View From Edinburgh Castle
View From Edinburgh Castle

This is the Podcast for the Virtual Tour of Edinburgh

To find out or book for the Edinburgh walk and other walks this week end click here

A Virtual Tour Through The Whole Island Of Great Britain. No.5 Edinburgh

Monday 2 May 2022 7 pm

A Virtual Walk Through the Athens of the North

Borrowing my title from Daniel Defoe’s early chorography, my first Circuit is from Chester to Edinburgh. Now on the last stop on this first circuit we are taking a virtual tour of the most extraordinary City – Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a very unusual City as it was built on the saddle of a hill so its main street runs down the ridge of a hill and the City falls away on either side. This lack of flat land and restricted space led to the City growing upwards. This gave the City an extraordinary density and an unique atmosphere that we will be exploring.

In the Georgian period the City was extended with the addition of a new town quarter which was rationally planned and made a marked contrast on the old Town. Together it gives the Capital of Scotland, a combination of atmospheric and claustrophobic town planning with the elegance of a City that was one of the great Cities of the Enlightenment.

We will begin the virtual walk in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat at the shiny new Scottish Parliament and walk up the Royal Mile from Holyrood to Tollboth, to the Netherbow and onto the Castle at the pinnacle of the City

To Book:


Roman and Medieval Town Wall at Tower Hill, London
Roman and Medieval Town Wall at Tower Hill, London

Yesterday I had a meeting with a couple of archaeologists at Tower Hill to discuss my recent letter to the London Archaeologist which suggests a piece of conservation of the wall was wrong and based on an misunderstanding of the physical remains. To my relief they agreed with my assessment of the wall and we agreed to follow it up.

It is a complex issue and I will try to upload a copy of the report at the bottom of this page. But briefly. at some point in the past the inner face of part of the wall collapsed (the piece closest to the camera). You can see that only the bottom Roman tile courses continue to the camera end of the wall – the ones above were swept away in the collapse on the inner face, they survived on the outer face.

The section just visible at the front used to show this collapse graphically because only half of the width of the tile courses survived (i.e. on the outer face not the inner face.) At some point someone in the 1980s picked up some fragments of the tile and stuck them superficially on the wall to complete the tile courses. This shows a complete lack of understanding of the archaeology of the wall and ignores the collapse. You can just see the end of that false tile course a few feet above the bottom genuine Roman tile course.

Not a great nor important bit of history but the Wall Walk plaque is wrong on this matter too so it would be good to get that changed.

Its difficult to date the original collapse but the wall at the top looks clearly medieval.

What was even more exciting is that while waiting for the archaeologists to turn up I was looking from afar at the section above. If you look very carefully at the wall nearest the camera you will see a few feet above the bottom of the wall a string of stones which are aligned to the Roman tile course and it seems that whoever recreated this section of the Roman wall after the collapse tried to copy the Roman wall but did not have any tiles so did it in stone. This part of the ‘repair’ is clearly different in style to the medieval repair above (although I had not noticed the difference in 40 years of looking at this wall).

I was very excited about this and thought maybe this is Post Roman work, because it is different to the section above which is medieval, and mimicking or continuing the Roman design the Roman. Identifying a pre-Medieval repair to the wall would be, I think, unique.

I pointed it out to Jane Sidell and Jenny Hall, and they were also interested in this finding. Jane pointed out that it seems that whoever did this seems to have been copying the Roman core of the wall just to the left, rather than copying the original Roman inner face which you can see at the end of the wall away from the camera. She thought it was more likely to have been a 19th or 20th Century repair. But we are following it up.

Here is the letter as published in London Archaeologist Vol.16 No. 2 / Autumn 2020

A longer and more extensively illustrated version is available to see here:


Old Chelsea Bun House Frederick Napoleon Shepherd – from a print at the Museum of London (Wikipedia)

‘RRRRRare Chelsea Buns’ as Jonathan Swift called them in a letter to Stella in 1711.

T!he tradition was that on Good Friday Georgian period Londoners would go to Chelsea to buy Chelsea Buns. Thousands of people would turn up at the Five Fields which stretched from Belgravia to what is now Royal Hospital Street. There were swings, drinking booths, nine pins and ‘vicious events that disgraced the metropolis’. The Bun House was on Jew’s Row as Royal Hospital Street was then called. As several King Georges visited the Bun House it became known as the Royal Chelsea Bun House. It was run by the Hands family. They were said to sell 50,000 Buns on the day. Stromboli tea garden was nearby.

Fragrant as honey and sweeter in taste
As flaky and white as if baked by the light
As the flesh of an infant soft, doughy and slight.

The buns were made from eggs, butter, sugar, lemon and spices. Inside the Chelsea Bun House was a collection of curiosities. Chelsea became known for its collection of curiosities in the 18th Century. Of course, there was the great Hans Sloane’s collection which was the founding collection of the British Museum, And then there was Don Saltero’s which was a coffee house that had curiosities on the wall. The Bun house displayed clocks, curiosities, models, paintings and statues on display to attract a discerning Public.

Me. I love a Chelsea Bun above all buns, But can you get them any more? The British Library Cafe was the last place I found that sold them. And that was 5 years ago I reckon. If you see any let me know.

