London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Epping Forest and a Tale of Two Houses

Having spent Open House Saturday leading two ninety minute walks around Secret Victoria I decided to concentrate my Open House visits locally today. I visited two very different sites but each with something in common – their former grounds are now part of Epping Forest.

Although only about 4 miles from where I live in Chingford, I am ashamed to say I have barely visited Wanstead. In my defence it is a little awkward to get to by public transport either involving a train and a long walk, two buses or in my case today a bus, a tube and a 10 minute walk.

Wanstead House – if only it still existed, if only Catherine Tylney-Long hadn’t married a spendthrift …

Today as part of Open House weekend I discovered what was left of Wanstead House’s park on an excellent walk organised by the Corporation of London in their role as custodians for Epping Forest.

If the house hadn’t been demolished because of the family’s debts it would certainly have put Wanstead on the map today as a tourist destination being a significant Palladian house whose history connected it to many significant people.

The clues to the house’s whereabouts are in some places obvious, in others less so, so the walk was an excellent introduction to its history.

The grounds of the house are still evident in part – three sweet chestnut trees planted in 1720 were the first evidence we saw of the former grounds of the house. These three trees can be seen on George Green opposite a building confusingly named Wanstead House formerly known as West Ham Hall as the previous owner came from West Ham.

West Ham Hall Wanstead

The building formerly known as West Ham Hall, Wanstead

Part of the former grounds to the original Wanstead House and the actual site of the house are now within Wanstead Golf Club and not accessible to the public. However from the atmospheric graveyard within the St Mary the Virgin Church we could spot the dip in the land where the house used to stand; apparently every last brick was sold.

St Mary the Virgin, Wanstead

St Mary the Virgin, Wanstead

Our walk then took us into Wanstead Park which is managed by the Corporation of London as part of Epping Forest and we could really get a sense of the grounds of the house. We saw a ruined grotto which had been built to look like a ruin but unfortunately caught fire in 1884 just after the Corporation of London took it over so it really is a ruin now.

The Grotto, Wanstead Park

The Grotto, Wanstead Park

Our walk finished at the building known as The Temple. This contained a fascinating exhibition about its history which can be read here.

Just hearing about William’s obituary is enough to make you want to find out more about the fascinating history of the house and its occupants. Published on 2nd July 1857 in the Morning Chronicle it read:

“A spendthrift, a profilgate, and a gambler in his youth, he became debauched in his manhood … redeemed by no single virtue, adorned by no single grace, his life gone out even without a flicker of repentance.”

Last year my sister recommended a book to me “The Angel and the Cad” by Geraldine Roberts about the notorious spendthrift with the ridiculous name William-Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley and I am already a big fan of Geraldine’s husband’s blog Wicked William.

According to Wikipedia Pole-Tlyney-Long-Wellesley died in Thayer Street, Marylebone so if I can find the house he died in that will be enough reason for me to include his story on a future Marylebone walk.  There is already a tenuous link to him on my Chingford walk.

Later today I visited another house whose former grounds are also part of Epping Forest. Woodford County High School for Girls was formerly known as Highams, and its grounds were landscaped by Humphry Repton. The school still has quite extensive grounds but Repton’s landscaping included what is now Highams Park Lake which is today accessible to all.

It was so good to see inside a building which I had glimpsed from afar whilst going past on the 179.

Although the school did seem small for the number of pupils and staff it was fascinating to see evidence of its former lives both as a house – at one time owned by Courtenay Warner responsible for much house building in Walthamstow – and also as a Red Cross hospital during the First World War.

Our tour led by enthusiastic Year 12 pupils took us all over the school. We all loved the library which was the former master bedroom, and the Greek Theatre.



Staircase up to the roof staircase_highams

Greek Theatre, Woodford County High School for Girls

It just shows you that there is so much to see in London even on your own doorstep.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all  my group walks are listed here and upcoming public walks here


3 Hidden(ish) cafes near Oxford Street

You might think that there would be nothing hidden from view in the vicinity of Oxford Street being one of London’s busiest thoroughfares.

Suprisingly there is. Each of these 3 great cafes is just off Oxford Street – the furthest being probably 2 minutes’ walk away.

