Next Walks

Dickens London. Life, Work and Christmas Virtual Tour Fri 15th Dec 2023 7.30pm To book
Roman London – A Literary & Archaeological Walk Saturday 16 Dec & 21st Jan 2023 11.30 am Monument Underground Station To book
The London Winter Solstice Virtual Tour Fri 22 Dec 2023 19:30 To book
Jane Austen’s Christmas Walk Sat 23 Dec 2.30 pm Green Park Underground To book
Christmas With Jane Austen London Virtual Tour Sat 23 December 2023 7.30pm to book Ring in the New Year Virtual Walk Monday 1st January 2024 7.00pm To book
Myths, Legends, Archaeology and the Origins of London Walk Sun 4th Feb & 23 March 2024 11.30pm Tower Hill Underground To book


For a complete list of my walks for London Walks in 2023 look here:

Archive of Events and Walks 2023

I update this from time to time to keep track of walks I have done and to keep them on the internet in case anyone is searching for someone to give a walk on one of ‘my’ subjects.

The ‘London Before and After the Roman invasion Walk’ was a brand new walk, although I had done it as a virtual tour.. But as an actual walk it was new and quite a challenge. Although the Roman finds are concentrated in an area that can reasonably be ‘walked’ the prehistoric element is spread all over Greater London. So I did quite a lot of waving my arms and saying ‘Over there, archaeologists found….’ or ‘To the South East was the Kingdom of the Atrebates, whose King Verica fled to the Romans asking their help to regain his throne. ‘ or ‘Claudius crossed the Thames with Nine Elephants some where, almost certainly to the West of us.’ It went quite well, although the sunny weather changed into a downpour which made the climax of the tour a bit of a damp squib.

But I learnt a lot, because it made me read Dominic Perring’s new book on Roman London ‘London in the Roman World’ more closely than I otherwise would have. I should say that I worked with Dominic when we were young archaeologists at the Museum of London. He is now a Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, and, occasionally, I am lucky enough to join him and a few archaeological friends, watching our football team, Tottenham Hotspur.

Tomorrow is my Plough Tuesday as I spent today, my last day of my ‘holiday’ period, bringing my boat up the Regent’s Canal to outside my flat in Hackney and what a glorious January day it was! Tomorrow I have a meeting to sort out my Road Scholar lecturing for the year and Wednesday is my first day lecturing at College.

Below are the walks I have done so far this year.

Chaucer’s Medieval London Guided Walk

Medieval City Gate
Medieval City Gate


Aldgate Underground Sunday 12 November 2023 11.30pm

A Walk around Medieval London following in the footsteps of its resident medieval poet – Geoffrey Chaucer

One of the spectators at the Peasants Revolt was Geoffrey Chaucer, born in the Vintry area of London, who rose to be a diplomat, a Courtier and London’s Customs Officer. He lived with his wife in the Chamber above the Gate in the City Wall at Aldgate. His poetry shows a rugged, joyous medieval England including many scenes reflecting life in London. His stories document the ending of the feudal system, growing dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Church, and shows the robust independence with which the English led their lives.

His work helped change the fashion from poetry in French or Latin to acceptance of the English language as suitable literary language. This was helped by the growth of literacy in London as its Merchants and Guildsmen became increasingly successful. In 1422, for example, the Brewers decided to keep their records in English ‘as there are many of our craft who have the knowledge of reading and writing in the English idiom.’

Chaucer and other poets such as Langland give a vivid portrait of Medieval London which was dynamic, successful but also torn by crisis such as the Lollard challenge to Catholic hegemony, and the Peasants who revolted against oppression as the ruling classes struggled to resist the increased independence of the working people following the Black Death.

A walk which explores London in the Middle Ages, We begin at Aldgate, and follow Chaucer from his home to his place of work at the Customs House, and then to St Thomas Chapel on London Bridge, and across the River to where the Canterbury Tales start – at the Tabard Inn.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude

London before and after The Roman Invasion

London before the Romans
View of London from the SE as it might have looked before the Roman Invasion

October 29th

The walk looks into the evidence for a prehistoric London and tells the story of the coming of the Romans in AD43

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London.

The walk investigates the City of London before and after the the Roman Conquest. What is the evidence for settlement before the Romans set up town of Londinium? Why did the Romans establish the town on this spot? Who were the early Roman Londoners and what made their choice of site so successful?

The fledgling Town was then burnt down by Queen Boudiccan and her Icenian rebels. We look at the evidence for the Revolt and London’s recovery to became the capital of Britain.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

REVIEWS (from London Walks website)
“Kevin, I just wanted to drop you a quick email to thank you ever so much for your archaeological tours of London! I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your tours! I look forward to them more than you can imagine! They’re the best 2 hours of my week! 🙂 Best, Sue

London Before London – Prehistoric London Virtual Walk

London before the Romans
View of London from the SE as it might have looked before the Roman Invasion


October 29th

An exploration of London before the foundation of Londinium

It was long thought that London was founded by a Trojan Exile in the Late Bronze Age. But historical analysis and archaeological excavation gradually demoted the idea to a myth.

On this tour we explore what was in the London area before the Romans. We begin at Heathrow and tour Greater London for evidence from the Paleolithic to the invasion of the Emperor Claudius.

We concentrate on the period since the introduction of farming, and bring together evidence for the prehistoric Kingdoms that controlled the area on the eve of the Invasion. We look for henges, barrows, hill forts, hut circles and look at genetic evidence for identity of prehistoric Londoners. The tour will end in the City.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude, ex Museum of London Archaeology and Museum Curator

The Peasants Revolt Anniversary Guided Walk (virtual tour on the same day at 7.30)
Aldersgate Underground Sunday 11th June 2023 10.45am

A Virtual Walk tracking the progress of the Peasants as they take control of London

On the anniversary of the Peasants Revolt we reconstruct the events that shook the medieval world. In June 1381, following the introduction of the iniquitous Poll Tax, England’s government nearly fell, shaken to the core by a revolt led by working men. This dramatic tour follows the events of the Revolt as the Peasants move through London in June 1381.

We met up with the Peasants at Aldgate, force our way into the City. We march on the Tower of London as the King makes concessions by ending serfdom, at Mile End. But the leaders take the mighty Tower of London and behead the leaders of Richard’s government. Attacks follow on the lawyers in the Temple, the Prior at St. John’s of Jerusalem, Flemish Londoners, and on Lambeth and Savoy Palaces.

