The Wandering Cardinal Points & Digital Heritage March 21st

Photo  by Jordan Ladikos on Unsplash of a weather vane showing the cardinal points
Photo by Jordan Ladikos on Unsplash

This post was originally part of the Equinox Post but it was too long and I have moved the section on the cardinal points of the compass to here.

So, Spring has sprung. At the Equinox the sun now rises due East, and sets due West. The rising and setting points vary throughout the year, further North each day as we move to Summer Solstice, and further South as Winter Solstice approaches. Dawn and Dusk vary accordingly. The only fixed point in the Sun’s journey (as seen from Earth) is Noon. Every day, the Sun is at it highest point at Noon. And this is the definition of South, something that can be seen and measured. The Sun never strays into the North so the North is cold, remote, more mysterious, unknowable almost, except that it is defined by the opposite direction to South.

To my mind, it makes South/Noon very special. At Stonehenge, there are two exits. The biggest is aligned to the Midsummer Sunrise and Midwinter Sunset direction, but there is a smaller second entrance and this aligned due South. There is also a uniquely small standing stone in the main circle of Sarsens, and there was some sort of corridor heading South through the mysterious wooden phase which precedent the stone Stonehenge. So, we can be sure Noon\South was important at Stonehenge.

Sketch of Stonehenge showing the smallest Sarsen stone to the North of the Southern Entrance

Noon, derived from ‘nona hora’ in Latin and is ‘one of the seven fixed prayer times in traditional Christian denominations.’ (Wikipedia)

Strangely, North, somehow, has come to be the principal direction, the one that is shown on all decent maps, and the one that people of my generation and hemisphere think of as being ‘up’. The Google generation sees things differently. You have to fight with Google Maps to get it to put North at the top of the map, and all over Britain, tourist maps on walls or plinths, increasingly show up as being the way you are looking and nothing to do with North. My children mock me when I say ‘You come out of the Tube station and you turn up the High street Northwards.’ Their view of maps is completely relational – you turn left out of the tube station, you walk past the M&S. you cross the road and walk along the park. They do not see any reason to know where the cardinal points are. Although I see this as being part of the Decline of the West, and ‘things were better in my day’, it is simply returning to the way maps were produced in the past.

Representation of a Roman Map with the top being roughly East.
Representation of a Roman Map with the top being roughly East.

The four points of the Compass are called the cardinal points: “chief, pivotal,” early 14c., from Latin cardinalis “principal, chief, essential,” (online etymological dictionary).

Of course, there is another version of the cardinal points: the magnetic cardinal points. The magnetic cardinal points wanders over time and does not coincide with geographic north. In recent times they are close enough, but in the past there have been huge variations and occasionally the earth has had geomagnetic reversals when the north pole has pointed in different directions, including southwards. The last one was 780,000 years ago, and they take place on average very roughly every 500,000 years. The magnetic pole is caused by the molten iron in the earth’s core and mantle, which creates a dipole. Fluctuations in the dynamo flow of the molten iron cause occasional reverses. The science is very complicated and, even now, not entirely understood. Is it a random consequence of flow dynamics? Or do external events, like sinking continents, or meteor strikes cause the reversal? Of course, since the first use of compasses for navigation in the 11th/12th Centuries,  the magnetic pole hasn’t wandered enough to be of concern to navigation. It has wondered a few hundred miles of over the last 500 years but is speeding up, from 9km a year to 52km (since 1970).

Cavit – Own work Observed pole positions taken from Newitt et al., “Location of the North Magnetic Pole in April 2007“, Earth Planets Space, 61, 703–710, 2009 Modelled pole positions taken from the National Geophysical Data Center, “Wandering of the Geomagnetic Poles” Map created with GMT Wiipedia CC BY 4.0

My first proper job after university was as a technician then research assistant at Oxford University studying these phenomena. I say ‘proper’ because when I left University, I became an itinerant archaeologist, digging in Switzerland, Northampton, East Anglia and Nottingham before I got the job at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, Keble College, Oxford.

I worked for Dr. Mike Barbetti who was an expert on the wanderings of the Magnetic Pole. His interest was firstly in the pure science of the subject, but he was keen to explore the applied uses of the science to Archaeology as well. So, after being appointed as a Research Fellow at Oxford, he set up an epic journey from his native Australia to Oxford that went via some of the iconic sites of Palaeolithic Archaeology, such as Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, site of excavations by Mary and Louis Leakey.

In order to plot the movements of the magnetic north, scientists needed dated samples, and early human sites provided dated sites over a long timespan. Also, archaeomagnetism, as the discipline became known, offered the possibility of dating sites. Another application was to determine whether deposits were fired or not. One of the sites Mike sampled was a candidate for the first evidence of fire in human existence. But was the scorched earth actually scorched rather than just discoloured?