Apricot, 136 Charing Cross Road  WC2H 0LA

Firstly my favourite has to be Apricot which is a lovely lunchtime spot for great home-made salads. Apricot is on the east side of Charing Cross Road close to the junction with Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. According to Google maps they are on the corner of Denmark Place, however Denmark Place is long gone. The cafe is now slap bang next to the Crossrail building works which are gradually encroaching on their space. When I first discovered the cafe last year they had a sheltered outside area. This has now been absorbed into the building works and they are left with a much smaller outside area on the main road. However I never have a problem getting a seat within.

Apricot, Charing Cross Road

Apricot, Charing Cross Road

It is very easy to miss this cafe but it is on the opposite side of the road to the American coffee chain beginning with S, a Superdrug and the amazingly still open (and slightly hidden itself) Royal George pub.

What Apricot do best are their lunchboxes. A small box at £4.50 (same price for eat in and takeaway) is ample. You get a choice of several hot dishes – usually salmon, veggie or chicken  – and then 2 salads on top of that plus hummus or tzatziki. The salads change every day and are imaginative and tasty.

Small lunchbox

Small lunchbox

Apart from the food I love this cafe as the staff are so friendly and recognise and chat to their regular customers which is another reason to return frequently.

There are lots more photos on TripAdvisor including their gorgeous salads and they show how the cafe has shrunk with the encroaching building work. It is a great place for lunch especially if you’re veggie and you will see me in there at least once a week. The cafe is open Monday to Saturday.

SoHostel Coffee Club, 91 Dean Street W1D 3SY

Another cafe almost swallowed up by Crossrail is at the Oxford Street end of Dean Street. This cafe doesn’t have much in the way of signage apart from a blackboard and because of the nearness of the building works it is very easily missed. The pic below is from Google Streetview 4 years ago. The cafe has definitely been tarted up since then although there is much less signage today.

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Don’t be put off by the fact it is connected to the hostel which is in the building to the left. I am always somewhat surprised that even with the very cheap food – baked potato, salad and a coffee for around £5 – it is generally very quiet in there.



The decor is lovely, the music is good, the food is cheap, the wifi is free plus all profits from the cafe go to the Arlington homeless charity.

The last hidden(ish) cafe in this post is in Margaret Street, on the Fitzrovia side of Oxford Street.

The Word Cafe, 83 Margaret Street W1

This cafe is hidden in that it is within the London Jesus Centre and although there is a big banner on the outside advertising the fact there is a cafe within, it is very easy to walk past it. It is close to the junction with Marylebone Passage and Wells Street.

The Word Cafe - street view

Take the steps down to the basement entrance and you will walk directly into the cafe. What is special about this place is its peaceful courtyard. You are again yards from Oxford Street but you would never guess.

Courtyard at The Word Cafe, Margaret Street

Courtyard at The Word Cafe

The Word Cafe, Margaret Street

The Word Cafe, Margaret Street

The food is extremely well priced – I had a vegetable curry for £5.50 – and apart from a lunch stop it would be a good place to stop for coffee mid shopping spree. It is open Monday to Friday only.

Lunch at the Word Cafe

Lunch at the Word Cafe

Menu, The Word Cafe

Menu, The Word Cafe

I know I said at the top this was 3 hidden(ish) cafes but I can’t finish without mentioning the French cafe, Chez Mamie, which is in Hanway Street close to Tottenham Court Road station. This lovely cafe has recently got busier which of course is a good thing. The food is good but probably not as cheap as the other places mentioned but worth visiting nonetheless. There is a lot of building work going on in Hanway Street and it is often closed to traffic but it is definitely worth venturing down. There is an interesting two part blogpost on the history of Hanway Street on the Survey of London’s new blog here.

Of course there are other cafes to mention at the other end of Oxford Street but they will follow in a separate blog post in due course. However if you know of any more at the east end of the street please comment below.

If you have enjoyed reading about these cafes you might be interested in coming on one of my walks as they generally feature both historical information and mentions of off the beaten track cafes, cocktail bars etc.

One place where you may not expect to find bargains is Mayfair and next week, on 11th August, as part of Afternoon Tea Week I will be leading my Gingerbread and Tea – a Mayfair stroll walk. Why not join me? More details and how to book are here.

 The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all  my group walks are listed here and upcoming public walks here

Do you know where these are?

London is surprisingly full of hidden artwork sometimes so tucked away that I do wonder if the only people to actually notice it are those on my walks.

