London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

A Carillon London Christmas

There is one building that really stands out on my Christmas Lights walk and for many of those on my walk not only is the look of the building a surprise to them but if we manage to get there at the right time they will be treated to a carillon recital too.

Atkinson's building Burlington Gardens

This wonderfully decorated building on the corner of Burlington Gardens and Old Bond Street looks like it has been transported from Belgium or the Netherlands.

It was purpose built for J & E Atkinson perfumers in 1926 when their previous premises on the same site burned down. The business was founded in 1799 by James Atkinson in Cumberland and had moved south firstly to Gerrard Street Soho before settling in Burlington Gardens, Mayfair. Their speciality was rose scented bear grease balm which was a mixture of unmentionable ingredients and perfume and was used by bald men to supposedly make their hair grow. It was thought that as bears were hairy that this would in turn work on men! Their other specialities included a perfume made from the flowers in Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet and the Oddfellow’s Bouquet being a favourite of Lawrence of Arabia. The shop was well known and in fact was included in Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway.

When their previous premises burned down Atkinsons decided to outshine their competitors with their new building. Their rivals were operating from ordinary, formerly residential buildings. Atkinson’s new home was built by architect Emanuel Vincent Harris most of whose other work is so different it’s hard to believe it’s the same architect. Emanuel Vincent Harris also built Manchester Central Library, Kensington Central Library and the Ministry of Defence, the latter being described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as a ‘monument of tiredness’! Pevsner is more complimentary about 24 Old Bond Street describing it as ‘a successful freak … the design is nice, and one gets used to it’.  The coloured panels were carved by Nathaniel Hitch after designs by George Kruger Grey.

The Gresham grasshopper City of Westminster arms

Within the spirelet or flèche on top of the building is housed a carillon, the only one in London. This musical instrument is played from the loft of the building and the frame holding the bells takes up the entire space within the spirelet.

A carillon consists of a number of bells played via a console/keyboard. There are 15 carillons in the British Isles but only one in London. This instrument which is made up of 23 bells was built by Gillett and Johnston who are still in business today. Looking at the British Carillon Society’s website I’ve found this wonderful video showing exactly how a carillon is played. The carillon in this film is in St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, Co. Cork and consists of 49 bells the largest in the British Isles. As Adrian Gebruers, the carillonneur says the first requirement is to be able to climb a lot of stairs the Cobh one being a climb of 200!  This video of the carillon in Bournville shows it can be a bit of a workout to play too and shows the variety of pieces that can be performed. Here the carillonneur Trevor Workman is playing Abba’s Super Trouper. Lastly here is a wonderful film from British Pathé in 1948 showing Atkinson’s Carillon being played by the only woman carillonneur at the time.

Unfortunately the brand of Atkinsons practically disappeared after the Second World War and went through a number of owners. However the brand re-emerged in 2013 and now trades from Burlington Arcade a minute’s walk from the Old Bond Street site. They proudly claim they were founded in 1799 and again sell the Nuptial and Oddfellow’s Bouquet perfume but thankfully not the bear grease.

I have been leading my Christmas Lights walks for quite a few years now and it is always a wonderful surprise to find that the carillon is being played during my walk. It is so Christmassy!

Why not join me this Saturday 15th December 2018 when myself and fellow guide Ray Coggin will be leading a special charity Christmas Lights walk raising funds for the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans

If all goes according to plan there will be a practice session on the carillon during Saturday’s walk – but believe me you wouldn’t realise it was not an actual recital. The walk takes in the best Christmas lights of the West End, the best shop window displays, the history of Christmas food, cards, trees etc and of course there will be a mince pie or two. All we’re asking is a minimum donation of £10 per person. We’ve raised £145 so far and have 10 people booked on the walk but there’s room for a few more. This is one of my favourite walks and having the carillon being played is definitely a bonus. Find out more about the walk and the charity and how to book your place here.

Charity Christmas walk poster

Mayfair Christmas lights Regent Street Christmas window

There will also be a carillon practice during my Foodie themed Christmas Lights walk on Tuesday 18th December. Details of this and all my other public walks can be found here.

