Walk 100: The London Circle Line: 21 miles around the stations

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 21.2 miles (34.16km)

Time to walk: You can romp round this at pace, but there’s so much to stop & see / explore that we took all day. Some people do the walk in stages over several days as you’re never far from an Underground station as we’ll see

Difficulty: All on hard footpaths & flat, easy walking

Parking: This is Central London so don’t even think about it!

Public toilets: Cafes etc on the way

Map of the route: 

We love walking in London & we fancied a challenge for our 100th walk outside Northamptonshire! Searching online we came across walking the Circle Line (excluding the Hammersmith arm) which visits all the Underground Stations – above ground

The walk had been done as part of Sports Relief & various other challenges including the Australian version of having an alcoholic drink in each of the pubs closest to one of the stations – having completed the walk, we’re not sure how they managed this & the write up does get somewhat random by the end!!

Because it’s a circular walk, it’s possible to start it at any one of the stations. We chose Bayswater as it’s one of the traditional starting points & did it on 29th July 2017 to allow for maximum daylight – unfortunately we had to contend with downpours in the second half so it got dark early

We guarantee that it’s one of those walks that, although it’s 21 miles, you’ll still have a spring in your step at the end. Because there’s so much to see, the miles pass by easily

Shall we go?

Lets Walk!

1. So our Circle Line walk starts outside Bayswater Station (you can tick that one off immediately!)

The station was opened by the steam-operated Metropolitan Railway, now the Metropolitan line on 1 October 1868 as Bayswater, as part of the railway’s southern extension to South Kensington where it connected to the District Railway. Construction of the railway line, through the already developed Bayswater area required the excavation of a tunnel using the cut & cover method – a trench 42 feet deep was excavated between brick retaining walls which was then roofed over with brick arches to allow building work above

The platforms of the station were constructed in the trench with a short section of it left unroofed to the west of the station to allow smoke & steam from the trains to escape from the tunnels

After several name changes, in 1946, it was renamed Bayswater (Queensway), but the suffix was gradually dropped

2. With your back to the station turn right & walk up busy Queensway…

Bayswater was first developed as a residential suburb of London in the early 19th century. Queensway can be seen on early maps running north from Bayswater Road across fields under the name of Black Lion Lane. It was subsequently renamed Queen’s Road in honour of Queen Victoria, who had been born at nearby Kensington Palace. The name, however, lacked distinctiveness & was changed to Queensway. Near the northern end of the street is the famous Whiteleys store which we’ll see at the end of the walk

In recent years, Queensway has become a centre for the entertainment & leisure industry. London’s biggest ice rink, Queen’s Ice & Bowl is on your right – we visited several times  whilst working here in the 1980s

3. Less than 5 minutes into this walk, we come across another station – Queensway, which isn’t on the Circle Line so doesn’t count!

This shows the bizarreness of the Tube Map, because if you didn’t know, you would get the Circle Line from Bayswater to Notting Hill Gate & then change onto the Central Line to get to Queensway. The walk between the two stations is probably less than 400 yards!

4. At the junction, turn right & walk down the wide Bayswater Road which runs along the northern edge of Hyde Park.  It starts at Marble Arch & continues into Notting Hill Gate & follows the course of a Roman road

Across the road is the entrance to Kensington Gardens, which were once the private gardens of Kensington Palace

Just past this entrance is the guarded gates to an exclusive road called Kensington Palace Gardens. The signs say “Strictly no photographs” & the armed police looked like they meant business! The street was the location of the London Cage, the British government MI19 centre used during the Second World War & the Cold War

Only half a mile long it’s often cited as the “most exclusive address” in London & is one of the most expensive residential streets in the world. It’s long been known as “Billionaires Row”, due to the extreme wealth of its private residents, although in fact the majority of its current occupants are either national embassies or ambassadorial residences

Previous residents include Bernie Ecclestone & Jonathan Hart, the founder of Foxtons

5. Continue along Bayswater Road…

…to arrive at our next station…Notting Hill Gate

Notting Hill Gate is distinct from Notting Hill, although the two are often confused. Much of the street was redeveloped in the 1950s with two large tower blocks being erected on the north & south sides of the street. At this time Notting Hill Gate tube station was also redeveloped linking two stations on the Circle & District & Central lines. Not all of Notting Hill Gate‘s original features were lost when it was redeveloped however, one good example of this being the Notting Hill Coronet. Previously a theatre, it was converted into a cinema in 1923 & was saved from demolition by local activists in 1972 & 1989. In 2004, its long term future was secured by the Kensington Temple who acquired the site with the intention of continuing to provide independent cinema. The Coronet is one of two famous cinemas on Notting Hill Gate, the other being the Gate which opened in 1911 & still retains its Edwardian plasterwork

6. So that’s another one off the list & it’s three within a pretty short distance. Now though, we have slightly more of a stroll & it’s time to head south towards Kensington. So walk back about 100 yards & turn right down Kensington Church Street

Now, if you like quirky shops, pubs & restaurants this is a fabulous area

 ‘Time Out’ Magazine tells us…”This is the forgotten street of not-so-wild west London. The street that you walk up when you get lost looking for Notting Hill Gate, or walk down to find High Street Kensington. It’s the geo-glue in the middle, holding the two together, where proper old-money types mix with organic, biodynamic, wheat-and-dairy-free fashionistas

Kensington Church Street is an old part of town from a simpler time, way before Richard Curtis managed to convince the world that Hugh Grant was just an innocent spluttering boy being seduced by a girl in a flat which would cost bazillions in reality. It’s eccentrically posh, like Withnail’s Uncle Monty but without the harassment – camp, fun and welcoming to the odd young lush.

Even Madonna once set up home here, and for good reason. Not only are there 13 antique shops within about a mile radius, there are also beautiful pubs and flowers everywhere – and (unlike Madge) KCS doesn’t take itself too seriously. A few years ago you could find a shop here flogging real suits of armour for your ‘Scooby-Doo’ castle; now the street has done whatever the opposite of gentrifying is and the top brekkies are served by a Welsh Scouser. It all adds up to somewhere that you can use to impress visiting parents, American friends and mates with a fear of going west”

We absolutely agree & you may find yourself spending longer here than you anticipated, but that’s what this walk’s all about. We loved the look of The Fish Shop

…& then opposite’s an old timber merchant’s which is now The Kensington Cigar Shop

…& then if you fancy a rather ‘floral’ pint cross the road again to visit The Churchill Arms. Now…when we walked this stretch in July it was a riot of colour, but we unfortunately lost a lot of the photos so re-did it again at Christmas – how many trees can you count?

See how diverse & fantastic this street is?

7. Continue as the street winds its way down the hill – this area is now a proliferation of antique shops…

…plus there’s a Dutch restaurant that we last visited in about 1978 – My Old Dutch. Glad to see it’s still going strong as the pancakes were superb!

8. At the bottom of the street the road joins High Street Kensington & you can’t miss the building straight ahead which is the old Barkers department store

In 1870 John Barker & James Whitehead got together to open a small drapery business at 91–93 Kensington High Street. John Barker’s plan was to start small & grow his business up to a full line department store. By 1892, the business had swallowed up many surrounding businesses & properties that it now operated over forty two departments & workshops

The business continued to grow rapidly & diversified across many areas until in August 1957, House of Fraser bought it & started streamlining & downsizing. In 1988, the original John Barker & Co Ltd company was wound up voluntarily & the business became part of the House of Fraser group. It continued in this guise until 2006, when the 135 year old business was shut as House of Fraser consolidated its business model

Today it’s still worth a visit to see the Whole Foods Market based inside

9. Turn right along the High Street for about 200 yards to arrive at our next Circle Line station, High Street Kensington

So that’s another off the list, & now we turn back along the High Street, passing an old drinking fountain on the left opposite Barkers

The route is now heading along the other side of Kensington Gardens

…past the car entrance to Kensington Palace. There were numerous photographers outside as it was the weekend after Meghan Markle‘s move to the UK following her engagement to Prince Harry

10. Walk along the right side of the road keeping the park on the left – this is quite a posh area. Turn right, heading south down Palace Gate…

There’s several buildings of note along this road. Firstly if you fancy a quick flutter, stop off at the famous Maxims Casino Club

Across the road’s the Zambian Embassy

11. Further along the road becomes more residential, including the very impressive Queen’s Gate Terrace where a 4 bed flat will set you back around £5 million of your hard earned cash

There’s plenty of attractive cafes along here to have a coffee stop at. Palace Gate eventually arrives at the crossroads with Gloucester Road. Straight over is our next station – the very impressive Gloucester Road station