Although my walk tomorrow evening is entitled Gingerbread and Tea a food & drink themed walk around Mayfair I will also take you off the beaten track and include a number of  these hidden sculptures – including some that always provoke a gasp from the group as they come into view.

The two that I have photographed below are slightly less hidden – not far away from fashionable New Bond Street – but still not obvious from the main road. Have you seen them before?

Mayfair Moon sculpture

Mayfair Sun Sculpture

They are entitled “Sun” and “Moon” and are by artist Richard Kindersley. The Sun sculpture is inspired by  the May solstice fairs which were celebrated in the area now known as Mayfair.

Do you want to discover more of Mayfair off the beaten track away from the main thoroughfares? It’s not too late to book a place on my walk tomorrow. 

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all  my group walks are listed here and upcoming public walks here



Can you help on 26th April?

When I ticked the box to be an “occasional volunteer” for the RNLI I hadn’t anticipated ending up with a role that involves finding and coordinating collectors in the City of London for their collecting day in April now known as Mayday.

I realised my mistake when I was introduced to a number of people via email but by that point it didn’t seem right to pull out.  My initial thought was it can’t be that hard.

However it has proved much harder than anticipated to persuade people to give up a few hours of their day to stand with a collecting tin.

I wonder if people don’t equate the RNLI as being connected with London or if they even know it’s a charity. The fact is that the busiest lifeboat station in the country is Tower RNLI – now on the north bank near Waterloo Bridge – and it is  solely funded by donations.

I have volunteered on a couple of occasions before during the Thames Festival at Tower RNLI and wrote this blog post a couple of years ago which details more about what they do.

I am still looking for volunteers so if you can spare a couple of hours at either Bank, Moorgate, Cannon Street or Liverpool Street Stations please sign up via the links. Once you are on the Eventbrite page click “Register” and this brings up the various time slots divided over the day. At the time of writing they still need 30 volunteers at Liverpool Street, 19 at Cannon Street, 15 at Moorgate and 4 at Bank so any help anyone can give will be much appreciated.

I will be stationed (pun intended) at Liverpool Street on the 26th April “looking after” the collectors. Say hello if you’re passing through!

Next time I will ensure I know what is involved before volunteering!

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her group walks are listed here and upcoming public walks here


Why I’m supporting the London taxi trade

There is a misconception amongst many people I know that black taxis are expensive.  However if you compare their service to other trades when you want quality then you get what you pay for.

People seem happy to pay a premium rate for a particular make of phone, expensive drinks at hotels, branded clothes etc but when it comes to making a journey in Central London all their principles go out of the window and for many people cheap is best.

It is inconceivable that people seem happy to get into a private hire vehicle whose driver has little or no knowledge of London and then spends hours driving round trying to find their way with the result that the passenger is stressed and the journey is not cheap. There have been many instances recently where private hire drivers have no knowledge of famous landmarks such as the Tower of London, the Shard, Buckingham Palace etc. How can it be that they are able to have a job driving in London with so little knowledge of the locality.

To clarify:

Taxis or Hackney Carriages are the only form of cabs that are legally allowed to be hailed from the street or from a rank. They can also be booked through a taxi company by phone or through an app.

Private Hire (minicabs) can only be pre-booked and must not ply for hire. This is so that details of the journey can be booked as required by law.

The argument that the difficult Knowledge that London’s licensed taxi drivers have to pass is dated is ludicrous. For example a sat nav just does not work in the tightly packed medieval streets in the City.  It is also dangerous to drive in a busy city like London with one eye on your sat nav which is evidenced by the number of private hire vehicles having accidents going through red lights, down one-way streets the wrong way, onto the pavement etc. People have been killed and seriously injured already. This needs to stop.

uber pavement

It’s not just the Knowledge that makes taxis superior to private hire drivers but the fact that their character is assessed over the years they are studying.  How many other professions could you hand your keys to and ask them to deliver the keys without worrying that they would get a set cut on the way and then break in later?

There are people who say they haven’t had problems with the charlatan private hire firm to whom I am referring but it beggars belief that they would rather take the chance of getting lost/involved in an accident or worse just to try to save a few quid.  Just search #DeleteUber on Twitter and you will see what I mean.

