Walk 116: Trafalgar Square to St Paul’s Cathedral Linear

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 4.0 miles (6.45km)

Time to walk: A London walk always means it’s impossible to put a time indication on it, especially as this is central London, so we’ll come across plenty of famous tourist spots that you might want to explore

Difficulty: Easy, flat walking on hard pavements

Parking: Use public transport

Public toilets: Cafes, bars etc

Map of the route:

This is another walk that we’ve based on the magnificent series of books entitled ‘London’s Hidden Walks’. We kept the same route, but the rest of the walk is our own thoughts & we always see something new

Today we start at one of London’s most famous landmarks, Trafalgar Square & then move east in the general direction of the Strand, before continuing along Fleet Street to end at St Paul’s Cathedral. You may think you know that area well, but we’re going to show you some hidden secrets & tell you some unusual stories – it’s fascinating

Shall we go & explore?

Let’s Walk!

1. We all know Trafalgar Square as one of the most iconic sights of our capital city. It’s named after Britain’s victory in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, however it wasn’t actually renamed this until around 1835. The site has been a significant location since the 13th century, once being the site of the Royal Mews

The National Gallery, pictured above, dominates the northern side of the square, but everyone knows Trafalgar for the imposing structure that’s Nelson’s Column standing at 169 feet 3 inches from the base to the top of Nelson’s hat. In February 1838 a group of 121 peers, MPs & gentry formed a committee to build a monument to Lord Nelson. It was funded by public subscription, & the Government provided the site.

A competition was held to select a design which was won by William Railton & work began by July 1840, but it took 3 more years until the stonework was ready for the installation of the statue. The 18 ft 1 inch statue at the top was sculpted by Edward Baily from three pieces of Craigleith sandstone donated by the Duke of Buccleuch (of Boughton House fame!), former chairman of the Nelson Memorial Committee, from his own quarries

The four identical bronze lions at the column’s base were not added until 1867…

The column also had a symbolic importance to Adolf Hitler. If Hitler’s plan to invade Britain had been successful, he planned to move it to Berlin

2. It’s worth spending a while wandering round the square & these days it’s a pleasant experience as the feeding of pigeons was finally banned in 2003. It was once estimated that there were 35,000 in the square

Walk towards the Strand at the south-east side of the square, but stop outside a rather strange looking little building…

What you’re looking at is Britain’s smallest Police Station. Apparently this tiny box could accommodate up to two prisoners at a time, although its main purpose was to hold a single police officer…think of it as a 1920’s CCTV camera!

It was built in 1926 so that the Metropolitan Police could keep an eye on the more troublesome demonstrators. At the end of World War I a temporary police box just outside of the Trafalgar Square tube station was due to be renovated & made more permanent. However, due to public objections this was scrapped & instead it was decided to build a less “objectionable” police box inside an ornamental light fitting

Once the light fitting had been hollowed out, it was then installed with a set of narrow windows in order to provide a vista across the main square. Also installed was a direct phone line back to Scotland Yard in case reinforcements were needed in times of trouble. In fact, whenever the police phone was picked up, the ornamental light fitting at the top of the box started to flash, alerting any nearby officers on duty that trouble was nearby

3. We could spend all day here, including visiting the National Gallery, but it’s time to walk so cross over into the Strand which runs just over 34 mile from Trafalgar Square eastwards to Temple Bar, where it then becomes Fleet Street. The road’s name comes from the Old English ‘strond’, meaning the edge of a river, as it historically ran alongside the north bank of the Thames. The street was popular with the British upper classes between the 12th & 17th centuries, with many historically important mansions being built between the Strand and the river

On the left’s South Africa House

South Africa House was built by in the 1930s on the site of what had been Morley’s Hotel until it was demolished in 1936. It was acquired by the government of South Africa as its main diplomatic presence in the UK. In 1961, South Africa became a republic & withdrew from the Commonwealth due to its policy of racial segregation. Accordingly, the building became an Embassy, rather than a High Commission