This station is served by the District, Circle & Piccadilly lines. It’s in two parts, sub-surface platforms, opened in 1868 by the Metropolitan Railway as part of the company’s extension of the Inner Circle route from Paddington to South Kensington & to Westminster; & deep-level platforms opened in 1906 by the Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway. A variety of underground & main line services have operated over the sub-surface tracks. The deep-level platforms have remained largely unaltered with no lift access. A disused sub-surface platform features periodic art installations as part of Transport for London’s Art on the Underground scheme

12. It’s time to start heading west now, so walk along busy Cromwell Road…

Cromwell Road was created in the 19th century & is said to be named after Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver Cromwell, who once owned a house there. Cromwell Road was not always the main traffic route it is now, as when it was built, it ended at Earls Court. The Cromwell Road extension, across the West London railway line & towards Hammersmith, was authorised as a bridge across the railway in 1884 but completed only in 1941. Thus, it was only after World War II that it became the main A4 route into London. The large traffic increase brought much demolition & road rearrangement beyond Earls Court Road between 1967 & 1972

13. After approximately half a mile we arrive at what could best be described as the Museum District of London. Firstly on the left’s the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum exhibits a vast range of specimens & is home to life & earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology & zoology. The museum is a world-renowned centre of research specialising in taxonomy, identification & conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin. The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons & ornate architecture

Over the road on the same side’s the impressive Victoria & Albert Museum, which is one of our favourites, having last visited to see the incredible Scott of the Antarctic exhibition where they recreated his hut…

The Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A) is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts & design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. It was founded in 1852 & named after Queen Victoria & Prince Albert. The V&A covers 12.5 acres & 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia & North Africa. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints & printmaking, drawings & photographs are among the largest & most comprehensive in the world

The museum owns the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculpture, with the holdings of Italian Renaissance items being the largest outside Italy. The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea & the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics & metalwork, while the Islamic collection is amongst the largest in the Western world. Overall, it’s one of the largest museums in the world

14. Turn right down down Exhibition Road which has been pedestrianised & is a great place to stop for a coffee…

At the end turn right into Thurloe Street where, on the right’s the Museum of Architecture / Gingerbread City which fills two floors with impressive models made of dough made by architecture firms, who were invited to pick a plot on the masterplan & respond to a brief set by Tibbalds Planning & Urban Design

15. At the end of Thurloe Street’s our next Circle Line Station, the extremely ornate South Kensington

South Kensington is served by the District, Circle & Piccadilly lines & is in two parts… sub-surface platforms opened in 1868 & deep level platforms opened in 1906. A variety of underground & main line services have operated over the sub-surface tracks, which have been modified several times to suit operational demands with the current arrangement being achieved in the 1960s. The deep level platforms have remained largely unaltered, although the installation of escalators in the 1970s to replace lifts improved interchanges between the two parts of the station

16. Walk straight through the station, out the other side & head straight down Old Brompton Road – it looks like there’s someone waiting for you on the corner of the street

On Saturday 24 September 2011, Imre Varga’s statue of Bela Bartók was reunveiled on the pavement outside Malvern Court, following its removal in April 2009 for road redevelopments. The celebrated Hungarian sculptor Imre Varga came to London in 2004 for the initial unveiling of his fourth statue of Bela Bartók

Bela Bartók (1881-1945) was the most significant Hungarian eomposer of the last century, & was inspired by a love for his native folk musie. Choosing exile in America in 1940, he died there five years later. His music, includes the ‘Concerto for Orchestra’, three piano concertos, six string quartets, & a remarkable set of 153 graded piano pieces called Mikrokosmos

17. Continue down Old Brompton Road to the junction with Fulham Road…

…turning left along it to arrive at one of our favourite London properties, the beautiful Michelin House, constructed as the first permanent UK headquarters & tyre depot for the Michelin Tyre Company Ltd. The building opened for business on 20 January 1911

Designed by one of Michelin’s employees, François Espinasse, the building has three large stained glass windows based on Michelin advertisements of the time, all featuring the Michelin Man “Bibendum”

Around the front of the original building, at street level, there is a number of decorative tiles showing famous racing cars that used Michelin tyres. More tiles can be found inside the front of the building, which was originally a tyre fitting bay for motorists. People walking into the reception area of the building are still greeted by a mosaic on the floor showing Bibendum holding aloft a glass of nuts, bolts & other hazards, proclaiming “Nunc Est Bibendum” (Latin for “Now is the time to drink”). The reception area also features more decorative tiles around its walls. Two glass cupolas, which look like piles of tyres, frame either side of the front of the building. The Michelin company’s close association with road maps & tourism is represented by a number of etchings of the streets of Paris on some of the first-floor windows

Michelin moved out of here in 1985, when it was purchased by the late publisher Paul Hamlyn & the restaurateur/retailer Sir Terence Conran, who shared a love for the building. They embarked on a major redevelopment that included the restoration of some the original features. The new development also featured offices for Hamlyn’s company Octopus Publishing, as well as Conran’s Bibendum Restaurant & Oyster Bar, & a Conran Shop. All three businesses opened in August 1987

18. Turn right at the junction of the Michelin building down Sloane Avenue towards Sloane Square…

…&, if you fancy a stop for lunch, then the renowned Argentinian Steak restaurant, Gaucho is a couple of hundred yards down here on the right (not sure we’d be able to complete the walk after eating one of those!)

Over the road’s some fine examples of art deco buildings…

19. At the junction turn left on to the famous King’s Road which stretches through Chelsea & Fulham, & is associated with 1960s style, & fashion figures such as Mary Quant & Vivienne Westwood. It runs for just under 2 miles & derives its name from its function as a private road used by King Charles II to travel to Kew. It remained a private royal road until 1830, but people with connections were able to use it. Some houses date from the early 18th century

During the 1960s the street became a symbol of mod culture, evoking “an endless frieze of mini skirted, booted, fair haired angular angels”, one magazine later wrote. King’s Road was home in the 1960s to the Chelsea Drugstore (originally a chemist with a stylised chrome & neon soda fountain upstairs, later a public house, & more recently a McDonald’s, & in the 1970s to Malcolm McLaren’s boutique, ‘Let It Rock’, which was renamed SEX in 1974, & then Seditionaries in 1977

During the hippie & punk eras, it was a centre for counterculture, but has since been gentrified. It serves as Chelsea’s high street & has a reputation for being one of London’s most fashionable shopping streets. 484 King’s Road was the headquarters of Swan Song Records, owned by Led Zeppelin. They left following closure of the company in 1983. King’s Road was site of the first UK branch of Starbucks which opened in 1999

The road has been represented in popular culture on various occasions: “King’s Road” is the title of a song by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers from the 1981 album Hard Promises & is name-checked in the song “Dick a Dum Dum (King’s Road)” which was a hit for Des O’Connor in 1969. In Ian Fleming‘s novels, James Bond lives in a fashionable unnamed square just off it

20. Walk left down King’s Road. Over the road, in Duke of York’s Square, on the right’s the Saatchi Gallery for contemporary art, opened by Charles Saatchi in 1985 in order to exhibit his collection to the public. It has occupied different premises, first in North London, then the South Bank by the River Thames, & finally in Chelsea, its current location. Saatchi’s collection has had distinct phases, starting with US artists & minimalism, moving to the Damien Hirst led Young British Artists, followed by shows purely of painting, & then returning to contemporary art from America in USA Today at the Royal Academy in London

The gallery has been an influence on art in Britain since its opening. It has also had a history of media controversy which it has actively courted & has earned extremes of critical reaction. Many artists shown at the gallery are unknown not only to the general public, but also to the commercial art world, showing that it has provided a springboard to launch careers. In 2010, it was announced that the gallery would be given to the British public, becoming the Museum of Contemporary Art for London

21. At the end of King’s Road is Sloan Square which forms a boundary between the two largest aristocratic estates in London, the Grosvenor Estate & the Cadogan. The square was formerly known as ‘Hans Town’, & was laid out in 1771 to a plan of by Henry Holland Snr & Henry Holland Jnr. Both the square & Hans Town were named after Sir Hans Sloane whose estates owned the land at the time

In the early 1980s the Square lent its name to the “Sloane Rangers”, the young under-employed, often snooty & ostentatiously well-off members of the upper classes. The Venus Fountain in the centre of the square was constructed in 1953, designed by sculptor Gilbert Leeward. The fountain depicts Venus, & on the basin section of the fountain is a relief which depicts King Charles II & Nell Gwynn by the Thames, which was used in relation to a house located close by that Nell Gwynn had used