In many cases a ride in a taxi especially if there is a group of you is cheaper than a private hire vehicle. It is certainly cheaper for a group to travel from Heathrow by taxi than by the Heathrow Express as the price is per cab not per person. You are also safe in the knowledge you will arrive at your destination in a timely manner and in one piece.

If you want to book your journey via an app then use Hailo, Gett or Cab App. In fact Hailo have been around since 2011 so were the first company to bring out a hailing app in London a year before Uber.

If you want to pay by credit card then 58% of the 25,000 black cabs already take cards and from October of this year it will be law for all taxis to have this facility.

TfL have a large part to play in this situation by giving Uber a licence when they didn’t fulfil all the necessary criteria including having a landline telephone to take bookings amongst other things.

TfL are also issuing 100s of new private hire licences a week. Have you noticed how clogged up London is recently?  How can TfL possibly have suitably checked all these applicants thoroughly.  It’s impossible.  Many of these drivers are immigrants who come from countries who for various reasons are not able to supply information required as to criminal records etc so TfL feel that they should licence them anyway.  This is unbelievable.

How is there enough work to go round anyway?  Even in the suburbs where I live there are Uber drivers lurking on the streets, parked in disabled bays and residents’ parking bays waiting for a fare to pop-up on their screen.  There have also been instances of them chucking bottles of their urine into front gardens and even worse defecating in the gardens. How disgusting.

From the mouths of their own representatives Uber drivers are earning less than the minimum wage averaging just over £5 an hour. Because of this many are claiming tax credits.  Why should the rest of us law abiding taxpayers have to subsidise them. It’s not fair.

It’s not that taxi drivers are against competition – there has always been room for both taxis and local minicab firms – but the fact is it isn’t a level playing field anymore due to the issues I have highlighted above.

I am one of those people who just can’t stand by from the sidelines and will always get involved.  I have no connection to the taxi trade other than having friends who are both taxi drivers and fellow guides but I want to do my bit to help in the long-term survival of the taxi trade.

Last year I joined the Save our Black Taxis Facebook group and last month a Crowdfunder action was started by Action for Cabbies in order to raise enough money so taxi drivers can start judicial review proceedings against TfL for failing to enforce the law.  I have pledged and also took part in a photo shoot outside City Hall to promote the campaign. (I’m at the back in the red hoodie with grey gloves.)

valentines taxi



Following on from this, this coming Saturday, 27th February at 11am I will be leading a 90 minute walk around the hidden alleyways and courts of Covent Garden in order to raise funds for the Crowdfunder action. All I ask is that you pledge a minimum of £10 or more if you can afford it. More details are here. The walk is now two-thirds full so if you want to come don’t delay in booking.

If you care about London, its traditions and the continuing freeflowing function of a capital city which is now grinding to a halt through the actions of the Mayor and TfL please pledge and come along on my walk. However if you can’t make it why not pledge anyway.  Any money pledged won’t be taken until 14th March. 

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her group walks are listed here and upcoming public walks here





The Edinburgh connection

I am currently helping a friend (Ray Coggin) with proof reading and editing of a diary which follows the life of his wife’s grandfather who was a medical officer during the First World War. Whilst doing this it has gradually dawned on me that my own maternal grandfather had a similar life and the two may  have known each other in Edinburgh.

If you follow the blog Whiz-Bangs, Krumps and Coalboxes you will discover that Dr D C M Page grew up in Alva Street Edinburgh. My  maternal grandfather was born in a house in Belhaven Terrace just two miles from Alva Street. They were born 2 years apart – Douglas Charles Murray Page in 1894 and my grandfather, Henry Fotheringham Ferguson in 1892.

They were both doctors and both served as medical officers during the First World War, Douglas Page being sent to Northern France with the 130th (St. John) Field Ambulance and my grandfather serving in India with the Cameron Highlanders. That is all, so far, that I know about my grandfather’s time during the War but I am now on a mission to find out more.

A starting point is a website that was created by my late aunt’s husband’s family – the Grosers ( which lists birth, death and marriage details for several generations before my grandfather.

From looking at his marriage certificate I have discovered he was a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and lived at the time of his marriage (June 1919) at 9 Windsor Street, Edinburgh which is today a reasonably priced hotel. I may have to visit!

I am now on a quest to see if there is a connection between Dr D C M Page and my grandfather. Even if I don’t find one this is definitely the push I needed to start researching my family tree.

