I found an old fashioned water well in my street!

Snooping around is part of my job and I end up in all sorts of weird and sometimes possibly illegal situations especially in the old City of London or out in the country.

Two days ago I noticed that there was a possible old-fashioned well in the garden of what centuries ago was the village vicarage and the building may well predate that as it is very grand.  Apparently it was built over sometime after piped water became a thing but when recent new owners moved in, they discovered it and rebuilt it in the style we all imagine old wells to be.

When I was a boy I actually used to wash the car of the person who lived here, a man with a white jaguar and hair something like the footballer Kevin Keegan.

It is said there may be a well in my garden or an immediate neighbour, if so it must be quite deep as we sit on the very top of a 500 feet hill which isn’t the first place you look for running water.

I’ve actually found something in the back garden just a half a shovels depth beneath the surface of the soil but it’s very large and I think some of it goes into a neighbouring garden which would lead me to think it may be the remains of a WW2 air-raid shelter.  Imagine if that were so, I could do tours in my very own garden!

The garden with a well is only 6 or 7 houses from me but whilst I live in a 200 year old workers cottage which is almost on the street, a vicar obviously has something a bit grander and the building is now in a small but very old complex with a gravel drive, ornamental trees and other grandiose paraphernalia.

I thought I might sneak in unnoticed but I had only gone a few houses when a friendly neighbour saw me with my iPad and the game was up.  Additionally the house between us and the well-house was having work done on it so the builders all heard it too.  I may was well have gone in with half the street behind with me!

I felt a little like when I went to the home of Edward Adrian Wilson a few months ago in Stanmore when I went to take photos of the old prison cells in the garden but again it was a total success and here is the old well and it even has a bucket attached though sadly no rope!

The water well in my street

The water well in my street

You can see some old photos of my street and actually the pine tree that overlooks the well here.

Or if wells are your thing (aren’t they everyones lol) then head to Looking for and finding Waxwell, a Holy Well in Pinner (London)

Incidentally, my new book Secret Gardens of the City of London is now at number 3 of the Amazon section charts.

Secret Gardens of the City of London is now at number 3!

Secret Gardens of the City of London is now at number 3!

Secret Gardens of the City of London is available in Kindle format for £3.99 from Amazon UK, $4.99 from Amazon.com and all over Amazon stores around the world.

Secret Gardens of the City of London is also out worldwide in Paperback including Amazon UK  and Amazon.com 

Last but not least, if you’re an Apple fan then Secret Gardens of the City of London then click on the Apple logo below.   Secret Gardens of the City of London is also available from other top retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and many more.

download_on_ibooks_badge_us-uk_090913-2

You can read more about Secret Gardens of the City of London on the dedicated book page from the top menu.

Secret Gardens of the City of London

Secret Gardens of the City of London

Posted in Heritage, history, Life | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Legend of Jack O’ Legs – Hertfordshire’s answer to Robin Hood!

We all know the story of Robin Hood, Little John and the others in Sherwood Forest but where I live we have a similarly motivated though perhaps less successful and well-know figure and his name is Jack O’Legs who also stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

Jack lived in a cave near the the town of Baldock and the village of Weston in Hertfordshire.   Jack was a very tall chap, in fact so tall that he could talk to people through their upstarts windows though admittedly they might not be quite so high as they are today.

Weston village sign, which depicts Jack O’Legs, a local giant who stole bread from the bakers of Baldock to feed the poor. Before he was hanged for his crimes, he requested that he shoot an arrow from his bow and be buried where it landed. The arrow was launched from outside Baldock and landed in Weston’s churchyard, where his grave stands.

All was well until one year there was a pretty bad harvest and the bakers from Baldock cornered the local market in flour and put the prices up which is something we can all sort of relate to today.  Thinking this to be somewhat unjust,  Jack O’Legs used to lay in wait for the bakers on what is now called Jack’s Hill between Weston and Graveley. He caught them, got the flour off them and gave it to his friends in Weston.

This happened a few times and understandably the profiteering bakers weren’t too happy about it and they laid in wait and ambushed him in a surprise attack before taking him to Baldock to execute him but before they did so they agreed to grant him a final request.