As I said, Mike’s interest was discovering how the magnetic field of the earth changed over time, and, more importantly, what was the mechanism. He shipped back to Oxford samples of soil cast in Plaster of Paris. My job was to cut the samples up and to measure the strength and direction of the magnetic field in the samples. I cut them up with an electric saw in a shed in the backyard of the Laboratory, and then we used a mini-computer to measure the direction and intensity of the magnetic field in the samples.

Soil contains particles of iron, and they align randomly, so a sample of soil has a low magnetic intensity and a random direction of magnetic field. But once heated up, the iron particles align to the current direction of the magnetic pole and its intensity is proportional to the intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field. These measurements provide a method of plotting the changes of the magnetic field over time. And from these data, models could be constructed explaining how the iron in the earth’s core worked as a giant magnet.

We could, therefore, tell if a sample of soil had been heated by fire. Once we had built a reference curve for the movements of the direction of the magnetic pole and the changing intensity of the magnetic pole we might be able to develop another dating method to rival radio carbon, thermoluminescence, and tree ring dating, all of which were being developed at the Research Laboratory in Oxford.

Having got the results, I then typed them up onto machine-readable cards, took them to the Oxford University Computer Centre with a copy on cards of the programme written in Fortran, and gave them to the Computing Staff. They were run through the Centre’s mainframe computer which was probably an IBM or ICL computer, and 24 hours later I received a print-out to proofread. When I located mistakes, I ran an editing run of punched cards, essentially instructing the computer: ‘on card two replace 2.5 with 2.6, and run the programme again’. I would pick up the results 24 hour hours later. It seems extraordinarily primitive now, but then it was an enormous saving of time.

And that, patient reader, was my early contribution to Digital Heritage and pure science. We published at least three articles in the prestigious Science Journal Nature. And it is slightly annoying that my citations in the groves of academia are still dominated by articles I co-wrote in the late 1970s!

The work was important in the development of the study of the earth’s magnetic field. However, the use of archaeomagnetism in archaeology has never risen above strictly limited. Occasionally, in specific circumstances, it can be useful, but those circumstances tend to be times when no other methods came up with the goods and most often in attempting to date kilns.

These are the papers:

Barbetti. M and K. Flude, ‘Palaeomagnetic Field Strengths from Sediments baked by Lava flows of the Chaine des Puys, France.’ Nature, Vol. 278 No 5700. 1979

Barbetti. M and K. Flude, ‘Geomagnetic Variation during the Late Pleistocene Period and changes in the radiocarbon time scale.’ Nature, Vol. 279 No 5710. 1979

Barbetti M., Y. Taborin, B. Schmider and K. Flude ‘Archaeomagnetic Results from Late Pleistocene Hearths at Etoilles and Marsangy, France’. Archaeometry 22. 1980

First written March 2023, revised 21st March 2024

The Spring Equinox March 20th

Video by Heike Herbert of Druids at the Spring Equinox at Tower Hill, London

So, Spring has sprung, not only meteorologically speaking but also astronomically. We are 20 days into the meteorological Spring which started on 1 March and now starting the astronomical or solar Spring. The 20th of March is the Spring Equinox, or Vernal Equinox, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Summer Solstice. The sun has been rising further north each day since December 21st, and it now rises due East, and sets due West, The day and night are roughly equal in length although by no means exactly. At 3.30pm today, the Sun was directly overhead at the Equator.

The term vernal comes from the Latin for Spring, and today is the primavera, the first day of Spring. The Anglo-Saxons originally used the word lencthen (Lent) for Spring, but later adopted the idea of the ‘springing’ of the year when the plants bud. In Middle English, the word Spring was also used for sunrise, the waxing of the moon, the rising tides (spring tides) as well as the sprouting of the beard and the first appearance of pubic hair! Happy Spring Time!

Up to the 15th Century, the English also used the French term ‘prime-temps’ in the sense of ‘first times’. This follows the idea that the year is young, while Winter represents old age. As we shall see, on March 25th, there was also a belief that the world was created in Spring at what became the Equinox (after God created it!), and Jesus was also conceived at this point of the annual cycle.

Zodiacally, if that is a word, Spring is Aries (brave and impulsive); Taurus (sensual and stubborn), and Gemini (dynamic and talented).

Druids at the Spring Equinox Tower Hill London, Photo by Heike Herbert
Druids at the Spring Equinox Tower Hill London, Photo by Heike Herbert

The modern druids have been out at their annual Spring Equinox festival at Tower Hill already today (or so the Daily Mail, but I will not give you a link to that perfidious rag). I have a picture of the ceremony from when I attended many years ago, but, Heike Herbert, who seems to be always travelling around the world, was in the UK for long enough to attend the Druid Festival last year and has kindly let me use photos for this post.