The climax of the Revolt comes at Smithfield where a small Royal party confront the 30,000 peasants.
To Book:

Tudor London – The City of Wolf Hall

engraving of a smithfield burning in the Tudor period


Friday 28 April And June 4th 2023 5.15pm Barbican Underground Station

The Walk creates a portrait of London in the early 16th Century, with particular emphasis on the life and times of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More

More and Cromwell had much in common, both lawyers, commoners, who rose to be Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, and ended their careers on the block at Tower Hill.

The walk starts with an exploration of Smithfield – site of the stake where Heretics were burnt alive and to St Bartholomew’s Monastery – given to Richard Rich after his decisive role in the downfall of Thomas More. We continue to St Paul where Martin Luther’s books where burnt, and later, were Puritans attacked dancing round the Maypole. We walk along the main markets streets of London, to Thomas More’s birthplace, and to the site of More’s and Cromwell’s townhouses before, if time allows, finishing at the site of the Scaffold where More and Cromwell met their ends.

Myths & Legends of London May Eve Special Guided Walk

Druids at All Hallows, by the Tower
Druids at All Hallows, by the Tower

Sunday 30th April 2023 3.00pm Tower Hill Tube Station

The walk tells the story of London’s legendary past, explores May Day and the Celtic Festival of Beltane

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

The walk is one of a series about London’s Myths and Legends which take place on or around one of the significant festivals of the calendar. On this walk we celebrate May Day, or Beltane – the celebration of the coming of Summer.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran, Vortigern and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how May Day may have been celebrated in London.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, into the valley of the River Walbrook, past the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside towards the Roman Amphitheatre and St Pauls.

This is a London Walks guided walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

REVIEWS (from London Walks website)
“Kevin, I just wanted to drop you a quick email to thank you ever so much for your archaeological tours of London! I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your tours! I have wanted to be an archaeologist since 1978 at the ripe old age of 8 years,… I was told for years that I could not be an archaeologist [for any number of reasons, which I now realise are completely ridiculous!], so I ended up on a different course of study. And now at the age of 50, it is my one great regret in life. So, I am thoroughly enjoying living vicariously through you, the digs you’ve been on, and the history you bring to life for us! British archaeology would have been my specific area of study had I pursued it. ?? Thank you SO MUCH for these! I look forward to them more than you can imagine, and honestly, I’ll be sad if you get them down to 1.5 hours! They’re the best 2 hours of my week! 🙂 Best, Sue

To Book:

Myths, Legends of London May Day Special Virtual Tour

Monday 1st May 2023 7.30pm

The virtual tour tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the Celtic Festival of Beltane

The virtual tour is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

It is one of a series about London’s Myths and Legends which take place on or around one of the significant festivals of the Celtic calendar. On this tour we celebrate May Day, or Beltane – the celebration of the coming of Summer.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran, Vortigern and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how May Day was celebrated in London.

The virtual route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls

This is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/myths-and-legends-of-london-special-may-day-virtual-tour-tickets-601341648057

Chaucer’s Medieval London Guided Walk
Aldgate Underground Sunday 16 April 2023 11.30pm

A Walk around Medieval London following in the footsteps of its resident medieval poet – Geoffrey Chaucer

One of the spectators at the Peasants Revolt was Geoffrey Chaucer, born in the Vintry area of London, who rose to be a diplomat, a Courtier and London’s Customs Officer. He lived with his wife in the Chamber above the Gate in the City Wall at Aldgate. His poetry shows a rugged, joyous medieval England including many scenes reflecting life in London. His stories document the ending of the feudal system, growing dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Church, and shows the robust independence with which the English led their lives.

His work helped change the fashion from poetry in French or Latin to acceptance of the English language as suitable literary language. This was helped by the growth of literacy in London as its Merchants and Guildsmen became increasingly successful. In 1422, for example, the Brewers decided to keep their records in English ‘as there are many of our craft who have the knowledge of reading and writing in the English idiom.’

Chaucer and other poets such as Langland give a vivid portrait of Medieval London which was dynamic, successful but also torn by crisis such as the Lollard challenge to Catholic hegemony, and the Peasants who revolted against oppression as the ruling classes struggled to resist the increased independence of the working people following the Black Death.

A walk which explores London in the Middle Ages, We begin at Aldgate, and follow Chaucer from his home to his place of work at the Customs House, and then to St Thomas Chapel on London Bridge, and across the River to where the Canterbury Tales start – at the Tabard Inn.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude

Archaeology of London Guided Walk

Reconstruction of Dark Age London Bridge
London in the 5th Century Reconstruction painting.

Sunday 16th April and 4th June 2023 2.30 Exit 3 Bank Underground Station

Legend says that London was founded as New Troy. Historians believed it was founded as Londinium after the Bridge was built by the legionaries of the Emperor Claudius in AD 43.   Archaeologists in the 1970s and 1980s discovered that London was refounded as Lundenwic in the 7th Century and again in the 9th Century when it was called Lundeburg.

This walk tells the epic tale of the uncovering of London’s past by Archaeologists. And provides an insight into the dramatic history of the Capital of Britannia, and how it survived revolts, fires, plagues, and reacted to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.  It became the foremost English City but with periods under Viking and Norman control.

We tell the story in the streets of the City of London, beginning in the valley of the River Walbrook by the Temple of Mithras, and visit many sites where important archaeological discoveries were made, including the Roman Forum, Amphitheatre. Bath Houses, Temples, Roman roads and the City Walls.

Chaucer’s London To Canterbury Virtual Pilgrimage
Sunday 16th April 2023 7.30pm
A Virtual Walk from Chaucer’s London on pilgrimage along the route of the the Canterbury Tales to Canterbury

One of the spectators at the Peasants Revolt was Geoffrey Chaucer, born in the Vintry area of London, who rose to be a diplomat, a Courtier and London’s Customs Officer. He lived with his wife in the Chamber above the Gate in the City Wall at Aldgate, while he wrote the Canterbury Tales.
His poetry shows a rugged, joyous medieval England including many scenes reflecting life in London.

His stories document the ending of the feudal system, growing dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Church, and shows the robust independence with which the English led their lives, following the Black Death.

A walk which explores London in the Middle Ages, and takes us on the pilgrimage to Canterbury. We begin at Aldgate, and follow Chaucer from his home to his place of work at the Customs House. We cross to Southwark via the famous London Bridge where we start the Pilgrimage at St Thomas Chapel. Then to the Tabard to meet the Pilgrims and onto the Old Kent Road to Canterbury.
This is a London Walks event. Look at their web site (www.walks.com) for a list of other of their amazing walks.