Today, South Africa House is no longer a controversial site, & is the focal point of South African culture in the UK. South African President Nelson Mandela appeared on the balcony in 1996, as part of his official UK state visit. In 2001, Mandela appeared on the balcony again to mark the seventh anniversary of Freedom Day, when the apartheid system was officially abolished

4. Over the road’s Charing Cross Station, which we’ll come back to shortly, but that monument outside looks familiar to those of us from Northamptonshire, as we have two of the remaining three…

The Eleanor crosses were a series of twelve lavishly decorated stone monuments topped with tall crosses, of which three survive nearly intact, in a line down part of the east of England. King Edward I had the crosses erected between 1291 & 1294 in memory of his wife, Eleanor of Castile, marking the nightly resting places along the route taken when her body was transported to London

The cross here is a replica, commissioned by the South Eastern Railway Company for their newly opened Charing Cross Hotel. The original cross was the most expensive, built of marble & stood at the top of Whitehall, on the south side of Trafalgar Square, where the statue of Charles I on his horse is now. It was destroyed on the orders of Parliament in 1647 during the English Civil War

The only three crosses still standing are those at Geddington, Hardingstone, just near Delapre Park, & Waltham Cross, although remnants of the lost ones can also be seen at some of the other sites. The Geddington cross remains the one that’s most intact & stands right in the middle of the village – if you’ve never visited it, then you can on our ‘Walk 84’ under the ‘Northamptonshire’ tab

5. For now though continue on the north side of the Strand to the large, glass-fronted building that’s the headquarters of Coutts Bank, a private bank founded in 1692. It’s been owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group since 2000

Until the 20th century Coutts was a clearing bank to the nobility & landed gentry, but today it’s a wealth manager to a wider range of clients, including entrepreneurs, entertainers, sportsmen, professionals & executives. The British Royal Family is a client. There are, however, stringent requirements to being accepted as a client, not just based on average & total financial assets. Prospective clients need to have at least £1,000,000 in investable assets, not including real estate – maybe time to move on…

6. We’ve already seen South Africa House & a few yards past Coutts lies Zimbabwe House, which also contains the Embassy…

The building was designed by architect Charles Holden in 1907 as the headquarters of the British Medical Association & initially caused an outrage due to the naked sculptures by Jacob Epstein representing the development of science & the Ages of Man

As Rhodesia House it served as the High Commission until UDI was declared on 11 November 1965.  After UDI, Rhodesia’s High Commissioner, Brigadier Andrew Skeen, was declared ‘persona non-grata’ by the British Government & ordered to leave the country. However, because of concerns over diplomatic property under international law, Rhodesia House was not seized by the British Government, & simply became a Representative Office with no official diplomatic status, until the colony gained independence as Zimbabwe in 1980

7. Cross over the Strand & walk back down to Charing Cross Station, the terminus of the South East Main Line to Dover. The station was originally opened by the South Eastern Railway in 1864. During the 19th century, it became the main London terminus for continental traffic via boat trains. It was badly damaged following an engineering accident in 1905 & extensively rebuilt, including the construction of the tube lines. Charing Cross also became an important meeting point for military & government traffic during World War I. The station was bombed several times during World War II & was rebuilt afterwards, re-opening in 1951

It was built on the site of Hungerford Produce Market &, like many areas in London, has an association with Charles Dickens. On 20th February, 1824 his father, John Dickens was arrested over debt & taken to Marshalsea Prison. Twelve year old Charles, meanwhile, was put to work in Warren’s Blacking Factory near Hungerford Stairs, thought to be near Embankment Underground station

8. Walk past the station entrance & turn left down Craven Street inbetween the traditional, red telephone boxes…

It never fails to amaze us wherever you are in large cities, you’re never more than a few steps away from the hustle & bustle, in this case of Trafalgar Square & Charing Cross. Craven Street is a quiet, classy road with some lovely 18th century town houses