When I last went to the ceremony I remember noting, with some distaste, that the druid costumes seemed to be made with nylon sheets, and their footware was mostly plimsolls. I see the nylon has at least been replaced with cotton, and the plimsolls with trainers. Not quite sure what that pair of black trainers are doing in the picture! Photos of this year’s ceremony suggest a better sartorial turn out.

I say modern druids because there is no convincing evidence that the modern fellowships of Druids can trace their origins back to prehistory. Druidry was reinvented in the 18th Century — for example, the Ancient Order of Druids was formed in 1781. They were set up as societies in the tradition of the Freemasons and with a belief in the fundamental importance of nature. However, the British Circle of the Universal Bond, claim descent from a group persecuted by the Bishop of Oxford in 1166. Look at their website for more details and for an idea of their beliefs.

As to when the Equinox first had importance for human society, the answer is, probably, at least as long as we have been reasoning creatures. On January 24th, I draw attention to a recent discovery suggesting evidence for a Palaeolithic Calendar. This is what I wrote:

But recently, evidence of a Palaeolithic Calendar has been uncovered by an ‘amateur’ studying markings in cave paintings at Lascaux, Altamira and other caves. Furniture maker Ben Bacon has collaborated with Professors at UCL and Durham and interpreted markings which suggest the use of a lunar calendar to mark the time of the year when particular animals gave birth. A Y shaped mark is interpreted as meaning ‘giving birth’ and the number of dots or dashes drawn by or in the outline of the animal or fish has been shown to coincide with the time of the year that the wild creature gives birth. For further details, follow this link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/

At Stonehenge, in the old Car Park, they found three huge Pine post-holes in a line, erected in the Mesolithic period. They align to the direction of the Mid-Summer Sunrise and Mid-Winter Sunset (NNE/SSW) IF, and it’s a big IF, you were sighting from Stonehenge itself, which was built some 5000 years in the future.

Imaginary reconstruction of the Carpark Postholes

It is a bit of a stretch using two pieces of evidence so far apart in time but recent excavations have revealed that there are, on the site of Stonehenge, natural periglacial striations in the soft chalk bedrock which themselves point to the Solstices. These not only predate Stonehenge but also the three post holes, and may well have been visible from the time they were created when the glaciers melted.

Around 12,000 years ago (date from my memory so approximate), the climate changed and the glaciers melted. This left a lot of water rushing around the landscape. At Stonehenge, it gouged out striations in the chalk. By chance, or as ordered by the Gods/Goddesses/Divine Nature, the striations pointed to the Solstice Axis, just at a place where the Gods/Goddesses/Divine Nature provided super-abundance in the guise of herds of Aurochs, which are huge wild cows. Richard Jacques excavations in the vicinity of Stonehenge have revealed that the aurochs came to the Stonehenge area for grazing and water. Each one had enough meat on them to feed 200 people. So, by 8,000 BC we have what might constitute proof of recognition of the significance of the major movements of the Sun.

Foreground shows the periglacial striations aligned on the Solstice. Source Current Archaeology?

This is confirmed by the alignment of many megalithic monuments dating from 3,600 BC onwards, including, of course, Stonehenge. Also, all around the UK are long barrows and other burial mounds, many of which are indeed sighted/sited E-W to the Equinoxes. Many are fairly approximate, but at Loughcrew, County Meath in Ireland the Vernal Equinox shines right into the burial chamber, onto a stone marked by stone carvings. Similar alignments are recorded at Knowth and Dowth in the Boyne Valley.

The Equinox also has another role, which is to be the anchor of the cardinal points – North, South, East, West, when there is a harmony, a balance in the world, and therefore a fortunate, a lucky time, a time to fall in love or undertake notable undertakings. Of course, as the Christian world awaits the commemoration of the death of the Messiah, marriage has to wait a little longer.

First Written in March 2023, and revised in March 2024

Ice age Lunar Calendar in the Palaeolithic (20,000 years ago) 14th January

The Moon over 28 days

The alignment of neolithic and Bronze Age monuments shows that there was a calendar of the year in use at the time of Stonehenge and other megalithic monuments. There are also suggestions in the Stonehenge area that there were alignments with the Midsummer and Midwinter Solstices further back in the Mesolithic period.

But last year, evidence of a Palaeolithic Calendar has been uncovered by an ‘amateur’ studying markings in cave paintings at Lascaux, Altamira and other caves.

Sketch of 23,000 year old cave painting, below the head of the animal are  dots which arethought to be lunar months of the mating season
Sketch of 23,000 year old cave painting, below the head of the animal are 4 dots which are thought to be lunar months of the mating season

Furniture maker Ben Bacon has collaborated with Professors at UCL and Durham and interpreted markings which suggest the use of a lunar calendar to mark the mating season of particular animals. A Y shaped mark he interpreted as meaning ‘giving birth’ and the number of dots or dashes drawn by or in the outline of the animal or fish has been shown to coincide with the mating season of the animals depicted on the walls of the caves. They determined this by studying the mating season of modern animals.