Archaeology of London Guided Walk Sunday 2nd April 2023 11:15 Exit 3 Bank Underground Station

A TALE OF FOUR CITIES

Legend says that London was founded as New Troy. Historians believed it was founded as Londinium after the Bridge was built by the legionaries of the Emperor Claudius in AD 43.   Archaeologists in the 1970s and 1980s discovered that London was refounded as Lundenwic in the 7th Century and again in the 9th Century when it was called Lundeburg.

This walk tells the epic tale of the uncovering of London’s past by Archaeologists. And provides an insight into the dramatic history of the Capital of Britannia, and how it survived revolts, fires, plagues, and reacted to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.  It became the foremost English City but with periods under Viking and Norman control.

We tell the story in the streets of the City of London, beginning in the valley of the River Walbrook by the Temple of Mithras, and visit many sites where important archaeological discoveries were made.

Jane Austen’s London
Sat 2.30 pm 02/04/23 Green Park underground station, London (north exit, on the corner)

An exploration of Mayfair, the centre of the London section of Sense & Sensibility and where Jane came to visit her brother

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen devotee in possession of the good fortune of a couple of free hours today must be in want of this walk.”

People associate Jane Austen and her characters with a rural setting. But London is central to both Jane Austen’s real life and her literary life. So, this tour will explore Jane’s connections with London and give the background to Sense and Sensibility, a good part of which is based in this very area. We begin with the place Jane’s coach would arrive from Hampshire, and then walk the streets haunted by Willougby; past shops visited by the Palmers, the Ferrars; visit the location of Jane Austen’s brother’s bank and see the publisher of Jane’s Books. The area around Old Bond Street was the home of the Regency elite and many buildings and a surprising number of the shops remain as they were in Jane Austen’s day.

This is a London Walk Guided Walk lead by Kevin Flude

CHAUCER’S MEDIEVAL LONDON VIRTUAL WALK

The Vintry 14th Century London


Sunday 12 February 2023 7.30pm

A Virtual Walk around Medieval London following in the footsteps of its resident medieval poet – Geoffrey Chaucer

One of the spectators at the Peasants Revolt was Geoffrey Chaucer, born in the Vintry area of London, who rose to be a diplomat, a Courtier and London’s Customs Officer. He lived with his wife in the Chamber above the Gate in the City Wall at Aldgate. His poetry shows a rugged, joyous medieval England including many scenes reflecting life in London. His stories document the ending of the feudal system, growing dissatisfaction with the corruption in the Church, and shows the robust independence with which the English led their lives.

His work helped change the fashion from poetry in French or Latin to acceptance of the English language as suitable literary language. This was helped by the growth of literacy in London as its Merchants and Guildsmen became increasingly successful. In 1422, for example, the Brewers decided to keep their records in English ‘as there are many of our craft who have the knowledge of reading and writing in the English idiom.’

Chaucer and other poets such as Langland give a vivid portrait of Medieval London which was dynamic, successful but also torn by crisis such as the Lollard challenge to Catholic hegemony, and the Peasants who revolted against oppression as the ruling classes struggled to resist the increased independence of the working people following the Black Death.

A walk which explores London in the Middle Ages, We begin at Aldgate, and follow Chaucer from his home to his place of work at the Customs House, and then to St Thomas Chapel on London Bridge, and through London to Poultry, Bucklersbury and Cheapside before visiting the Guildhall and St Pauls. We will walk in the muddy City Streets, exploring the unhealthy conditions and poverty amidst great riches and pageantry.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude

THE REBIRTH OF SAXON LONDON ARCHAEOLOGY VIRTUAL WALK

Reconstruction of Dark age London
Reconstruction of Dark Age London


Sunday 29 January 2023 7.30pm

An exploration of what happened following the Roman Period. How did a Celtic speaking Latin educated Roman City become, first deserted, then recovered to become the leading City in a germanic speaking Kingdom?

The Romans gave the name of Saxons to the barbarian pirates that plagued the North Sea region in the Late Roman Period. Historians link them with the Angles and Jutes who, according to the Venerable Bede, conquered the Roman Province of Britannia and turned it into England. London became its leading town.

But excavation and DNA analysis make the traditional story more difficult to sustain and although the Anglo-Saxons have a rich history how much of it can be trusted? Was there a Dark Age? Or was it just a ‘transition’ from Roman to English? How did English become the main language sweeping aside native Celtic and Latin languages? Much of the story of Saxon London has been founded on myth and dubious historical sources, but archaeological, documentary and genetic research are, perhaps, beginning to provide a clearer narrative.

Following the fall of Roman Britain, London was almost deserted. On this walk we explore how London recovered and grew to be the most important City in England by 1066. We begin our walk in the heart of the City at Bank, and walk through the City to St Pauls, Then along Fleet Street and the Strand to Covent Garden..

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude, ex Museum of London Archaeology and Museum Curator

The Decline And Fall Of Roman London Archaeology Virtual Walk

Reconstruction View of Roman Riverside Wall being built
Reconstruction View of Roman Riverside Wall being built

Sunday 22nd January 11.30am Exit 2 St Pauls Underground Station
 

An exploration of what happened at the end of the Roman Period, and how the City became deserted, and then, reborn as an English City.


The first British Brexit?   The Roman Britons kicked out the Romans in 407AD, and, soon, asked them to come back after a catastrophic collapse.  Faced with plaque, civil war, invasion, mass immigration,  industrial decline, reversion to barter; the authorities struggled against anarchy and descent into a dark age.

But was that how it was?  Wasn’t it a rather a transition into the Late Antique period in which life for most people went on much as before except paying taxes to local rulers rather than distant Romans?

The walk investigates why the Roman system in London broke down, and what really was the impact of the end of the Roman system in London? What is the evidence?  and can we trust it? Or can we really do nothing much more than guess? 

We tramp the streets of London in search of light to shine on the dark age of London.

The Decline And Fall Of Roman London Archaeology Virtual Walk

Reconstruction of Dark age London
Reconstruction of Dark Age London

Sunday 22nd January 7:00pm

An exploration of what happened at the end of the Roman Period, and how the City became deserted, and then, reborn as an English City.


The first British Brexit?   The Roman Britons kicked out the Romans in 407AD, and, soon, asked them to come back after a catastrophic collapse.  Faced with plaque, civil war, invasion, mass immigration,  industrial decline, reversion to barter; the authorities struggled against anarchy and descent into a dark age.

But was that how it was?  Wasn’t it a rather a transition into the Late Antique period in which life for most people went on much as before except paying taxes to local rulers rather than distant Romans?

