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From Romans to Rogers

Group photo of Arts Society members

City of London Walking Tour with Tony Tucker

Wednesday 5th June 2019

A coach took us to Tower Hill, where Tony Tucker awaited us for the commencement of this tour.  His colleague, Karen, accompanied half of the party, but the guides swapped parties after lunch.  As it focused on the City of London, we did not travel far, but we were introduced to sites, churches and monuments which would have been overlooked without two excellent guides.

We walked narrow alleyways which have not changed since the Great Fire of London; locations mentioned in the works of Charles Dickens were shown to us; we were introduced to sites and churches used by Samuel Pepys and referred to in his Diary; we toured Wren churches, and others dating from Medieval and Saxon times.  It was explained how some churches damaged during the Blitz were rebuilt or demolished, but others had parts developed into gardens, in particular that of St Dunstan in the East – a garden of calm in the midst of a bustling city.

General view of St Dunstan's and St Dunstan's explanatory notice
St Dunstan's College plaque and Group in St Dunstan's garden

In addition to the medieval buildings, the modern architecture of London skyscrapers were dominant, designed by the likes of Lord Rogers and Lord Foster.  The juxtaposition of a Wren church in front of the Gherkin office block seemed oddly sympathetic.

composite The Walkie-Talkie building Wren church dwarfed by the Gherkin and High-rise towers over ancient gateway
Bright green fascia on modern block

After lunch, which some of us took in the original banking hall of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Karen showed us the first coffee house established in London.  Later we saw the remains of a significant stretch of a Roman Wall near Tower Hill, and it was explained how London rises 10 feet every 100 hundred years – hence the base of the wall is now evident at a much lower level than the existing ground level.

First coffee house notice and Stone relief of crowned figure

The delightful church of St Olave Hart Street was exceptional, where Samuel Pepys worshipped and was buried.  He was able to access the Church from a special entrance close to the Admiralty, of which he became Secretary.  His wife is also buried there.

composite Pepys memorial Interior of St Olave's and Another Pepys memorial

Of particular interest was the smallest monument on London – a sculpture of two mice almost hidden at first floor level of a building just off Cornhill.  The story goes that two scaffolders were lunching, when a mouse dined off one of their sandwiches!  They created the sculpture as a joke, but it remains to this day.

Overall, a delightful day, and highly informative.  Credit must be given to both guides, whose knowledge was exceptional.  As usual, thanks go to Gwen for organising the trip to her usual high standards.

Text: Philip Akroyd
Photos: John Wright

A few more images from our fascinating exploration ...

Memorial of plague deaths
Plaque of the Clothworkers' Company and George and Vulture pub
Group around street sculpture