For further details, follow this link:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/

Archive of Events and Walks (2024)

I keep an archive of the walks I have done each year. This is the first entry for 2024.

My new year’s resolutions for my walks are:

  1. Make the Virtual tours shorter.
  2. Try some new technology to make the virtual tours more like a walk.
  3. Begin publishing them.

I should note that 1 and 3 have long been on my list of desired improvements.

Ring in the New Year Virtual Walk

Old New Year Card


Monday 1st January 2024 7.00pm
On this Virtual 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 2024

ROMAN LONDON – A LITERARY & ARCHAEOLOGICAL WALK

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

Sunday 21st Jan & 3rd March 2023 11.30 am Monument Underground Station

Our Guides will be Publius Ovidius Naso and Marcus Valerius Martialis who will be helped by Kevin Flude, former Museum of London Archaeologist, Museum Curator and Lecturer.

To book

We disembark at the Roman Waterfront by the Roman Bridge, and then explore the lives of the citizens as we walk up to the site of the Roman Town Hall, and discuss Roman politics. We proceed through the streets of Roman London, with its vivid and cosmopolitan street life via the Temple of Mithras to finish with Bread and Circus at the Roman Amphitheatre.

REVIEWS
“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


Jane Austen’s London Sunday Jan 21st 2.30 pm Green Park underground station,

Georgian female engraving

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


Myths, Legends, Archaeology and the Origins of London

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

Sunday 4th February & Saturday 23 March 2024 11.30pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the stories of our changing ideas about the origins of London during the Prehistoric, Roman and Saxon periods.

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 and was called New Troy, which became corrupted to Trinovantum. This name was recorded in the words of Julius Caesar; and, then, according to Legend, the town was renamed after King Ludd and called Lud’s Dun. Antiquarians and Archaeologists have taken centuries to demolish this idea, and became convinced London was founded by the Romans. Recently, dramatic evidence of a Bronze Age presence in London was found.

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. which the paucity of archaeological remains struggles to debunk.

The walk will explore these stories and compare the myths and legends with Archaeological discoveries.

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

Tudor London – The City of Wolf Hall

Sunday 4th February 2024 2.15pm Barbican Underground Station

Tudor London – The City of Wolf Hall Virtual Tour Sunday 4th February 2024 7.30 pm To book

Thomas Bilney martyred in Smithfield. Black and white engraving
Thomas Bilney martyred in Smithfield.



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 during the Anne Boleyn years.


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 of 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 were burnt, and later, where Puritans preached against 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, overlooking where Anne Boleyn was incarcerated in the Tower of London

The Leap Year Pub Walk Thurs 6pm 29 February 2024 Tower Hill Underground

Sketch of the text 29 February, in brown and black
Sketched from a photo by simple-aign on pixaby

Thurs, 29 February 2024, 6pm Tower Hill Underground

We explore London, the Leap Year and 29th February through history
A strange amazing day – and walk – that comes only once every four years. For the rest of the time it does not “exist.” A day – and walk – of temporal tune-up. A day – and walk – of unlocked potential. A day – and a walk – of unlocked London.

As the Sun, Moon and Seasons have different cycles and don’t fit into a set number of days, Londoners have had to cope with fixes to their Calendars to align the Cosmos with everyday life. As we walk through the streets of the ancient City of London, we explore how Londoners organised and celebrated their year throughout history

One of the most popular forms of publication in London was the Almanac. It was full of seasonal advice, of prophecy, traditional wisdom, and important events past and future. We will look at Almanacs and Diaries to find how Londoners spent their Leap Year.

We start with the Romans at the City Wall, near the Tower of London, and walk through history until we reach a historic pub to celebrate the New Year.

The Leap Year Almanac of the Past Pub Walk is led by Kevin Flude, a lecturer, curator and former archaeologist at the Museum of London. Join him to explore London’s History through its celebrations, festivals, calendars and almanacs.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk.

Roman London – A Literary & Archaeological Walk Sun 11.30 am 3rd March 2024 Monument Underground Station To book
Jane Austen’s London Sun 2.30 pm 3rd March 2024 Green Park Underground station (Green Park Exit. Fountain in Green Park), To book
Myths, Legends, Archaeology and the Origins of London Sunday 11.30am 23rd March 2024 Tower Hill Underground

London. 1066 and All That Walk

Black and white engraving of Chapel of St Johns Tower of London
Old illustration Chapel of St Johns Tower of London


Sunday 2.30pm 23rd March 2024 Blackfriars Underground Station
The Archaeological Walk that explores the City of London at the end of the Saxon period and at the beginning of the Norman.

