Secret London

ISBN: 9781504800112
Normal price: £11.99
Secret London is a pot-pourri of chapters which has proved extremely popular with armchair readers and urban explorers alike.

Secret London is a pot-pourri of chapters which has proved extremely popular with armchair readers and urban explorers alike. The first half of the book covers such themes as underground London and who owns London. Part two explores hidden Westminster, St James’s and the City in detail and takes the reader to offbeat places to visit such as the Royal Institution and the Charterhouse. The book contains eight walks (totalling 20 miles), three of them along the winding courses of long-buried rivers, and explores 30 unusual places to visit not included in more conventional guidebooks. As usual, each walk has its own detailed map plus full information on transport, refreshments and opening times, and there are over a dozen full-page colour photos.

See the contents

Chapter 1: Hidden Landscape

  • The Campden spur walk
  • The Islington spur walk
  • The Westbourne river walk
  • The Tyburn river walk
  • The Fleet river walk

Chapter 2: The Subterranean City

  • Underground Citadels
  • Underground Railways
  • Tunnels under the Thames
  • Utility Subways
  • One-Offs and Far-Outs

Chapter 3: Private Landowners

  • The City Corporation
  • The Livery Companies
  • Church Estates
  • The Crown Estate
  • Non-Royal Estates
  • Historic Estates in Kensington and Chelsea

Chapter 4: Taken for Granted

  • The Lights of Piccadilly Circus
  • The Statue of Eros
  • Drinking Fountains
  • Cabbies' Shelters
  • The Coade Stone Lion
  • The BT Tower
  • Marble Arch
  • Cleopatra' s Needle
  • The Oxo Tower
  • The London Underground Map
  • Blue Plaques
  • Dick Whittington

Chapter 5: Westminster

  • The Palace of Westminster
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Westminster School

Chapter 6: Whitehall

  • Foreign Office
  • Downing Street
  • Cabinet Office
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Scottish Office
  • The Admiralty
  • The Secret Services
  • Government Art Collection

Chapter 7: St James' s

  • The Secret World of the Clubs of
    St James' s
  • Exploring the Hidden Courts and Passages of St James' s walk

Chapter 8. The City

  • City Markets
  • The Livery
  • The City – East of St Paul' s walk
  • The City – West of St Paul' s walk

Chapter 9: Special Collection

  • Kensington Roof Gardens
  • Tyburn Convent
  • House of St Barnabas-in-Soho
  • Coutts & Co and the Private Banks
  • Charterhouse
  • The Royal Institution of Great
  • Whitechapel Bell Foundry
Read the introduction

London's streets, squares, alleys and lanes; its parks, heaths, gardens and open spaces; its palaces, villages, docks, canals and rivers – all offer an amazing variety of terrain for the dedicated urban explorer. One minute you can find yourself breezing down some grand thoroughfare or strolling nonchalantly round an elegant square as though you owned it. The next you could be treading cautiously down narrow lanes and dark alleys, peering into cobbled courtyards, squeezing through gates and wickets, tramping through woods or puffing up hill and down dale startling deer and other creatures rare even in the countryside.

Walking London contains nearly 100 miles of walks through this endlessly surprising landscape, more than enough to keep even the most hardened city walker on his or her feet for a good while to come.

There are 30 walks altogether: 29 in London and one – mainly for the benefit of foreign visitors – in Windsor. All the walks are original, invented by me over a winter and a summer and then individually checked by a small army of pedestrian friends.

Each walk acts as a guide to a different part of London. In general, these are the most historic and attractive parts of the capital, the two usually going together. As in conventional guidebooks, the walks take you to most of the well-known places – but they also steer you off the beaten track into forgotten corners of London.

Wherever the walk happens to be, the emphasis is always on the visually attractive and stimulating, not on trying to cover every single place of interest that a guidebook would mention. As you will discover in this book, views take priority over venues.

History plays a strong part in the book – you cannot get away from it in London – but anything interesting, unusual or simply puzzling, whether old or new, gets a mention. My overall aim has been to try to anticipate any questions you may have about anything you can actually see en route and, subject to limitations of space, to provide satisfying answers.

By the time the book was finished, I had got to know large areas of London quite intimately and I realized that in the process my attitude to the city had been quietly but radically transformed. Although never a sufferer from the rootlessness and alienation that blights the lives of so many city dwellers, it suddenly dawned on me that I had actually begun to feel at home here. So much at home, in fact, that I no longer dreamt of returning to the dales and moors of my native Yorkshire. As my outlook changed, so London became a much friendlier place and life in general that much better.

Walking London in its various editions has been guiding visitors and residents around the capital since the early 1990s. Many thousands of people have bought the book, and thousands more have borrowed it from public libraries. If (and it's a big if) all these people had walked all the walks, between them they would have clocked up something like 13,000,000 miles (20,000,000 kilometres)! I hope you enjoy making your own contribution to this somewhat staggering figure; and if any comments, criticisms or suggestions occur to you as you tramp your way through the book, please email them to me or write care of my publishers (address on the imprint page). I'd love to hear from you.