On a very cold rainy November Saturday the 26 of us who logged into Zoom were not too disappointed to be at home in the warm and dry for our virtual walk.
We all miss the chance to connect with fellow Freemen of the Company, however we definitely managed that with a bit of pre-walk chat and our lovely guide, Antony Robbins, made it so informal and interactive that it really felt like we were sharing the experience as a group.
Antony (or Mr Londoner of https://mrlondoner.com/) was interesting and knowledgeable, particularly selecting hidden sights and unusual stories to share with us - even those familiar with the area wouldn’t know, given that many of us had worked or lived in London.
Amongst many other facts, we learnt:
- The origins of words ‘hospital’, ‘nosey parker’ and ‘Soho’ (a hunting cry like tally ho).
- How the area changed from monastic land to hunting land and then became prime international real estate - once the most expensive in London - before the grand houses declined and were divided into multi occupancy slum housing, occupied through the generations by various waves of refugees.
- WWII bombing forced the Chinese population to move from the docks at Limehouse with jobs in ships and laundry to Soho, where they opened restaurants. Then came the Swinging Sixties which saw the development of fashionable Carnaby Street.
- How the coffee house culture led to thriving entrepreneurs with notorious brothels and gangs in cahoots with the police.
Our tour concluded with a resounding ‘we must do this again sometime’ of which I can assure you the social committee will take heed!
Vicki Garratt and Gerri de Sausmarez