The Norman Conquest of 1066 defines Britain in a way unmatched by any other event. And on this walk we explore the London that William conquered and how he changed England for all time.

London was England’s most important City, but not yet the capital. It was crucial to William in his attempt to conquer the realm. But his army could not fight their way across the heavily defended London Bridge after the defeat of the English King, Harold, at the Battle of Hastings.

The future of England was in the balance as he ravaged the country seeking a way across the river and to persuade the English that resistance was hopeless.

Once across the river, the English leaders sued for peace, and William was crowned at the newly built Westminster Abbey. The English hoped for a strong King who would rule with the people. But William began by building Castles to oppress the Citizens, and soon swept aside the English Aristocracy and establishment and replaced them with the Conquerors.

This was a death blow to Anglo-Saxon culture, but the City made an accommodation with the new regime and the first Lord Mayor of London was an Englishman.

So, on the walk we explore the Late Saxon City of London, and how it changed in the last 11th and 12th Centuries.

Walk is by Kevin Flude, former Archaeologist at the Museum of London
Kevin

Chaucer’s Medieval London Guided Walk

Medieval Newgate reconstruction painting
Medieval Newgate


Sunday 7th April 2024 11.30pm & Saturday 6th July 2.30 Aldgate Underground

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

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

Ring in the New Year Virtual Walk

Old New Year Card


Monday 1st January 2024 7.00pm
On this Virtual 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 virtual 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 History until we get to St Pauls Cathedral

The London Winter Solstice Virtual Tour

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


Fri 22 Dec 2023 19:30


We explore London’s History through its celebrations, festivals, calendars and almanacs of the Winter Solstice


Winter Solstice festivals have 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 world entered bleak mid winter. The Roman season was presided over by Janus, a two headed God who looked both backwards and forwards, and Dickens based his second great Christmas Book on the renewal that the New Year encouraged.

We look at London’s past to see where and how the Solstice might be celebrated. We also explore the different 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 London winter traditions and folklore.

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

To Book:

Jane Austen’s London Walk

Georgian female engraving

Jane Austen’s London Walk

a Special Christmas version on 23 December 2023 & normal one on 21st January

Sat 2.30 pm Green Park underground station, London (By the Fountain, just outside the Green Park exit of the Tube Station)

To Book:

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

To Book:

Christmas With Jane Austen Virtual London Tour

12th Night


Saturday 23 December 2023 7.30pm

We look at how Jane Austen spent Christmas and at Georgian Christmas traditions and amusements.

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

This is a special walk, which looks at the traditions of Christmas during the Regency period and how Jane Austen might have celebrated it. It will give some background to Jane Austen’s life and her knowledge of London. We used her novels and her letters to find out what she might have done at Christmas, but also at how Christmas was kept in this period, and the range of ‘Curiosities, Amusements, Exhibitions, Public Establishments, and Remarkable Objects in and near London available to enjoy.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk by Kevin Flude, Museum Curator and Lecturer.

Review: ‘Thanks, again, Kevin. These talks are magnificent!’

To Book:


Roman London – A Literary & Archaeological Walk Saturday 16 Dec & 21st Jan 2023 11.30 am Monument Underground Station To book

Dickens London. Life, Work and Christmas Virtual Tour

Wassail Bowl being brought in by a Servant into a dining hall on Christmas Day
From ‘Old Christmas’ by Washington Irving


Friday 15th December 2023 7.30pm


A Virtual Tour of Dickens London with a dash of Dickensian Christmas

The Virtual Tour weaves an exploration of Victorian London with Dickens London Life and writing. On the tour we have a look at London at Christmas and the contribution Dickens made to it by his Christmas Books

Dickens writing always has a moral element as exemplified by his Christmas Books. ‘Christmas Carol’ was based on redemption and his second great Christmas Book ‘The Chimes’ on the renewal that the New Year encouraged.

We start in Southwark, visit sites associated with the Christmas Books and others and end at Staple Inn with the Christmas Book ‘The Haunted Man’.

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 History

Grecian Winter – Hesiod’s Works & Days December 15th

Abney Park cemetary in winter
Abney Park cemetery in winter photo by Harriet Salsibury

Hesiod is a contemporary of Homer, and therefore one of the first European poets, one of the first commentators on Greek life, thought, religion, mythology, farming and time keeping. ‘Works and Days’ is his Farmers Almanac and therefore long overdue an appearance on my Almanac of the Past.

Hesiod’s poems also introduce the idea of the epoch, past glorious epochs of Gold and Bronze with a further descent to his own epoch which was of the base metal age of Iron. In the 19th Century, European antiquarians, imbued with a humanist belief in Progress, developed the idea of Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, an almost direct opposite of Hesiod’s, downhill-all-the-way to the present idea.

