Ten Ages of London – a great Square Mile wander from Londonist

The first edition of the Londonist: Time Machine newsletter provides a brilliant example of the delights of wandering about the City of London, which I wrote about yesterday.

Matt Brown offers The Ten Ages of London in One Short Walk starting with Prehistoric London on the banks of the Thames, and walking through Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Medieval, Tudor, Stuart, Georgian, Victorian, 20th century and modern sites.

It’s a great walk, a little over a mile and a half, and Matt promises more:

“For me, the most rewarding way to explore London’s history is to walk it. Archives and books are indispensable for detail and context, but the streets themselves are the best primer. Exploring London’s history by foot is an idea I want to develop more in a future newsletter.”

In yesterday’s post I argued that the Corporation’s new Destination City programme to attract visitors would benefit from the promotion of self-guided walks like this one – and of course those of the expert City Guides.

The aim of Destination City is to get visitors to spend money and help support an economy hit by working from home. Walks don’t self-evidently do that. However, it wouldn’t be difficult to link the key posts on Matt’s map to pubs, restaurants and other attractions – particularly if those also offered additional information about the City with “here’s other places we like” corners.

There are a lot of self-guided walks available, both in print and online, but you can’t find them in one place. Before explorations were slowed by the pandemic, I started to address this by putting together some links using the Wakelet curating too. It wouldn’t be difficult to update them.

The value of Matt’s walk is that it provides a big picture within which lots of other walks could fit. There are many other pictures one can draw from the City’s history – and no lack of knowledge among Guides, historians, Museums and cultural institutions. That’s shown in the links above.

What’s needed is someone to convene the expertise, curate and develop content both online and in print, and promote.

An early version of plans for the spectacular £1.3 million Bartholomew Fair, due to take place in the City in September, offered some prospect of that with an aim to “Improve wayfinding by increasing awareness that the City is not individual buildings, but a collective of fascinating places to see, spend in and work at”.

I wrote how that could could be the basis for collaborations to develop a Museum of the Streets.

The team organising Bartholomew Fair have a huge task in putting together three weeks of shows, and feeding the new visitor website, and I can understand that walks and wayfinding may have to wait until after the event. However, a group of us are discussing how we might pilot something around the historic home of the Fair in Cloth Fair and Smithfield, building on ideas I floated last year in the EC1 Echo.

Matthew Bell’s article on restaging the Fair was picked up in a big way by Destination City. We now need someone with a corresponding vision for what is possible aided by the smartphones in our pockets. Here’s more on the idea of a Museum of the Streets. Other names for digitally-assisted wandering about welcome.

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