This virtual walk explores why the Roman system in London broke down, and what really was the impact of the end of the Roman system in London? What is the evidence?  and can we trust it? Or can we really do nothing much more than guess? 

We tramp the virtual streets of London in search of light to shine on the Dark Ages in London.

London Before And After The Roman Invasion

London before the Romans
View of London from the SE as it might have looked before the Roman Invasion

Tower Hill Underground Sunday 8th January 2023 11.30pm

The walk looks into the evidence for a prehistoric London and tells the story of the coming of the Romans in AD43

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London.

The walk investigates the City of London before and after the the Roman Conquest. What is the evidence for settlement before the Romans set up town of Londinium? Why did the Romans establish the town on this spot? Who were the early Roman Londoners and what made their choice of site so successful?

The fledgling Town was then burnt down by Queen Boudiccan and her Icenian rebels. We look at the evidence for the Revolt and London’s recovery to became the capital of Britain.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

REVIEWS (from London Walks website)
“Kevin, I just wanted to drop you a quick email to thank you ever so much for your archaeological tours of London! I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your tours! I look forward to them more than you can imagine! They’re the best 2 hours of my week! 🙂 Best, Sue


London Before London – Prehistoric London Virtual Walk


Sunday 8th January 7pm

An exploration of London before the foundation of Londinium

It was long thought that London was founded by a Trojan Exile in the Late Bronze Age. But historical analysis and archaeological excavation gradually demoted the idea to a myth.

On this tour we explore what was in the London area before the Romans. We begin at Heathrow and tour Greater London for evidence from the Paleolithic to the invasion of the Emperor Claudius.

We concentrate on the period since the introduction of farming, and bring together evidence for the prehistoric Kingdoms that controlled the area on the eve of the Invasion. We look for henges, barrows, hill forts, hut circles and look at genetic evidence for identity of prehistoric Londoners. The tour will end in the City.

This is a London Walks event by Kevin Flude, ex Museum of London Archaeology and Museum Curator

A New Year Walk on the Myths, Legends and the Origins of London

Sunday 1st January 2023 2.00pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the stories of London’s myths, legends and archaeology to find out what they say about the origins of London. As its New Year we also look at New Year as it was celebrated in London through the ages.

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in myths, legends and London’s Archaeology.

The walk will tell the story of the legendary origins of London which record that it was founded in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. The new City was called Troia Nova or New Troy, which became corrupted to Trinovantum, and then changed to Lud’s Dun or London. When the Roman system broke down in 410 AD, historical records were almost non-existent, until the Venerable Bede recorded the building of St Pauls Cathedral in 604 AD. The two hundred year gap, has another rich selection of legends. The walk will explore these stories and compare the legends with Archaeological discoveries. We also look at New Year Customs and Folklore, and the arrangements of the Calendar for different cultures.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River at Billingsgate, London Bridge, and into the centre of Roman London.

This is a London Walks Guided Walks. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks both physical and virtual.

Ring in the New Year Virtual Walk

Sunday 1st January 2023 7.00pm


On this walk we look at how London has celebrated the New Year over the past 2000 years.

The New Year has been a time of review, renewal and anticipation
of the future from time immemorial. The Ancient Britons saw the Solstice as a symbol of a promise of renewal as the Sun was reborn. As the weather turns to bleak mid winter, a festival or reflection and renewal cheers everyone up. This idea of renewal was followed by the Romans, and presided over by a two headed God called Janus who looked both backwards and forwards. Dickens Christmas Carol was based on redemption and his second great Christmas Book ‘The Chimes’ on the renewal that the New Year encouraged.

We look at London’s past to see where and how the New Year was celebrated. We also explore the different New Years we use and their associated Calendars – the Pagan year, the Christian year, the Roman year, the Jewish year, the Financial year, the Academic year and we reveal how these began. We look at folk traditions, Medieval Christmas Festivals, Boy Bishops, Distaff Sunday and Plough Monday, and other Winter Festival and New Year London tradition and folklore.

At the end we use ancient methods to divine what is in store for us in 2023..

The walk finds interesting and historic places in the City of London to link to our stories of Past New Year’s Days. We begin with the Druids at Tower Hill, and walk around the Roman City of London, and through London Histor

June & July – Street Parties in London on the Vigils of Feast Days

Image from the Agas Map of London
Civitas Londinum is a bird’s-eye view of London first printed from woodblocks in about 1561
Civitas Londinum is a bird’s-eye view of London first printed from woodblocks in about 1561

John Stow, author of the ‘Survey of London‘ first published in 1598, tells us that there were bonfires and street parties in the City throughout June and July on the Vigils of Festivals. The Vigil is the evening before a festival. A custom that might owe a little to the Celtic choice of dusk as the beginning of the new day.

Front cover of the Survey of London by John Stow
Front cover of the Survey of London by John Stow

Stow does not give a list of the vigils thus celebrated and only mentions those of St John the Baptist and of St Paul and St Peter, (which fall later in June, when I will post about them). But I would guess it would include prominent Saints in the Catholic Calendar, and also Saints with London Churches or Chapels named after them. These might include: St Botolph, St Alban, St James, St Thomas, St Margaret, St Wilgerfortis, St. Mary Magdalen, St Bridget, St James, as well as Saints John, Peter, and Paul. I’m guessing that City wide celebration would be reserved for the most important Saints, and with local celebrations for the Saint on the local Church. I am assuming these celebrations were ended or much reduced after the Reformation.

Here is his introduction to the Vigil celebrations.

In the months of June and July, on the vigils of festival days, and on the same festival days in the evenings after the sun setting, there were usually made bonfires in the streets, every man bestowing wood or labour towards them; the wealthier sort also, before their doors near to the said bonfires, would set out tables on the vigils, furnished with sweet bread and good drink, and on the festival days with meats and drinks plentifully, whereunto they would invite their neighbours and passengers also to sit and be merry with them in great familiarity, praising God for his benefits bestowed on them. These were called bonfires as well of good amity amongst neighbours that being before at controversy, were there, by the labour of others, reconciled, and made of bitter enemies loving friends; and also for the virtue that a great fire hath to purge the infection of the air.

He goes on to describe a large scale City wide celebration, which is probably a description of the Midsummer festivities, which I will present on the 21st June.

John Stow is one of the most important sources for Tudor and Medieval London. He was a Londoner, buried in St Andrews Undershaft (see map above), who wrote up all he could glean about London. I use him all the time – for example, on my Wolf Hall Tudor London Walk, which I am doing tomorrow. Stow’s Survey of London can be accessed online, in full, here: or via the wonderful online Agas Map, from which the map above came from.

