My new Nursery Rhyme Tour of London

It’s at this time of year where as near as possible I have a slightly easier life.  Fewer tourists though doesn’t mean I’m not working.  In an ideal world I would be using January to write books but I’m still busy with work but working from home and so I have been researching new tours in London.

One that I have been meaning to create for 6 months or so is one based on nursery rhymes.  Those child-friendly rhymes that most of us have sung at some point in our lives generally have inspiration from real events and in those days it would have been unacceptable and unsafe for people to discuss or gossip about controversial figures and events.


Take for example “Three Blind Mice” which is supposedly  an ode to Bloody Mary’s reign, with the trio in question believed to be a group of Protestant bishops namely Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Radley, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.  Having conspired to overthrow the queen and failed, they were burned at the stake for their heresy. The blindness in the title refers to their religious beliefs and inability or refusal to acknowledge the obvious righteous Catholic beliefs of their queen.

This is one of the reasons why nursery rhymes though seemingly made for children often have quite violent events such as blind mice.

Some nursery rhymes are easier to connect to actual events.   London’s Burning, London’s Burning is obviously about The Great Fire of London and with London Bridge is falling down, it isn’t to hard to guess what was going on.

Londons burning.jpg

Some nursery rhymes don’t quite make sense to us.   Humpty Dumpty Sat On A Wall often depicts some sort of humanoid egg for reasons I can only put down to Alice In Wonderland.  It is thought though that the real Humpty Dumpty was a cannon that was sat on the ramparts of a castle and during a battle it that fell off and was badly damaged by the impact.  All the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.  There are are several like this such as Jack and Jill and also Rockabye Baby, both actually related to Royals.

Because the origins of the rhymes have often been forgotten, some have been deemed offensive.   Baa, Baa, Black Sheep of course it doesn’t and is based on a real and very unpopular wool tax introduced in 1275 introduced by King Edward I to pay for his military.  One-third of the price of each sack sold, was for the king (the master); one-third to the church (the dame); and one  to the poor “shepherd” boy who cries down the lane.  Obviously the rhyme highlights the unfairness of the tax on the poor shepherds who had tirelessly tended and protected the flocks.  Originally wording of the last line was ‘the little boy who cries down the lane’ but this was later changed to make it more appealing to children.

The Nursery Rhyme Tour of London goes all around the old lanes of the old City of London, generally well away from tourists or even locals and lets people see a different and authentic side to the city as well as learning history and finding out the origins of rhymes that we’ve been singing in some cases for almost 1,000 years.

Some of the rhymes or tales covered include Here We go round the Mulberry Bush,
Old Mother Goose, Oranges and Lemons, Londons burning, London bridge is falling down, Hey Diddle Diddle, Humpty Dumpty, St Swithin, Dick Whittington and his cat, Baa baa black sheep, Doctor Foster went to Gloucester, Three blind mice,
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, Ring a ring of the roses and Pop goes the Weasel.

You can see the tour at  The Nursery Rhyme Tour of London or visit Ye Olde England Tours.

If the origins of words and sayings interest you then you might like to read my book Straight From The Horse’s Mouth.





About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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