From now until Christmas:

Carillon Recitals
Friday 14th 7.00-7.30pm
Saturday 15th 3.00-3.30pm
Sunday 16th 4.00-4.30pm
Friday 21st 7.00-7.30pm
Sunday 23rd 4.00-4.30pm

Carillon Practices
Tuesday 11th 7.15-8.15pm

Saturday 15th 6.00-7.15pm
Tuesday 18th 7.15-8.15pm
Saturday 22nd 6.45-7.45pm
Sunday 23rd 6.00-7.15pm

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. 
Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

Book Review: Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane

Helen Oddfellow is a tour guide and an expert on Christopher Marlowe. After a local paper features her Deptford walk she is contacted by historian Richard Watson who needs her help in his quest to track down a supposed lost Marlowe manuscript.  My initial thought was I wish something exciting like that would happen to me but I soon changed my mind as the story became a terrifying nightmare for Helen and I no longer wanted to be in her shoes.

The story starts with a horrific murder of an (as yet) unidentified man outside a pub in Deptford and then goes back to tell the story starting from two weeks before the attack. So although we knew what was going to happen it still came as a shock to me, maybe because I identified so much with Helen who seemed to share some of my characteristics which was a bit unnerving!

In the second part of the book Helen continues with her quest to find the truth about the manuscript the plot of which would have ramifications on history as we know it and to escape those who are determined that the truth shouldn’t emerge.

There are many separate strands to this story and it is one of those books that is very hard to put down. When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it and wondering what would happen next and how all the strands would tie up.

As real places and historical figures are used in the story I found it to be extremely believable and this probably made it all the more terrifying.  It was very difficult to know just who you should trust.

There has been lots of speculation over Christopher Marlowe’s murder in real life and although this was fiction it did make me stop and think. This is definitely a book that will stay with me and I hope to read more of Anna Sayburn Lane’s books in the future. 

If I was leaving this review on a book review website I would give it 5 stars out of 5

Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane was published in October 2018

I was given a complimentary copy of the book via Footprints of London and the above is my honest review

The Fascinating History of Twinings Tea

Have you ever noticed that the sign hanging outside Twinings’ shop on the Strand shows that it sells coffee as well as tea?

Twinings tea and coffee sign

In fact Twinings started off as a coffee house and if it wasn’t for a recession in weaving in Gloucestershire the business may not have been established at all.

Thomas Twining founder of the business was born in Painswick, Gloucestershire in 1675. His father Daniel was a weaver; in fact for many generations the Twining family had been weavers in that same area.  The family had been based in Painswick for many hundreds of years. Before that they came from Twyning near Tewkesbury (pronounced Twinning).

Daniel obviously wanted his sons to follow him into this business but the recession hit and in 1684 he made the decision to move to London. The family settled in St Giles Cripplegate.

Daniel’s eldest son also called Daniel started an apprenticeship with a weaver and on becoming a freeman of the City of London took on a job as a lace weaver. His younger brother Thomas was then apprenticed to him. Following Daniel Jr’s death in 1695 Thomas was then apprenticed to Daniel’s former master John Dowse.

Thomas had started his apprenticeship at age 19 which may seem rather old. It is thought that this was to enable him to become a freeman as without such an attribute he would be unable to follow any trade within the City walls.

In 1701 Thomas attained this and started working for Thomas D’Aeth a wealthy East Indian merchant based in Cripplegate and Philpot Lane.

5 years later he had acquired enough business knowledge to set up by himself and took over management of Tom’s Coffee House situated in Devereux Court off the Strand roughly behind where Twinings is today. This was a good move as after the Great Fire of London in 1666 all the wealthy people were moving west. This coffee house was on the western border of the City. It should not be confused with another Tom’s Coffee House which was in Russell Street, Covent Garden not that far away.

At that time there were many coffee houses in London but Thomas did something a bit different. He introduced tea. From gaining knowledge whilst working with an East Indian merchant he had a feeling that tea was going to be the next big thing. It was very expensive and although the price was dropping slowly as the imported volume increased it wouldn’t drop substantially until the Commutation Act of 1784 when the tax was substantially reduced from over 100% to 25%. Until that time legally obtained tea was for the rich only and poorer people acquired it on the black market. After the taxes were reduced which came about after many conversations between the Prime Minister William Pitt and one of Thomas’ descendants Richard, the smuggling trade ceased and the legal trading of tea increased exponentially

Sign in Devereux Court

Site of the 1706 House of Twining

Back to Thomas in 1706. There were enough rich people around when Thomas started selling tea and so he made enough money to open a shop next door to the coffee house with entrances from Devereux Court and Palsgrave Head Court which was parallel. Thomas had put his money into property which seemed the safest way to invest.

This new shop at the sign of the Golden Lion opened in 1717 and meant that women who were prohibited from entering coffee houses were able to visit the shop either to take tea on the premises or to buy dry tea or coffee for consumption later. As tea was so expensive they generally wouldn’t want to trust their servants to buy it for them.

