Walking around the capital will never be the same once you get your hands on Julia Forte’s Map of London Peculiars. The streets come alive with curious corners, unusual oddities and weird and wonderful historical details that make you into a walking guide to hidden London secrets. Julia has picked her top 10 out of the map’s 64 gems just for us.
1. Graffiti at St Paul’s (No 39)
The columns at the front entrance of St Paul’s are scattered with carved names from the 18th century. If you look carefully around the building, you’ll see what seems to be the earliest instance, by W fox in 1702. Given that the church was still being built then it is likely it was carved by one of Wren’s builders.
2. St Bartholomew’s the Great (No 36)
The church of St Bartholomew’s the Great has been used as a location for many films including ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and ‘Elizabeth’. It is one of London’s oldest churches and houses a statue that, in certain conditions, sheds tears. The church is opposite 41 Cloth Fair, built in the 1500’s, which is the oldest house in the city.
3. Roman amphitheatre at the Guildhall (No 43)
Beneath the ground at the Guildhall is London’s only roman amphitheatre. Discovered in 1988, you can see where some of the original 2000 year old walls still remain.
4. Shrapnel damage (No 15/25)
The city is covered in shrapnel damage but unless you know what to look for, it goes unnoticed. Beyond that on the walls of St Paul’s and St Bart’s, there is also some major damage to the church of St Dunstan’s on Fleet Street and the Sphinx on Embankment.
5. Mice of Philpot lane (No 52)
A carving of two tiny mice on the corner building at Philpot Lane and East Cheap commemorates two builders who fought over a lunch one thought the other had stolen. During the fight one fell to his death. It was later discovered it was the mice that had eaten it.
7. Executioner’s bell of Newgate at St Sepulchre (No 31)
Within this church is the Executioner’s bell of Newgate Prison, which was rung outside the cell of the condemned on the eve of their execution. The bell is held in a glass case inside the church.
8. Smithfield (No 33)
The area in and around Smithfield is quite curious and Smithfield’s history dates back over 800 years. This area was once used as an execution site and a place for men to sell their wives when divorce was difficult to get.
9. Ferryman’s seat (No 60)
Near the Globe Theatre on the south bank is the Ferryman’s seat which is believed to have been used by the ferryman who would drive you across the river when London Bridge was the only way across. The date is unknown but it is believed to have ancient origins. And you can still sit on it.
10. St Olave’s Plague church (No 55)
Called St Ghastly Grim by Charles Dickens, the burial ground at this church is home to 365 plague victims, not least the woman responsible for bringing the plague to London, Mary Ramsey. Also buried here, according to the burial register, is Mother Goose (buried in 1586).
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