The walk starts from Monument station and ends at Tower Hill station (or at St Pauls station). On arrival at Monument station, take the exit marked Fish Street Hill and The Monument and at street level, turn right. Stop in front of the large “monument” ahead of you.
Monument and the Great Fire of London
The Monument stands as a memorial to the Great Fire of London.
It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1677. It is the tallest single stone column in the world and contains a spiral staircase leading to a viewing platform from which you can see some remarkable views of the city. Sadly, until 1842 (when the viewing platform was railed in) the monument was a favourite place for suicides.
The Great Fire of London started at 2 am on September 2nd 1666 in a bakery in Pudding Lane, the distance in height eastward from the Monument (202 feet.) The fire burned for three days and spread over almost 500 acres, northeast as far as St Bart’s hospital.
The final toll was 9 lives lost (officially) and 87 churches and 13,200 houses destroyed.
Did You Know?
As the fire started in Pudding Lane and ended at Pie Corner, some Londoners considered the fire to be divine retribution for their gluttony.
The plinth used to have an inscription in Latin blaming the fire on the Roman Catholics but this was removed in 1830.
continue along Monument Street, passing the Monument on your right, until you reach the junction with Pudding Lane. Turn right and walk down Pudding Lane, then right again at the end into Lower Thames Street.
Cross the road at the lights in front of St Magnus the Martyr church and walk left along Lower Thames Street until you reach a pathway (signposted Riverside Walk East) just after a building marked St Magnus House / No 3 Lower Thames Street. Follow this path to the riverfront and turn left.
Stop in front of the glass fronted building with gold-coloured fish ornaments on its roof (Old Billingsgate Fish Market).
Old Billingsgate Fish Market, Custom House and St Magnus the Martyr Church
In front of you is the site of the old Billingsgate Fish Market, which existed here in the Middle Ages. The market moved to a new site on the Isle of Dogs in 1982.
To the right of it is Custom House. In 979, King Ethelred levied the first known customs duty in England, but it wasn’t until 1275 that the first custom house was built, just east of the present site. Since then, Custom House has been responsible for collecting taxes on all goods imported into London.
The church you passed is St Magnus the Martyr church. This church was founded around 1067 and stood at the foot of the old London Bridge. (In the churchyard lie some of the old stones from the bridge. ) As such, it was an important meeting place in medieval times. The original church burnt down during the Great Fire and was re-built by Wren in 1676. In the grounds there is a piece of a Roman pier, which was part of a nearby wharf.
Did You Know?
In the early 14th century, the population of London was around 80,000. Many people moved to the city from the countryside and other parts of Europe, particularly northern France. These newcomers were identified by their surnames, such as William of Lincoln.
However, the Black Death, the devastating plague that arrived in London in 1348, wiped out half the population and by 1377 it was only around 35,000 people.
Just after the old Fish Market building, turn left along Old Billingsgate Walk then left again at the end, along Lower Thames Street. Walk back to the pedestrian crossing in front of the church and cross the road, then turn left and walk up Fish Street Hill, passing Monument on your right.
At the top of Fish Street Hill, turn left along Eastcheap, cross King William Street and walk along Cannon Street until you reach Laurence Pountney Lane on your left. Turn down it and then turn right along Laurence Poutney Hill, then before the end of the road turn right to see houses at number 1 and 2.
These are two of the best surviving merchants’ houses in the City of London, and were built in 1703 .
Continue ahead to Cannon Street, turn left and cross at the pedestrian crossing. In front of you is the London Stone. Continue ahead, in the direction towards Laurence Pountney Hill and turn left along St Swithins Lane. At the end (junction with King William Street), turn left.
Turn left again down Mansion House Place, and then walk along St Stephens Row. Stop at the end of the lane, where it joins a street called Walbrook, in front of the church.
Mansion House and St Stephen Walbrook Church
As you walked along Mansion House Place, you passed along the side of Mansion House, which is a combination of palace, town hall and law court complete with its own lock-up. Its prime role is as the official residence of the City’s Lord Mayor, who holds office for a one year term. The building was designed in the 1700’s. It has its own court of law and holding cells, and the famous suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, was once held there.
