London

The Battle For London’s Character

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London’s East End has been in existence in some form or other since the 1570s and has been going like the clappers ever since. Here were forged the bells of St Pauls’, Bow Bells, the great Big Ben bell itself, America’s Liberty Bell and many grand bells supplied throughout European […]

Book Mooching In London

It’s my all-time favourite pastime, ingrained in me since I was about 5 years old. Book mooching involves wandering the London streets looking for secondhand bookshops, chatting to the people who sell books and spending too much money on them. My childhood bedroom was filled with books salvaged from dustbins and borrowed from friends, books […]

London Is Not What It Was (And That’s A Good Thing)

‘If you ‘go out’ – and who doesn’t these days? – you’ll need this.’ So begins one popular 1940s travel guide. The concept of ‘going out’ seems relatively recent in the UK, which explains a hell of a lot. In 1952 a gentleman named John Metcalf decided to produce a book about London with a […]

Another London Walk Part 2

In the face of so much change, it’s pleasing to the senses to wander into a church and find it still intact after over a thousand years. At least some places were built to last. Lurking behind the dust-mote beams in St Bartholomew the Great, in the south transept of the Square Mile’s extraordinary priory […]

Another London Walk Part 1

The last few days of fine late summer weather have lured me out to look around at the streets. One walk sends me through half a dozen surprising London churches, another gets me along the Thames and a third passes through the alleyways of Clerkenwell and the Square Mile. I started wondering: How can a […]

London Bridge Isn’t The Only One Falling Down

Google ‘London Bridge’ and see what comes up. When I was researching the 19th Bryant & May book ‘Oranges & Lemons’, I started branching off on my hunt for unusual corners of the city’s history, and realised that I was storing ideas for another book which would become the next novel, ‘London Bridge Is Falling […]

Bermondsey Market: The Last Of The Lawless

For 700 years, Bermondsey Market, just south of Tower Bridge, operated under a law that became known as ‘the thieves’ charter’. The market was a marché ouvert. The ancient allowed that if an item was sold between sunset and sunrise its provenance couldn’t be questioned. The law only changed its status in 1995. Bermondsey Market was the […]

The Year Without Theatre

The first play I saw was George Bernard Shaw’s ‘The Devil’s Disciple’. I must have been seven or eight. The last play I saw was Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s ‘The Visit’, days before Lockdown. Between the two plays has been sandwiched a lifetime’s theatre, plays seen more frequently than any football fan’s match fixtures. It was a […]

London Did It First

Competition between cities is a funny thing. I remembered a terrible, pointless staged TV debate between two young men extolling the virtues of New York and London respectively. The New Yorker went into long intelligently reasoned argument, honed from years of being in debating societies, as to why New York was the ‘better’ city. The […]

Going Home Is Just…Different: Part 2

A sort of posh bingo arcade Our Greenwich day out was not quite aimed at returning to my roots. Most of the houses I and my relatives knew have all been knocked down. Instead we head for the Old Royal Naval College, London’s former centre of maritime activity, because I have never seen its painted […]