a look at the set of 20 or so patriotic Victorial murals, you have to go up onto the gallery to see them.  

The intersection of roads, known simply as 'Bank' is completed by the 'old lady of Threadneedle street' - better known as the Bank of England ( it has a small museum that's not worth the detour unless you're a fan of currency) gilt by associationat the North side - and the Mansion House at the west. This is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London for his or her year of office. It dates from 1739, and was much altered by the Victorians, and damaged during the war, but has now been restored to its original order.

On the west side of the Mansion house is St Stephen's Walbrook - a beautiful old church, with perfect acoustics, Wren's model for St Pauls, also noted for being the founding place of the Samaritans.  

Take the passageway that runs between the Church and the back of the Mansion house to come out on King William Street where St Mary Woolnoth a pleasant small church with a fine altarpiece, stands on the corner with Lombard Street. Look south and you'll see the Monument at the bottom of the street, before we get there, however, take a detour through St Mary Abchurch churchyard, off Abchurch Street. It's one of the prettiest of Wren's churches, with the best collection of wood fittings (including rederos by Grinling Gibbons) of any church in London. It's a guild church and only occasionally opens. 

The churchyard leads through to Sherbourne lane which comes out in Cannon Street. Turn left on Cannon Street to get to Wren's Monument, to the great fire, which started near here in Pudding Lane (the golden orb at the top, if the column was lain down would mark the very place where the fire started). You can climb to the top via the narrow staircase, the ticket is incorporated with a ticket for Tower Bridge. The cage at the top was installed after it became a favourite place for disgraced (ie pregnant) women to commit suicide.

The MonumentTo the east of the Monument, via a series of passageways that run due east, is St Dunstans-in-the East church, on St Dunstan's Hill, which has a very beautiful walled garden, in the ruins of the old church, a haven of tranquility in the city. St Dunstan's Hill wends down to Lower Thames street, coming out opposite the old Billingsgate market, now offices, but famous for its porters' foul language when it was still London's main fish market. Walk along Lower Thames street west and you'll come to St Magnus Martyr church, which TS Eliot described in his poem 'The Waste Land' and is full of monuments - it's closed on Mondays.  

This is where our tour ends. Monument tube station is 100 yards to the north.

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