Walking London: Hidden And Not So Hidden Gems

Walking London, there’s something new to see around every corner. I’ve lived here for eight years now and I never cease to be amazed. It may something historic, entertaining, jaw-droppingly gorgeous, sadly neglected, about to disappear, or it may be downright queer. Whatever, it’s all good fun.

Here are a selection of photos I’ve taken on recent walks around the city – some of the sights I’ll be going into in more depth in later posts.

Britain at War Experience

Britain at War – Closed January 2013

The Britain at War Experience in Tooley Street is a London museum I never got to visit. If you haven’t visited you’ve left it too late as well because as of January 2013 it closed for good – the redevelopment of London Bridge station put paid to it. The exhibits however have been bought by an organisation called the Bay Trust, so they may well pop up somewhere else in the near future. One exhibit I hope doesn’t disappear is the V2 rocket strapped to the side of the building and visible from Platform 1 of London Bridge station. It surprised the hell out of me when I first it from the station, I tell you.

v2 rocket London Bridge station

The very surprising V2 Rocket at London Bridge

Here’s a video of the Britain at War Experience.

One of the best things about urban life is spotting new street art and just because Banksy’s art is now more well known for its monetary value than anything else there’s a ton of other stuff waiting to be uncovered. I was touched by this little illustration. (Can’t remember where I saw it, though).

death to traffic lights

Death to Traffic Lights

The George Inn off Borough High Street in Southwark is the only galleried inn left standing in London (fires, bulldozers and  World War Two bombings have put paid to the rest) and was  a major stop-off for the horse-pulled coaches coming to London in the 17th century.

The George Inn, Southwark

The George Inn, Southwark

It’s owned by the National Trust these days, but don’t let that put you off – it operates as a normal pub. The ubiquitous Charles Dickens gave it a short but sweet mention in Little Dorrit “if he [Tip Dorrit] goes into the George and writes a letter”.

Decoration at Cross Bones Graveyard

Decoration at Cross Bones Graveyard

Above is a recent photo of one of the newer decorations added to the gates at Cross Bones Graveyard, where the remains of thousands of prostitutes, children and the destitute lie. A monthly vigil is held at the site in memory of these unfortunates. The International Union of Sex Workers hope the graveyard will be  “…the first World Heritage site dedicated to sex workers… a permanent garden of celebration and remembrance to honour their lives.” Read more about Cross Bones.

Senate House - University of London

Senate House – University of London

The wonderful thing about a good guided walk is the research put into it and even if you only come away with one or two new things it’s been worth it, in my opinion. Yannick Pucci puts a lot of work into his walks and  I think I can say that everyone who was on the Art Deco Bloomsbury tour one blustery Saturday was well satisfied with the tidbits learned.

This photo is of one my favourite buildings, the Senate House, administrative centre of the University of London and I’m sure Yannick won’t mind me saying that this was intended to be part of a much larger site. At 370m in length it would have completely changed the character of this literary part of London. The scale was pulled back when critics like George V said it would look too much like a battleship. Read this article for images of the beautiful detailing on the inside of the building.

Syd's Coffee Stall - Shoreditch

The Oldest Coffee Stall in London – Syd’s

Another tour guide I go out with regularly in London is Ken Titmuss. aka Old Map Man. He introduced me to a couple of local gems on his Shoreditch walk. There’s Syd’s coffee stall that’s still run by the same family (above)…

…and a 500 year old morgue that looks like a garden shed:

Shoreditch morgue

Shoreditch Morgue dating from 1500

Yes, that really is a morgue – and it has a connection with Jack the Ripper.

More on these two anachronisms in a later post.

As long as you’ve got the energy to cope with the crowds, you never do tire of London :o)

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