April 18th Canterbury Pilgrimage

Pilgrims leaving the Tabard for the Canterbury Pilgrimage
Pilgrims leaving the Tabard for the Canterbury Pilgrimage

On Sunday I led a Chaucer’s London Walk in the morning and a Canterbury Tales Virtual Pilgrimage in the evening. I choose the day is it was the closest to the 18th April which is when Chaucer’s pilgrims leave London to ride to Canterbury.

At the begining of the prologue he gives clues as to the date. They go when April showers and Zephyrus’s wind is causing sap to rise in plants, engendering flowers and when Aries course across the sky is half run.

The pilgrims are accompanied by Harry Bailly who is the landlord of the Tabard Inn in Southwark and was a real person and a fellow Member of Parliament of Chaucer.

He is jolly and quite knowledgeable and in the Man of Laws prologue we get a glimpse of Harry time telling in the days before clocks.

a mass clock at Steventon
A mass clock at Steventon Church. Hampshire

Chaucer mentions ‘artificial day’ and this is a reference to the way days were divided into hours. There were twelve hours in the daylight part of the day day, and twelve hours in the dark night. So in the winter daylight hours were short, and in the summer long.

Romans used water clocks, King Alfred used candles marked into hours and Harry Bailly knows how to tell the time by the height of the Sun. Harry tells the pilgrims it’s about time they got underway. Here is an extract:

Essentially he is telling the time by the length of the shadows. The illustration of the mass clock at Jane Austen’s Church at Steventon is another example of how the sun can be used easily to tell time.

The first mass clock I noticed was at the church in Kent which Dickens used for Great Expectations where Pip’s brothers and sisters were buried. Once you find one mass clock you suddenly discover them everywhere!

Telling the time, before mechanical clocks, was not complicated. The basic unit is the day and the night, and we can all tell when the dawn has broken. The Moon provides another simple unit of time. The month’s orbit around the Earth is roughly every 29 days and the new, the crescents and full moons provide a quartering of the month. For longer units, the Earth orbits around the Sun on a yearly basic, but divided into four, the winter solstice; the spring equinox, the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.

But there were other ways of marking days in the calendar, with natural time markers marked by, for example, migrating birds, lambing, and any number of budding and flowering plants such as daffodils and elm leaves:

When the Elmen leaf is as big as a mouse’s ear,
Then to sow barley never fear;
When the Elmen leaf is as big as an ox’s eye,
Then says I, ‘Hie, boys” Hie!’
When elm leaves are as big as a shilling,
Plant, kidney beans, if to plant ’em you’re willing;
When elm leaves are as big as a penny,
You must plant kidney beans if you mean to have any.’

In my north facing garden I have my very own solar time marker. All through the winter the sun never shines directly on my garden. Spring comes appreciably later than the front carpark which is a sun trap. But in early April just after 12 o’clock the sun peeks over the block of flats to the south of me, finds a gap between my building and the converted warehouse next door and for a short window of time a shaft of a sunbeam brings a belated and welcome spring.

Digital Heritage. Town Exploration. Virtual Amsterdam

You may have been following my ramblings on my attempts to work out Amsterdam’s history from maps and tramping the streets. But you might want to find out more about the History of Amsterdam from your armchair. So, this is my exploration of virtual Amsterdam. But bear in mind the ideas here can be used in any town exploration.

But if you have only a little time, here are my best tips for exploring Amsterdam online.

First, below is a very good 15 minute introduction to Amsterdam history on YouTube.

Try this Google Earth satellite view of Amsterdam and have fun exploring! Then put your feet up and explore the Van Gogh collection in all its excellent online glory.

But if you have a little more time, lets look at the options as to how the Internet can help you discover Amsterdam.

Online Encyclopedias

Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam

Encyclopedia Britannica | Britannica – https://www.britannica.com/place/Amsterdam

I quite often edit Wikipedia pages when I come across entries which are out of date or wrong. The quality of information can be variable but mostly its good. And reading the Amsterdam Page, as long as you are prepared to follow up some of the hypertext links, such as to the ‘Canals of Amsterdam’ or the ‘Defence Line of Amsterdam’ you can get a good idea of the history. But Wikipedia, however great for humanity, is none-the-less aspiring to be an encyclopedia, and not either literature, travel-writing, non-fiction nor entertainment. It is certainly not a virtual tour, and it takes quite a lot of timeto get a good overview of the City and it is not really something I ever do for ‘enjoyment’.

Encyclopedia Britannica has been published exclusively online since 2016 and it is a better read than Wikipedia, less rambling and more to the point. Definitely a better starting point, but still a long read, and, again, something I can’t remember reading with pleasure.

YouTube

There are a number of video lectures/talks/tours on YouTube for free and I will just mention a few – please let me know if you find anything else interesting and I will add it here.

I’ve already linked to the 15 minute ‘A Quick History of Amsterdam (That Dam Guide), which is well put together and gives a good summary. Not enough about the walls in my opinion, and probably a little too much about the major drivers of historical change and not enough about the specific details of what made Amsterdam the town. That is probably asking too much for a 15 minute introduction. And, in effect, this guide is an advert for ‘That Dam Guide’ and the author’s guided virtual tours. He does live streamed 1 hour Amsterdam Tours (none on in March) Very good production values too.

Searching for ‘Amsterdam Virtual Tour’ brings me to the: The Amsterdam Drone Tour which gives a largely drone-eye view of Amsterdam, with slightly annoying music and not enough captions to really feel you are getting to know streets, areas and districts, but it does give an interesting ‘overview’. It is 9 minutes long.

A Free Virtual Tours Amsterdam is an interesting intro to Amsterdam in two 5 minute videos. It does give you some more of, what I would call, ‘structural’ analysis of the history and development of Holland/Amsterdam. It is, to an extent, complimentary to ‘That Dam Guide’. I should not be mentioning it as the ‘Free Walks’ groups are deadly rivals to ‘London Walks’, who I do my walks for. We have a fixed fee for a professional guide, while the Free Walks say they are free but put a lot of pressure on to get customers to pay up a reasonable amount (or so we think!).

Another ‘Tips based’ guide on YouTube is Tim, who gives a 20 minute free walking tour. This one is more of a real virtual walk, as it is a filmed guided walk, with all its imperfections. But, very good in terms of authenticity.