The undated wrapper below dates from between 1734 and 1741. The shop name changed depending on what members of the family were running it. Thomas’s son Daniel joined the firm in 1734 and Thomas died in 1741. Looking at the history of the Twining family it can get rather confusing as they did like to recycle the Christian names!

Twinings wrapper between 1734 and 1741

Looking at this wrapper they were covering all bases by selling ‘healthy’ spa waters and less healthy alcohol. The spa waters, which were sometimes described as spaw waters, came from many different places. Pyrmont water was from Bad Pyrmont in Northern Germany and was naturally carbonated.

Arrack was a popular drink in the 1700s often used as a base for punch and sometimes preferred to rum. Depending on where the Arrack came from it had different ingredients. Batavian Arrack is from Java and is distilled from sugarcane and fermented red rice. Arrack from Sri Lanka is made from fermented coconut sap. I was very surprised to discover that both these types are still available from good off licences such as Gerry’s in Old Compton Street Soho. I don’t think it’s as popular now as it was then as in the year 1715-16 Twinings sold 240 gallons!

It is amazing to think that in 2018 the Twining family are still running the shop. However not all members of the Twining family were interested in joining the business.

Thomas’s grandson, also called Thomas (1735-1804), went to university and became a cleric, a linguist, a letter writer and a musician. Some of his letters were later edited into book form by one of his descendants.

Two sisters Elizabeth and Louisa Twining (1805-1899 and 1820-1912) were noted philanthropists and much more besides.

The sisters’  great grandmother Mary Twining (née Little) married into the family and as a widow of the original Thomas’s son Daniel, ran the company by herself for 21 years from 1762 to 1783. I wanted to find out more about Mary and I know she wrote a diary but enquiries at Twinings’ shop came to nothing. The book where I gleaned much of my information ‘Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Tea and Coffee” published in 1956 has just one sentence about her. If anyone reading this can enlighten me as to where I can find out more about her life please let me know.

250 years of Twinings book

It was Mary’s son Richard Twining, called away from his studies at Eton age 14 to help his mother with the business, who later became Chairman of the London Tea Dealers and who was consulted by Pitt regarding proposals which led to the Commutation Act mentioned above.

It was also this Richard Twining who in 1787 moved the entrance from the side of the shop to the Strand where it is today and came up with the famous design featuring the lion and the two Chinamen which we all know. He also decided not to use an apostrophe.

Twinings frontage

Reading extracts from some of the ledgers reproduced in the 1956 book it is no surprise to me that they branched into banking and in 1825 Twinings Bank opened next door. There was a connecting door between the businesses and it wasn’t unusual for a cheque to be cashed and part given in cash and part in tea or coffee. The bank lasted until 1892 when it was absorbed into Lloyd’s.

Today the shop is very much a tourist destination and although their teas can be bought in every supermarket the shop has a wider choice of teas which are mostly displayed in more decorative packaging. There is also a small museum at the rear of the shop. The 10th generation of the family still run the business but it has been part of Associated British Foods since the 1960s.

This is just a brief summary of the history of Twinings and was put together by me to deliver at London Historians’ retail themed History in the Pub on 21st August 2018. I had just 8 minutes to deliver and needless to say I didn’t manage to say all that I wanted to, hence this blog post.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. 
Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

Walthamstow’s Wonderful Community Mosaics

Like many people I know I always want to discover something new and in relation to my guided walks it’s always a bonus to discover something that you have never noticed before on a well trodden route.

Back in early April  on the morning of the day that I was going to lead my ‘From Monoux & Morris to Beer & Bacon Jam’ guided walk around Walthamstow I had a message from artist Maud Milton who told me that she had just unveiled some mosaics on Church Hill and thought I might like to know. Maud came along on the walk and my group were all suitably impressed by the works which were created by Maud and pupils and staff at Walthamstow School for Girls. The designs of the mosaics are all connected in some way to the local area and history: Epping Forest, Walthamstow Wetlands, William Morris, his daughter May Morris and ceramicist William de Morgan are all represented. 

Artyface mosaic - Walthamstow Wetlands

Artyface Walthamstow

Artyface mosaic peacock

Artyface birds mosaic

I have been leading this walk about once a month and last Saturday I was very pleased to discover that another 5 wonderful mosaics had been unveiled. What a treat. Look closely at the butterflies pictured below – can you see swimmers and boxers? These particular tiles were donated by former Walthamstow resident and ceramic artist alicemaraceramics

Artyface mosaic

Artyface stag mosaic

Artyface mosaics

These mosaics were all created by volunteers both from schools and in the community. There is much more about this wonderful project on Maud’s instagram account including lots of great interviews with local people.