To make yourself one follow this link. https://www.christinascucina.com/chelsea-buns-british-buns-similar-to-cinnamon-rolls/

Chelsea_bun by Petecarney wikipedia
Chelsea Bun by Petecarney wikipedia


Robert Milligan before removal

Robert Milligan once reigned supreme outside the Museum of London in Docklands as a representative of the West Indies merchants who proudly set up the West Indies docks. Now he has been removed from his prestigious position and acquired by the Museum of London. Their Docklands Museum can be seen behind the statue in this sketch. According to a statement by the Museums Association he will be ‘fully contextualised’ in the museum. The docks were set up to to maximise profits from the slave driven sugar plantations in the West Indies. Milligan was the Deputy Chairman of the project.

The museum has an excellent display on the slave trade.

Sorry for gap in posts as I’m recovering from surgery following an accident whereby a taxi driver opened his door and knocked me off my push bike so typing one handed and dealing with images is quite difficult at present. Please adopt the ‘Dutch Reach’ when opening car doors and be careful.


Bootham Bar with York Minter in the background
Bootham Bar with York Minter in the background photo Kevin Flude

I’m doing a virtual tour of York tonight at 7pm.

Then, tomorrow, two proper real walks in the fresh air:

a Literary and Archaeological walk of Roman London at 11.30

a Spring Equinox Walk at 2.30.

and I then dash hope to repeat the Equinox Walk as a virtual tour.

Links to the walks here:

And the Sunday was ruined bt the taxi driver who knocked me off my bike!


Arlo at the Beethoven Exhibition, British Library, March 2022

For our next outing we went to the British Library but Arlo didn’t like the Beethoven exhibition. It was too dark and nothing to surreptitiously climb on. He definitely does not like dark exhibitions which is a shame because it seems to be the design idea of the moment. The Nero and the Stonehenge exhibitions were also dark spaces working on creating atmospheric views using bright colours, spot lighting and spectacular objects. But it doesn’t work for a 20 month old.

Nor did the largely text based Paul McCartney’s Lyrics exhibition attract a second of his attention. ‘Paul who?’ he seemed to be saying as we stumped past to the very quiet sound of ‘Hey Jude’.

What he did like was the escalators. We went up and down, and up and down, and then onto the second set where we repeated the repeat.

British Library – note the escalator to the right

And down and back again, and no time to see the enigma machine. We ate in the upstairs Restaurant which is a really pleasant place to spend a lunch time.

Enigma Machine, British Library

Time for him to have a sleep so we walked to the British Museum through Bloomsbury without much sign that he he would nod off. But we found a couple of interesting revolutionaries of the 19th Century en-route.

Plaque to Robert Owen ‘father of the Cooperative Movement’, Burton Street

Then to Cartwright Gardens named after John Cartwright, called ‘the Father of Reform’. He had quite an amazing life. He refused to serve in the Navy as he would not fight against the American Colonists in the War of Independence. He supported reform of Parliament, universal suffrage, annual Parliaments and secret ballots.

John Cartwright Statue Cartwright Gardens.

The milk soon did its job and Arlo was asleep, so I took him to the Member’s Room for a cup of tea while he slept. I could keep an eye on the book trolley selling my book! (just behind Arlo’s head).

Sleep in the Member’s Room overlooking the Great Court

When he woke we whizzed around the third Floor but Arlo was reluctant to leave his buggy because it was much more crowded than our last visit when he was able to run free around the galleries which he loved. So, I could look at some old favourites like the Portland Vase. This by the way was smashed into hundreds of pieces and very beautifully restored. In 1848 a drunken visitor threw a sculpture into the case and smashed the vase. It was restored but 37 pieces were separated and, by luck, survived until 1988 when the vase was reunited with the pieces and expertly restored.

The Portland Vase – 15BC = 25AD Cameo Glass
Plate Cameo Glass 15BC – 25AD


The Nebra Disc

What an Exhibition! The BM has pulled together an international array of treasures from the Stonehenge era. It is stunning , the objects are amazing. Stonehenge itself is there in the labels but it is not at the forefront – the objects are left to speak for themselves. The labels are there to give some details and some context but they never dominate.

It is beautifully lit and mounted, and really a triumph. I will go back again to see how the labels and information tell their stories and report back at greater length.

Druids at All Hallows, by the Tower

My next walks – virtual and guided are here:

Ship of Theseus – a Philosophic Paradox in Material Culture & Trigger’s Broom

This was first raised by Plutarch, and it concerns a crucial issue in conservation/restoration which is how to maintain authenticity in the face of replacing worn out parts of an object or structure. The idea is, perhaps, most economically discussed in ‘Any Fools and Horses’ in the scene known as Trigger’s Broom.

Click the video to watch Trigger’s Broom and then proceed to the philosophy
The Ship of Theseus can be seen over Ariadne's shoulder
The Ship of Theseus can be seen over Ariadne’s shoulder as Theseus abandons her on Naxos

Now you are ready to appreciate the philosophic issue that is discussed in this short video by the Khan Academy. Click here.

The Ship of Theseus also appears in the Novel ‘S’ written by Doug Dorst and conceived by J.┬áJ. Abrams. in 2013. The book is a story within a story with an innovative ‘interactive’ thread with a novel called the Ship of Theseus which is annotated by two people and also contains press cuttings and printed ephemera in the two characters attempts to identify the mysterious author of ‘The Ship of Theseus. The Ship itself is, replaced part by part as the story develops.

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