Google Earth

This uses the Google Earth satellite view of Amsterdam, with pins marking many, but by no means all, places of interest. Each place has a little information, and often, a link to Wikipedia. Clicking on the ‘more information’ tab brings up further, and sometimes an extensive number of pictures. There is also a paper aeroplane tab, and this brings up a virtual fly-past which is fun. I was looking for a tab for the Waag, which is one of the remaining gates of old Amsterdam, but I cannot find a tab for it. Nor a search button, which hinders the usefulness of the system. But it is definitely fun!

I have just gone back to Google Earth, found the search icon on the left of the screen, overflown my house, and then searched for the Waag, which I found and here it is! Follow the link to do the fly-past.

Google Earth view of the Waag, City Gate, Dissection Theatre, and now a Restaurant.
My house, on google-earth, to the south of the Canal is a strip of Grass, I live at the extreme left of that strip of grass.
My house, on google-earth, to the south of the Canal is a strip of Grass, I live at the extreme left of that strip of grass.

I would definitely use this to explore, and, if I were to be giving a guided tour of Amsterdam I would, indeed, use it in advance to consolidate my knowledge. It has the advantage that it brings to your attention things you would otherwise not know about, and gives a really clear idea of what the place is and what its environment looks like. For example it brought to my attention the houseboat museum, which is now on my must-see bucket list, previously unknown to me.

By the way, I found the Google Earth tour on this blog: www.asthebirdfliesblog.com which has other interesting tips for exploring virtual Amsterdam.

Guided Walks Apps

I thought these didn’t really count as they are designed to give a smart-phone based on location walking tour and not an armchair guide. GPSmycity.com is linked to GPS and the user can either access other people’s guided walks, or create their own. I tried it out in Stratford-on-Avon and found it remarkably easy to do. You find the places you want on the tour, and the app ‘sucks in’ the data and pictures from Wikipedia. So within a few minutes you have, a credible, guided tour and a GPS route around the City. In fact, I found it most useful just for creating my own walking routes – much easier than Google, or CityMapper, Just put in the stops and soon your SmartPhone will be dictating your route to you!

But you don’t have to access it via an app, in fact, if you are not going to Amsterdam, its better to visit the web site, and you can go to this link gpsmycity.com, scroll down and you will see a map, and the text for all the stops on the tour. Quite a good introduction, although not inspired. (Its possible you might need to login but I’m not sure as I do have a login.)

Another example is izi-travel, but this provides free and paid for audio guides. Again designed for a smart-phone app to guide around the location, but it can also be accessed on a computer at home. So here is the link to the Amsterdam tour – there are several to choose from.

I would definitely use gpsmycity on tour – I didn’t because I dropped my phone in the oily bilge of my boat, and it went insane for about 2 hours, and reset a lot of my settings, and deleted a few of my apps, including gpsmycity, before deciding to stage a recovery. Izi-travel I have had loaded for several years, and never used, but now listening to it I might have used it like a radio show to introduce me to Amsterdam. I’m also wondering about making my very many guided walks into virtual guided walks on apps like this.

Museum On Line Tours

The Amsterdam Museum should be the museum I would be pointing to for a great on line tour about Amsterdam’s History but it has a temporary Web Site while it works on opening a new Museum. The web has interesting stuff on it, and has the collection online, but nothing that pulls it together like an exhibition, or really gives you much of an introduction to the history of Amsterdam which is very disappointing.

The Van Gogh Museum, by contrast, has an excellent online collection which can be seen, as if a virtual exhibition. But this is much easier for an art museum than a history museum, for two main reasons: the art works are more immediately visually appealing that many objects in Museum Collections which often require context to understand; and art collections are much smaller than history museum collections and so easier to see as a ‘tour’.

Summary

There is nothing to beat walking around a City in the real world. There is nothing, yet, that even comes close to it. Smart Phone tours offer an easy way to tour the physical city, but its difficult to find content on line which provides a really enjoyable armchair online substitute.

The way I explore a City, after finding the walls of course(!), is to read a good guide book. Then buy a good non-fiction history of the city, and search the second hand bookshops for histories/guides/maps and that very special book that noone has heard of and no one knows about which gives unique insights/information that a good guided tour needs. Finally, I try to read a famous novel set in the City, or if in need of light relief, find a local fictional detective.

Podcasts, and ChatGBT also need to be explored.

Remember, if you want more Amsterdam to explore visit here: www.asthebirdfliesblog.com

Town Exploration Amsterdam 3 Making sense of the Canals & Defenses

Plan of Amsterdam Wall Circuit

So, I have built up a story of a Medieval City Wall of Amsterdam with a moat around it and the Amstell flowing through the middle. In the 17th Century the defenses are developed and a set of concentric canals are built.

You can see the details in the schematic plan above. Defensive circuit around the outside, concentric circles of canals inside. The first doubt came to my mind when the pilot of the tourist boat we took around the canals said the concentric rings were built up outwards progressively from the 13th Century onwards.

So, this must mean the original circuit was small and the later circuits expanded the size of the City. Just have a look at a modern plan for a moment.

City plan

Therefore, the medieval circuit was the inner concentric ring and the latest 17th Century circuit was the outer ring. So at least two different defensive perimeters. Let’s look back at the earliest plan of Amsterdam.

The oldest view of Amsterdam by Cornelius Antonisz 1538

This shows the City wall, the port on the seafront at the bottom of the painting with the River Amstel running through the middle of the City, and canals running parallel. There is a moot running outside the wall circuit. This moat is not, as I previously thought, the outer circuit as shown on the modern plan, or on the grey plaque. It is, in fact, the inner circuit. I’ve just looked it up and the moat is called the Singel, originally called the Stedegracht (“City Canal”).

Look at the Google map. The inner blue circuit is the Singel, the original moat and medieval defensive wall. The word Amsterdam is written above where the Singel meets the Amstell. The outer circuit is the 17th Century defensive circuit. You’ll see the icon of Rijksmuseum on this outer canal.

Google Map of the Hiatoric Centre 0f Amsterdarm
Google Map of the Hiatoric Centre 0f Amsterdarm

Now, a bit of research shows that the Pilot on the boat was repeating an old tale that the canals were progressively expanded from the medieval period onwards. He suggested that as Amsterdam grew it built itself another circuit of canals. But wikipedia assures me this is wrong. What happened was that Amsterdam became so overcrowded in the 17th Century that the authorities had to do something and what they decided to do was to enlarge the City and built a grid of concentric canals linked by linear canals, with an outer circuit of defensive bastions. surrounded by a final concentric canal. The main engine of development was commercial success followed by massive immigration. Its an amazing story of foresight. It meant that Amsterdam’s merchants could all enjoy direct access to goods coming by river and sea, or to shipping if they were exporting.

