It was the Romans who saw the potential of the Thames and created our first Docklands. They built wharves and docks by the first London Bridge which grew into the biggest docks in the world. By the late 1960's they could not cope with the massive container ships and rapidly went into decline and inevitably closed. They remained derelict until the 1980's which marked the start of their amazing redevelopment. A walk around the old docks of Wapping, Shad Thames, Rotherhithe, Limehouse and The Isle of Dogs reveals the docks' salty sea-dog past!
The docks have some of the best pubs in London; the oldest in the area is The Prospect of Whitby dating back to 1520. There is a noose hanging outside the river side of the pub - not a warning to settle your lunch bill before leaving but a reminder of the area's notoriety. Smugglers and pirates were rife in this area, perhaps the most famous being Captain Kidd who is immortalised in a nearby pub and allegedly the inspiration for Daniel Dafoe's Treasure Island.
Forget Old Street or the IMAX at Waterloo, London’s most magical roundabout is surely Arnold Circus. Hidden just a stone’s throw away from the hipsters, between Columbia Road, Shoreditch High Street and Bethnal Green Road, it’s surrounded by impressive Victorian redbrick buildings, complete with a peaceful garden and bandstand. This is not your average roundabout – it’s worth a visit for its beauty and also for its history. It just so happens to be the home of the very first council estate in the world.
Constructed in the 1890s from the rubble of the notorious Old Nichol slum that had stood here for decades previously, today Arnold Circus is a people-watching paradise. From families dropping their kids off at The Virginia Primary School to fashion designers heading to their studio at The Rochelle creative hub, the local community is a diverse bunch indeed. The imposing architecture that surrounds them holds a times-gone-by atmosphere, meaning you may even spot a film crew recreating Victorian or Edwardian London.
We got our heads together and decided on London’s top five, must see attractions.
St Paul’s has one curious and charming phenomenon that should never be missed- the Whispering Gallery. Climb 259 steps up the dome and you will find it. It’s a circular walkway which hugs the dome structure, offering a vertigo inducing view of the cathedral floor far below.
Whisper along the curving wall, and someone on the other side of the circular walkway, more than 33m away, will be able to hear you- clear as if you were standing right next to them. Whilst you’re doing it, imagine the secrets and sweet nothings, that the dome has heard over the past three centuries!
“When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England."
Pubs are one of London’s most unique and historic institutions that have provided a meeting place for people to gather, drink and shoot the breeze throughout the centuries. The capital has plenty of pubs to choose from - almost 4,000 in fact. Hidden within this crowd of watering holes are pubs that have quite a story to tell, some playing pivotal roles in history. Our selection below celebrates some of these historic pubs and the stories they have to tell.