Start in Trafalgar square and look at the four glass lamps in the corners, they come from Lord Nelson's ship HMS Victory, look at the floor at the North side of the square and see the Imperial measurements laid out. Then cross to the National Gallery, when you walk in look at the mosaic in the floor, you are walking on Greta Garbo. Leaving the square head up St. Martin's Lane and on the right hand side you will see a narrow entrance to Mays Court , turn in here and you will find preserved a Georgian shopping street with glazed bow fronted shop windows, though none operate as shops now. If when walking these narrow lanes you come to bollards restricting the access to pedestrians, have a close look, you could be looking at a cannon and cannon ball from the 18th century warship which has been broken up, early recycling. As you wander into Covent Garden have a look at the lamps there, they still run on gas although these days are lit automatically, not by a lamp lighter.
If you now cross over the Strand and go down Carting Lane by the side of the Savoy Hotel, you will see a lone gas lamp: this one is run on sewer gas so that guests at the hotel were not bothered by bad smells when staying there. Head to the bottom of the street and enter Embankment Gardens, turn right and head towards Charing Cross station. On your right you will see York Watergate Stairs, which is where the Thames bank was until they embanked the Thames. A quick trip to The Mall and once again look up at the lamppost, on top of which you will see a ship. Each lamppost carries one of the ships of the fleet that took part in the Battle of Trafalgar. A stroll back to Trafalgar Square will take roughly two hours depending on how fast you walk. Tourists should always look up, and around and not straight in front, you will be amazed at the things hidden away.
Start outside the National Gallery, just glance into Trafalgar Square and see if you can spot London’s smallest police station. Facing the gallery turn left towards Pall Mall, then turn right into Haymarket. This is named after the market that was here from 1657 to 1686. The market was set up to sell hay and straw mainly to the King's Mews where upwards of 300 hundred horses were kept. Eventually the market started selling sheep and cattle. James II closed the market down as the smell was too great. Houses from this period remain, although number 34 dates from the 1700s and was a tobacco shop. Continue up Haymarket and turn left into Orange Street, stop and look up at the building on the south side, there you will see one of London’s oldest street signs, it says James Street 1673 which was the name until it changed . If you walk further along the street you will see the Hand and Racquet pub named after the tennis court that was here in 1634. Further along is the congregational church built in 1829, this was replaced by an earlier chapel where the Rev Toplady preached and also wrote Rock of Ages.
Now you will retrace your steps to the Haymarket and carry on up into Piccadilly and then into Shaftesbury Avenue. Turn left in to Great Windmill Street. Like all street names it means something, in this case it is named after the windmill that stood on this site in the middle of the 17th century grinding corn. Continue up the street and turn right into Brewer St, so named after all the breweries that were on this street. You are now entering the less salubrious area of Soho, but nothing to worry about, take a small alley way on your left either Green Court or Walkers Court, then turn right into Peter St a few yards along and you turn into Berwick St. This is where the street market happens Monday to Saturday, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fish etc. If you look closely at the end of the costermongers barrows you will see some writing. These barrows are peculiar to London in the fact that the costermonger does not own the barrow but rents them, the maker owner has his name on the barrow in his own writing which he would recognize anywhere. You will still hear them crying their wares in the old style. Continue up the street and turn right into Broadwick Street then right again and walk down Wardour St . On your left hand side you will see some metal railings and a gate way into an old church yard. Walk into this church yard and climb the steps. The reason you are climbing the steps is that 10,000 parishioners are buried beneath your feet and this has raised the ground level. This is the graveyard of St Anne’s church, the tower is all that is left after the church was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War. The ashes of Dorothy L Sayers, the well known author, are buried in the crypt of the tower as she was a church warden of the parish. Leave the churchyard and turn left down Wardour St and cross over Shaftesbury Ave, carry on down Wardour St and take the second left into Gerrard St, look up to see the tailor's sign and see the letters underneath - BAIS 1866: this actually says "Been At It Since 1866". You have keep your eyes open as these signs appear all over London and some are old. Continue along Gerrard St and turn left into Gerrard Place then right onto Shaftesbury Avenue, go straight across Cambridge Circus, but look for the clock outside Pizza Hut, this used to be a gentlemen's outfitter, the naked ladies would have gone well with the shop.