This isn’t just a Walthamstow project but is happening in other areas of London too. Artyface Community Art – what a brilliant way to get the community involved and bring some colour to otherwise drab streets.

If you would like to see these mosaics ‘in the flesh’ and learn more about the history of Walthamstow I will be repeating my ‘From Monoux and Morris to Beer & Bacon Jam’ Walthamstow walk on Saturday 29th September 2018. A link to the page showing this and any future walks can be found here 

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. 
Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 



Twitter – a Beginner’s Guide (Updated for 2018)

This is the third version of my Beginner’s Guide which I originally put together in 2012.  6 years on there are many different ways of sharing content apart from Facebook and Twitter but I for one continue to use these two formats.

I am often asked have I got guiding work via social media? The answer is yes. However it’s not instant. Like in real life you have to build relationships and trust.

In the 9 years since I qualified as a tour guide I continue to come across tour guides who have got good websites but are lacking in customers due to not doing any promotion of said websites. There is still some place for word of mouth advertising and posters in coffee shops etc but there are so many tour guides out there now that you need to do all you can to attract customers. It is of course the same with other businesses. Social media is generally free and an effective way at building up a following. You do have to work at it though and it does help if you find yourself a niche.

The main recent change to Twitter is that there are now 280 characters to play with rather than 140. This is a game changer. This means that I don’t have to spend ages trying to fit a sentence into the required length without compromising on the grammar. It makes it much easier to compose a tweet.

How to set yourself up on Twitter

Back in 2010 when I joined Twitter “WestminsterWalks” was too long for my Twitter ID so I became @WWalks. Things have changed since then and last year the limit increased to 50 characters!  Hmmm I could change my ID and there would be no loss of followers but I’m so used to being @WWalks and often introduce myself by that rather than my name! So whatever you choose as your ID can be changed but if you have a lot of followers you should definitely create a second ‘dummy’ account in your original name with a message saying something like ‘now tweeting as …’ to stop someone bathing in your success by impersonating you! I have just seen evidence of this but that’s a long story that I won’t go into here.

You don’t have to put your real name on the sign-up page but whatever you put will appear next to your Twitter ID on your tweets. If you use your real name in this way people that don’t know your Twitter ID will still be able to find you. I have a slight problem with my name because there is an expert psychiatrist with the same name as me. Even though I am @WWalks and my website is all about tour guiding I still get emails and even phone calls from people thinking I am the other one. I have had several cross-purpose conversations!

Once you are signed up create a short profile stating what you do and ideally include a link to your website. It is also preferable to have a photo to show you’re serious about Twitter. You could maybe use a logo if you don’t want to use a personal photo.

How to start

Even before you are following anyone and have no followers it’s best to do one or two tweets introducing yourself so potential followers can see who you are.  You could just say something about what you’re up to or have a link to your website. If people look at your profile and you haven’t tweeted yet they are unlikely to follow you.

If you click on “Home” you will see a box at the top with your photo to the left of it. Inside the box are the words ‘What’s happening’. This is where you create your tweet. On my iPhone you need to click on the quill pen in the top right hand corner – other phones may show this differently.

Screenshot of mobile Twitter

The format of tweets has considerably changed in the last few years. Most tweets now have an image and in my experience these are the ones that are noticed.

What to Tweet

I tweet about walks coming up but I also tweet about things I find of interest in London and think worth sharing. Reply to others’ tweets (the option to “reply” is underneath each tweet), get involved and share information via the re-tweet button. If people realise you are willing to share they are more likely to reciprocate. There is now an option to add a comment – up to 280 characters – to a re-tweet.  It is definitely worth pinning a tweet to the top, maybe with your upcoming walks which is what I have done.

A pinned tweet

A pinned tweet


Click on the picture of the bell and you will see who has re-tweeted you, followed you, liked your tweets etc. If you want you can change the settings so that you receive a text or an email each time someone mentions you although personally I don’t like this as it can get out of hand.

Screen shot of Twitter mentions

Twitter mentions

Who to Follow

As you start following people they will in most cases follow you back. However don’t automatically follow everyone that follows you. Check out their tweets first – are you interested in what they have to say or could they be useful to you. It’s also worth checking when they last tweeted – anything more than a few months ago means their account is probably dormant.

