My walk was loosely based on the trail of the Great Fire of London, through some research I managed to work out a loose path of it.
I headed off from Blackfriars Underground station just before 12, from there I realised that this walk was going to be blisteringly cold. As I headed the wrong way across Blackfriars Bridge it suddenly dawned on me how much to London there is in such a small area. Gazing across the Thames on the bridge I could see the Shard, Tate Modern Art Gallery and The Globe Theatre. In a small underpass under Blackfriars Bridge there was an engraving of the bridge being commemorated by Queen Victoria, the plaque next to it read ‘HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA OPENING BLACKFRIARS NEW BRIDGE’.
Once I realised I was on the wrong side of the Thames I walked along the river towards Millennium Bridge, it was the first time I had seen it in person and the architecture of the bridge fascinated me as this modern structure didn’t look out of place with the Shard in close sight. Walking over the bridge I had a perfect view of St Paul’s Cathedral (which I would be visiting later my expedition). It was perched in between two modern building as I walked across the bridge, I was tempted to go off route and see the Cathedral but I was strong willed and decided to carry on my walk alongside the Thames.
Heading along the Thames I then reached a tunnel that I had to pass through to carry on my walk along the river, whilst walking through this tunnel I noticed that there were engravings on each wall. The engravings noted various events of London’s history, the first engraving was one of London in 1616 by CJ Visscher, the second named ‘Prospect of the city of London, 1710’ by Joseph Smith, the third was the construction of Southwark Iron Bridge by Edward William Cooke which was drawn in 1827.
Coming out the other end of the tunnel my walk continued along the river, a small plaque against the wall described how that ‘Queenhithe was a thriving Saxon and medieval dock and is the only inlet surviving along the City waterfront today’. I hadn’t heard of Queenhithe before and after doing some research behind it I learnt that it was named Queenhithe after Queen Matilda wife of Henry I and that it was used as a trading shore, where goods were sold directly from beached boats. A short walk along the Thames I came across another plaque detailing Walbrook Wharf, like Queenhithe I had no knowledge of what Walbrook Wharf was. Written on the plaque was “The history of the city waterfronts defines the evolution of the City as a trading, commercial and financial centre of national and international importance”. Eventually I reached London Bridge and up until 1729 it was the only bridge across the River Thames. In 1666 ‘it was crowded with houses meaning it was too narrow to be a good escape route from the fire’ (http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visit-the-city/walks/Documents/fire-of-london-self-guided-walk.pdf. Page 1).
Walking up the stairs of the bridge I could see the HMS Belfast in the distance, after looking across the river for a brief period I decided to turn away from the Thames and head towards Monument. Walking towards Monument station I saw a sign pointing me towards the Monument and within a couple of minutes I had reached it. The Monument to the Great Fire stands at 202ft tall and exactly 202ft from where the fire broke out in Pudding Lane, at the bottom of the monument was a passage that read ‘This Monument designed by Sir Christopher Wren was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London 1666. Which burned for three days consuming more than 13,000 houses and devastating 436 acres of the city’; reading this I realised how significant the destruction of the fire had been and devastated the city.
I then attempted to make my way to St Pauls Cathedral, walking down Cheapside I finally made it to St Pauls. I walked around the perimeter of it but was unable to enter as they were setting up equipment for something. After the Great Fire the original Cathedral was burnt down and construction on the new cathedral began in 1675 and took 35 years to complete finishing in 1710 though ‘religious services began there in 1697 ‘(http://www.thepaintboxgarden.com/tag/great-fire-of-1666/). I found that there were ‘several ineffectual attempts to repair the venerable fabric, it was resolved to demolish every vestige of the original building’ (Maria Hackett, 1828, page 1). I decided then to try and find Paternoster Square as I knew it wasn’t too far from the cathedral, there was column standing in the middle of it which I wondered if it was there to commemorate something but after some research I found out that it was ‘erected in 2008 as part of the redevelopment of the square by the architectural firm Whitfield Partners’ (http://www.londontown.com/LondonInformation/Sights_and_Attractions/Paternoster_Square_Column).
After looking at the column I then went on my way to find the Museum of London, whilst walking towards the museum I found myself walking past St Bartholomew’s Hospital, by this point that weather had worsened and the cold forced me into a coffee shop. I eventually found myself at the Museum of London where I was very tired.
Hackett, Maria. A Popular Description of St. Paul’s Cathedral: Including a Brief History of the Old and New Cathedral : with Explanations of the Monumental Designs. J.B. Nichols and Son, 1828. Page 1