Jack fires towards Holy Trinity Church

Jack fires towards Holy Trinity Church

He said ‘point me towards Weston and where my arrow lands I wish to be buried’ . So they gave him his bow and arrow, which no one else could pull because it was so enormous, and he fired off his arrow into the sky towards Weston and it landed three miles further on in Weston churchyard with some accounts saying the arrow actually struck the steeple of the church before bouncing down into the soil.

Either way, Jack was buried where his arrow fell and you can still visit his grave today.  As sometimes used to be the case, Jack has both a headstone and a foot stone.  He really must have been a giant as the two stones are 14 feet apart or around 5 metres!

The grave of Jack O'Legs

The grave of Jack O’Legs at Weston Church

As with most stories from King Arthur onwards, it is likely that however unlikely or exaggerated the legend might sound to us, Jack likely was a really tall man who used his gifts to help the poor and then after his execution, the poor local people would remember him in a kindly fashion.

A steep slope on the Great North Road, near the village of Graveley, is where Jack was said to have robbed rich travellers, and is still called “Jack’s Hill”.

In this case we are able to narrow it down somewhat as the town of Baldock wasn’t founded until around 1148AD which is relatively modern for Britain.  Jack was first recorded in a poem by John Skelton in about 1521 called ‘Speak Parrot’ which is a diatribe against Cardinal Wolsey. In it he has a line saying ‘The gibbett of Baldock was made for Jack Leg’.  The fact the the writer didn’t expand on who Jack was indicates that anyone who was likely to hear the poem would be well aware of who Jack was.

The capture and execution of the giant suggest a period when it was possible for the local Lord to execute people caught red handed – a right known as infangenthef. And the whole story of Jack O’Legs suggests that he was subject to something like a legal lynching. Infangenthef was a practice granted to local Anglo-Saxon Lords as a way to maintain law and order locally but over the centuries that followed the Norman conquest, the practice fell out of favour.

What the Bakers did to Jack may seem brutal but life was harsh for most people and a baker’s life was not easy. The work was hard and the hours were very long. Because bread was such an important food for the people, there were many laws relating to it.

Jack O’Legs mural Letchworth school

Bakers who were found guilty of selling loaves that were under weight, could be locked in the pillory (a wooden framework on a post with holes for the head and hands) where everyone one could see that they had done wrong. People could shout abuse at them and throw rotten foods in their face. In times of famine, the local authorities could force the bakers to sell their bread for less than it cost to make. Sometimes bread was simply taken by them, without paying anything, to feed the town.

Nevertheless, there are so many references locally to Jack O’Legs that it must be based on fact and even today when driving on the Great North Road (now known as the A1) thousands of people every hour go up and down Jacks Hill from where he used to sit in wait.

Incidentally, my new book Secret Gardens of the City of London is now at number 3 of the Amazon section charts.

Secret Gardens of the City of London is now at number 3!

Secret Gardens of the City of London is now at number 3!

Secret Gardens of the City of London is available in Kindle format for £3.99 from Amazon UK, $4.99 from Amazon.com and all over Amazon stores around the world.

Secret Gardens of the City of London is also out worldwide in Paperback including Amazon UK  and Amazon.com 

Last but not least, if you’re an Apple fan then Secret Gardens of the City of London then click on the Apple logo below.   Secret Gardens of the City of London is also available from other top retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and many more.

download_on_ibooks_badge_us-uk_090913-2

You can read more about Secret Gardens of the City of London on the dedicated book page from the top menu.

Secret Gardens of the City of London

Secret Gardens of the City of London

Posted in history, Life, Popular Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Coronavirus Diary 70 – The front cottage garden in Autumn

Do you remember all the way back in April I wrote Coronavirus Diary 28  Dancing in the rain ? where I brought home this little fellow?

Well a long hot summer and a bit of care from myself has meant my tiny little spider plant has grown out of all proportions.

Hanging spider plant

Hanging spider plant

Fortunately the old front porch had a large hook protruding from near the roof.  Maybe for coats but it was just perfect to hang the spider plant from, breaking up the expanse of windows and adding to the cottage feel.

In fact most of the plants I made homes for in the early Spring have done well.  I ornamental grasses have come into their own as Autumn approaches.

Sadly the original Japanese willow tree died during the extreme heat and drought and when I had a few weeks of heavy media work, it sadly died.  I did replant it and severely prune it in the back garden though and it has come back to life.