One of the first houses on the left houses the British Optical Association Museum which was founded in 1901 as a collection of historic spectacles & visual aids designed to illustrate the development of corrective eyewear. It subsequently expanded its collecting activities to encompass ophthalmic instrumentation & the depiction of optometric subject matter in works of art such as paintings, prints & sculpture. With over 27,000 catalogued objects, it’s believed to be the oldest such museum to be open to the public. Many of its objects are rare & several are unique, such as murderer, Dr Crippen‘s spectacles

The public can visit the museum by prior appointment

The street’s had several notable residents over the years including Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick who lived at No. 25 in 1849 when he visited London as a sailor during his youth. The most famous resident was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who drafted & signed the Declaration of Independence. He lived at No. 36 for sixteen years before the American Revolution & the house is a now a museum known as Benjamin Franklin House

9. Turn left down the charming, narrow alley called Craven Passage…

…where you come across The Ship & Shovell, a pub reputed to date back to the 16th century, & the only pub in London that’s split into two halves. There’s some conjecture as to where the name came from. One romantic theory is that workers employed in constructing Victoria Embankment used to leave their shovels outside the pub

The pub itself though says it takes its name from Sir Cloudsley Shovell, a 17th century Admiral of the Fleet. One half of the pub contains a large portrait of Shovell – we don’t think the other contains his ‘ship’

10. Bet you’ve never walked down The Arches before…

On the right there was once a renowned Music Hall, Gatti’s. After World War II it became ‘The Players theatre Club’ founded by Leonard Sachs – remember him from the TV show, ‘The Good Old Days’ from Leeds with his gavel & catchphrase “And this time, chiefly…yourselves!!”

11. At the end we turn right into Villiers Street which heads towards Embankment Underground Station & the Thames

Rudyard Kipling lived at No. 43 between 1889 – 1891, when he wrote about Gatti’s & also the noise made by the trains rumbling nearby

Next door’s the famous Gordon’s Wine Bar, thought to be the oldest wine bar in London & established in 1890 – it still remains in the Gordon family!! The original decor remains & the bar sells…just wine. Kipling drank here &, in the room overhead, wrote ‘The Light That Failed’

12. Literally by the side of the Bar’s Watergate Walk, so head down the steps – this also appears to be the ‘al fresco’ part of Gordon’s…

…& now we enter into another part of ‘secret London’ where we’ve never been before…Victoria Embankment Gardens

But before we head into them walk up the steps into Buckingham Street…

…where. on the left’s a plaque showing that Samuel Pepys lived here between 1679 – 1688

13. Oh wow! This is a lovely place to be so walk back down the steps & pass through the gate into the gardens…

…have a look at the other side of the monument…it’s even more impressive

So this is the somewhat unknown York Gate which was originally part of York House & was built as the London home of the Bishops of Norwich not later than 1237. Around 300 years later it was acquired by Henry VIII & came to be known as York House when it was granted to the Archbishop of York in 1556 & retained that name for the rest of its existence

14. So much history…why don’t we just have a walk through the gardens…

Between 1865 & 1870 the northern embankment & sewer was built & in 1874 gardens were created on the reclaimed land on the inward side of the roadway. There were four sections created, the Temple Garden to the east, the Main Gardens to the west (originally known as the Adelphi Gardens), & two other sections to the south following the bend of the Thames

Follow the gardens through & stop to have a look at the numerous statues that are here, including Robbie Burns

…but what we really loved is the one dedicated to the Imperial Camel Corps which was a camel-mounted infantry brigade that the British Empire raised in December 1916 during World War I for service in the Middle East

From a small beginning the unit eventually grew to a brigade of four battalions, one each from Great Britain & New Zealand & two from Australia. The brigade suffered 246 men killed & was disbanded in May 1919 after the end of the war

