The Ancient City at Night

We assembled outside Exit 3 of the Bank Tube station near the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington just before 6:30pm to accompany the Thursday night London Walks – The Ancient City at Night. When leaving the tube station, each way out displays the corresponding exit number for simple navigation. Simon guided this particular tour but other guides cover the walk throughout the month.

The walk began in front of the oldest Central Bank in the world housing the nation’s gold reserves. Continuing along the route we took notice of the historic style and ornamentation’s of the buildings. Our first stop was at the Mansion House, the official address of the Lord Mayor of London. The Lord Mayor pays no fees to reside in this prominent neighborhood of the city. The entire square mile of the City of London is said to process some of the most valuable land in the world.

We learned during the walk that city excavation often uncovers ancient artifacts. As an example, the site of Bloomberg’s European headquarters uncovered a hoard of over 10,000 Roman artifacts buried beneath. The artifacts will soon be on exhibit in a ground floor gallery of the newly constructed building. London is so deep-rooted in the history of the Roman Empire that many now call it – the Pompeii of the North.

Several lost rivers run under the city of London including the Lost River of Walbrook whose ruins offer views of timber and a complex Roman drainage system. As we stood atop this buried river, we learned that the great London fire of 1666 ignited near here. Investigators have long felt the fire flashed from a neglected open oven. With the majority of homes constructed of wood, the fire spread rapidly throughout the city of London ultimately destroying 90% of it. Our guide pointed out a few buildings in the architectural style commiserate of this 17th century period.

Continuing to Cannon Street, we entered a neighborhood that had formerly been the candle making hub of the city originally called Candlewick Street. Along this route we stopped for a brew at The Olde Wine Shades pub built in 1663. Erected three full years before the great fire it was one of few buildings not destroyed.

Now we headed to the modern site of London Bridge. The bridge placement has since moved 100 feet upstream from its original position in the old city. Some believe the authentic London Bridge fell when Viking King Olaf II trounced upon the city in 1014. This may be the early influences of the “London Bridge is Falling Down” nursery rhyme, although long disputed by historians. For the last overhaul of London Bridge in 1967, workers dismantled the ancient assembly, numbered each sample block by block, and reconstructed it in Lake Havasu City, Arizona as a tourist attraction.

Leaving the span behind, we strolled to the Monument of the Great Fire of London. The monument’s placement paid tribute to the old city and displayed pride to London’s new visitors. City leadership chiseled out the phrase “but Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched” from the base of the monument following the Catholic Emancipation of 1830.

Heading slightly uphill, we entered the Leadenhall Market area notorious for “Diagon Alley” of Harry Potter fame. Our path then took us along some distinctive buildings in the financial sector. Built in 1980’s architectural style, these buildings hold nicknames such as The Cheese Grater, The Gherkin, The Fry Scraper, and the Inside Out building.

At the conclusion of the tour we were just a few blocks from the original remains of the London Wall. Our tour did not include seeing this, but it was useful information to have. We bid goodbye to our traveling group and headed to our dinner at the Cafe Pacifico in Covent Garden.

The tour ended at 8:50pm across from the Liverpool Street Tube station.

Cruise Port: London City, United Kingdom

Cruise Line: n/a

Tour Name: The Ancient City at Night

Tour Operator: London Walks; Simon

Camera Type: Nexus 5.

Steps logged: 4,100