Autumnal front garden

Autumnal front garden

The little olive tree on the left has started to grow but nothing like the one in the back garden which even has some small olives on it.

I’ve re-attached the climbing rose to the house after it was necessary to prune it to paint the wall.  Hopefully it will grow back and if I can I will grow it out towards the front fence and weave it amongst the posts though that might take a few years to achieve.

The only thing I really want to do in the front this year is to oil the bench.  It doesn’t need it as the wood is already protected against the weather, this would just be for appearances and further peace of mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coronavirus Diary 69 – Baby steps with ministers and journalists

Last week I posted two articles regarding meetings with a government minister and trying to write for a newspaper.  I thought everyone would like to know that to a degree both went well.

Over the weekend I heard that the Independent Newspaper which is one of a number of what were once broadsheet quality newspapers (The Times, Financial Times, Telegraph and Guardian being the others) have accepted my first article.   I don’t think it in anyway sparks a career change but it is nice to add another string to my bow.    I have a second article to write for them one day soon.

Also my meeting with Oliver Dowden MP and Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport went quite well on Friday afternoon.  We spoke via Zoom for about 15 minutes.  He was very pleasant and interested to know more of my story (though I think he already knew the basics) and didn’t interrupt at all except to find out more information about certain aspects.

I’m not sure much will come of it for myself but he seemed genuinely saddened for my plight and he and his PA made notes it was clear some of the things I mentioned were news to him and he did actually say that he found it useful and it will help him and others in the future.

Anyway, it’s not every day you get to spend time with the 3rd or 4th senior politician and I did tell him that I liked him as a person but the governments policy is making life very tough.  I’m always one for being nice to people as you probably know by now 🙂

 

 

Posted in Life, News, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Daniel Lambert – The heaviest man of the 18th Century

Daniel Lambert 1770 – 1809 was a gaol keeper (jail) and animal breeder from Leicester, England, famous for his unusually large size. After serving four years as an apprentice at an engraving and die casting works in Birmingham, he returned to Leicester around 1788 and succeeded his father as keeper of Leicester’s gaol. He was a keen sportsman and extremely strong; on one occasion he fought a bear in the streets of Leicester. He was an expert in sporting animals, widely respected for his expertise with dogs, horses and fighting cocks. In fact one of his dogs was said to be the finest in the kingdom.

Daniel Lambert

Daniel Lambert

At the time of Daniel’s return to Leicester, his weight began to increase steadily, even though he was athletically active and, by his own account, abstained from drinking alcohol and did not eat unusual amounts of food. In 1805, Lambert’s gaol closed. By this time, he weighed 50 stone and had become the heaviest authenticated person up to that point in recorded history. Unemployable and sensitive about his bulk, Lambert became a recluse.

In 1806, poverty forced Daniel to put himself on exhibition to raise money. In April 1806, he took up residence at 53 Piccadilly in London, charging spectators a shilling (about £4.20) to enter his apartments to meet him. Visitors were impressed by his intelligence and personality, and visiting him became highly fashionable.  He must have fared well as he would have up to 400 visitors a day and back then those of a large size were not sneered at or looked down upon but were rather admired for being a great physical specimen.

After some months on public display, Daniel Lambert grew tired of exhibiting himself, and in September 1806, he returned, wealthy, to Leicester, where he bred sporting dogs and regularly attended sporting events. Between 1806 and 1809, he made a further series of short fundraising tours.

During his life he was widely respected despite his obvious gigantuan measurements.  He wasn’t one of those unfortunate Victorian freak-show acts but was educated and considered, a businessman of sorts who mingled freely with high society and even King George!  He was known to  have walked 7 miles one day from Woolwich to the City of London and was also a swimming instructor.  Perhaps due to his size he disliked changing clothes and would often continue wearing the previous days clothes the following morning even if they were still wet.

Daniel's Breeches

An old photograph illustrating the size of Daniel’s Breeches

Other than his extreme size, he exhibited no other signs of possible conditions such as thyroid problems and it is is thought his extreme size was likely due to simply a lack of exercise and eating copious amounts of an extremely rich diet.