15. Continue through the gardens & look across to the right to see Cleopatra’s Needle which was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis around 1450 BC. It’s one of three similarly named Egyptian obelisks & was presented to the UK in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt & Sudan in commemoration of the victories of Nelson at the Battle of the Nile & the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. Although the British government welcomed the gesture, it declined to fund the expense of transporting it to London

16. Pass by the rather lovely fountain…

…& look across to the left to see the huge clock on the Shell Mex House. The clock, which was known for a time as “Big Benzene”, is the largest clock face in London & second largest in the UK after the one on the Liver Building in Liverpool

To exit the gardens, look for the statue of Robert Raikes, who was the founder of Sunday Schools, as he will show you the gate

17. Our route lies alongside the park to the right, but first head up the hill & have a look at rare example of a Patent Sewer Ventilating Lamp which dates back to around 1880

Walk back & continue west along Savoy Street. Where we’re actually walking now is outside the back door of the world famous Savoy Hotel – we’ll have a look at the front door shortly

18. Turn left up the road that’s Savoy Hill…

…where we find the ‘Queen’s Chapel of John the Baptist in the Precinct of the Savoy’. It sits on the site of the Savoy Palace, once owned by John of Gaunt, that was destroyed in the Peasants Revolt of 1382. Work was begun on the building in 1502 by King Henry VII & it received its first charter to operate as a hospital foundation in 1512 to look after 100 poor & needy men of London. The chapel is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster

Walk past the chapel & turn left up the hill to rejoin the Strand

19. Turn left back towards Trafalgar Square

…where across the road’s the imposing Strand Palace Hotel which opened in 1909 & was refurbished in an Art Deco style during the 1930s, but has now been modernised

20. On the left’s one of the city’s most famous restaurants ‘Simpsons in the Strand’ which is one of London’s oldest traditional English restaurants. After a modest start in 1828 as a smoking room & soon afterwards as a coffee house, Simpson’s achieved a dual fame, around 1850, for its traditional English food, particularly roast meats, & also as the most important venue in Britain for chess in the 19th century. Chess ceased to be a feature after Simpson’s was bought by the Savoy Hotel group of companies at the end of the century, but as a purveyor of traditional English food, it has remained a celebrated dining venue throughout the 20th century & into the 21st. PG Wodehouse called it “a restful temple of food”. One is supposed to have the “roast beef from the trolley”

The restaurant’s featured in many films etc. In ‘The Guns of Navarone’, David Niven leans over his wounded, dying companion & tells him that when he recovers, they will return to London & go straight to Simpson’s to have roast beef. It also features in the Sherlock Holmes stories

21. Just past Simpson’s is the main entrance to the Savoy Hotel. Built by Richard D’Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert & Sullivan opera productions, it opened on 6 August 1889. It was the first in the Savoy group of hotels & restaurants owned by Carte’s family for over a century. The Savoy was the first luxury hotel in Britain, introducing electric lights throughout the building, electric lifts, bathrooms in most of the lavishly furnished rooms, constant hot & cold running water & many other innovations

The hotel became Carte’s most successful venture. It’s now managed by Fairmont Hotels. Look at the cars in the above picture…Savoy Court is the only named street in the UK where vehicles are required to drive on the right. This is said to date from the days of the hackney carriage when a driver would reach his arm out of the driver’s door window to open the passenger’s door without having to get out of the cab himself. Additionally, the hotel entrance’s small roundabout meant that vehicles needed a turning circle of 25 feet. This is still the legally required turning circle for all London cabs

22. Turn round & walk back the other way down the Strand across Lancaster Place…

…& walk through the arch to arrive at one of our favourite places, Somerset House. Now before you walk through into the courtyard, see if the famous Courtauld Gallery‘s open on the right as it’s well worth a visit to see an incredible personal art collection. Today it was closed in preparation for a new exhibition