The church you see is St Stephen Walbrook, another church founded in the eleventh century, which was burnt down in the Great Fire and re-built by Wren. This church was also the birthplace of the Samaritans, in 1953.
Did You Know?
The City is the oldest part of London and was already 1,000 years old when the Tower of London was built.
It is uniquely independent from both Westminster and the Crown, has its own local government, the Corporation of London, and today is mainly a financial centre. It also has its own police force which is independent of the Metropolitan police, whose jurisdiction nevertheless surrounds the City.
turn left down Walbrook Street. Follow it across Cannon Street (where it leads into Dowgate Hill) and take the second turning on your right, along College Street. Shortly after, turn right again and walk up College Hill, passing the sites where Dick Whittington was buried (now a church) and where he lived (now buildings at numbers 19-20.)
Just after the junction with Cloak Lane, turn left along Cannon Street, cross the road, continue ahead and turn right along Bow Lane, which is a small laneway just after a large junction. Follow Bow Lane (crossing Watling Street) and turn left at the junction with Cheapside. Soon after, you will see St Mary-le-Bow Church on your left.
Dick Whittington, Cockneys and Roman Roads
Dick Whittington, born in 1358, is one of the most famous Londoners who ever lived. Many people think of him as having walked to London with his cat, and though there is evidence that he did walk to London from the countryside, is it uncertain whether he actually had a cat or not.
He was Lord Mayor four times between 1397 and 1419 and during his terms of office he built public drinking fountains and conveniences, acts which made him popular. On his death, he left his fortune to various charities, to rebuild Newgate Prison and to construct a wing at St Thomas’ Hospital across the river for unmarried mothers.
He lived in a house at 19-20 College Hill and was buried (in 1423) in the predecessor of St Michael Paternoster church. Both the original church and Whittington’s grave were destroyed in the Great Fire of London.
Watling Street is one of the oldest roads in London. It marks the path of the original Roman road from Dover to Kent and the border with Wales.
Bread Street was where (in Norman times) one of the few brothels in the city existed. There was also a prison here. Famous people born in this area incude John Milton and Governor Arthur Philip, the first governor of Australia.
St Mary-Le-Bow Church was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It used to house the Great Bell of Bow, of the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”, and it is claimed that when Whittington ran away from London he heard the bells ringing out and returned to the city.
Traditionally, anyone born within the sounds of the Bow bells is said to be a true cockney or Londoner. These days, few people live in the City.
Did You Know?
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, published in 1898, includes an epitaph to Whittington that it claims was also destroyed in the Great Fire. The epitaph contains many facts that were wrong. For example, that he served as mayor only 3 times and that he was knighted.
It also claims that he had a cat, but in fact there is no record of this until it was mentioned in a ballad in 1605, almost 200 years after his death. However, in 1949 the mummified remains of a 14th century cat were discovered near where Whittington lived, so the legend lives on.
What is more likely is that Whittington did have a cat but it was not of the feline variety. Instead, it was the name of his boat that he used for bringing coal from Newcastle to London.
continue along Cheapside and you will see St Paul’s Cathedral ahead of you. Walk down the path to the right of it (Paternoster Row).
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s was founded in 604. However, the present building, the fifth on the site, dates from 1675. It is the second largest cathedral in the world, after St Peter’s in Rome.
Construction did not start until 10 years after the Great Fire, which destroyed the previous structure. This earlier building, begun in 1087, took 200 years to build and was even bigger than the present building, which took 35 years to complete.
The cathedral is the most famous work from London’s greatest architect, Sir Christopher Wren (who is buried in it.) However, the building is not exactly to the Royal-approved design. Wren submitted 3 different designs for it before his 4th version was eventually agreed. He then assembled large screens around the construction site to hide development, and proceeded to build the cathedral to a design different again from that which had been approved.
In 1981, the wedding of Charles and Diana took place here.
Other famous people who are buried in St Paul’s include Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, whose monument took 56 years to complete.
In front of the cathedral there are some wooden posts representing the last City toll gate, built in the thirteenth century. They mark the old route to Cheapside. The “gate” is now opened only during ceremonial occasions.
Did You Know?
Until 1911, St Paul’s Churchyard was the centre of the London book trade, and had been so since before printing arrived in England in 1476.