There is also of course the Moncrieff family tree to investigate which my paternal grandmother worked on a long time before the Internet was invented. It is so much easier now so I really have no excuse.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her walks are listed here  


Open House at the Romanian Cultural Institute

If you are a regular reader you might know that one of the first walks I did when I qualified as a City of Westminster Guide back in 2009 was a walk around Belgravia. One of the stops on this walk is next to the statue of Sir Robert Grosvenor, First Marquess of Westminster who is responsible for developing Belgravia. The statue stands on the edge of Belgrave Square.  He is shown with one foot on a milestone indicating 197 miles to Chester where the family seat can still be found; the names of some of their land ownings in Cheshire giving rise to the naming of Belgravia and the streets within. The statue also depicts the now extinct talbot dog.

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To one side of the statue at no.1 Belgrave Square can be found the Romanian Cultural Institute which does what you would expect ie it promotes Romanian culture.

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Last Sunday as part of Open House weekend I volunteered to act as a steward on the morning of the Sunday. In fact I had picked the perfect time; Sunday morning being fairly quiet and the visitor numbers only picking up towards lunchtime. I spent the first part of my time on the door alongside Alexandra one of their staff members welcoming people to the building and telling them what there was to see.

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Me volunteering

The second half of my volunteering took place upstairs in the concert room. I knew there was going to be a pianist playing Chopin between 12 and 2pm but I had no idea how good he would be. Romanian pianist Cristian Sandrin was outstanding. Although people wandered in and out as he played, the music was spellbinding and I felt very privileged to be there. I have since found out that a fellow guide was also a visitor and he told me that stumbling upon this musical interlude was the highlight of his weekend.

Watch this YouTube clip to see just how good Cristian was. The video is from the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition earlier this year. Fast forward to 34 seconds for the introduction in English.

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This was very much an unexpected bonus. The sound of the piano being played expertly gave a whole new atmosphere to the house.

I am hoping that those who attended over the Open House weekend signed up to go on the RCI’s mailing list as recitals and other cultural events regularly take place here and all are free. There is a sign-up page on the Home page of their website

I am already booked on one – this coming Thursday 1st October when the Schubert Ensemble will perform works by three composers (Gabriel Fauré, Robert Schumann and the famous Romanian composer George Enescu).   The concert is free and places can be booked here. Future events also taking place at 1 Belgrave Square can be found here. I should add too that the staff there are very friendly and welcoming.

It’s not all classical music though as coming up in October is a festival of alternative Romanian music at The Garage close to Highbury & Islington tube.

If you would like to discover more about the Romanian Cultural Institute and their events you can find that out here and if I have tempted you to discover more about Belgravia you can find out about my tour here.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her walks are listed here  

To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here

Follow on Twitter @wwalks

or like on Facebook

Free Walks! Local London Guiding Day 10.10.2015

Saturday 10th October 2015 

(Scroll down for more details – without the need for a magnifying glass!)

Local London Guiding Day

Local London Guiding Day

Save the date – Saturday 10th October is this year’s Local London Guiding Day. This year there is a bit of a challenge to do all the walks in one day as for the first time five local guiding associations – City of London, Westminster,Clerkenwell & IslingtonGreenwich and now Camden have got together to offer a day of free walks on a specific theme.

This year’s theme is Women Through Time. Each guiding association has created an hour long walk in their respective area which they will repeat throughout the day from 10am until 4pm. No booking is required – just turn up!

Walks depart from each location on the hour every hour between 10am and 4pm.

You will need very good eyesight to read the flyer above, so details of each of the walks are as follows:

City of London Guides – City of Stone: Women of Substance
Standing up for their beliefs and challenging the norms, these women shattered the glass ceilings of their time by being vocal, pragmatic and determined to evoke change.

Meet: Bank station, exit 3, Royal Exchange

Clerkenwell and Islington Guides – Islington Women: the lives, the loves, the legacy
Islington has always been a radical and diverse area, and this is reflected in the variety of women associated with it. Through education, art, politics and entertainment these women’s stories come alive.

Meet: Angel station

Greenwich Tour Guides – Greenwich Women: ahead of their time

In the masculine world of maritime Greenwich, celebrate some of the iconic and inspirational women that have stood the test of time. Meet queens, courtesans, entrepreneurs, a witch and a pirate amid the splendour of Royal Greenwich riverside and park.