Hesiod also brings in early references to Prometheus and Pandora, two of the great myths of the flaws of humanity. And please read

This is what he says of Winter. It is from a translation by Christopher Kelk, available to download here (I have added line breaks after full stops, just for ease of reading.)

…. you should make
A detour during winter when the cold
Keeps men from work, for then a busy man
May serve his house. Let hardship not take hold,
Nor helplessness, through cruel winter’s span,
Nor rub your swollen foot with scrawny hand.

An idle man will often, while in vain
He hopes, lacking a living from his land,
Consider crime. A needy man will gain
Nothing from hope while sitting in the street
And gossiping, no livelihood in sight.

Say to your slaves in the midsummer heat:
“There won’t always be summer, shining bright –
Build barns.” Lenaion’s evil days, which gall
The oxen, guard yourself against. Beware
Of hoar-frosts, too, which bring distress to all
When the North Wind blows, which blasts upon the air
In horse-rich Thrace and rouses the broad sea,
Making the earth and woods resound with wails.

He falls on many a lofty-leafed oak-tree
And on thick pines along the mountain-vales
And fecund earth, the vast woods bellowing.
The wild beasts, tails between their legs, all shake.

Although their shaggy hair is covering
Their hides, yet still the cold will always make
Their way straight through the hairiest beast.

Straight through
An ox’s hide the North Wind blows and drills
Through long-haired goats. His strength, though, cannot do
Great harm to sheep who keep away all chills
With ample fleece. He makes old men stoop low
But soft-skinned maids he never will go through –
They stay indoors, who as yet do not know
Gold Aphrodite’s work, a comfort to
Their darling mothers, and their tender skin
They wash and smear with oil in winter’s space
And slumber in a bedroom far within
The house, when in his cold and dreadful place
The Boneless gnaws his foot (the sun won’t show
Him pastures but rotate around the land
Of black men and for all the Greeks is slow
To brighten).

That’s the time the hornèd and
The unhorned beasts of the wood flee to the brush,
Teeth all a-chatter, with one thought in mind –
To find some thick-packed shelter, p’raps a bush
Or hollow rock. Like one with head inclined
Towards the ground, spine shattered, with a stick
To hold him up, they wander as they try
To circumvent the snow.

As I ordain,
Shelter your body, too, when snow is nigh –
A fleecy coat and, reaching to the floor,
A tunic. Both the warp and woof must you
Entwine but of the woof there must be more
Than of the warp. Don this, for, if you do,
Your hair stays still, not shaking everywhere.

Be stoutly shod with ox-hide boots which you
Must line with felt. In winter have a care
To sew two young kids’ hides to the sinew
Of an ox to keep the downpour from your back,
A knit cap for your head to keep your ears
From getting wet.

It’s freezing at the crack
Of dawn, which from the starry sky appears
When Boreas drops down: then is there spread
A fruitful mist upon the land which falls
Upon the blessed fields and which is fed
By endless rivers, raised on high by squalls.

Sometimes it rains at evening, then again,
When the thickly-compressed clouds are animated
By Thracian Boreas, it blows hard. Then
It is the time, having anticipated
All this, to finish and go home lest you
Should be enwrapped by some dark cloud, heaven-sent,
Your flesh all wet, your clothing drenched right through.

This is the harshest month, both violent
And harsh to beast and man – so you have need
To be alert. Give to your men more fare
Than usual but halve your oxen’s feed.
The helpful nights are long, and so take care.

Keep at this till the year’s end when the days
And nights are equal and a diverse crop

Keep at this till the year’s end when the days
And nights are equal and a diverse crop
Springs from our mother earth and winter’s phase
Is two months old and from pure Ocean’s top
Arcturus rises, shining, at twilight.

Hesiod’s Works and Days: Translation Christopher Kelk

Acturus is not seen in winter, and in the Northern Hemisphere its rising (50 days after the winter solstice) and has always been associated with the advent of spring.

Boreas was the winged God of the North wind, which bore down from the cold Mountains of Thrace (north of Macedonia). One of his daughters, Khione, was the Goddess of Snow. Lenaion was associated with January one of the festivals of Dionysus, and a theatrical season in Athens particularly for comedy.

Roman Bust of Hesiod (Wikipedia photo by Yair Hakla) Neues Museum

First published 15th December 2022, republished December 2023.

London Before London and DNA

Photo of the Petrous part of the temporal bone

I have just given a guided walk and a virtual tour of London in the prehistoric period. I rashly promised, as follow-up, a booklist. I have many books that I have found pivotal in shaping my own opinions, but I find myself very reluctant to recommend them in the light of the remarkable new, and recent, DNA discoveries.