All new books had to be registered at the nearby Stationer’s Hall, the livery hall of the Stationer’s and Newspaper Maker’s Company, which controlled the printing and publishing trades.
St Pauls marks the halfway point on this walk and you can end it here at nearby St Pauls station. To do so, simply follow the signs to the Underground.
To continue the walk, go along Paternoster Row, then turn right under the stone archway into Paternoster Square. Walk through the square to Newgate Street, then turn right at the junction with Giltspur Street. (On your left at this junction is Old Bailey and the site of Newgate prison, on the corner.) Walk along Giltspur Street and stop at the junction with Cock Lane, on the left.
Newgate Prison, Old Bailey, the Fat Boy and St Bart’s Hospital
Newgate Prison had stood on the corner of Old Bailey and Newgate Street since the 12th century. It was destroyed during the Great Fire of London and re-built only to be finally demolished in 1902.
It was not a pleasant place to be imprisoned within: there was no ventilation and little water and it was ruled by highly corrupt prison guards (who made fortunes charging prisoners for “privileges” such as being freed from shackles.) One of the gates from Newgate prison is on display at the Museum of London.
Old Bailey is the name by which most people know the Central Criminal Court, which is just down from the corner with Newgate Street.
The first court house on this site was built in 1539 and the current buildings, which include at their base, stones from Newgate prison, date from 1907. The buildings were badly damaged during the Blitz in 1942 and bombed by the IRA in 1973.
The court is reserved for trying the most serious crimes such as murder, and famous trials that have been held here include those of Oscar Wilde (1895), Dr Crippen (1910) and the Yorkshire Ripper (1981). You can view details of all criminal trials held at the Old Bailey between 1674 and 1834 on their web site.
The church you passed on the corner with Giltspur Street is St Sepulchure’s. Prisoners from Newgate Prison used to pray here around their open coffins on the morning of their execution. Anatomy teachers used to buy bodies stolen from here to use in training their students.
Embedded in the side of the building on the corner of Cock Lane is the famous statue of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner, commonly known as “the fat boy”. This statue marks the spot where the Great Fire of London ended. In 1241, Cock Lane (owned by St Paul’s Cathedral) became the place where City prostitutes were exiled.
Next door to this building is the headquarters of City and Guilds, an educational institute established through funding from a group of livery companies, which initially started as guilds.
Across the road you will see St Bart’s Hospital. Bart’s (as it is commonly known) was founded in 1123 by an Augustinian monk and was repaired in 1421 by Whittington. It is the oldest hospital in London and the oldest charitable organisation in London still on its original site.
For those familiar with the Doctor in the House films and novels, the hospital was used as the model for St Swithin’s.
Did You Know?
The City is home to 94 different livery companies, some with names of trades hardly heard of these days, such as Girdlers, Scriveners, Cutlers, Coopers, Salters, Apothecaries, Cordwainers, Bowyers, Carmen, Fishmongers and Skinners. These companies were established as trade guilds in the 12th century and grew rapidly during medieval times to help manage the business of the city.
Originally, each guild fulfilled a range of needs for its members such as ensuring “fair value” through controlling who could work in its trade, setting the prices and wages to be paid to members and ensuring decent working conditions, welfare rights and burials.
Today, guilds are still being established to support newer trades and professions, such as marketing. However these days they mainly serve as private educational and charitable organisations, often giving awards and grants to help train people in the industries from which they originally emerged. The more wealthier guilds have even funded the creation of university departments and entire colleges.
Guild members eventually became known as liverymen because they wore a distinctive livery or uniform. All liverymen still receive the Freedom of the City.
continue along Giltspur Street, then around a roundabout, until you reach Smithfield Street, to your left. Across the road you will see Smithfield Central Market. Continue past it and walk down a road called Little Britain.
Follow it to the junction with Montague Street and at the junction, turn right. Cross another road called Little Britain and walk along King Edward Street a short distance until you reach a set of gates on your left, leading into a small park. Enter the park.
Smithfield Market and Postman’s Park
Smithfield market is London’s largest meat market, employing over 3,000 people. It was established 800 years ago, has its own police force and early opening pub. During the Middle Ages, it traded in live horses, pigs and cattle.