At the opposite end of the Square is the Royal Court theatre. The first theatre on Lower George Street, off Sloane Square, was the converted Nonconformist Ranelagh Chapel, opened as a theatre in 1870 under the name ‘The New Chelsea Theatre’. In 1871 it was renamed the Court Theatre

The present building replaced the earlier one & opened on 24 September 1888 as the New Court Theatre, but by the end of the century was again called the ‘Royal Court Theatre’

22. To the right of the theatre is our next Circle Line station to tick off – Sloane Square

The construction of the station was complicated by the crossing of the site by the River Westbourne which ran through Hyde Park as the Serpentine Lake & was originally crossed by the Knight’s Bridge at Knightsbridge. The river was carried above the platform in a large iron pipe suspended from girders. It remains in place today

In the late 1930s, the station building was rebuilt & escalators were installed between the ticket hall & the platforms. The new station building did not last long as it was mostly destroyed during World War II. A German bomb that fell in November 1940 killed 37 & injured 79 passengers on a train in the station & destroyed the ticket hall, escalators & the glazed roof over the tracks

23. Facing the station, turn right & walk around the side of it down Holbein Place…

There’s a huge amount of development going on at the bottom of the street, much of which was the old barracks

24. Turn left into Pimlico Road which we’ve visited on other walks. It likes to call itself ‘London’s Design District’ – we like it best for its Farmer’s Market

The building with the light in the picture above is the furniture shop previously owned by Viscount David Linley, 2nd Earl of Snowden & son of Princess Margaret

Slightly further on is the fabulous little Orange Square which, last time we visited, was host to the excellent weekly Pimlico Farmers’ Market….

It’s also known as Mozart square, after the Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who lived in nearby house in Ebury Street during his visit to London in 1764 & where he wrote his first two symphonies. Here he is in the square…

25. Further along on the left are the iconic Lumley Flats which are an excellent example of 19th century social housing

The flats were built in 1875 by the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company on land bought from the Grosvenor Estate. They were later sold to the Peabody Trust which was founded by the American Banker & philanthropist George Peabody to provide social housing for people in need. Today it looks after 19,000 properties

As Pimlico Road bends right there’s a very ornate fountain on the corner…

26. At the junction turn left into Buckingham Palace Road which will take us to Victoria Station, the end of the first leg of this journey

In the 18th century, it was known as Chelsea Road & was often frequented by Highwaymen, a reward of £10 being offered for the capture of one of the worst offenders in 1752 so watch your step & your wallet!!

The building with the tower on the right’s the National Audit Office which is an independent Parliamentary body responsible for auditing central government departments, government agencies & non departmental public bodies. The NAO also carries out Value for Money (VFM) audits into the administration of public policy

27. Slightly further on the left’s probably one of the most well known buildings on this road – Victoria Coach Station which is the largest coach station in London. It serves as a terminus for many medium & long distance coach services in the UK, intercity bus & is also the departure point for many countryside coach tours originating from London

Victoria Coach Station was opened at its present site in 1932, by London Coastal Coaches, a consortium of coach operators. The building is in a distinctive Art Deco style, the architects for which were Wallis, Gilbert & Partners. In 1988, ownership of Victoria Coach Station Limited was transferred to London Transport. In 2000, Transport for London was formed & took over the station

28. One of the entrances to Victoria Station is on the right, as is the Grosvenor Hotel which opened in 1929 on the site of Grosvenor House, the former London residence of the Dukes of Westminster, whose family name is Grosvenor

The hotel was not finally completed until the 1950s because Baron Bruno Schröder, who had acquired the lease of 35 Park Street in about 1910, had refused to give it up to Edwards. It managed to have a ‘good’ World War II with 10,000 sandbags & 5 miles of blackout material protecting the building. The Great Room initially became home to the Officers’ Sunday Club & then, in 1943, to the US officers’ mess. Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower & George S. Patton were regular visitors

It underwent a four year renovation & restoration costing £142 million, & reopened in 2008. This included a full refurbishment of all restaurants, guest rooms, health facilities, & public areas. The Great Room, Ballroom, Court Suite, restaurants, bars, meeting spaces & 494 guest rooms can accommodate a total of over 6,000 people

We decided it was time for our first stop for some refreshments & we can highly recommend the Victoria pub just down the side street opposite the hotel. It’s a Greene King pub with a fine selection of ales & good selection of food – the thick cut chips can be recommended!

Suitably refreshed it’s time for Stage 2 which is from Victoria to Monument

Ready?

Let’s Walk!

29. Continue past Victoria Station on the right, which also contains one of the entrances to our next underground station…Victoria

There are two connected Underground stations at Victoria, on different levels & built more than a century apart. The older one, on the north side of the bus station, serves the District & Circle lines, constructed by ‘cut & cover’ methods just below road level. The newer station, closer to the main line station, serves the Victoria line, a deep level tube. Victoria is currently the third busiest station on the London Underground, after Waterloo & King’s Cross St. Pancras, with 83.50 million using the station in 2016

30. At the junction turn right down the, very busy, Victoria Street, where there’s also a larger, modern entrance into the Underground Station

Victoria Street’s really cosmopolitan & there’s lots to see along it. Firstly across the road on the right’s the spectacular Westminster Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Catholic faith in England & Wales. It’s also the largest

Please go into this incredible building & be prepared to be amazed. We’ve driven past it for years & always wanted to visit. You’ll also realise that this is an extremely important place & not one to take photos in

31. At No.64’s Westminster City Hall which is the home of Westminster City Council &, slightly further along we arrive at the small, green space called Christchurch Gardens which originally formed part of the burial ground of St Margaret’s Westminster

The old churchyard is home to some quite notable people. Colonel Thomas Blood was an Anglo-Irish officer & self-styled colonel / pirate, best known for his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London in 1671. Described in an American source as a “noted bravo & desperado” he was known for his attempt to kidnap &, later, to kill, his enemy, the Duke of Ormonde. He had switched allegiances from Royalist to Roundhead during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms & despite his subsequent notoriety received a Royal free pardon & found favour at the court of King Charles II

Margaret Batten was said to have been 136 years old when she died in 1739. She was brought from Scotland to England to prepare Scotch broth for James II. Following his death she fell into poverty & eventually died in St Margaret’s workhouse

The above statue in the gardens is called The Suffragette Scroll by Edwin Russell & commemorates the individuals who fought for Women’s suffrage in the UK. The memorial is in the shape of a scroll & features the badges of the Women’s Social & Political Union & the Women’s Freedom League

32. Turn left along Broadway (no, not that one!)…

…where, on the corner’s St James Park Station, our next stop. The station was opened on 24 December 1868 by the District Railway, now the District line. The station has been reconstructed twice

33. Just past the station the road swings right into Toothill Street & ahead of us now we can see Westminster Abbey

At the end we enter the spectacular Parliament Square which contains eleven statues of statesmen & other notable individuals. As well as being one of London’s main tourist attractions, it’s also overlooked by various official buildings…the Houses of Parliament, the Supreme Court, & Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is one of the UK’s most notable religious buildings & the traditional place of coronation & burial for English & later British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 & 1556, the Abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560 the building is no longer an Abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England “Royal Peculiar”—a church responsible directly to the sovereign

Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English & British monarchs have been in Westminster Abbey. There have been at least 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100. Two were of reigning monarchs, Henry I & Richard II, although, before 1919, there had been none for some 500 years

34. Across the square’s the Houses of Parliament – we’ll take a closer look at these shortly, but there’s a view at every turn

As we mentioned there are eleven statues round the square. These are…Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Jan Smuts, Henry John Temple, Edward Smith-Stanley, Benjamin Disraeli, Sir Robert Peel, George Canning, Abraham Lincoln & Nelson Mandela & Mahatma Gandhi

It was announced in April 2017 that a statue of Dame Millicent Fawcett will become the first statue of a woman to be erected in Parliament Square. Dame Millicent was a prominent leader during the campaign for women’s suffrage, serving as president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies for more than twenty years, as well as co-founding Newnham College, Cambridge. The statue is expected to be added in 2018 as part of the celebrations marking the centenary of women being granted the vote in the UK

Today we passed Mandela

Mahatma Gandhi

…& our favourite, who is looking straight towards Parliament, the magnificent, brooding statue of Winston Churchill

We’re not going to go into the detailed life of the great man here as it would take up too much space, so simply click on his name above to access links

35. Cross Parliament Square to the left of the Houses of Parliament to arrive at our next underground station, Westminster

