My themed walks concentrate on my personal interests of French art and culture, artists and writers as well as British ideas of welfare and society.
These guided tours are about the French people who lived in London. Who they were, where and what did they do?
Soho French Connections : 1685 soon after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, French Huguenots settled north part of what is now Seven Dials and around Bateman Street (parallel to Oxford Street and Shaftesbury Avenue and south of Soho Square).
The French revolution brought aristocrats who settled in Soho and Fitzrovia . Hugenot artisans moved to the area to be close to their clients – clockmakers, silversmiths, tailors etc.
St James French Connections : The Queen’s Chapel at St James Palace was originally a Catholic church. Its first worshipper was Henrietta Maria, who married Charles I in 1625. The marriage did not get off to a good start. Hear more about them on my tour.
In the heart of St James is King Street where Louis Napoleon, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte lived before returning to France to become its first President.
The headquarters of both Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Forces were both in the district during WWII.
They are really lovely parts of London in their own right and it is no wonder they attracted artist so that there was a real art community in both places.
Artists Hampstead : Hampstead has a long association with artists and this tour will take us through the picturesque streets of the old village to get a feel for the history of the area.
From the top of the town we walk to where young artists like Mark Gertler rented studios and apartments in the early C20th. We see where CW Nevinson and Stanley Spencer painted and learn about Hampstead’s Bauhaus connections in the lead-up to World War II.
Artists Chelsea : By 1870’s Chelsea had become an artist’ quarter where buildings contained several artist’s studios for rent, unlike the more expensive Kensington where wealthy artists had a whole house with their studio in it. Chelsea was reasonably affordable until the end of WWII.
A favourite meeting place was the Blue Cockatoo. Among the artists based here are Turner, William de Morgan, Whistler, John Singer Sergeant and Charles Rennie MacKintosh.
Photo Work by Ford Maddox Brown public domain
This is a walking tour of St James and Mayfair. The women who lived here were scandalous for different reasons.
There were brothels in St James because it was teeming with men,. Aristocrats, politicians and businessmen who came here to be near the royal court.
Some of the characters that the TV series, Harlots is based on kept bawdy houses in St James.
Mayfair has always been known as an area where courtesans lived in apartments paid for by their wealthy lovers.
Other women we meet on the tour are considered heroines today for their courage in standing up for their rights when polite society shunned them.
Women like Caroline Norton, the grand-daughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan who left her brutish husband and discovered she had no right of access to her children or her money. She campaigned to change the law.
This is an enlightening and entertaining tour.
Photo cropped portrait by George Hayter of Caroline Norton public domain
A walking tour through Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia. In the early C20th Bloomsbury was where well-heeled intellectuals such as Virginia Woolf, John Maynard-Keynes and TS Elliott lived (and loved). It was free from straight laced, respectable society.
A few years later the bohemians, including Dylan Thomas and George Orwell moved slightly west to Fitzrovia.
The area around Fitzroy Square had been the home of artists since C18th. Artists are still here but now work for advertising companies.
Photo Gandhi Memorial Tavistock Square CC BY SA 2.0 Carmen Seaby
There are various routes you can use to follow in Dickens footsteps.
I like one that starts at Borough underground station and finishes in the City (crossing via London Bridge).
Dickens walked the length and breadth of London and wrote of what he saw.
This walk talks about his life. It visits places he knew well and discusses the context of many of the characters he invented.
Why the Brits love pubs
Meet at London Bridge underground station to find out how pubs developed, why they are so important to the British way of life. What makes a good pub? What actually is the definition of a pub? All will be revealed in this tour.
We will see inside different kinds of pub. Some stamped with the character of the landlord, working men’s bars and historic buildings.
Stopping for a drink is not part of the plan although it’s your tour so if you want to we can.
We finish in a secret gem of a wine bar where you might like to have lunch. (Not available Sundays)
This visit starts at Holborn station. Holborn and Bloomsbury are where many public-spirited movements developed.
We head north toward Great Ormond Street, the first hospital in Britain for sick children and to Coram Fields where the country’s first orphanage was built in the C18th century.
It is possible to include a tour of the Foundling Museum (entrance fee payable) which shows how the orphanage was run. It was a hard place to live – bring your hanky.
Photo Coram Fields restrictions CC BY SA 2.0 by benzado
This walk starts at the ruins of London’s roman wall near the Tower of London. It passes the new underground museum in the Bloomberg Building which opened in 2017.
We continue to Guildhall yard, the site of the Roman amphitheatre.
You will find out about life in the Roman city and the disastrous fire during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.
After the walk you can choose to visit the Guildhall Art Gallery or continue with the Roman theme by visiting the Museum of London’s Roman gallery. See https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london
2012 Olympic Legacy
It was an industrial area that no-one would ever think of visiting. This is where one of the most successful Olympic Games ever was held.
Two of the key elements born in mind when planning the games were that they should be “green”. Visitors arrived on public transport. Eco-friendly electricity powered the athlete’s village and all the venues. The Games legacy would leave those venues and a park to the local people.
This is an uplifting story which will warm your heart.
The park is big so to see it all we can either walk or hire Santander bikes and cycle across the park.
At the end of the tour spend more some time here, there is plenty to do. Take a swim in the iconic Aquatics Centre or see east London from the heights of the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Maybe you’d rather visit Europe’s largest shopping centre or relax in the park.
2022 is the tenth anniversary of the Games. Its great to see people using all the facilities.