[Note: the market is set for closure in 2022 and conversion to become the new home of the Museum of London in 2026].
As a convenient open space near the city walls, the area was also used in medieval times for tournaments, fairs and, for over 400 years, executions. Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, was executed nearby, along with many witches and heretics, who were burned, roasted or boiled alive.
William Wallace, also known as Braveheart, was hung, drawn and quartered at this site (his head was then displayed on a spike on London Bridge.)
Postmans Park is famous for its heroes wall. The wall contains plaques to those Londoners, mostly ordinary citizens and sometimes children, who died while performing acts of bravery in the 1800’s.
The park sits beside the church of St Botolph -without-Aldersgate, where John Wesley converted to Methodism.
Did You Know?
For centuries, the main way of trading in London was at markets. In the Middle Ages, when there were few permanent shops, the rights to hold markets were so valuable that the king, Edward III, granted the City an exclusive charter to do so within a seven-mile radius.
London’s original market was in Cheapside and its oldest surviving market is Borough market, on the southern side of London Bridge. Other early London markets include Smithfield and Leadenhall.
continue through the park, exiting beside the church. Turn left and cross the road, then turn left again. Soon you will see some escalators on your right.
Go up the escalators and along the walkway. Continue right, along Bastion Highwalk, until you see part of the old City wall and the Barbican area on your left. Stop, overlooking part of the London Wall.
London Wall, Barbican Centre and St Giles Church
The Barbican Centre was built in the 1960’s and 70’s by the City after the area was devastated during the Blitz in the second world war. It is both residential and commercial and includes exhibition halls, libraries and the Museum of London. It is also home to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The area was settled by the Romans and the name “Barbican” means fortified watch tower. There was one nearby at Cripplegate, one of the gates in the Roman wall.
St Giles without Cripplegate church was founded in the eleventh century. It was rebuilt in 1545 and was visited by Shakespeare. Oliver Cromwell was married in St Giles church in 1620 and in 1674 John Milton was buried in it. Whittington built a water fountain in the shape of a bear’s head in the churchyard wall.
The church suffered almost total devastation during an air raid in the second world war. Of the present building built in the 16th century, only the tower and walls remain.
Did You Know?
Ancient London was transformed by the Romans into a typical Roman city (known as Londinium) in the first century AD. Though perhaps hard to imagine today, the city stretched from the Tower of London to Aldgate and west beyond St Paul’s. It contained many buildings such as a basilica and forum, as well as an ampitheatre (which stood on the current site of Guildhall).
To protect themselves, the Romans built a wall around their city in 200 AD. You can still see parts of this wall throughout the present city. The wall stretched for 2 miles and stood 18 ft high, enclosing occupants and allowing access only through six gates, including Bishopsgate, Aldgate and Newgate.
When the Romans left London in 410 AD, the Anglo-Saxons continued to live within the boundaries of the city and built new structures on top of the wall. You can see the different levels of construction in remaining parts of it. The Roman-built sections often have layers of red tiles within them, which were used to strengthen the wall.
continue along the walkway, passing shops, until you reach 125 London Wall. Turn right, then go down the escalators, following the signs to Wood Street. Cross at the pedestrian lights and turn left across London Wall.
Turn right at the bottom and then left along Love Lane. After a short distance, turn right along Aldermanbury and follow it to the end. At the end of the road, on the left hand corner, there is a building with vehicle barriers leading into a courtyard. Next to the barriers is a pedestrian passageway. Follow the passageway between the building and the back of a church (on your right) into the courtyard.
Guildhall and St Lawrence Jewry Church
Guildhall is home to the Corporation of London, the body responsible for governing the City. It has been the “centre” of local government for the City for over 800 years.
Every year the Lord Mayor hosts an annual dinner here, attended by politicians and leaders of industry, at which the Prime Minister normally makes a state-of-the-nation speech.
In Roman times, there was an ampitheatre on this site. It is indicated by a black circle set into the courtyard floor.
The fifteenth century Great Hall was one of the few buildings in the City not to have been totally destroyed during either the Great Fire or the Blitz, though it did suffer substantial damage and has been twice restored. The stained glass windows of the Great Hall show all the mayors of London, including Whittington (several times.)