The cause of this ‘revolution’ is the Petrous Bone – a small bone in/near the ear from which scientists can extract, without too much damage to ancient skeletons, a reliable source of ancient DNA. Previous studies were done on modern DNA and extrapolating backwards. Now, archaeologists can, relatively cheaply, investigate (and often debunk) archaeological theories about the spread of human cultures.

It is a salutary story. Early archaeologists had, what you might call, a colonial, diffusionist model of the past. So when a new culture was identified, normally on the back of the arrival of a new form of pottery. It was interpreted as being spread by diffusion, normally from the ‘civilised’ fertile crescent to barbaric pre-literate Europe. Hence, Stonehenge was thought to be built by a prince from Mycenae, on the basis of the Lion Gate in Mycenae having vague similarities with the Trilithons at Stonehenge (and other diffused cultural markers). And with a viewpoint, that the uncivilised Britons would not be able to build something so amazing!

Archaeologists in the 1970s rejected this imperialist model and preferred to think that cultures need not depend on advances from their betters, nor should ‘invasion’ be allowed to be the main means of technical and cultural advancement. The advent of Radio Carbon Dating profoundly affected how the past was dated, and showed that diffusionist chronologies, often, did not stand up. And thus Stonehenge was freed from cultural imperialism, and we Brits could take all the credit. And Prehistory lost a whole host of ‘invasions’ and ‘migrations’, and a start was also made on diminishing the centrality of the ‘invasions’ at the core of the Anglo/Saxon/Viking migrations into Briton.

Along comes the petrous bone and the development of the study of Ancient DNA, and we discover, in the last couple of years, that:

  1. The ancestors of Britons were dark to black skinned
  2. Farming was indeed introduced from the Continent, around 4000BC and the DNA of the UK was largely (but not completely) replaced by incomers. So it was not the Mesolithic hunter gathers who adopted farming but the ‘Western Neolithic’ people who settled bringing in sheep, cows, goats, pigs, wheat, oats, rye, barley, polished axes and pottery.
  3. The Beaker Folk, DNA now tells us, came from abroad around 2,500 BC. Originally from the Steppes via the Netherlands, and their DNA replaced all but 10% of the Western Neolithic DNA. This happened at about the same time as Stonehenge was remodelled with the giant Trilithons.
  4. Another influx of people from around 1300BC to 800BC replaced around 50% of the DNA of Britain.

So we now have at least 3 major population replacements before the coming of the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. Very annoying to find that those old-fashioned imperial archaeologists of the early 20th Century had it more correct than the enlightened archaeologists of the Late 20th Century.

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

So to my book list. Firstly, you will have noted above that I have linked the stories to reliable websites, so you can get further information. Here are a few other important websites:

Neolithic Houses at the Horton site at the Wessex archaeology site

Archaeology of Heathrow Terminal 5 https://framearch.co.uk/

Bronze Age Bridges at Dorney: https://heritageportal.buckinghamshire.gov.uk

Vauxhall Mesolithic and Bronze Ages Structures: https://www.vauxhallandkennington.org.uk/

Principle Place Feasting Site?: https://www.independent.co.uk/

Hill forts in the London Area: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk/

As to books, I suggest the best start is to read Mike Parker Pearson’s ‘Stonehenge A Brief History, Bloomsbury Academic 2023’ because it is up-to-date and Pearson has considered the DNA studies noted above.

For similar reasons and for a more general introduction to Britain in the Prehistoric period, you could try:

Roberts, Alice ‘Ancestors: A Prehistory Of Britain In Seven Burials ‘ Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd 2022

which has good reviews, but I have not yet read it.

I know that neither is about London, but the only ‘book’ on Prehistoric London I have is:

Merriman, N ‘Prehistoric London’ Museum Of London, 1991

And this is more of a booklet than a full academic book. There is another book, but then it was published in 1914:

Prehistoric London : its mounds and circles / by E.O. Gordon ; with appendices by John Griffith. Volume c.1 1914

For the period just before the Roman Invasion, I would highly recommend reading Julius Caesar’s opinions on Prehistoric Britain.

Caesar, Julius (ed Anne & Peter Wiseman). ‘The Battle For Gaul’ Chatto And Windus Ltd, London 1989

Peter Wiseman was my Professor at University, and it is an excellent introduction, still available new but also cheaply second hand at Abebooks.

You will find some interesting, relevant passages in my book:

Flude, Kevin ‘In Their Own Words – A Literary Companion To The Origins Of London’ D A Horizons, 2009

You can buy a hardback copy from me for £5 plus postage (email me, kpflude@chr.org.uk) or from Amazon in a Kindle version.

I will add more as I find them!