Westminster is served by the Circle, District & Jubilee lines. The station is in two parts: sub-surface platforms opened in 1868 by the District Railway as part of the company’s first section of the Inner Circle route & deep level platforms opened in 1999 as part of the Jubilee line extension from Green Park to Stratford. A variety of underground & main line services have operated over the sub-surface tracks, but the original station was completely rebuilt in conjunction with the construction of the deep level platforms & Portcullis House, which sits above the station. If you’ve not been in it, then we recommend a visit as it’s quite futuristic

36. Walk towards Westminster Bridge, passing the iconic sight over the road…

The tower is officially called the Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012. Before that, it was known simply as the Clock Tower. Most people call it Big Ben but, as we know that’s the name of the bell it contains

The tower was designed by Augustus Pugin &, when completed in 1859, it was, says horologist Ian Westworth, “the prince of timekeepers, the biggest, most accurate four-faced striking & chiming clock in the world”. It stands 315 feet tall, & the climb from ground level to the belfry is 334 steps

Big Ben is the largest of five bells & weighs 13.5 long tons. It was the largest bell in the UK for 23 years. The origin of the bell’s nickname is open to question; it may be named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw its installation, or boxing heavyweight champion Benjamin Caunt

On 21 August 2017, a four year schedule of renovation works began on the tower, which are to include the addition of a lift. There are also plans to re-glaze & repaint its dials. With a few exceptions, such as New Year’s Eve & Remembrance Sunday, the bells are to be silent until the work has been completed in the 2020’s

37. The next 3 stations are all along the side of the River Thames, so at Westminster Bridge turn left along Embankment – this is spectacular London walking

Across the river’s the London Eye

The London Eye is 443 feet tall & the wheel has a diameter of 394 feet. When it opened to the public in 2000 it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. Its height was surpassed by the 525 foot Star of Nanchang in 2006, the 541 foot Singapore Flyer in 2008, & the 550 foot High Roller (Las Vegas) in 2014

It offered the highest public viewing point in London until it was superseded by the 804 foot observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard, which opened to the public on 1 February 2013

38. On the left over the road is the new New Scotland Yard. Scotland Yard (officially New Scotland Yard) is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, the territorial police force responsible for policing most of London

The name derives from the location of the original Metropolitan Police headquarters at 4 Whitehall Place, which had a rear entrance on a street called Great Scotland Yard. The Scotland Yard entrance became the public entrance to the police station. The New York Times wrote in 1964 that just as Wall Street gave its name to New York’s financial district, Scotland Yard became the name for police activity in London

The force moved from Great Scotland Yard in 1890, to a newly completed building on the Victoria Embankment, & the name “New Scotland Yard” was adopted for the new headquarters. In 1967, the MPS moved its headquarters from the three building complex to a tall, newly constructed building on Broadway in Victoria

In summer 2013, it was announced that the force would move to the Curtis Green Building, which is the third building of New Scotland Yard’s previous site & that the headquarters would be renamed Scotland Yard. In November 2016, MPS moved to its new headquarters, which continues to bear the name of “New Scotland Yard”

39. Slightly further along the Embankment is one of our favourite memorials, the one to The Battle of Britain

The Monument commemorates the British military personnel who took part in the Battle of Britain during the Second World War. It was unveiled on 18 September 2005, the 65th anniversary of the Battle, by Prince Charles & Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in the presence of many of the surviving airmen known collectively as “The Few”, following the Royal Air Force Service of Thanksgiving & Rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday

The monument was conceived by Bill Bond, founder of the Battle of Britain Historical Society, who was later awarded an MBE for his services to heritage. He also formed the fundraising committee after raising over £250,000 through an appeal. The budget was £1.74 million which was funded in the main by private donations. Bill Bond appointed Lord Tebbit as chairman of the fundraising committee

The monument utilises a panelled granite structure 82 ft long which was originally designed as a smoke outlet for underground trains when they were powered by steam engines. The centrepiece is an approximate life sized sculpture of airmen scrambling for their aircraft during the battle. The outside of the monument is lined with bronze plaques listing 2,936 airmen & ground crew from 14 countries who took part in the battle on the Allied side

The sculptor of the monument is Paul Day & the statue was cast by Morris Singer, which is the oldest established fine art foundry in the world & has cast many prominent statues & sculptures in London & around the world, including the lions & fountains in Trafalgar Square

If you haven’t seen it, then the next time you’re in London you must go & find it…

40. Pass the Tattershall Castle boat which holds a special memory, being from Lincolnshire. It’s now a floating pub & restaurant, but served as a passenger ferry across the Humber estuary from 1934 to 1973, before being towed to London in 1976. We went on it as a youngster

The day we were walking this route on was one of the 3 day festival cycling event the city holds called ‘Ride London’

41. Most people just walk straight along the Embankment, but it’s worth exploring the tranquil Whitehall Gardens on the left…

42. Come off the Embankment just before the tunnel to visit the Playhouse theatre. It’s surprising, but we’re actually quite close to Trafalgar Square here which is just up Northumberland Avenue

To the right of this walk through the underpass…

…to arrive at Embankment Station & our next one to tick off the list. Embankment is served by the Circle, District, Northern & Bakerloo lines & is close to Charing Cross station, Embankment Pier, Hungerford Bridge, Cleopatra’s Needle, the Royal Air Force Memorial, the Savoy Chapel & Savoy Hotel

As with most of these stations, the platforms are on two levels. Walk straight through the station to arrive back on the Embankment

43. Ahead of us on our side of the river’s the City & across it the Shard & buildings on the South Bank

Rather closer though is another iconic London landmark, Cleopatra’s Needle which is one of three similarly named Egyptian obelisks. It was presented to the UK in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt & Sudan Muhammad Ali, in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile & Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. Although the British government welcomed the gesture, it declined to fund the expense of transporting it to London. Made of red granite, the obelisk stands about 69 ft high, weighs about 224 tons & is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs

The obelisk was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC. The material of which it was cut came from the quarries of Aswan, near the first cataract of the Nile. Thutmose III had a single column of text carved on each face, these were translated by EA Wallis Budge & printed in his 1926 book ‘Cleopatra’s Needles & other Egyptian Obelisks’. Other inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories. These are in two columns on each face & these flank the original inscriptions. The obelisks were moved to Alexandria & set up in the Caesarean, a temple built by Cleopatra in honor of Mark Antony or Julius Caesar, by the Romans in 12 BC, during the reign of Augustus, but were toppled some time later. This had the fortuitous effect of burying their faces & so preserving most of the hieroglyphs from the effects of weathering

44. Next up on the left’s the iconic Shell Mex House which has the biggest clock face in the UK known as Big Benzene. The building was for many years the London headquarters of Shell Mex & BP Ltd

During the Second World War, the building became home to the Ministry of Supply which co-ordinated supply of equipment to the national armed forces. It was also the home of the “Petroleum Board” which handled the distribution & rationing of petroleum products during the war. It was badly damaged by a bomb in 1940. The building reverted to Shell Mex & BP Ltd on 1 July 1948 with a number of floors remaining occupied by the Ministry of Aviation until the mid-1970s. The property was sold in July 2007 to a fund managed by Westbrook Partners

45. Next up is Somerset House which is a large Neoclassical building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, overlooking the River Thames. The building, originally the site of a Tudor palace, was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1776, & further extended with Victorian wings to the east & west in 1831 & 1856 respectively. The East Wing forms part of the adjacent Strand campus of King’s College London

The City skyline is now really starting to expand before us…

…& it’s not looking bad over the river too – spot the superb OXO building which has an excellent restaurant & terrace

46. On the left’s our next Circle Line station, Temple

…which was opened on 30 May 1870 by the District Railway when the company extended its line from Westminster to St. Paul’s station (now called Blackfriars)

Carrying on, the Dragon tells us that we’re now entering The City of London

47. If you like watching ‘This Morning’ then ITV’s studios are across the river on the South Bank in the white annex…

…& next door you can now see the OXO more clearly

48. Embankment now starts to climb towards Blackfriars Bridge & on the left’s JP Morgan’s London HQ…

Explore for a few moments around this building as there’s a superb statue to have a look at…

John Seward Johnson II, born 16 April 1930, also known as J. Seward Johnson Jr & Seward Johnson, is an American artist known for his trompe l’oeil painted bronze statues. He’s a grandson of Robert Wood Johnson I, the co-founder of Johnson & Johnson & Colonel Thomas Melville Dill of Bermuda

He creates life-size bronze statues, which are castings of living people, depicting them engaged in day-to-day activities. A large staff of technicians perform the fabrication