Whilst he was in London, Daniel was visited by Józef Boruwłaski, a 3-foot-3-inch (99 cm) dwarf then in his seventies and one of the last of the old fashioned dwarfs that would live at Royal Courts.  It was possibly the meeting of both the largest and smallest man in the world at the time and the pair worded out that the sleeve of Daniels coat had more than enough material to clothe Józef’s entire body!

In June 1809, he died suddenly in Stamford, Lincolnshire. At the time of his death, he weighed 52 stone 11 pounds (about 335 kilos) and his coffin required 112 square feet of wood. There was no chance of getting Daniel back to his come city of Leicester and so he was buried near to his site of death.  Despite the coffin being built with wheels to allow easy transport, and a sloping approach being dug to the grave, it took 20 men almost half an hour to drag his casket into the trench, in a newly opened burial ground to the rear of St Martin’s Church.

The grave of Daniel Lambert

The grave of Daniel Lambert

The rather weathered inscription on his headstone reads thus:

In Remembrance of that Prodigy in Nature.
DANIEL LAMBERT.
a Native of Leicester:
who was possessed of an exalted and convivial Mind
and in personal Greatness had no Competitor
He measured three Feet one Inch round the Leg
nine Feet four Inches round the Body
and weighed
Fifty two Stone eleven Pounds!
He departed this Life on the 21st of June 1809
Aged 39 years
As a Testimony of Respect this Stone is erected by his Friends in Leicester

After he died, the name Daniel Lambert was used to signify any great fat man and around Leicester and Stamford his name was adopted by many pubs as well as in other places such as Ludgate near St Pauls in London.

Lambert is still a popular character in Leicester, described in 2009 by the Leicester Mercury as “one of the city’s most cherished icons”.

A set of Lambert’s clothes, together with his armchair, walking stick, riding crop and prayer book, are on permanent display at the Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester.

In 2009, on the 200th anniversary of his death, Leicester celebrated Daniel Lambert Day, and over 800 people attended an event in his name at Newarke Houses Museum.

To read about an even more fascinating figure of the same era then do read about John ‘Mad Jack’ Mytton – craziest man in history! or Peter The Wild Boy.  And while you’re here, check out my new book!

Posted in history, Life, London | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Coronavirus Diary 68 – Today I will be meeting with Oliver Dowden, MP and Cabinet Minister

Today is the day after 6 months of campaigning, witty insults, cutting comments and deliberate government discrimination and impoverished ness; I get to meet with a senior Cabinet Minister to plead my case and those of 3 million others #ExcludedUK

I’m sure I will be politely listened to and ignored as no-one really cares but for 15-20 minutes I will give it both barrels, in my usual polite and honest way.

Since February I have been unable to work not just due to the virus but in the case of tourism as a result of direct government policy and yet I don’t receive a penny of help or any form of assistance.  It doesn’t seem quite right when even criminals get free food, clothing, heating, accommodation and even television and social activities.

Me with Rishi Sunak this year

Me with Rishi Sunak this year

It doesn’t seem much to ask from a government who promised no-one would be left behind or without hope…. yet here I am left behind and utterly without hope.

Not even the opposition Labour Leader has ever spoken up. Maybe I’m just the wrong sex, colour, race, religion, class?  I know being a decent person isn’t very fashionable these days.

Posted in Life, News, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Coronavirus Diary 67 – Pitching ideas to the national newspapers

Following all the events I’ve gone through in the last few weeks, I was kindly tipped off about a possible opening for writing an article for a newspaper as opposed to being the subject of them!

Last week I pitched 3 ideas to a quality broadsheet newspaper and was delighted to find out that 2 of my ideas were accepted.  So whilst not in any way a commitment on their part, I’m in the process of writing out two articles and seeing if they get published.

I always wanted to be a journalist but was strongly discouraged at college so I did something else which I wasn’t too good at and failed it before trying something different.

Similarly I wanted to do history at High School but wasn’t allowed as that was more for girls and I had to do science and I was very good at Physics but not at Chemistry and yet I went on to get a degree and a Masters degree in History just a few years later.

I wonder if children today still have their lives and studies ruined by such stupid ideas and this was only around 1990.

I think I’ve proven that I’m actually pretty ok at history and even made a career out of it and I don’t think I’m a slouch in the writing department.  My Chemistry career has yet to really take-off but who knows how long this virus will last!  Maybe I should have taken Biology instead.