Each merchant had a tall thin warehouse/workshop of 5 to 7 stories high with a gable with a pole built into it for a pulley to lift goods up from the barges moored outside the merchants house. These houses are mostly of brick although the richest have the trappings of classical columns, and staircases leading up to the first floor. And Amsterdam also had the foresight to keep these merchants houses, and not knock them down. So a large percentage of the centrum of the City is still made up of these brick merchants houses. In the prestigious areas they are banks and offices, elsewhere shops, and houses.

This is a defensive tower on the medieval circuit

Defensive tower on the Medieval Defensive Circuit
Defensive tower on the Medieval Defensive Circuit

I’m not sure if this insight into my working process is enjoyable or not. Its something I have always done because for many years I have enjoyed leading guided walks, and cultural study tours around historic towns in the UK and Europe. In order to feel confident about the tour I have to feel I know the City, and how it articulates, and developed through time. Often it isn’t just a case of reading a guide book or wikipedia. It needs quite a lot of work to understand what is happening are what are the structural elements that led to the City as we see it today. I doubt for example, I would have realised that the Pilot was wrong, had I not had an image of the 16th Century City in my mind to compare with what he was saying.

Another 16th Century view of the original core of the town (by Cornelis Antonisz
Another 16th Century view of the original core of the town (by Cornelis Antonisz

Town exploration: 4 Brussels

Modern map of central Brussels.  The Bourse is a red circle near the centre.

The map of the centre of Brussels shows the area where I have identified topographical evidence of an early Wall circuit. The two red lines coming from the top left point to a red rectangle which is on the curved road called ‘Vieux MarchĂ© aux Grains’. This road follows the curved line of the NE section of the wall and was confirmed by the discovery of a surviving section of the Wall on it (see previous posts).

So, on my 4th and last day in Brussels I want to find the rest of this circuit. If you look at the map you can convince yourself there is a circular route – Rue des Riches Clares (Street of the Clare nuns); Rue des Teinturies (Street of Dyers); Kolenmarkt (Coal Market) and to the Grand Place. But I can find nothing that proves it and its a bit weird to have the Town Square (Grand Place) of the town outside the circuit. Maybe this is because the Bourse was the original centre of gravity I wondered? Whatever the case, the roads have the irregularity of medieval town centre streets.

The Town  Hall Grand Place, Brussels
The Town Hall Grand Place, Brussels

It started to rain so decided to see about a guided tour of the Town Hall, but the attendant suggested I’d be better off at the free ‘House of the King’ across the square which I discover with rising excitement is subtitled ‘The Brussels City Museum.’ Initially I’m disappointed as it is full of fragments of Gothic statues, but upstairs, I strike pay dirt with not only maps, engravings and photographs of the Old Wall Circuit but also a massive model.

Model of 13th Century Wall Circuit of Brussels.
Model of 13th Century Wall Circuit of Brussels. (looking South West)

It takes me a lot of time to work out what is what and which direction we are looking. But the section of the wall at the bottom of the photo above is the wall I identified on the Vieux MarchĂ© aux Grains. St Catherine’s is the Church seen just inside the Wall, just to the left of the Gate at the middle bottom of the photo. Other evidence makes it clear that the present day St Catherine’s was moved a little to the left (east).

So, a confirmation of sorts, but also a revelation, in that a river is flowing just behind the wall, and the wall circuit is much bigger than I suspected.

The River is the Senne, it was navigable to an extent taking 8 days to take cargoes to the River Schelde. The River is completely gone, and I think the other part of the wall I pencilled in was actually not the wall but roads following the route of the River.

The River Senne, originally the reason for the foundation of Brussels, became a stinking sewer and was filled in leaving no trace, except the roads that ran alongside it or replaced it.

Detail labelled copy of panoramic painting of Brussels c1665 by Jean-Baptiste Bonnercroy.  Looking South West

The River was augmented and then replaced by a Canal, which reduced the journey time to the Schelde to one day. The Canal came into the expanded City at no 29 (above_ which is the River gate of the 2nd Wall circuit, and, you might just be able to see a wide street going diagonally from 29 towards no 26, which is St Catherine’s Church. This street used to be the new canal, now a dry linear park and market place.

Detail of Braun & Hogenberg map of 1572, showing the canal entering at Porte De Rivage.

At the end of the canal was a T-Junction so that boats could turn around. When this was filled in and reclaimed St Catherine’s was moved and rebuilt in this space. The Wall was just south of the t-Junction and No 30 in the panorama is the Black Tower, part of the original 13th Century Wall Circuit.

St Catherine’s, built over the old t-junction of the canal. The photo is taken from what was once the canal.

But back to my search for the 13th Century Walk circuit. Look below at the whole model you will see how wrong I was about a small roundish early wall circuit.

Model of 13th Century Wall Circuit of Brussels.

This view of the town is the opposite direction to the previous one, so the wall in the far distance was the section I correctly identified. But I had absolutely no idea that the walled area was so large. The bulge in the wall at the front of the picture was on high ground and was original the site of the Duke of Brabant’s Castle, on Coundenberg Hill and founded in the 11th Century. My exploration was not particularly successful, as far as the 13th Century circuit was concerned, as I had no idea where most of the wall circuit was. I was thinking that there must have been a castle on top of the Hill, but didn’t think the wall circuit would be that big.

Brussels itself began as a small trading town on the River Senne and in the marshy valley of the River. It collected grain from the rich area to export to Antwerp and other urban centres.

Braun and Hogenberg Plan of Brussels, 1572 showing both wall circuits. North east at the bottom of the plan

The map above shows the two wall circuits. The earliest built 1210 -1230 and the large circuit built in 1357 -1383. That later was extensively developed with the addition of demi-lunettes in 1578, and turned into full bastions in 1671 to cope with the increasing power of artillery. The letters on the plan refer to pictures of the wall that survive.

Panoramic painting of Brussels c1665 by Jean-Baptiste Bonnercroy.  Looking South West

The second wall circuit can clearly be seen in the picture above, with Porte de Flandres in the centre, and demi-lunettes in front of the 14th Century Wall.

I finished the exploration by finally getting into the 14th Century Gate – Porte de Halle which was wall worth the two trips.

Porte de Halles

This image below will give a good idea of the final form of the defences before they were almost totally demolished and replaced by a ring road.

The late 17th Century Defences of Brussels.