49. Across the road it’s not hard to spot our next station – the impressive, rebuilt Blackfriars

The Underground station was opened on 30 May 1870 by the Metropolitan District Railway as the railway’s new eastern terminus when the line was extended from Westminster. The construction of the new section of the MDR was planned in conjunction with the building of the Victoria Embankment & was achieved by the cut & cover method of roofing over a shallow trench

Blackfriars station was significantly renovated between 2009 & 2012, with the terminal platforms at the station being closed from 20 March 2009. The office building above was demolished & replaced as part of the Thameslink programme. The Underground station also received major enhancements, with a new roof of glazed north lights & partial-height glazed side panels installed along the entire length of the bridge

50. If you fancy a stop with a difference, the Blackfriar pub can be highly recommended. This historic Art Nouveau Grade II masterpiece of a pub was built in 1875 on the site of a Dominican friary. The building was designed by architect H. Fuller-Clark & artist Henry Poole, both committed to the free thinking of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Jolly friars appear everywhere in the pub in sculptures, mosaics & reliefs. This wonderful pub was saved from demolition by a campaign led by Sir John Betjeman

Continue under the railway bridge down Queen Victoria Street, which was named after the the Queen & runs east by north from its junction with New Bridge Street & Victoria Embankment in the Castle Baynard ward of the City of London, along a section that divides the wards of Queenhithe & Bread Street, then lastly through the middle of Cordwainer ward, until it reaches Mansion House Street at Bank junction. Beyond Bank junction, the street continues north-east as Threadneedle Street which joins Bishopsgate

The road was commissioned in 1861 to streamline the approach to the central business district, & was provided for through the Metropolitan Improvement Act. Costing over £1,000,000, still today it remains a flagship street within the City

51. We’re now starting to get closer to the City & the skyscrapers start to be seen ahead including the ‘Walkie Talkie’

About 100 yards further on the left’s the London HQ of the Church of Scientology which is a multinational network & hierarchy of numerous ostensibly independent, but interconnected corporate entities & other organisations devoted to the practice, administration & dissemination of Scientology, a new religious movement

The first Scientology church was incorporated in December 1953 in Camden, New Jersey by L. Ron Hubbard. Although in some countries it has attained legal recognition as a religion, the movement has been the subject of a number of controversies, & has been accused by critics of being both a cult & a commercial enterprise. Perhaps the two high profile best known members are Tom Cruise & Madonna

52. Just past this is another institution we weren’t aware of – The College of Arms, sometimes referred to as the College of Heralds. The heralds are appointed by the British Sovereign & are delegated authority to act on behalf of the Crown in all matters of heraldry, the granting of new coats of arms, genealogical research & the recording of pedigrees. The College is also the official body responsible for matters relating to the flying of flags on land, & it maintains the official registers of flags & other national symbols

Founded by royal charter in 1484 by King Richard III, the College is one of the few remaining official heraldic authorities in Europe. The College of Arms also undertakes & consults on the planning of many ceremonial occasions such as coronations, state funerals, the annual Garter Service & the State Opening of Parliament. Heralds of the College accompany the sovereign on many of these occasions

53. Look to the right to see the beautiful & iconic St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London & the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London & dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren’s lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London

The cathedral is one of the most famous & most recognisable sights of London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years & was much remembered surrounded by the smoke & fire of the Blitz

54. Walking along here you can understand why the London skyline is regarded as one of the greatest in the world…

Finally we arrive at Mansion House underground Station which takes its name from the nearby Mansion House

It opened in 1871 as the eastern terminus of the Metropolitan District Railway. Today, Mansion House is served by the Circle & District lines & is a sub-surface station with three platforms

55. Now….if you wanted to travel by tube from Mansion House to Cannon Street it would take you quite a time…

…but if you fancy a 5 minute walk, look at what you’re missing…

56. And there’s Cannon Street, our next stop…

Cannon Street station is one of two London termini of the South Eastern main line, the other being Charing Cross, while the Underground station is on the Circle & District lines, between Monument & Mansion House. The station runs services by Southeastern, mostly catering for commuters in southeast London & Kent, with occasional services further into the latter

The station was built on a site of the medieval steelyard, the trading base in England of the Hanseatic League. It was built by the South Eastern Railway in order to have a railway terminal in the City & compete with their rivals, the London, Chatham & Dover Railway

57. If you want to ride the Underground to Monument it’ll take you quite a time, but for us it’s only 5 minutes walk

Monument Underground station is interlinked with Bank station & forms a public transport complex spanning the length of King William Street. Monument station, named after the Monument to the Great Fire of London, opened in 1884 & is served by the District & Circle lines. The stations have been linked as an interchange since 1933 & is one of the busiest on the London Underground network

That’s the end of the second stage of out walk & you’re almost halfway round so maybe time for another well-earned refreshment stop

58. Right it’s time for the next leg to Farringdon…so continue along impressive Eastcheap…

On the right’s one of London’s smallest, but most famous streets…Pudding Lane, which is widely known for being the location of Thomas Farriner’s bakery where the Great Fire of London started in 1666

The site of Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane is on the east side of Pudding Lane. The oven & small yard where Farriner stored the brushwood for the oven were at the back of the site. A plaque on the wall of the nearby Faryners House, presented by the Company of Bakers in 1986, commemorates the fire

According to the chronicler John Stow, it’s named after the “puddings” (a medieval word for offal) which would fall from the carts coming down the lane from the butchers in Eastcheap as they headed for the waste barges on the River Thames. In Stow’s words, “the Butchers of Eastcheape have their skalding House for Hog there, & their puddings with other filth of Beasts, are voided down that way to their dung boats on the Thames”. The original name of the lane was “Offal Pudding Lane”

A little known fact is that Pudding Lane was one of the world’s first one-way streets. An order restricting cart traffic to one-way travel on that & 16 other lanes around Thames Street was issued in 1617, an idea not copied for over 180 years until Albemarle Street became a one-way street in 1800

59. You can’t fail to be impressed by 20 Fenchurch Street, also more commonly known as the ‘Walkie Talkie’. If you get a chance, visit the Sky Garden, which is a unique public space that spans three storeys & offers 360 degree uninterrupted views across the City of London. Visitors can wander around the exquisitely landscaped gardens, observation decks & an open air terrace of what is London’s highest public garden. Entry is free, but booking is advisable…

Now…if you fancy something a little bit different, there’s always a hen party on the London   Pedal Bus…

Mind you if you misbehave in the pub nearby you’d better look out

60. Ahead of us now is the looming mass of the Tower of London, but in-between that & us is All Hallows by the Tower church, which was founded in 675 & is one of the oldest churches in London, & the oldest in the City. It contains a 7th century Anglo Saxon arch with recycled Roman tiles, the oldest surviving piece of church fabric in the city

Its proximity to the Tower of London meant that it acquired royal connections, with Edward IV making one of its chapels a royal chantry where the beheaded victims of the Tower executions being sent for temporary burial

The church has had quite a turbulent past, being badly damaged by an explosion in 1650, caused when some barrels of gunpowder being stored in the churchyard exploded. It only narrowly survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. During the Great Fire, Samuel Pepys climbed the church’s spire to watch the progress of the blaze & described what he saw as “the saddest sight of desolation”

Restored in the late 19th century, All Hallows was gutted by German bombers during the Blitz in World War II & required extensive reconstruction

61. Past the church is one of England’s most famous landmarks…the Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace & Fortress of the Tower of London. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England & the White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. It was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite

The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, even housing the infamous Kray twins for a time, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence

It’s also been an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, & the home of the Crown Jewels of England. The peak period of the castle’s use as a prison was the 16th & 17th centuries, when many figures who had fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, Sir Walter Raleigh, & Elizabeth Throckmorton, were held within its walls. This use has led to the phrase “sent to the Tower”

62. Unfortunately for us it’s now started to rain heavily & the rest of our walk will be completed in poor conditions (glad we wore the shorts!). But there’s still plenty to visit so time to move on. Just on from the Tower is a small garden that’s worth a closer look. This is Trinity Square Gardens

This pleasant little park was the site of the Tower Hill scaffold, where a confirmed 125 people met their fate, including St Thomas More, St John Fisher & Thomas Cromwell. Now it’s a much more peaceful place, ringed by important buildings & bits of London’s ancient Roman wall

Within the park is Edwin LutyensTower Hill Memorial, dedicated to the almost 24,000 merchant sailors who died in both world wars & have no known grave

It’s a quiet poignant place that most visitors don’t even know is there as they rush from the underground station straight across the road to the Tower

63. Close by is our next Circle Line station…Tower Hill, which is on the Circle & District lines.  The entrance to the station is a few yards from one of the largest remaining segments of the Roman London Wall which once surrounded the historic City of London