I started off by following lots of museums, London themed websites such as Ian Visits,  Londonist and London Historians, hotels, London enthusiasts and also fellow Westminster Guides. As my walks are mainly food and drink themed I also follow lots of cafes, cocktail bars and restaurants. Since 2013 I have been doing local walks too so now follow lots of Walthamstow and Chingford based businesses and history societies.

People use Twitter in different ways. I dip in and out, others try to read every single tweet in their timeline. This is impossible. Yes I do follow over 3000 accounts but I have managed somehow not to get addicted. I am not an expert on Twitter by any means. In fact I’ve just discovered a whole section by clicking on the cog symbol on my phone about filtering out ‘low quality’ tweets!  However from the screenshots below it seems to contradict Twitter’s new rule about not allowing duplicate tweets.  I should add that depending on how you access Twitter ie via a laptop, a tablet or a phone some of the menus are slightly different.

Twitter quality filter TwitterApril


It is unusual now to see a tweet without a hashtag and I try to have at least one in every tweet. Have you ever seen adverts with a “#” in front of a phrase and wondered what it meant. Well, this is a way of categorising tweets. If you are attending a talk or conference there is likely to be a specific hashtag so all tweets about the event that include that hashtag will be grouped together. I can’t watch TV now without following comments about that programme on Twitter at the same time!  I’m not sure why Twitter thinks I am interested in Leyton Orient though!

Scheduling tweets
To take some of the legwork out of tweeting it is possible via third party applications to schedule tweets in advance. I personally use Buffer but other similar applications are TweetDeck and Hootsuite  I manage a number of Twitter accounts, four via Buffer. I do have to pay a small monthly fee – around £7 – for this service across multiple accounts but I think it’s worth it.
Buffer screenshot
I’m looking at this via a PC. Go to Twitter activity – top right hand corner and if you click on that you get to a page that analyses your tweets.
Tweet activity
I am not really sure what all this stuff means but it is useful to see what tweets are performing the best and also you can find out where your followers come from and even (scarily) what they shop for.
Analytics of last 28 days
March 2018 analytics
Lastly a few tips
Do share other people’s tweets by re-tweeting.
Do send thank you tweets to organisations but on the other hand don’t send thank you tweets when people follow you. If you’ve enjoyed the theatre, a walk or an event of some kind (even if not related to your business) send the organisation a tweet (although make sure you don’t start your tweet off with their ID*) and you will find that in 9 cases out of 10 they will re-tweet your tweet to their followers which should hopefully give you wider exposure. You can then do the same if you receive similar tweets!  I once tweeted about a production at Wilton’s Music Hall remarking that the actor looked like Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. The actor (unfortunately not Colin Firth) re-tweeted it and thus brought more people to me.

*You need at least one character (even just a dot) before “@[name] otherwise your tweets will only get a very limited audience.
Do like other people’s tweets. This is like a bookmark which you can come back to. People looking at your profile can also see your likes so can find out more about you.
Do tweet at varying times of the day about an upcoming walk/event but don’t repeat too many times which is boring for your followers and behaviour like this has now been stopped. You are unable to tweet the same message countless times either from one account or several.
Don’t just promote yourself. This is boring for your followers and they are likely to unfollow you.
Don’t send a series of the same tweet to lots of individual organisations. Your other followers will see this same message over and over again and are likely to unfollow you. I see this mistake time and time again. It is extremely annoying for your followers and those that you are targeting are likely to ignore you as you are spamming them anyway!
Don’t say thank you individually to all your followers for following you. This has actually put me off following people as the majority of their tweets are acknowledgments for following them!
Don’t just re-tweet other people’s tweets. Give yourself a voice, have something to say. I personally am unlikely to follow people who don’t have their own identity and their timeline is just a series of re-tweets. I am sometimes guilty of this myself.
Protected or not protected
Twitter is a public forum. Anything you tweet can be found by anyone whether or not they are on Twitter themselves. If you are not keen on this you can make your tweets protected. This would mean that only your followers (who have all in this case been individually approved by yourself) would see your tweets. To my mind this defeats the object of Twitter which is to gain a large audience in a short time. However if you do want to find out more about protecting your tweets details are here.
As a result of my original post back in August 2012 a Westminster Guide TinaWalksLondon  joined Twitter and  is now a prolific tweeter with more than three times the followers as me but she has done 6 times as many tweets!
Good luck and if you have any tips to add please put them in the comments below.
The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. 
Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

Family history gems from the British Newspaper Archive

What a treasure trove the British Newspaper Archive is!