Cover of Kevin Flude's 'In their Own Words'
A Literary Companion to the origins of London

New Walk for Next Week – 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

To Book:

Upton Lovell Shaman becomes a Goldsmith

‘Materials in movement: gold and stone in process in the Upton Lovell G2a burial’

Upton lovell 'shaman' display wiltshire museum
Screenshot from Wiltshire Museum web site

The journal Antiquity reports amazing discoveries in a paper called : Materials in movement: gold and stone in process in the Upton Lovell G2a burial and citing that the paper is

‘advancing a new materialist approach, we identify a goldworking toolkit, linking gold, stone and copper objects within a chaîne opératoire,

Setting aside what ‘new materialism’ and ‘chaîne opératoire’ are for the moment. Briefly, their analysis of the objects found in the Bronze Age burial of two people evidence that the person(s) identified as a ‘shaman’ on the basis of clothing/jewellery was (as well?) a gold worker. What is amazing is that they were using Neolithic axes which would have been hundreds of years old to make gold sheets. There was also evidence interpreted as tattooing instruments. As Upton Lovell is 12 miles from Stonehenge it means this is big news in the archaeological world, making most of the newspapers.

The authors dig deeper into the meaning of ‘New materialism’:

‘This approach advances on traditional technological studies in two ways. First, whereas materials are usually approached as having fixed properties, new materialists argue that these properties emerge relationally; they change through time and in combination with other materials, people and places (cf. Barad Reference Barad2007; Bennett Reference Bennett2010). Second, ‘making’ is seen not as the simple imposition of the will of a maker on an inert material but, instead, materials play an active role in the process.’

Widipedia gives a definition of chaîne opératoire

To put it more simply objects have complicated histories and contexts. You might also like to look at the original article (link below) which is written in a very strange style which gives the objects agency ‘an active role in the process’. Below is the conclusions of the article.

Conclusions

Drawing on microwear, residue analysis and new materialist theory, we have reassessed the Upton Lovell G2a grave assemblage. The empirical techniques attend to the materials, which are reinvigorated by situating them within this emergent theoretical landscape. These approaches reveal how the grave goods disclose an intertwining set of processes. Never static, these objects changed and shifted, requiring modification, repair and reuse. They speak to a complex interweaving of bodies—human and non-human—and their varied histories. There is far more complexity here, in relations, histories, gestures and processes, than could ever be captured under the label ‘shaman’, ‘metalworker’ or ‘goldsmith’. Grave goods are more than representations of a person’s identity. They are more even than critical relations in the construction of identity (cf. Brück Reference Brück2019). What these grave goods stress, when attention is paid to their stories, is quite different. They speak of material journeys, the colour of stone and the texture of gold capturing relations that flow across landscapes. Collectively, as an assemblage, these stone tools reveal a process of goldworking. But this goldworking involves as much the working of stone, in the shaping and upkeep of tools, as it does of metal. Here, we emphasise the repetitive and iterative nature of our chaîne opératoire, each action calling into being further moments of renewal of the polished stone surfaces so essential to the qualities other materials elicited. This goldworking chaîne opératoire is multi-material; it is as much a process in stone working as it is in the working of metal. From this perspective, the similarities in processing and working gold and stone mean that the former emerges as far more like the latter than our modern taxonomies would suggest.’

Materials in movement: gold and stone in process in the Upton Lovell G2a burial

If we analyse this conclusion based on the literary idea of ‘Point of View‘ you will see that the POV of the piece above is just bonkers. There is the ‘we’ of the authors, and the ‘they’ of the objects. ‘They’ are speaking to ‘bodies – human and non-human’. ‘They’ even have the ability to ‘stress’ an issue once ‘attention is paid to their stories’ and to be ‘reinvigorated’.

But its a very interesting find and analysis and does remind us that things are much more complicated than we realise.

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

The London Equinox and Solstice Walk

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


Tuesday June 21st 2022 7.30 pm Tower Hill Underground Station
(meet by the Tower Hill Tram coffee stand) |


We explore London’s History through its celebrations, festivals, calendars, almanacs and its myths and legends.


As the Sun and Moon move around our skies we look at how Londoners organised and celebrated their year throughout history.

The tour is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, Curator and Lecturer

One of the most popular forms of publication in London was the Almanac. It was full of seasonal advice, of prophecy, traditional wisdom, and important events past and future. Different cultures, religions and institutions had their own methods of organisation and celebrations. We explore the varied calendars that ruled people’s lives from the prehistoric period to the present.

On the way we look at customs, and folklore of the Celts, Romans, Saxons, and into the Medieval and Modern period. We look at different calendars such as the Pagan year, the Egyptian year, the Roman, Christian, Jewish, Church and Financial years. On the route we discover the people who lived in London and walk through fascinating areas with their deep histories.

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

To Book: click here