Since the Houses of Parliament we’ve been heading east & this is the point where the direction of the Circle Line changes to a more north-westerly direction…the start of our return back to Bayswater

64. Turn left up Minories whose name is derived from the former Abbey of the Minoresses of St. Clare without Aldgate, a house of the Poor Clares, members of the Order of St Clare, founded in 1294 & known generally in medieval England as “minoresses”. A “minoress” was a nun in the Second Order of the Order of Friars Minor known as Franciscans

At the junction with the church ahead turn right onto busy Aldgate High Street. Aldgate was the eastern-most gateway through the London Wall leading from the City of London to Whitechapel & the East End of London

Aldgate underground station was open on 18th November 1876 & lies a short way down the High Street. Construction of the line here was complicated because the station was on the site of a plague pit which contains an estimated 1,000 bodies

In 2005, one of four suicide bombers involved in the 7 July terrorist attacks detonated a device on a Circle line train from Liverpool Street as it was approaching Aldgate. Seven passengers were killed in the bombing

65. Pass the station & walk to the traffic lights at the busy crossroads. Over the road’s a pub we’ve visited on our East End walk which is worth a visit…the Hoop & Grapes

The timber-framed Hoop & Grapes is one of a few buildings of its type left from the 17th century & therefore of great historical importance. It nearly didn’t happen as the Great Fire of London in 1666 stopped just 50 yards from The Hoop & Grapes. Latterly the building has become twisted & bent by time, with the front of the building leaning outwards & it was only saved by extensive restoration

The pub’s name was originally the Hops and Grapes to show it sold both beer & wine

66. Turn left up Middlesex Street – the post with the dragon indicates that we’re entering the City of London once more…

There are several attractive restaurants along here…

67. Walk straight along Harrow Place towards another of London’s newer iconic buildings,  30 St Mary Axe, more commonly known as the Gherkin which was completed in December 2003 & opened in April 2004. With 41 storeys, it’s 591 ft tall & stands on the former sites of the Baltic Exchange & Chamber of Shipping, which were extensively damaged in 1992 by the explosion of a bomb placed by the Provisional IRA

The area’s a bit of a maze, but we’re heading towards Liverpool Street Station, initially down Cutler Street & into Devonshire Square, which is another surprising little oasis.

In 1768, the East India Company bought land on New Street for warehousing. Its first building stored raw silk, piece goods & textiles from Bengal, hence the name Bengal Warehouse. Further parcels of land were acquired & more warehouses constructed right up until 1820. By then, the famous old trading company owned most of the area & property that the Devonshire Square Estate occupies today

The most valuable goods were stashed in the Cutler Street warehouses, where the forbidding fortress-like walls & the fire-proof construction afforded excellent protection. Ostrich feathers, chinaware, oriental carpets, cigars, tortoiseshell, silks, mother of pearl, clocks, watches, cameras, drugs, spices, musical instruments, perfumes, tea & other prized artefacts were stored here

At one time Cutler Street was the premier tea warehouse for the Port of London Authority, but by the 1950s most of of the tea business had been moved to the London Dock, & the space was given over to casks of wine, port & sherry

68. Exit the square down Devonshire Row – once again we’re back in the maze of small streets

We loved the sign for The Bull & The Hide, In 1550 an aspiring nobleman, Jasper Fisher, built a house on this site described as “sumptuously builded & beautiful…with gardens of pleasure & bowling lanes”

Fisher’s house being considered far too splendid for a mere clerk of the Chancery, & now much in debt, became mockingly referred to as “Fisher’s Folly”. In 1579 the estate was sold to Edward de Vere, the popular Earl of Oxford who lived here until 1588. Sir William Cornwallis acquired Fisher’s Folly next & lived here until 1603 when the property fell to Roger Manners, Earl of Rutland, one of the most well-educated & remarkably literate people of Elizabethan England

It is noteworthy that two of the former owners of Fisher’s Folly (de Vere & Manners) have alternately been reputed as the true authors of Shakespeare’s plays

69. Cross busy Bishopsgate…

…& continue down Liverpool Street  past a very amusing restaurant where you can improve your chopping skills

70. Ahead’s Liverpool Street station which always seems to fit into its surroundings so well. Liverpool Street serves as the terminus of the West Anglia Main Line to Cambridge, the busier Great Eastern Main Line to Norwich, local & regional commuter trains serving east London, destinations in the East of England, & the Stansted Express service to Stansted Airport

The station opened in 1874 as a replacement for Bishopsgate station & by 1895 it had the largest number of platforms on any terminal railway station in London. During the First World War, an air raid on the station in 1917 led to 162 deaths. In the build up to the Second World War, the station served as the entry point for thousands of child refugees arriving in London as part of the Kindertransport rescue mission. The station was damaged by the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing

71. Nearby is our next target Circle Line underground station…Liverpool Street

Liverpool Street tube station was one of the first to use the Moore Vacuum Tube, a new system of lighting that produced three times as much as a normal bulb. It became one of the principal shelters during the Blitz. Following heavy raids on the East End on 7th September 1940, many people sought refuge underground, & staff opened the gates to everyone at Liverpool Street without asking for tickets. Though technically illegal, it remained the most practical & safe shelter for local residents

During the 7 July 2005 terrorist attacks on London, a bomb exploded aboard an underground train that had departed Liverpool Street towards Aldgate. Seven passengers were killed

72. Next stop is Moorgate so head straight over from the tube station along Eldon Street…

Look across to the right side of the street to see the small St Mary’s Moorfield church which is the only Catholic church in the City of London. The present building was opened in 1903, after the previous building had been demolished in 1899, however, the foundation had a long history prior to this. A chapel was opened in 1686, but was suspended in 1689, in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1688

The church serves as a hub for evangelism, especially directed at young people who work in the Financial District of the City of London. It’s affiliated with St Francis of Assisi & also hosts monthly Opus Dei meetings. Opus Dei has sometimes been criticised as “the most controversial force in the Catholic Church” & featured heavily in the Dan Brown novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’

73. Turn left along Moorgate to arrive at Moorgate tube station…

The station was opened as Moorgate Street in 1865 by the Metropolitan Railway. In 1900 the City & South London Railway added the station to its network & the Great Northern & City Railway began serving the station in 1904

On 28 February 1975, 43 people were killed & 74 seriously injured in the Moorgate tube crash, when a southbound Northern City Line train crashed into the end of the dead-end tunnel beyond the platform. The accident caused the most fatalities on the Underground during peacetime & has been considered the worst ever on the system. The cause was the unexplained failure of the driver to stop or even slow down at the platform, causing the train to run at speed into the dead-end tunnel, colliding with the buffers & then with the wall

Turn right down the narrow street just after the station where there’s a memorial on the wall

74. Continue down this narrow street. Much of this area when we walked was inaccessible due to building works & we had to divert right & then left through a modern office & residential development…

Exit through the gap straight ahead out into the road again & turn down towards The Postern which is part of the Barbican development

75. We’re now walking an area we’ve visited on another London walk including one of our favourite churches. On reaching The Postern turn right through the barrier…

…to arrive at St Giles without Cripplegate which is dedicated to St Giles, patron saint of lepers, beggars & the handicapped. It’s one of the few medieval churches left in the City of London, having survived the Great Fire of 1666

The church has several notable people associated with it. Oliver Cromwell was married here, John Milton is buried & Rick Wakeman recorded his track “Jane Seymour” (from The Six Wives of Henry VIII) & Yes track “Close to the Edge” in it

76. Walk round to the left of the church to see some of the Roman Wall which was part of the main fort of Roman London built between 90 – 120 AD…

…however our route is across the bridge back on the other side which will take us into the Barbican itself

The Barbican is a residential estate that was built during the 1960s & the 1980s within an area once devastated by World War II bombings. It contains the Barbican Arts Centre, the Museum of London, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the Barbican public library, & the City of London School for Girls forming the Barbican Complex

77. Go into the building, down the stairs &, at the bottom turn left through the road tunnel…

…emerging at the end at our next Circle Line station, Barbican. The station was opened with the name Aldersgate Street in 1865 & was renamed on 24 October 1924 as Aldersgate & Barbican. It finally became Barbican in 1968. Train services were disrupted during the Second World War when the station suffered severe bomb damage in the Blitz, which led to the removal of the upper floors, & in 1955 the remainder of the street level building was also demolished

78. Turn right along what is the A1 & then left down Charterhouse Street, before bearing right up St John Street & then left down Cowcross Street. Surely they must have painted the sign on the wall before the building was demolished??