I have just searched my maternal grandfather’s name (Henry Fotheringham Ferguson) and discovered the Dundee Evening Telegraph’s report of my aunt’s wedding in August 1945. Aunty Joan was an actress (using the stage name Joanna Derrill) and this does read a bit like a celebrity report with details of what both my aunt and her bridesmaid (my Mum to be) were wearing.
“The wedding of Miss Joanna Derrill and Mr Antony Groser – two members of Dundee Repertory Company – took place in Edinburgh to-day. 
The bride, whose own name is Miss Joan Ferguson, is the elder daughter of Dr and Mrs Henry Fotheringham Ferguson, 21 Inverleith Row, Edinburgh, and the bridegroom is the younger son of Rev. St John Beverley Groser, St George’s-in-the-East, London E1, and of Mrs Groser.
Ceremony, which was in St John’s Episcopal Church, was conducted by the bridegroom’s father, assisted by the rector of the church, Rev. S Harvie Clark. 
A beautiful Elizabethan gown of white moire silk taffeta was worn by the bride, whose father gave her away. The full skirt swept into a small train over which rippled her veil, surmounted by a wreath of orange blossom. Deep red roses composed her bouquet. 
Miss Margaret Ferguson, sister of the bride, was bridesmaid. Her graceful gown of silver and pale blue brocaded satin was cut on princess lines and showed large puff sleeves. Her pastel tinted hair wreath toned with the sweet peas in her Victorian posy.
Mr Michael Groser, brother of the groom, was best man, and the ushers were Dr Kinnier Ferguson (uncle of the bride), and Mr George Beith (cousin of the bride). 
The reception was in the bride’s home.
For travelling the bride donned a lightweight grey tweed suit striped with yellow with toning accessories.”
Dundee Evening Telegraph 20 August 1945

Dundee Evening Telegraph 20 August 1945

This one newspaper report also answered a question that had bugged me a few years back.  On a London Historians’ tour of the Royal Foundation of St Katharine in E14 a few years ago I noticed the name “Groser” on a list of names on the wall. I remember wondering if this was a relation to my Uncle Tony married to Mum’s sister Joan. The Dundee newspaper article gives my uncle’s father’s name and on a quick internet search I have discovered that St John Beverley Groser was described both as “the best-known priest in the East End [of London]” and “one of the most significant Christian socialist figures in twentieth-century Britain”. He also had a separate career as an actor and played Thomas Becket in the 1951 film Murder in the Cathedral.
As far as I know I never met Uncle Tony’s father and he died in March 1966 when I wasn’t even 4 years old.

My aunt’s connection to Agatha Christie

Sadly it was only after my Mum’s death in 2016 that I discovered that her sister had a stage name – Joanna Derrill. Mum had talked about Joan meeting Agatha Christie and once I knew her stage name I found more information. Agatha Christie attended the premiere of Hidden Horizons at the Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1944. When it arrived at the Ambassadors Theatre in London it then became Murder on the Nile. Aunty Joan (Joanna Derrill) performed in both the Dundee and London productions. The Ambassadors later became the first home of the Mousetrap until it moved in the 1970s around the corner to St Martin’s Theatre.

Dundee Evening Telegraph 18 January 1944

Dundee Evening Telegraph 18 January 1944

Tatler 3rd April 1946. Review of Murder on the Nile at the Ambassadors.

Tatler 3rd April 1946. Review of Murder on the Nile at the Ambassadors.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. 
Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

Charity Christmas Lights Walk 2017

This year for the third year running myself and  fellow City of Westminster Guide (and Taxi Tour Guide) Ray Coggin will again be leading a Christmas Lights walk for charity.

This year we have chosen to support the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans. This is quite a small charity but one that makes a big impact on the people they help.

The London Taxi Benevolent Association For War Disabled as it was known until 2016 was formed in 1948. In that first year 25 taxi drivers volunteered their taxis and their time to take disabled veterans to Worthing and Brighton.

Sixty nine years later in 2017 90 licensed taxi drivers volunteered their time and taxis and took180 military war veterans on a day to remember in Worthing.  You can see from these photos what a great day everyone had.

It’s not just about trips to the seaside though – the charity organises many other events for veterans including trips to the battlefields.  This amazing video of their trip to the Normandy Beaches in June of this year gives an idea of what trips like these mean to these veterans. 90 taxis took 250 veterans back to Normandy. This will be the last trip of this size as the youngest veteran is aged 90 and many of them are becoming too frail to make such a trip. Scrolling through the pages of the Taxi Charity’s website and listening to some of their radio interviews on YouTube you can begin to see what this charity does for these veterans.