Somerset House sits within a large courtyard & was originally built as a glamorous, palatial building for Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset in 1547. It’s had many occupants, from exiled Queens & parliament offices to art galleries. The building itself has, over the years, been torn down, rebuilt & extended

The initial construction of Somerset House cost £10,000 & required the demolition of many churches & homes, which angered those in the surrounding area. In 1552, Somerset was executed & the unfinished house became the property of the young King Edward VI. Following that it passed through many hands including Elizabeth I for a short time

In 1775, after a time of neglect, a decision was made to tear the building down & build a new Somerset House in its place, which became a residency for arts councils & galleries. Today it continues to host numerous & varied events

23. Come back out of the courtyard & continue along the Strand passing the Strand Campus of the famous King’s College. It houses the arts & science faculties of King’s, & since 2010, has expanded rapidly to incorporate the East Wing of Somerset House

The church standing in the middle of the road’s St Mary-le-Strand which probably dates back to around 1220 when it was called the Church of the Innocents, or St Mary & the Innocents. It was pulled down in 1549 to make way for Somerset House. The site was formerly occupied by a great maypole which had been the scene of May Day festivities in the 16th & 17th century

Bonnie Prince Charlie is alleged to have renounced his Roman Catholic faith in the church to become an Anglican during a secret visit to London in 1750. The parents of Charles Dickens were married here in 1809

The church narrowly escaped destruction twice during the 20th century. At the start of the 20th century the London County Council proposed to demolish it to widen the Strand. The church also suffered damage during the Blitz

24. Next up’s the entrance to the disused Strand Underground station which opened in 1907 & was the terminus of the Piccadilly Line from Holborn. It was renamed Aldwych in 1917 & is famous as during both World Wars artworks from London’s galleries & museums, including the Elgin Marbles were stored in its tunnels

Having low passenger numbers, the station & branch were considered for closure several times & it finally happened in 1994. The station has long been popular as a filming location with such films as ‘Superman IV‘, ‘The Krays‘, & ‘Atonement‘ being shot there

25. It’s time to leave the Strand for a short while & walk down Surrey Street on the right where there was a lot of construction happening…

There’s a few interesting things to look at along here…firstly the larger entrance into the disused tube station…

…& then the entrance into a Roman Bath. The Strand Lane Baths have been reputed, since the 1830s, to be a Roman survival, but they are in fact the remaining portion of a cistern built in 1612 to feed a fountain in the gardens of the old Somerset House which was then a royal place. After a long period of neglect & decay, following the demolition of the fountain, they were brought back into use in the 1770s as a public cold plunge bath. The idea that they were Roman probably began some fifty years later as an advertising gimmick, & has aroused both enthusiasm and scepticism ever since

It eventually passed into the hands of the National Trust, but remains difficult to visit. A call to the number on the noticeboard outside may get you an appointment to visit

26. But what’s more interesting is the ornate building further along which is now part of King’s College. It’s this property’s former life that’s more interesting as it was once the Norfolk Hotel, & one of the meeting places used in 1961 by John Profumo & Christine Keeler in the ‘Profumo Affair’ scandal that helped bring down the MacMillan government

27. Walk back up to & carry along the Strand, where there’s some impressive buildings on the north side, including Bush House, which is now mainly part of King’s College, but was previously the headquarters of the BBC World Service between 1941 – 2012

Almost next door’s India House & Australia House which house their respective High Commissions in the UK

28. There’s another church in the middle of the road! This one’s St Clements Danes which is a Christopher Wren church completed in 1682. It’s not, however, the first church on this site, as one was allegedly built here by the Danes in the 9th century. It was gutted by the Blitz & rebuilt following an appeal for funds by the Royal Air Force, being re-consecrated on 19 October 1958 to become the Central Church of the Royal Air Force

It’s sometimes claimed to be the church featured in the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges & Lemons’ & the bells do indeed play that tune. However, St Clement’s in Eastcheap also claims to be that church