To tick off Farringdon Street station we need to make a slight diversion down Turnmill Street

79. Farringdon Station is at the bottom of the road & is a London Underground & connected main line National Rail station. It was opened in 1863

The National Rail station is one of the less important main line central London stations, being a stop on the Thameslink route between St Pancras & City Thameslink, but that’s expected to change when it becomes a major interchange station between the two largest transport infrastructure programmes currently under construction in the city: Crossrail & the Thameslink Programme, both scheduled for completion in 2018–2019

We’ve now completed 3/4 of this mammoth walk & Clerkenwell is a really nice area to stop for refreshments. In our case it was a quick coffee stop to get a warm drink, charge the phone & try to dry out a little as the weather was turning really bad. Light was also fading so it was time to head back to Bayswater

80. Walk back up to the main street, turn left across the railway line & then right down busy Farringdon Road which is going take us to King’s Cross St Pancras

London is famous for its plane trees &, at this time of year, the barks are displaying some great patterns

Shortly across the road you’ll see what was once one of the largest mail sorting offices in the world – Mount Pleasant. It was officially opened on 30 August 1889 & was built on the site of the former Coldbath Fields Prison that closed in 1885. The original prison gate was incorporated into the Post Office & not demolished until 1901. The remaining sections of the prison were demolished in 1929, when the new wing was built as an extension to the Letter Office

From 1927 to 2003, Mount Pleasant was connected to other major Royal Mail offices & railways stations in London, via the London Post Office Railway. In the 1970s, it pioneered the use of optical character recognition for sorting purposes with the installation of a machine in 1979

81. Farringdon Road turns into King’s Cross Road & now it was seriously raining…

Hidden slightly away on the right’s the Equador Consulate – the main Embassy is near Harrods in Knightsbridge

Now the massive roof of St Pancras station begins to come into view…

82. One particular building took our attention on this busy, wide road which is The Poor School which isn’t exactly what it suggests

The Poor School & Workhouse Theatre is a drama school that was created in 1986 by Paul Caister in response to the need for a first-class acting training school which was financially within the reach of all, or almost all. The two year training programme at the school has been in operation for 25 years, with graduates enjoying careers in theatre, film, radio, stage & comedy. Ex students have founded their own companies & have become producers, directors, casting directors & agents

The Poor School isn’t accredited by Drama UK & does not issue diplomas or certifications. It was announced in November 2016 that The Poor School is no longer accepting new students & sadly the school will close at the end of the final term in July 2018

83. We’re now back in familiar territory besides the imposing structures of King’s Cross & St Pancras stations…

…but before we look at them, turn round & admire the unusual Oysterhouse Lighthouse. The building has a New York ‘Flatiron’ type presence on the intersection. What the building was originally built for is somewhat of a mystery. Even the blue plaque at ground level must be the most indecisive one in London, throwing up more questions than answers, reading, “Oysters were once sold here…or was that a fairground?”

Guesses for its original use include a helter skelter, clock tower & even a camera obscure. The most enduring & “official” view is that the lighthouse was built to promote Netten’s oyster bar, which occupied the ground floor. Oysters were a type of Victorian fast food, a sort of McDonalds of their day. Perhaps it was nothing more than an urban folly, serving no purposeful function other than ornamentation? Like all the other stories this one is no more reputable & is often thought to be unlikely. What is likely however is that no one will ever know its past function. Apart from why it was built, no one actually knows when it was built either!!

84. The first station we pass is the wide-fronted King’s Cross. We looked at this in detail on another of our London Walks. It’s one of the busiest railway stations in the UK, & was opened in 1852 by the Great Northern Railway in the Kings Cross area to accommodate the East Coast Main Line. It quickly grew to cater for suburban lines & was expanded several times in the 19th century

In the late 20th century, the area around the station became known for its seedy & downmarket character, & was used as a backdrop for several films as a result. There was major redevelopment in the 21st century, including restoration of the original roof, & the station became well known for its association with the Harry Potter books & films, particularly the fictional Platform 9¾

85. Beside the main station is our next Circle Line stop – King’s Cross. St Pancras tube station. The first underground station at King’s Cross opened as part of the original section of the Metropolitan Railway in 1863 & was rearranged in 1868 & 1926

The station has had its fair share of sorrow. On 18 November 1987, it was the scene of a devastating fire that killed 31 people. The cause was attributed to a lit match falling into the space under the escalator, setting fire to the grease & rubbish present, then to the wooden parts of the escalator. The then unknown fire phenomenon of the ‘trench effect’ made the fire develop upwards & finally caused it to explode into the station

As a result, fire safety procedures on the Underground were tightened, staff training was improved & wooden steps on escalators were replaced with metal ones. The existing prohibition of smoking throughout the London Underground network was tightened. Due to the extensive damage caused by the fire, it took over a year to repair & reopen the station

On 7 July 2005, as part of a co-ordinated bomb attack, an explosion in a Piccadilly line train travelling between King’s Cross St Pancras & Russell Square resulted in the deaths of 26 people

86. Before moving on to St Pancras International, look across the road to see the magnificent mural…

Four graffiti artists were commissioned to undertake the artwork on the building. They used 160 litres of spray paint & 150 litres of emulsion to create the fabulous geometric design

87. St Pancras International station is the terminal station for Eurostar continental services from London to Paris & Brussels via High Speed 1 & the Channel Tunnel. It also handles East Midlands Trains & Thameslink Midland Main Line, Southeastern & local Thameslink cross-London services

By the 1960s, St Pancras was seen as redundant, with services being diverted to King’s Cross & Euston, & there was fierce opposition against proposed closures of the station & hotel. It was reinvented in the late 20th century as the terminal of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link & the complex was renovated & expanded from 2001 at a cost of £800 million, reopening on 6 November 2007 by Queen Elizabeth II

The St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel occupies parts of the original building, including the main public rooms, together with a new bedroom wing on the western side of the Barlow train shed. The upper levels of the original building have been redeveloped as apartments. The hotel held its grand opening on 5 May 2011, exactly 138 years after its original opening. It has been used as setting in several films, including ‘Chaplin’, ‘Richard III’ & ‘From Hell’. It was also used for the filming of the Spice Girls‘ 1996 video, “Wannabe”

88. We’re now heading west along busy Euston Road where, on the right’s the mass that is The British Library

The British Library is the national library of the UK & the largest library in the world by number of items catalogued. It holds over 170 million items from many countries. As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the UK & Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK

It’s also a major research library, with items in many languages & formats, both print & digital, books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound & music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings. The Library’s collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts & historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC. In addition to receiving a copy of every publication produced in the UK & Ireland (approximately 8,000 per day), the Library has a programme for content acquisitions. It adds some three million items every year occupying 6 miles of new shelf space

89. Slightly further on is an opportunity for another break as we can highly recommend The Rocket, which is traditional old Victorian inn

It’s sometimes quite busy with people passing the time waiting for their trains from nearby Euston station, which is slightly further on…

Euston is the southern terminus of the West Coast Main Line to Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Edinburgh Waverley & Glasgow Central. It’s also the mainline station for services to & through Birmingham New Street, & to Holyhead for connecting ferries to Dublin

Euston was the first inter-city railway terminal in London, planned by George and Robert Stephenson. The original station was designed by Philip Hardwick & built by William Cubitt, having a distinctive arch over the station entrance. It was controversially rebuilt in the mid-1960s, including the demolition of the Arch & the Great Hall, to accommodate the electrified West Coast Main Line, & the revamped station still attracts criticism over its architecture

90. Continue along Euston Road. The large building on the left’s the Wellcome Collection which is a museum & library displaying an unusual mixture of medical artifacts & original artworks exploring ‘ideas about the connections between medicine, life & art’. Founded in 2007, Wellcome Collection now attracts over 700,000 visitors per year & is advertised as ‘the free destination for the incurably curious’

The venue offers visitors contemporary & historic exhibitions & collections, lively public events, the world-renowned Wellcome Library, a café, a bookshop & conference facilities

Next door is the ultra modern & world-renowned University College London Hospital

UCLH is a major teaching hospital & a key location for the UCL Medical School. It’s also a major centre for medical research

91. Opposite’s our next Circle Line stop, Euston Square which was opened as “Gower Street” on 10 January 1863. The station was given its present name on 1 November 1909

The property developer Joe Levy was keen to develop buildings in the area & bought various properties. When the London County Council refused planning permission because of the underpass development, Levy, who had outline planning permission, insisted the council pay him £1 million if they wanted to compulsorily purchase the site. Over the next four years, Levy bought properties along the north side of Euston Road, & an agreement was reached so that the council built the underpass & he built a complex of two tower blocks with office shops & apartments, the Euston Tower

The tower attracted a number of significant tenants, including independent radio station Capital Radio

92. Look across to the left to see another of our Capital’s famous landmarks, the BT Tower which was commissioned by the General Post Office. Its primary purpose was to support the microwave aerials then used to carry telecommunications traffic from London to the rest of the country, as part of Britain’s microwave network.