On Saturday 9th December at 5pm we will be leading a special Christmas Lights walk around the streets of the West End. All the money raised will be donated to the Taxi Charity. We are collecting the money via BT Donate. 

As at 4th December we have raised £134 and have 14 people booked on our Christmas Lights walk. We would love to raise a bit more money and in exchange show you the Christmas delights of the West End mostly off the beaten track and away from the hordes. The walk includes hidden passages, superbly decorated posh shops and lots of historical snippets. The Christmas theme continues throughout and there will be a mince pie or two to help us on our way. All we are asking is a minimum donation of £8 per person. Please donate here and then email me – to let me know how many people are coming. Thank you in advance.

South Molton Street Christmas 2017

Lancashire Court 2017 Bond Street Christmas 2017

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

Why I slept out for Centrepoint

Last Thursday night I took part in the charity Centrepoint’s Sleep Out London in order to raise money and awareness of their work with young homeless people. We were in no way trying to replicate a homeless person’s experience but the event was more to draw attention to the raft of problems the young homeless face and to raise much needed funds.

I was part of  the 9 strong Team SM&B the Soho law firm where I work part-time.  Centrepoint is their charity of the year.

Team SM&B minus me

Somehow I missed the team photo!

We were lucky during the early evening as it wasn’t particularly cold and we were able to enjoy the entertainment, bar and food without much problem.

View of the O2 from the Sleep Out site

View of the O2 from the Sleep Out site

The leader board

The leader board

Bedtime story with Caitlin Moran and friends

Bedtime story with Caitlin Moran and friends

However the temperature dropped rapidly overnight and it became a very different story.

About to try to get to sleep

We were relatively comfortable in big marquees protected from the weather. We had portaloos nearby and urns providing hot drinks all night should we need warming up. However sleeping in a sleeping bag with just a cardboard layer below was an extremely uncomfortable experience. Earplugs helped to block out some of the noise from my sleeping neighbours but a randomly aching leg kept me awake for much of the night. I’m at that age where random aches and pains manifest themselves now and again but they have never interfered with my sleep to the extent they did that night.

We were woken at 5.30, packed up our stuff and made our way to the catering tent to pick up a breakfast roll.  The previous night’s dinner, the hot drinks and breakfast were all supplied by RAF Wittering. A very big thank you to them.

My original plan had been to go straight to work armed with wet wipes and a toothbrush but we had been woken earlier than I had anticipated and I realised that there was enough time to go home and have a shower and still get to work just about on time.

On entering North Greenwich tube the first thing we noticed was the warmth of the station. That warmth was so welcoming. At work later I struggled a bit on my limited sleep but knew I could catch up my sleep at home that night.

On Saturday I was waiting for a train at Liverpool Street station. It was freezing. Again it dawned on me that I was lucky and would soon be in the warm at home.

Before I volunteered for this I didn’t know much about the young homeless. Many of these young people have been forced out of their family homes because of abuse and a life on the streets or riding around on buses was preferable. Having spent one night out even with the facilities that we had it did give a small insight into life on the streets. I normally wear gas permeable contact lenses but realised it would be impossible to do my cleaning routine so wore glasses instead. What do the homeless do? They can’t wash, they can’t brush their teeth. They don’t have toilet facilities overnight. How do women cope when on their period? I felt ashamed that I had never considered any of these points before.

Centrepoint aim to help get young homeless people back on their feet. It’s not just about getting them into accommodation but also to improving their lives so they can get themselves into training or employment.

I am very pleased to have raised almost £500 for Centrepoint’s work with the young homeless and our team in total raised over £6,200. I’m not sure I will repeat this experience but it’s not too late to donate joanna-2

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

Foodie Themed Christmas Lights Walks December 2017

Most of the West End’s Christmas lights will be going on in the next few weeks but do you know where the best ones can be found?  Why not book on a tour with me. My foodie-themed Christmas Lights walk has all the ingredients for a fun festive time and there will be a mince pie or two along the way.  

The walk starts with the cosy glow of a fire in a Marylebone pub, then meanders through the back streets of the West End, through Mayfair and into Soho. The walk includes hidden passages, superbly decorated posh shops and lots of historical snippets along the way. As with most of my walks there is a food/drink theme plus Christmas traditions and decorations throughout.

Bond Street Christmas lights

Ribbon shop

Atkinsons Burlington Gardens

Lancashire Court

The walk finishes in Carnaby Street where there are plenty of places for a post walk drink, meal or coffee. See the bottom of this post for some of my personal recommendations.