Around the back’s a statue of one of the church’s most famous worshippers, Samuel Johnson, who we’ll come across again shortly

29. The road begins to open out somewhat now & on the left are the impressive buildings of the Royal Courts Of Justice

Commonly called the Law Courts, the building houses the High Court & the Court of Appeal in England & Wales. Designed by George Street it was built in the 1870s & opened by Queen Victoria in 1882. It’s one of the largest courts in Europe. The courts within the building are generally open to the public with some access restrictions depending upon the nature of the cases being heard

30. Many people question…”Where does The Strand end & Fleet Street begin?” Well not just yet! And surely before passing between the two we need a cup of tea don’t we? Number 16 houses Twinings Tea Shop & Museum, which is one of the oldest shops in London

Thomas Twining moved with his family from Gloucester to London in 1684 when he was nine years old. After serving an apprenticeship as a weaver, he worked for East India Company & became a tea merchant

Twining expanded into adjacent premises on the Strand &, by 1717, was trading at 216 Strand, at the sign of the Golden Lyon. The business remains at the same premises 300 years later. The classical door case is surmounted by a pediment with a statue of a golden lion, & two figures of Chinese men, referring to the origin of the beverage

31. Keep your eyes open as you walk down here, as on the right side of the street are several “hidden” entrances into the Temple – another amazing & somewhat secretive part of the city to walk

Hang on a minute…why’s there a dragon in the middle of the road…

The dragon marks the site of Temple Bar & the beginning of Fleet Street & the approach to the City. Temple Bar was a stone gate designed by Christopher Wren after the original wooden gate was destroyed by the Great Fire

32. After Chancery Lane we’re no longer in The Strand, but now in Fleet Street as this is the boundary line. Opposite’s Prince Henry’s Rooms…

The site was once owned by the Templars, but after the dissolution of the Order of St John, the building was rebuilt in 1610 & became a tavern. This coincided with the investiture of Prince Henry, son of James I, as Prince of Wales. During the 17th century, the house was known as the Fountain Inn & was visited on several occasions by Samuel Pepys

33. There’s going to be lots of famous pubs now along this stretch & the first one’s Ye Olde Cock Tavern. Originally built before the 17th century, it was rebuilt, including the interior on the other side of the road in the 1880s when a branch of the Bank of England was built where it stood. However, in the 1990s a fire broke out & destroyed many of the original ornaments, & the building has since gone through a restoration using photographs to recreate the original look

It has been frequented by Samuel Pepys, Lord Alfred Tennyson & Charles Dickens

34. Over the road’s the church of St Dunstan in the West..check out the amazing church of St Dunstan in the East on one of our City walks…

First founded between AD 988 & 1070, there’s a possibility that a church on this site was one of the Lundenwic strand settlement churches, which may pre-date any within the walls of the city. It’s not known exactly when the original church was built, but it was possibly erected by St Dunstan himself or priests who knew him well. It was first mentioned in written records in 1185

The medieval church underwent many alterations before its demolition in the early 19th century. Small shops were built against its walls, St Dunstan’s Churchyard becoming a centre for bookselling & publishing

The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers has been associated with the church since the 15th century. The company holds an annual service of commemoration to honour two of its benefactors, John Fisher & Richard Minge, after which children were traditionally given a penny for each time they ran around the church

The clock dates back to 1671 & features Gog & Magog, the traditional guardians of London. Obscure fact time…it was the first clock in London to have a minute hand!