Meet: Cutty Sark DLR station

Westminster Guides – Inspiring, Intriguing & Influential

Royal, respectable or raffish; popular, political or powerful – women have influenced Westminster and the world. Join us as we meet some fascinating females.

Meet: Green Park station (Green Park exit) in the park by the drinking fountain

Camden Guides – Brains, beauty and bravery: Bloomsbury’s Women
Discover stories of the women behind medical innovations, shocking scandals and remarkable feats. They moved in Bloomsbury’s ‘circles, squares and triangles’ and suffered tragic loss, yet prevailed.

Meet: Warren Street station

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her walks are listed here  

To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here

Follow on Twitter @wwalks

or like on Facebook


Tranquil Tottenham

Having lived for most of my life in the Chingford and Walthamstow areas I know this locality pretty well and now have a fairly good knowledge of the West End, the City and Clerkenwell & Islington. However it is the bit in between my local area and the centre of London that I am less familiar with.

There must be many people like me who want to discover London off the beaten track and various Footprints guiding colleagues have taken this on board and are offering walks as diverse as The Industrial History of Dagenham Dock with Rob, a Walk through Canning Town with Sue and Jen Pedler’s Moselle Mosey. I myself lead walks in both Chingford and Walthamstow.

It was Jen’s aforementioned Moselle Mosey that I did yesterday. Until the Footprints River Festival earlier this year when Jen launched this walk I had never heard of this London river and I do wonder how many of the residents of the various roads named after this river ie Moselle Place N17, Moselle Street N17 and Moselle Avenue N22 (amongst others), know the history behind these street names.  Our walk from the source of the river in Queens Wood Highgate to where it flows into the Lea near Tottenham Hale passed through a fascinating cross-section of London where we searched for references to or views of the river.

The walk was full of interest and surprises – for me the biggest surprise was discovering a side to Tottenham I had no idea existed.

The first surprise was the church. All Hallows Tottenham and its picturesque churchyard. There has been a church on this site since the 12th century. More details about the history of the church can be found here but look at my pictures of the amazing decoration on each side of the door.

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From the churchyard we then came upon Tottenham Cemetery which had much of interest. First of all there was a tunnel that linked the two sides of the cemetery – the original path to the church predated the cemetery so a tunnel was built under it. Unfortunately the photo is somewhat spoiled by a man who appeared to be changing his clothes!

Tottenham Cemetery tunnel

Several of us were waylaid by a number of interesting memorials. I myself spotted a  reference to a “Moncreiff” (on the Chapman grave) and although spelled slightly differently I still had to take a picture. The middle picture is of someone with an unfortunate surname – Nutter – and the one on the right was just because I liked the horse.

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The next surprise was the river – the River Moselle runs through the cemetery. Is this unique? Does anyone know of any other cemetery in the country that has a river running through it?

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A few minutes later and still within the cemetery we came across a lake which apart from the rather bizarre sign and the rather aggressive geese (not photographed) was quite tranquil.

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Tottenham Cemetery and All Hallows Church were just a small part of this fascinating walk.  I never thought I would say it but I now want to return to Tottenham to explore the cemetery in more detail, visit the church and also call in at the Bruce Castle Museum which is close to the cemetery and which coincidentally has just been reviewed by the Ladies Who Bus.

Update May 2016 – Jen is again leading the Moselle Mosey on Sunday 29th May 2016. More details and how to book are here 

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her walks are listed here  

To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here

Follow on Twitter @wwalks

or like on Facebook

Discovering Clerkenwell and Islington via its Guiding Course

In the past 6 years since qualifying as a City of Westminster Guide I have put together and led many walks plus made some great friends and connections, heard some fascinating speakers at the Westminster Guides’ monthly meetings and been on some great visits. I have also been heavily involved in the Westminster Guides’ committee only recently relinquishing my duties.

Since qualifying as a Westminster Guide I have become more interested in the history of wherever I go and I imagine this is true of other guides. There is still so much of London to explore! About a year ago I joined Footprints of London and have been amazed by the diversity of the walks on offer – walks alongside hidden rivers such as the Moselle (in Haringey) or walks following the Charles Booth Poverty Maps for example.