You can visit Guildhall and see the Great Hall. It is partly concealed from the road by other Corporation of London offices which collectively are known as the Guildhall offices.
Love Lane was a medieval red light area.
St Lawrence Jewry Church, which backs onto the Guildhall courtyard, is so named because during medieval times it stood in the Jewish quarter of the City. It is now the official church of the Corporation of London.
Did You Know?
Lots of City place names provide clues about the types of “business” conducted in the city in days of old.
These include Garlick Hill (where garlic was once sold), Bread Street (where bread was baked) , Milk Street (where milk was sold), Love Lane and Cock Lane (where the city’s brothels were) and Poultry (where those who sold chickens used to live).
walk through the courtyard beside the church and turn right, then left along Gresham Street. Cross the main junction with Moorgate and continue ahead along Lothbury, passing Tokenhouse Yard on your left. Turn right at Bartholomew Lane and stop at the junction with Threadneedle Street.
Bank of England
The building on the corner of Threadneedle Street is the Bank of England. The bank was established in 1694 to raise money for war and moved to its present location in 1734. It is commonly known as ̶#8220;the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street”. The underground vaults still hold Britain’s gold reserves.
Having had a number of different roles throughout history, it now acts as the Government’s and banker’s bank and as the issuer of British currency.
In the 1990’s, it was assigned responsibility for setting interest rates for Britain: a role previously reserved for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In 1836 a man found a route from the sewer into the Bullion room of the Bank. Instead of using this to his advantage, he alerted authorities and was later rewarded for his honesty.
From the late 17th to the 19th century the Bank issued lottery tickets as a way of raising money to meet state expenditure. Now, the Government runs a National Lottery to help fund the Arts and community projects.
Tokenhouse Yard, which you passed, is where in the 1600’s, tokens were minted and issued whenever coins were in short supply.
Did You Know?
Until a few decades ago, the City’s pre-eminence as a world financial centre derived almost entirely from its position as the capital of a great trading nation whose empire spanned the world. Sterling, backed by gold, was the main trading currency in the nineteenth century and accounted for a quarter of world trade as recently as 1939.
After the two world wars, the strength of the empire started to fade. However, despite this, the City continues to be home to various financial markets including euromarkets, and more than 500 foreign banks have offices here. It is also one of the world’s leading insurance centres and the leader of the international gold market: “the London gold fixing” is still a pricing benchmark used throughout the world.
Turn left along Threadneedle Street and follow it to the end. Turn right along Bishopsgate and immediately cross the road. Continue right and cross the junction with Leadenhall Street, then soon after, turn left into Leadenhall Market.
Walk straight ahead through the market, exiting to another public road, and after a short distance, turn left along Lime Street. Stop just as the road turns right.
Leadenhall Market, Lloyd’s of London and “the Gherkin”
Leadenhall market was the most important medieval market in London. It began by selling poultry and grain. The current market buildings date from 1881 though there has been a food market on this site since 1300. The location was originally the site of the Roman forum.
Lloyd’s business was originally started in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in Tower Street in the 1680’s, where shipowners would meet wealthy merchants to negotiate insurance cover for their ships.
Because no individual merchant would be willing to cover all the risk of a ship on their own, brokers established themselves as intermediaries, organising groups of underwriters to spread the risk.
In the 1770’s, Lloyd’s expanded to take on other risks in addition to shipping. The company is now a world famous insurance market.
The current Lloyds of London building was built between 1978 and 1986 and is one of the most significant buildings of postwar Britain. The most striking feature is that all its services (plumbing, heating, lift shafts) are exposed on the outside of the building, which is particularly impressive to see at night.
One traditional feature of the building is the Lutine Bell, rescued from a ship that sank in 1800 with a cargo of gold. The bell is sounded to indicate significant events, such as when the Titanic sank.
Diagonally opposite the Lloyd’s Building and behind a church you will see a new building, that because of its design, is known by Londoners as “the gherkin”. It was designed by Norman Foster and sits on the site of the old Baltic Exchange, which was destroyed by the IRA in the 1990’s.
Did You Know?