Turn into Earlham St and look up to see the old metal sign for F W Collins, elastic glue manufacturer. Carry on down the street and you enter a junction called Seven Dials. This area of once respectable houses in Dickens time became a notorious slum full of petty thieves and criminals; Dickens describes the area in Sketches by Boz. No respectable person would enter this area, the people who lived here were desperately poor and families of five and six people lived in one room with no furniture. The area was cleared when Charing Cross Rd and Shaftesbury Ave were built. Turn right and head down Monmouth St into St Martin's Lane, look up and see two signs - one to a Saddler and Harness maker, the other to Thomas Chippendale the famous furniture maker who had his workshop here. For a rest, head to the Salisbury Public house - this is one of the few Victorian public houses left in central London, it dates from 1852 and has splendid brass-work, cut glass decorations and art nouveau lamps. Enjoy your drink.
Now that you have quenched your thirst amongst the historic surroundings of the Salisbury you can leave the pub and cross the road. Turn left and then right into New Row, walk along here and turn left into Garrick St . This street was named after the great actor David Garrick. On your left as you walk up the Street you will find the Garrick Club which was founded in 1831 by the Duke of Sussex, for painters, actors and writers. The present building was built in 1864 and holds a magnificent archive relating to the theatre as well as one of the greatest collections of paintings relating to the theatre. On the left of the street you will see Floral Street, turn in here and then left into Rose St, here you will find the Lamb and Flag pub. Built in 1623 it is one of the few wooden framed buildings to survive in central London. The exterior is Georgian. It was once known as The Bucket of Blood, because of its association with prize fighting. Carry on up the street and turn right into Longacre. Here you will find Edward Stanford Ltd, the largest map shop in the world. When the Falklands were invaded, the MOD did not have any maps of the islands so a junior officer was dispatched post haste to Stanford's to buy every map they had. In the middle of the 17th century Long Acre became the centre for the coach building industry. In 1668 Pepys bought a second hand carriage here for £53 and spent five hours watching them paint it yellow. At number 63 the firm of Merryweather set up shop in 1738 building carriages. They ended their days making quite famous fire engines and only vacated the street in 1950. From the site of Nos 13-135 John Logie Baird broadcast the first television program in Britain in 1929.
Now take a quick right turn down Bow Street to visit an old police station. As you turn down the street look for No 4 as this is where the original court was based. First operated by Col Thomas De Veil in 1740 he was followed by Henry Fielding who established the Bow Street runners with six men as thief takers. In 1754 his half brother John Fielding took over as the third Bow St magistrate, although blind he did his job with some success for the time. The old court house was pulled down in 1887, the court having already moved to a building constructed in 1879. The new court house was itself closed on 14 July 2006, having served as the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate for some 127 years. There were 3 court rooms in the building. In addition to handling many thousands of run of the mill cases (the very last case heard was against a 33 year old alcoholic vagrant who received a suspended prison sentence for breaking his Anti Social Behaviour Order), it was also the court in which all extradition hearings for the whole of Great Britain were heard. When the court was open, it was possible to go and stand at the back in any of the court rooms and observe justice being done. (If you want to see the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at work now, you will have to go to his new court house in Horseferry Road, Westminster) However, as the building has now been sold for conversion into a boutique hotel, one will soon be able to visit it again. Next to the closed court house is a police station that closed four years ago. You will notice that the station had no blue light: this is because when Queen Victoria visited the opera she disliked seeing the blue light, so it became the only police station with a white light outside.
Return to Long Acre and turn right cross over Drury Lane and enter Great Queen St. As you walk along you will see on the left what some think is an ugly building though imposing, this is Freemasons' Hall, the British headquarters of the Freemasons. Carry on walking along the street and cross over Kingsway and enter Remant St - this will lead you into Lincoln's Inn Field. If you carry on walking along the top of the square you will come to the Sir John Soane's Museum where you can see the eccentric collection that he left to the nation. It is well worth a few hours' visit. If you now turn and face the square, make your way to the bottom right hand corner and enter Portsmouth St. Here you will find the old shop that claims to be The Old Curiosity Shop of Dickens fame, the age is right but a pinch of salt is required, how can you prove it? Continue walking and enter Portugal St then turn right into Carey St. Walk along this street and the buildings on your right are the back of the Law Courts - if you look hard on the other side of the road you will see one of the oldest parish boundary stones in London. It is carved with the symbol of an anchor representing St Clement Dane's and with SDW, which represents St Dunstan in the West. On that side of the street you will see an archway - walk through here and you have entered Lincoln's Inn - one of the four Inns of Court which moved here in 1422. Many barristers who represent people in English courts have their chambers here. Have a wander about and notice the chapel built in 1619, which you can visit. Also there is the gate house which was built in 1518. You have a mixture of buildings here dating from 1682 up to 1843 when the new hall and library were built.