So all in all Brussels is a very interesting City with great museums, amazing pubs/bars, fabulous remains of Art Nouveau dotted around, and an interesting history. As to my exploration, very enjoyable, a little disappointed I didn’t find the River, or identify more of the 13th Century Circuit. With another day I would have walked the entire 13th and 14th Century circuits. But I suspect the surgeon who did my hernia operation would have thought I overdid it as it was.

Town exploration: 3 Brussels

modern map of central Brussels.  The Bourse is a red circle near the centre.

So my next task is to confirm the earlier wall circuit on the map. 

To remind you I have tentatively identified the street called the’ Vieux MarchĂ© aux Grains’ as a section of an earlier wall circuit surrounding Brussels.  On the map above the two red lines coming from the top left point to a red rectangle which is on the Vieux MarchĂ©.  Walking along it you soon come to a beautiful church dedicated to St Catherine.  It must be either just inside, just outside or on top of my walk circuit.

St Catherine’s, Brussels

I walk into the church, photograph lots of saints and walk out and there just beyond it is the confirmation that I’m right.  There is a beautiful interval Tower and, just to make it certain, it has sections of wall coming out from it.  So this the earlier wall circuit.  Looks medieval, a century or two earlier than the Porte de Halles.

The Black Tower, Brussels

So, I’m feeling pleased with myself.  Two wall circuits confirmed, the outer one I know where the entire circuit is and that it has all been swept away and replaced by an urban ring road except a couple (?) of fragments.

The inner circuit I have only confirmed one section, I know one more bit of it exists or did exist but pretty sure not much else.  I’m thinking from the street pattern that it is a small roundish circuit, but nothing is clear from the street pattern apart from this one street.

Feeling smug although I am aware this is a strange game I play with myself.  I could just Google ‘Brussels Town Walls’ and I would have most of the answers instantly but the fun of the game is to find it out yourself through topographical clues. 

I do it, I think, partly to honour my friend, David Bentley, who died of motor neurone disease a good few years ago but not before we had many stimulating discussions on topographical clues to urban history.  Also, it really helps you understand the City, it will tell you why particular roads are important, and give the history of the growth of the town.  Since I lost David it is often a solitary game as it needs a very tolerant person to put up with following leads to frequent dead ends and someone who can share the thrill of finding a small fragment of ‘wall’ in exactly the predicted place.

One more discovery before I end.  There is a linear ‘park’ coming down from the Porte Flandres, it is lined with what remind me of canalside houses in Bruges, and this seems to be the original route of the canal that was built to link Brussels to the Scheldt.  I was told that the canal was diverted when they built the new walk circuit so this seems to be the original course.  It comes down to the side of St Catherine’s.

Filled in Canal leading to St Catherine’s.  Fish restaurants to the right and you can just see the Black Tower to the left of the Church.

I have no idea how the boats turned around but the grain market was to the right and the fish restaurants suggest this is where fish were landed.

Tomorrow, you will find out if my smugness is confirmed after I decide it is time to  check the facts and leave speculation behind.

Town exploration: 2 Brussels

Panoramic painting of Brussels c1665 by Jean-Baptiste Bonnercoy. 

So I arrived at the hotel in Brussels.  Got their free map and looked for likely Wall circuits.

Creased Map of Brussels

As you will see there is an extensive inner ring road or boulevard clearly marked in orange.    This is, I thought probably  the Renaissance wall alignment when the town had expanded and the old walls became useless in the face of cannons. 

A closer look at the map confirms it was a wall circuit as at junctions there is a grey label saying ‘Porte de Flandres’ or similar. 

So the next task is to find if there was an earlier wall circuit on the map.  I’m basically looking for curved roads that were originally just inside the walls or just outside.

modern map of central Brussels.  The Bourse is a red circle near the centre.

The two red lines coming from the top left point to a red rectangle which is my hotel and by chance is on a curved road which is my guess to be the early wall circuit.  It is called the ‘Vieux MarchĂ© aux Grains’. I had a quick explore before retiring for the night. But found nothing conclusive and St Catherine’s Church is astride it.

At breakfast, in the basement I failed to notice that 3 of  the 4 walls were ancient stone, and there was a picture of a wall and bastion tower.  These were pointed out by a staff member, and they suggested they were part of the wall.

Basement cafe of Hotel Atlas

The walls in the basement formed three sides of a rectangle so I had my doubts whether it was ‘the wall’ but it could be a tower or a building built up against the wall. But the picture certainly confirmed my guess that this curved street marked the route of the early wall.

Picture of the wall

So next I walked up to the ‘Porte de Flandres’ in the north east of the town on what I am calling the Renaissance circuit. I wanted to see if any gate or wall survived (no) and to look at the canal which runs alongside the wall. 

Then to visit Brussels amazing museums where in the Old Masters museum was found the view of the walls that you will find above.  The view is from the north east and at the bottom you will see the canal that linked Brussels to the main trade routes with triangular ramparts in front designed to withstand cannon fire, with the canal and the wall behind. Right in the centre of the bottom is the Porte de Flandres. It looks 15th Century to me, give or take a century but the triangular ramparts look 17th Century.

At the Museum were leaflets to a Porte de Halle museum, So I went from the Musee d’Arte et D’ Histoire, through the European Parliament to the old Wall circuit past several old gates which no longer exist and then saw the view below of the Porte de Halle.

Porte de Halle, Brussels

It looks like something from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry which is early 15th Century. I couldn’t confirm because the gatekeeper of the Porte refused entry as, he said, last entry was at 4pm (1 arrived at 4.03pm) although the leaflet clearly says last entry is 45 mins prior to closing at 5pm.

So I went to confirm the existence of the earlier wall circuit. And I will post about that later.

Walks 2023 – February – June

I am working on a new season, and these are the walks for the first six months – but more to come.

The Archaeology Of London Walk Sunday 2nd April 2023 11:15 Exit 3 Bank Underground Station To book
Jane Austen’s London Sat 2.30 pm 2nd April 2023 Green Park underground station, London (north exit, on the corner). To book
Chaucer’s Medieval London Guided Walk Aldgate Tube Sunday 16 April 2023 11.30pm To book
Chaucer’s London To Canterbury Virtual Pilgrimage Sunday 16th April 2023 7.30pm To book
The Peasants Revolt Anniversary Guided Walk Aldgate Underground Sunday 11th June 2023 10.45am. To book
The Peasants Revolt Anniversary Virtual Tour Sunday 11th June 2023 7.30pm To book

For a complete list of my walks in 2023 look here

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