This is a walk that is a regular event for some of my clients who have done this walk twice or even three times!


LJC01 (December 2016) “This year was the 2nd year I’ve done this tour & loved it. … There are prettier lights than Oxford & Regent Streets & really interesting little bars & restaurants. As well as so many historical facts on pretty much every street corner. I took my young three children & whilst my three year old struggled with the walking, my six year old asked for more facts at the end. Keep up the good work & next time we’ll try something new. Thoroughly recommend.”

Margot W (December 2016) “Enjoyed tour, which included some lesser known areas. The guide was well prepared and knowledgeable.”

Tessa R (December 2015) “Such fun and so beautiful! Loved the foodie tips and historical tidbits on the way. Thank you Joanna!”

Lesley S (December 2015) “This fascinating walk to see the Christmas lights of the West End … was perfect, taking us into tiny arcades and hidden courtyards which I would never have found by myself.”

EssexKat2014 (December 2014) “I can honestly say that the walk was the highlight of my Christmas – Joanna provided an informative and entertaining ramble around Mayfair and Soho, at a comfortable pace … It’s a lovely way to get in the Christmas spirit…” 

Christmas Carnaby 2015

Private walks for e.g. for a work do

To book me on a date of your choice for your own private group please either email me at or send a message via my contact page

Saturday 9th December at 5pm – We led a special charity walk in aid of the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans. You can still donate here: christmaslightswalk

Mayfair Christmas

Eating/drinking before or afterwards

A couple of my favourite locations for post-walk supper include the lovely Italian Mele e Pere in Brewer Street, upstairs at the Queen’s Head pub in Denman Street and the amazing French Brasserie Zedel in Sherwood Street right next to Piccadilly Circus. I am of course happy to give you more ideas and should mention (if you don’t know already) that I only recommend places that I love myself.

Prior to the walk there are plenty of options in Marylebone High Street but I tend to go for a quick sandwich in the lovely traditional deli and sandwich bar Paul Rothe & Son in Marylebone Lane.

Any questions please drop me a line or comment below.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads mostly food and drink themed walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

4 free walks in one day?

It is almost time once again for the annual walking event which is Local London Guiding Day. This Saturday, 7th October four of the local London guiding associations will be offering FREE walks, this year with the theme of conservation.

Four different walks are on offer, one each from Camden Guides, City of London Guides, Clerkenwell & Islington Guides and City of Westminster Guides. These free walks are an hour long and depart on the hour each hour between 10am and 4pm from the meeting points listed below. There is no need to book – just turn up.

Are you up for a challenge? If you start at 10am and plan your route in advance it should be possible to do all four walks.

I will be leading the 4pm Clerkenwell & Islington walk from outside the Union Chapel. Details of this walk and the other 3 walks are listed below:

CAMDEN: Betjeman’s Legacy

London’s first by-pass shaped the city’s growth for centuries. Students & medics to the south, trains & industries to the north. Following in the footsteps of John Betjeman, we trace this legacy in the streets around the Euston Road.

Meeting point: Euston Square Station, South Entrance NW1 2LU. From the platforms follow signs to Gower Street exit.

Finish point: St Pancras.

CITY: The Cathedral Quarter: Postmen, Prelates & Strolling Players

Explore the streets and byways that surround the City’s iconic cathedral, admire architecture & gardens and meet some of the Londoners who have lived worked and prayed here across the centuries.

Meeting point: Corner of Foster Lane and Cheapside EC2V 6AA (close to St Paul’s Station follow signs for exit 1)

Finish point: City Information Centre near St Paul’s tube.

CLERKENWELL & ISLINGTON: A Green Piece of Islington

Explore tranquil Canonbury and walk along the banks of one of London’s hidden rivers. Hear about the house that was listed even before it was built and many other curiosities in this secret, secluded part of Islington.

Meeting point: Outside Union Chapel, Compton Terrace/Upper Street N1 2UN (2 minutes from Highbury & Islington Station).

Finish point: Islington Town Hall, Upper Street (about 8 minutes’ walk to Highbury & Islington tube).

WESTMINSTER: Medicine, Mews & Mysteries

Join us for a fascinating walk around the Harley Street conservation area, discovering splendid streets, beautiful buildings and some of the memorable men and women who lived there.

Meeting point: Outside St George’s Hotel, 14-15 Langham Place W1B 2QS (Oxford Circus Station)

Finish point:  Cavendish Square (near Oxford Circus Station)

Screenshot 2017-10-03 22.32.55


Screenshot 2017-10-03 22.33.37

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 


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