Lisa's literary London stroll
A couple of weekends ago, a friend of mine celebrated his 40th. We both love London. We also love guided walks. Trouble was, I couldn’t find one that grabbed me that began at the right time. So, there was nothing else for it. I created my own. Lisa’s literary London stroll. Below is the itinerary. It's not comprehensive, but just a few points of interest that I found.
We didn’t manage to get to points 16 and 17 and sadly didn’t have cocktails at Rules – we were not dressed for the occasion, but I definitely want to go back there.
For anyone who hasn’t been in the lift at the Royal Festival Hall, I urge you to. It's not literary but it is worth it. I can’t say why, though, otherwise it would spoil the surprise!
The Roman baths (which may not actually be Roman) aren’t open on a Sunday.
Oh, and if you visit St Bride’s Church you have to visit the crypt. It was only discovered when a bomb hit the church in 1940. The church site turned out to be much older than anyone realised and you can now see a section of original Roman pavement ,along with artefacts uncovered during the Blitz. I didn’t know about it, but definitely worth a visit, as is the journalists’ shrine at the far end of the chapel. This commemorates journalists recently killed or kidnapped while working abroad.
We found one or two surprises along the way too...
Stop 1: Royal Festival Hall lift
For a small surprise. Then a stroll along the South Bank and across Blackfriars Bridge.
Point of interest 1: St Bride’s Church
Known as the journalists’ church as located at the end of Fleet Street. Samuel Pepys was also baptised here. Bell pub reputedly built by Wren as a watering hole for the men building St Paul’s.
Point of interest 2: Old Daily Telegraph building
Used in TV production of Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop.
Point of interest 3: Daily Express building
Art deco mezzanine inside although unfortunately we can’t go in.
Stop 2: Ye Olde Chesire Cheese
Built in 1667, this pub was frequented by Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and G.K Chesterton. Charles Dickens was also a visitor and the Cheese is alluded to in A Tale of Two Cities. They have a first edition in the restaurant.
Point of interest 4: Ye Olde Cock Inn
Lord Tennyson was a regular here.
Point of interest 5: No 10 Bouverie Street
Site of the Punch offices.
Point of interest 6: No. 17 Fleet Street
One of few buildings to survive the Great Fire of London. Display of Pepys paraphernalia on the first floor.
While looking for the entrance to the Roman baths we came across the old entrance to Aldwych tube station, which is no longer in use.
Point of interest 7: Roman Baths
Surrey Street, then Surrey Steps. Baths mentioned in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield.
Point of interest 8: Adelphi theatre and Royal Society of Arts
The Adelphi put on Shakespeare during the Blitz. Then John Adam Street (turn left into Adam Street first) and RSA – where Harper Collins launched 12-volume Diary of Samuel Pepys (left in Robert Street).
Point of interest 9: Adelphi
Robert Street – cherubs on the Adelphi office block – site of Adelphi, where John Galsworthy and J.M Barrie lived for a while. At the other end of the road is a flat rooftop with angled window (below). Barrie lived out his last years here. Charing Cross Bridge was crossed by many WWI troops and one of the original Lost Boys was killed in action, something Barrie never really got over. George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells and Arnold Bennett all visited Barrie during a zeppelin raid in WWI and went to watch on the rooftop.
Point of interest 10: Samuel Pepys’s houses
Retrace steps and then left into Buckingham Street. Samuel Pepys lived at nos. 12 and 14.
Stop 3: Ship and Shovell pub
Craven’s Passage, other side of Charing Cross station. No literary associations I know of, but it is recommended in London pub guides and is unusual in that it has two shop fronts on either side of the street.
As we walked across Trafalgar Square we came across Japan Matsuri - a celebration of all things Japanese in the heart of London...
Point of interest 11: Sotherans bookshop
Sackville Street – bookshop was once owned by Siegfried Sassoon.
Point of interest 12: Albany
Albany Courtyard – 69 bachelor apartments. Lord Byron, Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh all lived here at some point. Greene smoked opium here to try and recreate the fumeries of Vietnam.
Point of interest 15: Heywood Hill
Right into Bolton Street (off Piccadilly) and into Curzon Street. Heywood Hill bookshop. Nancy Mitford worked there during the war. Beautiful shop that sells books it believes are interesting and not just because they’re on the bestseller list.
Point of interest 13: St James’s Church
Wren-built, this is the church in which Robert Graves married. Wilfred Owen was among the guests. It was one of the many Wren churches to be bombed during WWII, badly damaging the roof.
Point of interest 16: Garrick Club
Dickens was a member, as was AA Milne. The club gets £2 million a year from Milne’s estate.
Point of interest 17: Lamb and Flag
Rose Street – pub used to be called Bucket of Blood because so many fist fights. In the sixties it hosted poetry readings.
Stop 4: Rules
Graham Greene frequently ate here on his birthday. Private room is now named after him. We’re going for a cocktail.