Secret Gardens of the City of London is available in Kindle format for £3.99 from Amazon UK, $4.99 from Amazon.com and all over Amazon stores around the world.

Secret Gardens of the City of London is also out worldwide in Paperback including Amazon UK  and Amazon.com 

Last but not least, if you’re an Apple fan then Secret Gardens of the City of London then click on the Apple logo below.   Secret Gardens of the City of London is also available from other top retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and many more.

download_on_ibooks_badge_us-uk_090913-2

You can read more about Secret Gardens of the City of London on the dedicated book page from the top menu.

Posted in Life, writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Visiting WW1 trenches in the heart of England

As someone with a keen interest in WW1 or The Great War, I’ve written before on my visits to the Western Front in France and Belgium. Not many people know that there are still trenches in England and conveniently only about 15 miles from where I live.

I’ve wanted to visit them since the 1990’s but never got round to visiting them and though there is a nearby carpark, I always like to do things the old fashioned way which invariably takes longer but I think makes for a better experience and so on last week I took an entirely deserted train to the small market town of Berkhamsted and with no maps except what was in my head, I set off through farmlands, woods and common land to a hill-top where hopefully I would find what I was looking for.

On 28 September 1914 troops from the Inns of Court Officers’ Training Corps, nick-named The Devil’s Own, arrived in Berkhamsted to train before heading for the battlefields of northern France. 

The tented camp of the Devils Own in Kitchener's Field just outside Berkhamsted.

During the course of WWI, 12,000 troops passed through the training camp at Berkhamsted.  They lived in a tented camp near the station, paraded on what is now called Kitchener’s Field and trained on Berkhamsted and Northchurch commons and in the surrounding countryside.  Troops from the UK and abroad spent several months in Berkhamsted in intensive training, building skills and character, before being commissioned into other regiments. 

The Inns of Courts Oficers Training Corps dug 13 miles of linear trenches, primarily as preparation for the real thing on the Western Front but also as part of fitness training for these young volunteers, many of which were barely out of school. The trenches were also to provide valuable experience in modern trench layouts, based on the real trenches in France and from hard lessons that were already being learned there. The soil here is very difficult to dig trenches in, a big similarity with those 175 miles away in mainland Europe which no doubt stood the men in good stead if such a thing were possible.

The Inns of Courts Officers' Training Corps digging the trenches over 100 years ago
Officers of the Devils Own digging some of the very trenches I am visiting.

The Inns of Court Officers Training Corps provided basic and officer training at Berkhamsted. The subjects practiced were route marching, map reading, digging trenches, wiring, bombing, shooting, field tactics and strategy which took the form of complete battalion exercises in open warfare. Special night operations were also practiced here in addition to the usual lectures, which covered a whole range of subjects from leadership, billeting, welfare and trench sanitation.

The impact on the small town of about 7,500 was huge and there was strong respect and appreciation between local residents and the Corps.  For many of the young men, Berkhamsted was their last “home” before the horrors of the Western Front.  Tragically by 1918, nearly half of all trainees had become casualties with 2,147 of them killed.

Over the years most of the trenches have been neglected, overgrown or even deliberately filled in by the local golf course in the 1970’s. Recently however a team of volunteers from the Commons Project and Chiltern Society mapped the location of the best preserved trenches and cleared away the foliage that was covering them and somewhat restored their appearance.

I knew I was on the right track when I found a field that was actually signposted as being Kitcheners Field and you can see from my photo below the similarities of the hill and woods to the field camp in 1914.

The tents have gone but the landscape is unchanged

I wondered along the lower side of the field, passing some Buddhist Monks who were heading in the opposite direction and stopped for a moment amongst some horses before heading through a farm and up the hill into the woods.

As is my habit, I found the trenches at my first time of trying which wasn’t too much of a surprise though I’ve read of others looking for them repeatedly and getting nowhere!

Walking in 106 year old trenches from WW1

It was a little eerie walking through them and going over the top.  I can confirm that after nearly 110 years it would still be difficult to climb in and out of them and they are very reminiscent of those I’ve seen where the war was actually fought.

WW1 training trenches that have been cleared of undergrowth near Berkhamsted

There is a modern information board too which sets the scene nicely and having seen them I headed off to where I knew there was a WW1 memorial.