You can now leave the inn the way you came in and on entering Carey St turn right and left down Bell Yard to the Strand. As you enter the Strand you will see a memorial that marks the site of Temple Bar - the eastern most limit of the City of London. It is mounted by a bronze Griffin, the unofficial badge of the City of London. Turn right along the Strand and across the road and you will Twining’s tea shop: notice the carvings above the door which date from 1787 and as you will see they are Chinese which is where London got its tea; it hadn’t stolen the tea plants yet so Indians don’t appear. Further along is the George pub. This was originally George's Coffee House which was first mentioned in 1723. After 1842 the George is referred to as a hotel or tavern.
Leave the pub and turn right along the Strand, on the right you will find Middle Temple Lane. Turn (left/right?) here and enter the Inn of Court called the Temple . Take your time exploring both the buildings and gardens of this lovely part of London. If you look at the end of this walk there are several websites that will give you the history. Leave the Temple by the way you came in and turn left down the Strand and then turn left into Essex St. Essex St was built around about 1680, here you will find Essex Hall which was rebuilt after the Second World War and is the head church of the Unitarian movement, this street still contains some of its original houses. It was in this street that a notorious highway robber called Tom Cox carried out his deeds; he was caught and hanged at Tyburn. Now turn right into Milford Lane; this lane formed the boundary between the land belonging to the Lord Essex and the Earl of Arundel. It was named after a ford that crossed a stream that flowed into the river Thames . It was a favourite place for debtors to hide. Now turn into Arundel Street , built by the Earl of Arundel as a means of raising finance for his town house to be built by Christopher Wren but he changed his mind and went to live in St James's Square . At the bottom of Arundel Street lies Temple Place: have a look for two lampposts which flank the entrance to Lord Astor’s house. They have cherubs at the bottom one talking and one listening to the telephone that was in use when these posts were erected in 1895. Turn up Surrey Street and look for a small alley way on the left hand side, turn into this alley and you will come into Strand Lane. Here you will find what is reputed to be a Roman bath although most people believe it dates from the Tudor period. Although it is closed it can be seen behind a window and there is a button you can push to illuminate it. Return to Surrey St, it was here on 1st August 1827 that two men John Stansfield and Samuel Hanshill were caught picking a pocket, they stole a handkerchief to the value of 3 shillings and were found guilty and transported for life: tough times. Go back to Temple Place and cross over the Victoria Embankment to walk by Big Ben on the river side. As you walk along notice the benches at either end - they rest on camels lying down with packs on. How many people actually see what they are sitting on? Also notice the lampposts - they have very stylised dolphins wrapped around their bases. If you lean over the embankment wall you will notice the mooring rings that are clutched in a lion's mouth; it used to be said when the lions drink London would flood.
Carry on walking until you see the traffic lights by Embankment station and cross the road here and enter Embankment gardens. At the back of the gardens you will see Watergate stairs built in 1626 for the Duke of Buckingham by the original bank of the Thames. When the Thames was embanked the river was moved 330 feet away. Take a pleasant stroll through the gardens and exit at the far end and turn left up Savoy St and then left into Savoy Row where you will find the Savoy Chapel. This is a Royal peculier in that it is owned by the Queen and does not come under the control of a bishop. It was built in 1512 as part of a hospital for the poor by King Henry VIII. It is now the church of the Royal Victorian Order, open to the public but closed on Mondays. Exit the church and walk along Savoy Way which runs beneath the Savoy Hotel and the back of the kitchens and then enter Carting Lane . If you look to your right towards the top of the lane you will see the Coal Hole pub, this pub, partly underground, was built in the early 1800s and used by the coal heavers who worked unloading coal barges on the Thames. Turning left down the lane you will see a gas lamp which is alight. This lamp burns constantly as it runs off of the sewer gas; it was put here to disperse the smells of the sewers so that they did not annoy the guests at the hotel. There is also a plaque here telling you that the Savoy theatre was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity. At the bottom of the lane turn right along Savoy Place; there is nothing really of note or merit in this street or its surroundings as they have all been recently been developed. Turn right into Adam St: this was named after the Adam brothers who designed the Adelphi, few of their buildings survive but number 7 the offices of the Lance St. is one attractive survival. At the top turn left onto the Strand . The Strand was a bridle path that connected the city with Westminster - hence its name. It became the favourite place for the bishops and aristocrats to build their large mansions, although of these only Somerset House remains. The Strand became the haunt of thieves, pickpockets and prostitutes. One such crime had two women, Ann Kennington and Matilda Dyer, committing highway robbery where they stole £105 by knocking down a man and making off with the money. Unluckily for them, they were caught and tried at the Old Bailey and were sentenced to hang. What you have to remember is that in the early 1800s there were about 135 capital offences that carried the death sentence. Stealing two pounds weight of sugar got you transported for 7 years. Now continue down the Strand until you arrive back at Trafalgar Square and the finish of our walk.