As with many of my Westminster Guiding colleagues my clients are mostly Londoners or people who have visited London many times before and want to discover places away from the usual tourist sites. With this in mind last summer I applied for the Clerkenwell and Islington guiding course. The course finished in May this year and I have just qualified – a pass with distinction no less! I will receive my badge from the Mayor of Islington this coming Thursday alongside my course colleagues – we all passed.

The course runs over an academic year from September to the following May and involves a lot of hard work and study but at the same time it is very rewarding to learn about the history of areas such as Pentonville, Barnsbury, Canonbury and Highbury. Practice “walk shops” take place on alternate Saturdays where each student tells the rest of the group about the particular place (or places) they have been asked to research. Everyone then circulates their notes so you then have a ready-made walk or the basis for a walk.

My Westminster walks are generally food and drink themed but so many different opportunities present themselves in Clerkenwell and Islington. My project walk for the course was themed on liquid refreshment around Clerkenwell (water, gin and beer) but the former pleasure gardens and entertainment venues of Islington, the interesting mix of architecture, the medical health of the area and even the sporting venues give lots of scope for different walks.

I’m not a football fan but for our practice walk around Highbury several of us had to put together a stop on Arsenal’s old and new stadiums from the vantage point at the top of the hill where you can see both. I discovered a fascinating history – mostly dictated to me by a fellow Westminster Guide who is an Arsenal fan – in fact he gave me far too much information! I had planned to talk about the history of the club, for example their move from south of the Thames to north, the basis and history of the animosity between Arsenal and Tottenham, how the tube station ended up being renamed and the catalyst for the move to the Emirates stadium; in fact I wouldn’t have mentioned football once. Unfortunately however the stop was given to someone else!

Whilst researching Moorfields Eye Hospital in the St Luke’s area I became rather obsessed with the name of the street – Peerless Street – and the fact that it commemorates the Peerless Pool which had formerly been the Perilous Pond!

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I could go on about the fascinating history and places I discovered whilst studying on this course but instead will just post a couple of photos to tempt you.

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As mentioned above the course was quite hard work but as I had already been guiding for 6 years I didn’t have to worry so much about guiding techniques although of course it was good to have some refresher training to get rid of bad habits I had acquired!

Apart from the project mentioned above students also have to take two practical guiding exams – one in St John’s Gate and one on the streets of Islington – plus a written exam under university exam conditions.

St John’s Gate which was the venue for our internal exam had been on my “to visit” list for years – I had never quite found the time to fit it in. However having now studied the place in depth and visited on numerous occasions I would say don’t delay and visit it whenever you are able. Guided tours generally take place on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays but during July, August and September tours are additionally taking place on Sundays. Hopefully I will soon be on the tour rota myself. Details of tours can be found on their website.

The Clerkenwell and Islington guiding course takes place at the University of Westminster at their campus opposite Madame Tussaud’s and whilst you’re a student there you can use their amazing library which is open 24 hours a day! Admittedly as the university is in Westminster the Westminster selection was slightly better than the Islington offering but they have reference books such as Pinks’ History of Clerkenwell which is prohibitively expensive to buy as it is now out of print. If however you are looking to buy secondhand books I would recommend contacting Hawk Norton who is selling his personal collection of London history books. I bought a rather “distressed” copy of Pinks (it was in two physical halves) for a fraction of the usual cost. Londonist recently featured an article about Hawk’s collection and it is worth emailing him to get an up-to-date catalogue before you make an appointment to visit. On my one visit there (so far) I bought as many books as I could carry and spent £100!

Clerkenwell and Islington certainly has so much to offer in terms of potential for walks off the beaten track and I am so looking forward to sharing what I have learned with my clients.

I hope I have whetted your appetite and you now want to apply for this course. On qualifying you will be awarded a Diploma of Special Study in Tour Guiding (Clerkenwell and Islington) and once you have joined the Clerkenwell and Islington Guiding Association you will receive the aforementioned badge and will be covered by public liability insurance.

The question now is will I do another course? If I do it is likely to be the newish Camden course but I don’t believe in doing two in a row and will leave it a couple of years so I have had time to consolidate what I have learned and start guiding in Clerkenwell and Islington.

Update December 2016: Apply now to join the Clerkenwell & Islington Guiding course at the University of Westminster. The new course starts in January 2017. More details and how to apply can be found here

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster and 

Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her walks are listed here  

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