The Inns of Court Oficers Training Corps was originally part of the London Territorial Force and consisted mainly of men connected with the Law courts in the City of London such as Lincolns Inn, Temple and establishments around The Strand. The Corps came to Berkhamsted on 28th September 1914 and did not leave until June 1919 during which time 14,000 men passed through the Corps with over 11,000 of them winning commissions.  Three officers were awarded Victoria Crosses along with countless other decorations. A total of 2,147 men lost their lives and are commemorated by the lonely memorial, which stands on the at the road junction from Frithsden Road into Berkhamsted.

Despite its location in a mixture of woodland and golf course, it’s still a moving if lonely monument. The memorial also makes mention that Colonel E.R.L Errington’s ashes were placed nearby. His official history of the Corps, written in the 1920’s offers a great insight.

The solitary monument to the Devils Own

“The situation of our camp at Berkhamsted was ideal, pitched in the field on the north side of the station and sloping gently up to Berkhamsted Place. The Squadron, both men and horses, were in the Brewery. Lord Brownlow placed at our disposal his private waiting-room at the station and also a covered-in shelter, both of which were used for Quartermaster’s office and stores. The proximity of the station did away with all transport difficulties. On the west side, we had ample room for expansion, and on the east side another large field, subsequently given the name of “Kitchener’s Field”, made an admirable drill ground.  The surrounding country was the best imaginable for training, being so varied … To the north lay the big common, later intersected by some 13,000 yards of trenches, then Ashridge Park, undulating and beautifully timbered, placed entirely at our disposal by Lord Brownlow, and so away to the open downland of the Chiltern Hills. To the south, hilly and enclosed land leading to Hawridge and Cholesbury Commons. To the east, farms and enclosures admirably adapted for night operations; and to the west the private grounds of Rossway and Champneys, always open to us; with woods, farms and enclosures to and beyond Tring. We went where we liked, and did what we liked. The big landowner, the small landowner, and the farmer were all equally ready to help. If there was any trouble, Major Mead at once got on his horse, rode over, and smoothed things out.  For the squadron, long treks without touching a road, wide movements, distant reconnaissance; for the infantry, wood fighting, canal crossings, river crossings, big fights on the open commons and downs, local fighting among the enclosures, every form of open training was available. In the neighbouring villages, Nettleden, Little Gaddesden, Aldbury, Ashley Green, Bovingdon, the awakened villager turned to sleep again with greater security when he realised that the outburst of firing, and the swift rush of feet through the village street, betokened nothing more than a night raid of the Devil’s Own… As soon as we moved into billets the Rector, Mr Hart Davies, placed the Court House at our disposal for an Orderly Room …  Through the kindness of Lady Brownlow we were able to begin by using her hospital at Ashridge.”

Part of the common

My curiosity piqued I headed back through the woods in a different direction; I had more historical sights I wanted to find but before then I thought I might look for some of the non-restored trenches, not being one to go with the crowds… as if there are ever crowds here.

Just a few minutes walk from a woodland trail I found plenty and took my photo in some sort of shell-hole.

If you’ve enjoyed this post you can find plenty of other WW1 articles, not least because I wrote a WW1 history book which was published by a leading publishers in London. You can find it in Paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and various retails establishments as well as find it on Kindle and iBooks too.

Click on the book cover to go to the book page with links to where to find out more.

Posted in Heritage, history, Life, Travel, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My new book is out – Secret Gardens of the City of London

After a year of solid work my new book has just been released in Paperback, Kindle Apple iBook formats.   So what’s it all about?

Secret Gardens of the City of London is based on my unique, popular and generally well regarded tour with Ye Olde England Tours  Sacred Secret Sanctuary Gardens Walk (rated by Trip Advisor / Viator as the top rated ‘Secret London’ experience) in the oldest part of London, the City of London or Square Mile… Londinium as the Romans knew it.

Without including neighbouring and adjoining satellite towns, Greater London itself is 611 Square Miles or 1,572 Square Kilometres.  Composed of dozens of once tiny villages and settlements that have grown together over 2,000 years to create the great city that we live, work and travel in.

The proof copy arrives

The proof copy arrives

There is London and then there is the City of London or Londinium as the Romans called it.  The oldest part of the city; the City or Square Mile.  Full of the buildings and institutions that have shaped our lives and our world, not just our world but the world.