35. Next door we finally get into what Fleet Street was famous for…newspapers & the press. This fantastic building references the Sunday Post, the People’s Friend, People’s Journal & Dundee Courier

Almost next door’s the pricelessly named ‘Hen & Chicken Court’ which is…fancy a hair cut?…the site of barbers shop of the notorious Sweeney Todd. For over two centuries people have been repelled & excited in equal measure by the exploits of the ‘Demon Barber of Fleet Street’, a mass murderer who slit the throats of his clientele as they relaxed in the barber’s chair. Their corpses were then served up by his lover in, apparently highly regarded, meat pies. Allegedly over 150 people met their demise in his chair

Did Sweeney Todd exist? Well…walk down the alley & make your own mind up, but…be careful

36. Shall we get back to some kind of reality? Maybe not! Over the road’s C Hoare & Co, the oldest bank in the UK & the world’s 4th oldest bank which was founded in 1672 by Sir Richard Hoare & remains family-owned

Up ahead St Paul’s now starts to come into view…

…but it’s time to get off the main track for a time & explore the backstreets so walk up Red Lion Court on the left…

37. This detour takes us way back in time from the Fleet Street of today & again proves that to step back a couple of hundred years, you only need to walk a couple of hundred yards

There’s an Aladdin’s kind of lamp in the wall which was the signature for a printer & publisher named Abraham Valpy

We’d already been walking for quite a while &, at that moment the good lady rang, so we sat on the seats below which are quite peaceful…

38. Call finished, head diagonally right through the gap…

…to arrive in one of our favourite London places…Gough Square

We’ve been here many times on our other London walks & opposite the above picture is Dr Johnson’s house…

Samuel Johnson, often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer, poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor & lexicographer. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes Johnson as “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history”. After nine years of work, Johnson’s “A Dictionary of the English Language” was published in 1755. It had a far-reaching effect & has been acclaimed as “one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship”. This work brought Johnson popularity & success &, until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson’s was the pre-eminent British dictionary

39. Walk to the other end of the square to say hi to ‘Hodge’…”A very fine cat indeed”…

We love Hodge so please give him a stroke on his head as you pass…but maybe it’s better to raise a glass to him at one of our favourite London watering holes..Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, complete with sawdust on the floor!

40. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of a number of pubs in London to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. There’s been a pub at this location since 1538 &, while there are several older pubs which have survived because they were beyond the reach of the fire, this one continues to attract interest due to the curious lack of natural lighting inside which generates its own gloomy charm – it’s just fabulous & we can’t recommend it enough

Some of the interior wood panelling is 19th century, some older, perhaps original. The vaulted cellars are thought to belong to a 13th century Carmelite monastery, which once occupied the site. Once inside visitors will realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space & has numerous bars & rooms. In winter, open fireplaces are used to keep the interior warm. Look it up on Google to see whose seat you may be sitting in & don’t forget you may have to say “excuse me” to Charles Dickens…

41. Walk back out onto Fleet Street – the view of St Paul’s just keeps getting better & better…

Next on the same side of the road’s the old Telegraph building with its distinctive clock…

Don’t forget that most of the publishing industry moved out of here in the 1980’s when Rupert Murdoch set up News International in Wapping

There’s still a nod to other parts of the country with the Mersey House building which used to produce the Liverpool Echo & Liverpool Post

42. It’s pub time once more & on the right at the corner with Whitefriar Street’s The Tipperary, previously the Boar’s Head which is said to be London’s oldest Irish pub. Some people date it back to 1605 & others around 1667, being built with stones taken from the Whitefriars Monastery, stones that allowed it to survive unharmed in the raging inferno of the Great Fire of London

The monks in Whitefriars Monastery were driven out of their church on Mount Carmel in Israel by the Saracens during the Crusades. Shakespeare mentioned the priory in Richard III when the Duke of Gloucester orders that Henry’s body is taken there

43. Carry on down Whitefriar Street, passing Hanging Sword Alley…

The passage was first known as Ouldwood Alley in the 16th century. It was then named after the sign of a fencing school recorded in 1564, & tuition in this remained in the area until the 17th century. In the 18th century, it became known as Blood Bowl Alley after an infamous drinking den here