Construction began in June 1961, & was topped out on 15 July 1964 & officially opened by the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson on 8 October 1965

The tower was officially opened to the public on 16 May 1966 by Tony Benn & Billy Butlin. As well as the communications equipment & office space there were viewing galleries, a souvenir shop & a rotating restaurant on the 34th floor, called the Top of the Tower & operated by Butlins. It made one revolution every 22 minutes

A bomb, responsibility for which was at first blamed on the Provisional IRA, exploded in the men’s toilets at the Top of the Tower restaurant on 31 October 1971. In fact, the bomb had been placed there by members of the Angry Brigade, an anarchist collective. The restaurant was closed to the public for security reasons in 1980, the year in which Butlins‘ lease eventually expired & public access to the building ceased in 1981

93. Walk past the UK HQ of Santander (brings back some memories…)…

There’s many modern office buildings along this stretch of the walk & today they’re offering some relief from the rain

We love Anthony Gormley‘s self image sculptures & have seen many on our walks around the country. There’s a classic at 350 Euston Road where half of it’s on the outside of the glass & the other half inside…

94. At the traffic island is our next Circle Line station, Great Portland Street

The station was opened on 10 January 1863 as “Portland Road”, changed to its present name on 1 March 1917, but was renamed “Great Portland Street & Regents Park” in 1923 & then reverted to its present name in 1933. The current structure was built in 1930

Euston Road now turns into Marylebone Road & on the right’s an entrance into Regent’s Park

Marylebone Road was effectively London’s first bypass. Construction of the New Road, as it was called, began in 1756 along the northern edge of the built-up area

The name Marylebone originates from a church, called “St Marys”, that was built on the bank of a small stream or “bourne” called the tybourne, in an area named after the stream Tyburn. The church & the surrounding area later became known as St Mary at the bourne, which over time became shortened to its present form Marylebone

95. On the right’s the ornate Duke’s Hall, home to The Royal Academy of Music

The Royal Academy of Music in London, England, is the oldest conservatoire in the UK, founded in 1822 & receiving its Royal Charter in 1830. It’s one of the leading conservatoires in the world, coming top of the Complete University Guide for 2018 & Guardian University Guide for 2018. Famous Academy alumni include Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Elton John & Annie Lennox

Over the road’s St Marylebone Parish Church

…& then the Princess Grace Hospital. Finally though we arrive at something a little more familiar…Madame Tussauds

96. Madame Tussauds…that ever changing wonderful place, & one of London’s top attractions, where we love to stand next to our heroes

Marie Tussaud was born as Marie Grosholtz in 1761 in Strasbourg, France. Her mother worked for Dr. Philippe Curtius in Bern, Switzerland, who was a physician skilled in wax modeling. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling. He moved to Paris & took his young apprentice, only 6 years old, with him

Tussaud created her first wax sculpture in 1777 of Voltaire. At the age of 17 she became the art tutor to King Louis XVI of France’s sister, Madame Elizabeth, at the Palace of Versailles. During the French Revolution she was imprisoned for three months awaiting execution, but was released after the intervention of an influential friend. Other famous people whom she modelled included Jean-Jacques Rousseau & Benjamin Franklin. During the Revolution, she modelled many prominent victims

She inherited the doctor’s vast collection of wax models following his death in 1794, & spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. She married Francois Tussaud in 1795, & the show acquired a new name: Madame Tussaud’s. In 1802, she accepted an invitation from Paul Philidor, a magic lantern & phantasmagoria pioneer, to exhibit her work alongside his show at the Lyceum Theatre, London. She did not fare particularly well financially, with Philidor taking half of her profits

She was unable to return to France because of the Napoleonic Wars, so she travelled exhibiting her collection. From 1831, she took a series of short leases on the upper floor of “Baker Street Bazaar” (on the west side of Baker Street, Dorset Street, & King Street), which later featured in the Druce-Portland case sequence of trials of 1898–1907. This became Tussaud’s first permanent home in 1836

99. More sights are coming thick & fast now along this stretch…

The Planetarium’s up next which hold a special place with us dating back to 1979, laying back in the deep seats after a few pints & watching the planets ‘dance’ to Billy Joel‘s ‘My Life’, Unfortunately it’s no longer a planetarium & is now simply part of Tussauds

100. There’s someone we recognise ahead…Sherlock Holmes

This of course is Sherlock’s patch…a fictional private detective created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Referring to himself as a “consulting detective” in the stories, Holmes is known for his proficiency with observation, forensic science, & logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, which he employs when investigating cases for a wide variety of clients, including Scotland Yard

First appearing in print in 1887 (in A Study in Scarlet), the character’s popularity became widespread with the first series of short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A  Scandal in Bohemia” in 1891; additional tales appeared from then until 1927, eventually totalling four novels & 56 short stories

101. He lived just round the corner at 221b Baker Street which is next door to our next Circle Line Stop…Baker Street bet you can’t say that without a certain Gerry Rafferty song coming into your head…

With that in your head keep going, past Marylebone Station on the right…

Marylebone station opened in 1899 as the London terminus of the Great Central Main Line, the last major railway to open in Britain in over 100 years, linking the capital to the cities of Nottingham, Sheffield & Manchester

Marylebone station suffered from a lack of traffic & after the GCML closed in 1966, it declined in use. By the 1980s, it was threatened with closure, but was reprieved because of commuter traffic on the London to Aylesbury Line & from High Wycombe. In 1993 the station found a new role as the terminus of the Chiltern Main Line

102. Eventually we hit a junction & need to bear right down Chapel Street…

…where at the end we find Edgware Road tube station…

…plus one of our favourite London statues known as ‘The Window Cleaner’

Standing next to him you’re not sure what he’s thinking about cleaning, but stand behind him & you’ll soon realise…

103. Continue now past the Hilton into Praed Street…

This is another area we’ve walked before & love Paddington Basin which is accessible through the gap between the buildings

104. Paddington Basin is one of our latest, most favourite places. It’s the name given to a long canal basin, & its surrounding area

The basin commences south of the junction known as Little Venice, of the Regent’s Canal & the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal & runs for a similar length east-west. It was opened in 1801, with Paddington being chosen as the site of the basin because of its position on the New Road which led to the east, providing for onward transport. In its heyday, the basin was a major transshipment facility, & a hive of activity

Since 2000 the basin has been the centre of a major redevelopment as part of the wider Paddington Waterside scheme

105. Come back out of the Basin & continue along Praed Street…

One of London’s most famous hospitals is on the right…St Mary’s & let’s talk Royal Babies..

St Mary’s Hospital first opened its doors to patients in 1851, the last of the great voluntary hospitals to be founded

The hospital site incorporates the private Lindo wing where several celebrity & royal births have occurred. The wing is named after Frank Charles Lindo, a businessman & board-member of the hospital, who donated £111,500 before his death in 1938

Peter Phillips, son of the Princess RoyalLord Frederick Windsor, son of Prince & Princess Michael of KentZara Tindall, daughter of the Princess Royal; Lady Gabriella Windsor, daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent; Prince William, Duke of Cambridge;
Prince HarryPrince George of Cambridge; Princess Charlotte of Cambridge; Elvis CostelloKiefer Sutherland

It was also where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin & the laboratory has been restored to its cramped condition of 1928 & incorporated into a museum about the discovery & his life & work

106. The Circle Line splits off here & we need to head around the original section, but both pass Paddington Station

Paddington has been the London terminus of services provided by the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. Much of the main line station dates from 1854 & was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Have a look at our walk that takes it in & also visits the Bear himself

107. Keep going along Praed Street & give a nod to the chap on the street…

Turn right into Craven Hill Gardens & then left down Dorchester Gardens…

108. At the end we arrive back almost where we started at a crossroads with Whiteley’s on the corner…

We turn left in almost total darkness to arrive back at Bayswater Road station where this epic walk started…

So that’s it…our first ‘Walk the Line’ walk. One thing to say is that there’s so much to see that it definitely didn’t feel like 21 miles, maybe because it’s really flat & all on hard surfaces

Obviously there’s many opportunities for breaks too. Because of all the stations it’s also something that can be split into a number of sections, which will give you more time to see the sights & visit places

We fancied the challenge of completing it all in one go &, despite ending the walk soaked, it really is worth doing it

Go Walk!