Last weekend was our annual weekend away in London as a team, and we decided to do a Kissing With Confidence Walking Tour of London.
From prizes at Leadenhall Market; witnessing a proposal at the London Eye; rapping outside Westminster; and finishing with ballet positions at Covent Garden... we had it all!
Stops 1-9 are below. Enjoy!
- Leadenhall Market (Nicky)
- The Shard (Russell & Sandy)
- Borough Market (Julie & Gareth)
- Shakespeare’s Globe (Greg & Emma)
- St Pauls Cathedral (Michael)
- London Eye (Alasdair)
- Westminster (Brian & Sharon)
- Buckingham Palace (Sharon & Russell)
- Covent Garden (Matt & Christine)
- Built in what was the centre of Roman London, and the former Leadenhall Manor, owned by Sir Hugh Neville – the area around which became a popular meeting place for poulterers and cheesemongers
- The land was gifted to the City of London 1411, and managed ever since by the City of London Corporate, the manor house was replaced in 1440 by a school; chapel; granary and public meeting space. The market was extended to sell many other foodstuffs including eggs; butter; grain; herbs and (over next 200 years) wool; leather and cutlery
- During the Great Fire of London the market was only marginally damaged but shortly afterwards was covered for the first time
- The present day covering was done in 1881 by Sir Horace Jones (who also designed Billingsgate and Smithfield Markets) and in 1972 was granted Grade 11 Listed Heritage status
- The market still sold produce into the 20th century but today is known more for its high end food and drink, helping to feed and slake the thirst of the many City workers round about.
- There are many famous people and things linked to the market, amongst which: Old Tom, the gander who escaped slaughter (he was one of 34,000 geese) and became a well-loved face, being fed at the inns and who after his death lay in state in the market and was buried on site. Dick Whittington was the famous mayor who gifted the land to the City, and Harry Potter, JK Rowling’s marvellous, magical boy wizard, has links to the market as the first film – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – was in part filmed here (to represent Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron)
The tallest building in London was our task. Sandy was the data man and Russell had some more ethereal information for the muddled asses who formed a rough semi circle on the bridge.
The dynamic duo started by forming themselves into a sculpture, creating a Henry Moore like ensemble everyone, not just KWC acolytes, was free to view . Sandy is tall and thin, Russell not so much. This will allow you to guess who played London Bridge Station and who The Shard. The entire performance was enacted in this pose, rendering the notes on Sandy’s mobile useless as they were high in the air.
Apart from the aesthetic elegance of the whole shebang (see photograph) highlights were finding out The Shard has 44 lifts and that Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail journalist, got very grumpy having to wait at security for a while the day Russell was in delivering training on the 10th floor a few months earlier.
- It is the oldest market in London and can be dated back to at least 1014 (although it is thought there has been a market in that area well before then)
- Borough Market was the centre of porter brewing in the world. The beer got its name from the porters who drank it.
- The pub at the market, The Market Porter, is also named for those porters, and you can still buy the beer there today. Indeed, it opens at 6am to serve beer to the people who work at the market.
- Porter brewers used to age their beer in gigantic vats, and tried to outdo each other with their size. They would celebrate getting a new, enormous barrel by having a dinner party inside the empty barrels. This began to stop after the London Beer Flood of 1814, which took place just over the river from Borough Market on Tottenham Court Road. A huge barrel containing over 600,000 litres of beer collapsed, taking several other large barrels with it. A tidal wave of porter swept through the streets, destroying several buildings and killing eight people.
- The market declined in use in 1990s due to the increase in supermarkets, with at little as less than 10 stalls in the market. It then underwent a huge development project which finished in 2013 and there are now hundreds of stalls which offer a variety of specialist produce. Truffle, Oysters, Chillies, Beer, Vegan – There are stalls for all tastes!
- The pub The Rake was slammed in the media for charging £13.40 for a pint – the most expensive in London!
- The original theatre was built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614 and demolished in 1644
- William Shakespeare was a shareholder who owned 12.5% of The Globe Theatre
- Colour-coded flags we used outside the theatre to advertise the types of play to be performed – red flag for a history play, white for a comedy play & black for a tragedy play.
- In 1997 the theatre was re-built about 230 metres from the original theatre
- The site also includes the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor theatre which opened in January 2014.
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral. Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece. Standing at the top of Ludgate Hill - the highest point in the City. Even now - three hundred years after it was built - all 365 feet of it are still gobsmackingly stunning. Funny to think it's construction was funded by a tax on coal.
Pretty much every week I walk out of the hotel I always stay in on Ludgate Hill, turn left and there it is. I have breakfast in Pret in Paternoster Square looking up at the dome. On a cold, clear winter's day I love the way it sits against the blue sky. Immense. Solid. Permanent. Beautiful. Imagine having created that inside your head.
Sir Christopher Wren - I salute you!
The London Eye, also once known as the millennium wheel. Let’s start on the technical stuff….it’s “wheely, wheely big!”.
Seriously, its 443ft high and can see 25 miles on a clear day. That given, it might a lot cheaper per mile to enjoy the view from your plane into London – you can fly to New York first class for around £2 per mile.
How much to travel in the Eye? Almost £100 per mile!
Still, 3.5 million people obviously prefer the Eye to the big apple every year and not all go for the view. Some lucky people have indulged in a pop-up dining experience in the Eye pods as well as throwing some dance moves when it was turned into a rotating night club.