In 1743, George Morgan encountered a lady in Legate Hill & offered to escort her home. The lady, Mary Stansbury, took him to a house in the alley. After some pleasantries & an exchange of money, they undressed & went to bed, but she then left him to be robbed by a man with a club. Morgan defended himself with his cane & summoned the constable. The Stansburys were tried for assault & the theft of his property… a pair of silver knee buckles, a pair of silver shoe buckles, a cambric stock, a bath metal stock-buckle, a silk handkerchief, a hat, a periwig, five moidores, half a guinea & three shillings. Mary Stansbury was sentenced to death for the crime, but was reprieved & transported instead

44. Our route slightly further down on the right into Ashentree Court…

Look at the low down windows to see stories of how the Daily Mail was printed over the years near here…

…but at the top of the court turn right & look down into the remains of the Old Priory crypt

45. Continue down the hill & turn left into Tudor Street…

…& at the end left into New Bridge Street where, outside number 14 on the left’s, a plaque showing that this was once Bridewell Palace, built as a residence of Henry VIII & one of his homes early in his reign for eight years. It was given to the City of London Corporation by his son, Edward VI as an orphanage & place of correction for wayward women. Bridewell later became the first prison/poorhouse to have an appointed doctor

46. We loved this area of London as not many people know it’s there & that’s what all this walk’s about. Turn left into Bride Lane, another wonderful, “secret” area…

On the right’s Bridewell theatre, which incidentally was built over the site of London’s first swimming pool!! It’s another of those amazing, intimate theatres you often find in London, so don’t always think you need to pay West End prices

47. We reach a dead end but hey…there’s some steep steps on the left…

At the top it all opens out into a courtyard &, on the right’s St Brides Church which may be one of the most ancient churches in London, perhaps dating back to the 7th century. There’s been at least 7 churches on this site. St Bride’s association with the newspaper business began in 1500, when a printing press was set up next door. Until 1695 London was the only city in England where printing was permitted by law

On the night of 29 December 1940, during the Blitz, the church was gutted by fire bombs. That night 1,500 fires were started, an event dubbed the Second Great Fire of London, due to the enormous amount of damage caused. After the war, St Bride’s was rebuilt at the expense of newspaper proprietors & journalists &, to this day, is still known as ‘The Journalists Church’

48. At the end of the courtyard walk through St Bride’s Passage into Salisbury Square…

…& carry straight on down Salisbury Court

On the building on the left’s a plaque that commemorates where the first edition of the Sunday Times was edited in 1822

Look across at the other side of the street to see another sign showing where Samuel Pepys was born in 1633. Pepys was baptised at the church we’ve just passed

49. And now we’re back at Fleet Street, turning right at the Old Bell Tavern which is another Christopher Wren pub. Masons used it as somewhere to stay when they were working on rebuilding the city after the Great Fire

Around the corner’s the extremely ornate Victorian Punch Tavern named after the Punch magazine that started here

The previous pub on this site was called the Crown & Sugar Loaf, but was renamed as the Punch Tavern in the 1840s, as Punch magazine had its office nearby at that end of Fleet Street. Pop inside – it’s very ornate. Plus don’t miss Mr Punch outside

50. Right…let’s get back to the street & walk over the crossroads & up towards St Paul’s

There’s another church on the left which is St Martin within Legate. Some legends connect the church with legendary King Cadwallo & a sign on the front of the church reads “Cadwallo King of the Britons is said to have been buried here in 677”. Modern historians would place his death about 682

51. So….finally ahead’s the imposing facia of St Paul’s Cathedral, surely one of the most stunning sights of our capital city

The cathedral is one of the most famous & recognisable sights of London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. At 365 feet high, it was the tallest building in London between 1710 & 1967. The dome is among the highest in the world & St Paul’s is the second largest church building in the UK

So that’s where this walk ends. We thought we were were just going to walk a straight line between Trafalgar Square & St Paul’s Cathedral, but you all know our walks are never that straight forward

As always we head off the intended route, but that’s just to find some unknown & amazing places & boy did we find some today

The next time you’re in London give it a try…

Go Walk !