Risks are covered by underwriters on behalf of syndicates made up of thousands of “names”. These are rich men and women, such as royalty and celebrities, who are willing to risk their wealth to cover insurance, usually in return for a large income. In the 1990’s, many names suffered significant calls on their wealth as a result of several natural disasters and large accidents.
continue along Lime street, passing Lloyd’s, then turn right along Leadenhall Street, which becomes Aldgate. Continue along Aldgate, which in turn becomes Aldgate High Street, until you reach the Hoop and Grapes pub, on your right (near the corner with Mansell Street).
Hoop and Grapes Pub
The oldest surviving pub in the city of London is the Hoop and Grapes pub in Aldgate High Street, whose foundations date from the 13th century. The present building was built in the 1600s and it was one of the few to survive the Great Fire.
The cellar supposedly has a tunnel, now sealed off, leading to the Tower of London.
Did You Know?
Before 1830, London’s pubs looked like ordinary houses, usually identified only by signs hanging in front of them. Most had a series of small rooms with fireplaces and wooden benches and customers were served at tables.
However, after beer duty was abolished in 1830 (to encourage people to reduce their gin intake), many new pubs opened and they became more like the taverns around today, with bars and elaborate furnishings.
re-trace your steps back along Aldgate High Street, which becomes Aldgate, and continue ahead along Fenchurch Street. Follow Fenchurch Street and turn left down Fenchurch Place. Just after passing Fenchurch Street station on your left, go down some steps marked New London Street. Stop at the end of this short road, facing a church.
The church in front of you is St Olave’s. It dates from the fifteenth century, and survived the Great Fire mainly due to the efforts of the writer Samuel Pepys, who lived and worked nearby. He had the surrounding wooden buildings destroyed before the fire could reach them.
Pepys is buried in the nave of the church beside his wife. Other burials include Mother Goose, who was interred in 1586, and Mary Ramsey, the woman who it is claimed brought the plague to London in 1665.
The church was named St Ghastly Grim by Dickens in his story, The Uncommercial Traveller, because of the spikes and stone skulls overlooking its churchyard. The churchyard also has a watch house from which bodysnatchers were chased away.
Did You Know?
A number of more recent writers have lived or worked in the City. They include:
TS Eliot, who worked as a bank clerk at Lloyd’s Bank from 1917 – 1925
Kenneth Grahame, who worked at the Bank of England from 1890 – 1908
Ian Fleming, who worked for a firm of stockbrokers in the 1930’s
Turn left along Hart Street then right, down Seething Lane and shortly left along Pepys Street. Turn right along Savage Gardens and follow it to the end, emerging opposite a small park (Trinity Square Gardens).
Walk through the gardens to the raised area in front of the exit to Tower Hill tube station and stop, facing the Tower of London.
Tower of London and Tower Bridge
Pepys lived in Seething Lane, where he wrote most of his famous diary. It provides the best record known of life in 17th century London.
The Tower of London is the most popular tourist attraction in London and one of the greatest examples of Norman architecture anywhere in the world.
It was begun by William I around 1066 and built deliberately just outside the City boundary to warn potential troublemakers. It was then extended by a number of monarchs until Edward I, and has been a palace, prison, menagerie, place of execution and stronghold for the crown jewels.
Famous occupants have included Sir Francis Drake, Anne Boleyn (executed by sword), Sir Walter Raleigh and Rudolph Hess during the second world war.
The tower is protected by forty Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) and eight flightless ravens, whose departure, legend claims, would indicate the downfall of England. The Beefeaters live on site and their dogs and cats are buried in a pet cemetery within the moat of the Tower.
The small “exits” at the bottom of the tower are medieval drainage outlets.
There is an admission charge and often a long queue to visit the Tower. But you can see parts of it for free at night by getting tickets in advance to the ancient Ceremony of the Keys.
Tower Bridge was built in 1894 and needs to be raised to enable tall ships to pass under it. Until 1976, this was performed by steam-driven Victorian hydraulic machines. It is often mistakenly thought to be London Bridge by tourists.
You can travel to the top of Tower Bridge and also see the Victorian engine room. (Admission charge).
you have now completed this walk. Follow the signs to Tower Hill tube station