5,000 couples have proposed on the Eye and there have been 500 weddings. They’ll have to be quick weddings though (and small as only 28 per pod) as it only takes 30 minutes to make one circuit. What else can you find to do in London that takes only 30 minutes?
There are 32 capsules, to represent the number of London Boroughs. There is no number 13.
From the Eye, one can observe the Palace of Westminster… the next stop on our tour.
And finally, beware alternative truths – none of this may be true!
This piece is titled ”Westminster Through Facts, Politics and Art!”.
Who would have thought that Westminster Bridge, built between 1739–1750, under the supervision of a Swiss engineer called Charles Labelye would have been financed by private capital, lotteries and grants!
£625,000 was raised by a lottery by the sale of £5 tickets. Three amending Acts were needed before the bridge was finished and three lotteries were held. £197,500 was raised by this means and the remainder of the total cost of the bridge, £380,500, was granted by Parliament so that the bridge was opened free of toll.
Of course you’ll probably not know those facts but you may know this art…
“Earth has not anything to show more fair
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
From Dorothy (sister) Wordsworth's journal, we know William captured this from around 5 or 6am.
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky”
But no Big Ben, or to give it its correct title: The Great Westminster Clock. It wasn’t yet built, so much like today he heard no chimes, no opener for Trevor McDonald’s News at 10. Just the stillness of a September morning in 1802…as the words came from his pen.
In addition to its famous 252m long bridge, you’ll perhaps know that the area of Westminster has palaces, a cathedral and of course an abbey.
Westminster Abbey has been the home of the permanent institutions of England's government continuously since about 1200 and from 1707 the UK government instead, and is now the seat of British government.
In a government context, the term Westminster often refers to the Parliament of the United Kingdom located in the Palace of Westminster - also known as the Houses of Parliament. Most of the major Government ministries known as Whitehall, are also in this area.
Westminster – what a building, it goes at quite a pace
The politicians sit there and try to save their face
With their “here, here” and “honourable friend”
They make and change our laws
It's a hard life of long debates
Democracy – a lost cause?
You’ve got to keep ahead now, it’s hard to stay abreast
The Brexit stuff may floor us, and wait for all the rest
Each day they wrangle on now, its plain for all to see
They’ll need negotiations skills now… they so need KWC!
In 1707 ev’n before the bridge was built
Our fellow man and woman made sure their feeling were felt
Inside those hallowed walls now sit 59 like us
They’re Scots of all persuasions, who may just cause a fuss
Our future is before us and laws will yet be written
But will this building house it – The Parliament of Great Britain?
Westminster is the birthplace to many a famous actor: Tom Hiddleston; Thande Newton even James Bond’s wife: Rachel Weiss. But it’s not all glamour:
- Westminster is the second most unaffordable borough in London when it comes to renting
- More Americans came to live in Westminster than anywhere else in the UK. Almost 14,500 Americans came to live here according to the 2011 census.
- The cheapest pints in London are found INSIDE parliament but access is hard to get. Failing that, the Silvercross Pub is a perfectly decent pub in Whitehall with perfectly decent London prices.
- Westminster is one of the most unequal boroughs in London. It has the third highest proportion of “out of work benefits claimants” living in the quarter of areas with the highest claimant rates.The 7th Duke of Westminster is 26year old Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor. In 2016 he inherited a £9.35 billion fortune making him the richest person under the age of 30 in Britain.
She ain’t no spinster
No - some guy he convinced her
He rinsed her
And pinched her
Then half inched her
Then he clinched her
Pushing himself against her
They say he’s a prankster - just a youngster
But Democracy she fights back
It’s time for her to administer
The very stuff of Westminster
That was “Westminster – through Facts, Politics and Art.
Sharon did the gardens and Russell gave a few bon mots about The Big Hoose at the end of St. James’ Park. The presentation took place in the sunshine on the bridge in the middle of the park. Though we were more than two hours in the blue sky, flora and fauna, diving ducks and herons and sheer beauty of the whole scene meant that nobody listened to a word. Constable and Monet combined could not have painted it better.
The best fact was that James The First planted a number of Mulberry trees to cultivate silk worms of which only one remains. Brian chipped in with the fact that the saying “caught red handed” originated when people were caught nicking mulberries: how cool is that?
Russell asked the assembled if anyone knew how to tell if Brenda was at home and of course the flag flying thing was the first answer. The truth: when Queenie is in residence a Tupperware of cornflakes is put on the kitchen table… and her man always leaves the toilet seat up.
Unfortunately rain stopped play so the final leg of the tour was delayed until 7pm that evening, outside the Theatre Royal before we went to see 42nd Street.
The Royal Opera House is based in Covent Garden, and Christine is a ballet fanatic, so the team were put through their paces with a ballet position accompanying each fact below. Audience participation was compulsary!
- Covent Garden is one of the busiest tourist attractions in the world, with around 44m visitors per year. To put this into perspective, Times Square gets 50m per year!
- Street performers work every day, except Christmas day. The first Punch & Judy show is said to have taken place in Covent Garden.
- It is the birthplace of the sandwich! John Montagu, otherwise known as the Earl of Sandwich, first ordered a slab of meat between two pieces of bread in 1762, at a society club called the Beef Steak Club at the Shakespeare’s Head Pub, thereby inventing Britain’s most popular lunchtime meal. The sandwich was invented out of necessity to keep the Earl’s fingers and playing cards clean from grease while he was gambling.
- Covent Garden was actually a red light district in the 1700s.
- The Royal Opera House and Theatre Royal are said to be haunted... so watch out for ghosts tonight!
Check out social media for more pics from the weekend
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