Greater London itself has just been declared the worlds first National Park City with 50% of it being in someway green or indeed blue.  Gardens, footpaths and bridleways of course, canals rivers, woods and parks.  Many of them known well beyond our shores.  Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common, Hampstead Heath to name but a few.  Like many of the most famous districts, streets and buildings, they are not really in London but in places such as Westminster or Chelsea.

The real London, the City of London is something of a mystery to many, even those who work here every day, decade after decade.   None of the wide streets of the West End or the mile upon mile of well-to do housing of Notting Hill or Kensington.  And maybe that is why it remains a mystery.  Between St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London is largely a hidden world all shaped by geography, Romans, Vikings, Saxons and the dynasties that came after the Norman invasions.  The Great and not so great fires, the plagues and other natural disasters and all those wars.

For centuries the City of London was the most densely populated place on Earth.  Even today countless millions live in Greater London but only a handful of people live in the original City of London, outnumbered by their long dead predecessors that rest in ancient graveyards.

Christopher Wren rebuilt most of the City churches after the Great Fire of London and whilst many survive, several were all but destroyed in The Blitz during WW2 leaving nothing but picturesque ruins and tranquil, hidden oasis in the middle of the financial capital of the world.

This book is a hybrid history and guide book with small maps and details of where to find each one as well as a little about how it came to be and some notable physical or historical features.

Not all the gardens are ancient, London is ever changing and several of the gardens are just a year or so old and many others have been extensively updated and re-landscaped in the 21st Century.  Almost all of them offer a small slice of London history and a great deal of nature and beauty too.

Even on a busy working day much of the City of London can seem largely deserted at least at times.  A seemingly confusing maze of modern skyscrapers, medieval lanes and churches with a smattering of older Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Roman for good measure.   On any given weekend of holiday you can have the Square Mile almost to yourself and though you can get hopelessly lost, it is after all only a square mile.

I’ve been exploring the City almost every day for 7 years and still find something new on an almost daily occasion.  And many of these secret little gardens have become something of friends, sanctuaries from the bustle of busy old London.  Every garden is different and unique and has a reason why it is there at all.

In this awful year of the Coronavirus, why not explore the oldest part of the city you call home.  If you’re visiting for a weekend or a holiday, after you’ve seen the big sights, why not explore the City of London and see sights that few other have.

Secret Gardens of the City of London is available in Kindle format for £3.99 from Amazon UK, $4.99 from Amazon.com and all over Amazon stores around the world.

Secret Gardens of the City of London is also out worldwide in Paperback including Amazon UK  and Amazon.com 

Last but not least, if you’re an Apple fan then Secret Gardens of the City of London then click on the Apple logo below.   Secret Gardens of the City of London is also available from other top retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and many more.

download_on_ibooks_badge_us-uk_090913-2

You can read more about Secret Gardens of the City of London on the dedicated book page from the top menu.

Posted in history, Life, London, Travel, writing, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Coronavirus Diary 66 – I have an actual tour today!

Today is a very special day, I have my first proper tour since February albeit it at 50% off and possibly the only one of this year.  Two people from the Lake District are staying in London for a few days for a special birthday and out of all the things to see in London, they particularly want to go on a Jack The Ripper Day-Time Walk

I always love Jack The Ripper walks as it is in a very unique part of London, probably unique for the world and it is a very vibrant if not entirely glamorous location.  I don’t just talk about the murders and go to important sites in Whitechapel but I bring in all the social conditions and the lives of the people who lived and worked there such as Elizabeth and John Sodeaux – Two unintended victims of Jack The Ripper.

They are also interested in visiting some of Westminster and Royal related places so we may go there in the early afternoon.

Whilst the £100 will be very welcome, it won’t make a big impact having not earned any money or had any government support since February but it is also worth noting the impact this little tour will have on the wider society.

Two people booking a hotel for a night.  Three people using the local transport network. Three people making use of some independent cafe, eatery or pub.  Two people possibly purchasing local products or tourists related paraphernalia. And as it’s me, no doubt some poor tramp or homeless person will receive something too.

All these businesses and people helped just a little because I get to leave my house for a few hours.  Tour guides make the world go round 🙂

Posted in Life, London, Travel, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments