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Spend the day…..on the Circle Line (Part 3)

Even a London walking tour guide like myself can see the benefits of sitting in a tube train and making your way from A-B, or in this case A-B-A as you go full circle on the aptly named Circle Line.

If you were to just sit on the train and do the loop it would take you just over an hour to pass through the 28 stations, which in itself can be an enjoyable way to spend the time, people watching, reading or even having a little snooze, safe from whatever the weather has to offer outside, but I’m proposing a full day out visiting each station and seeing something of it’s locality. There are links to help you get more information, and I’ve purposely left out all the major tourist attractions, as you can decide for yourself if you want to include them in this tour. Here’s part three. Previous parts can be found at Part one, Part two

Tower Hill: As you exit the underground your view is dominated by the Tower of London. I would really urge you to visit it as I liked what they’ve done with it in terms of the visitor experience. I remember so many dry boring school trips in the 60s and 70s. Now its all rather good and interactive in places, but they’ve stopped short of turning it into a theme park. So plan that for another day. Exit the station and turn right into Trinity Square and head towards the large hotel in front of you, just as Trinity Square becomes Cooper’s Row you will see the black portico of the hotel car port. Walk inside and through the covered area and in front of you is a remainder of the old City wall. There is another section next to the underground station, but it gets crowded and not many people know about this hidden section. Exit back onto Cooper’s Row and proceed along it with the hotel on your right, then turn left into nearby Pepys Street. Take the first left into the strangely named Savage Garden. You’ll be ok, there are no man eating plants here. It gets it’s name from the residence of Sir Thomas Savage who lived here with his wife and some of his thirteen children in the 1660s. You will find yourself back on Trinity Square. On your left is Trinity House . As you exit Savage Garden bear round to your right to enter Muscovy Street, then take the first right into Seething Lane. The gardens on your right is on the site of Samuel Pepys family home who’s foundations are somewhere under the large white building at the right hand side of the end of the street. You’re standing roughly where in 1666 at the sight of the encroaching Great Fire, Sammy panicked and buried all of his Parmesan Cheese to keep it safe. Walk to the end of the road and on your left is St Olave’s Church. Pepys had a covered walkway built from his house to the church, so he and his family could attend without getting wet during inclement weather and is the final resting place for both himself and his wife Elisabeth. Turn right into Crutched Friars and proceed under the railway arch of Fenchurch Street Station. The road directly in front of you is Crosswall (you’ll see why shortly) cross to the side with the old red post box. Just by its new counterpart you will see that the building has a series of sloping windows at street level. Peer into the basement of the building and you will see a set of Roman foundations of London Wall. Pre Covid there was a site where you could book to enter the basement to see them free of charge, but this appears to have been taken down and post Covid I’m not certain if you can now gain access. Retrace your steps back into Crutched Friars and continue along it until Rangoon Alley where you will see a statue of two of the Friars. From there the road ahead is known as Jewry Street, as during the 16th century it was a small Jewish enclave known as Poore Jurie. Had you been walking along it then it would have been much narrower, the medieval wall would have been on your right with tenement buildings on your left. Like today it would have lead you up to Aldgate and one of the main City gates. I’ve written about the Aldgate and the area that surrounds it in a post called ABC of City of London Wards. As you get to the junction with Aldgate High Street keep right and on the side of the Chemists you will see a plaque marking the rough position of the Aldgate. Cross Aldgate High Street and walk towards the church of St Botolph Without Aldgate. Continue along until you get to Aldgate underground station. As you descend to your train you are actually descending into one of London’s many plague pits. During the station’s excavations a vast jumble of bones were exhumed, as there were no grave markers and the bodies were all mixed up together it had all the hallmarks of hurried mass burials. If you think about it the guys paid to carry the plague ridden corpses out beyond the city walls aren’t going to travel too far before dropping off their cargo to return for another load. This far from the Aldergate probably seemed far enough and the proximity to the church probably showed a little respect to the dead.

Liverpool Street: Emerging from the station if you had been a medieval traveller you would have been just outside the west gate of the Priory Hospital of St Mary Bethlehem which was the first incarnation of the hospital better known as Bedlam. You’d be standing in pasture the stood beside the river Walbrook, which although unseen runs beneath your feet. Something slightly more modern is the statue in front of Liverpool Street mainline station which is in front of you. It commemorates the Kindertransport of the 1930s. Keeping the statue on your right continue along Liverpool Street named after former Prime Minister Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool. At Broad Street Place turn left and then take the first right into Finsbury Circus. This is a good place to stop for a while and there are a number of food outlets near where you can grab something to eat. Warning! product placement. The area you are in is called Moorgate, which was another of the City’s gates. I have written a tour of the area, and as before you can either download the tour onto your phone for an audio guided tour, There’s more to Moorgate: From Londinium to Edwardian London, or you can go to the A London Miscellany Tours website via There’s more to Moorgate to book a personally guided tour. Whatever you choose to do exit the gardens opposite where you entered and you’ll see Moorgate underground in front of you.

Barbican: As come up from the platform continue up the steps at ground level to the pedestrian walkway above and cross over the road . You are now entering the Barbican. The site has always fascinated me, it’s like a “how we will live in the future” from a 1960s TV program. Sometimes the look on peoples faces as I take them round the area is one of total amazement. It’s quite easy to get a bit lost up here. Wander around as you please, but eventually follow the signs that guide you to the Barbican Centre, a great place to sit outside and admire the lake, it’s fountains and the whole Brutalist estate in all it’s glory. As you look around, can you see the church on the opposite side of the lake? That’s St Giles Cripplegate and that’s the way you need to go. Walk to the furthest end of Lakeside Terrace keeping the Cafe on your left. On your left underneath the raised section is and entrance to a set of ramps which will eventually bring you to the Highwalk which will allow you to cross to the other side of the estate. Follow the Highwalk called Willoughby Highwalk keeping the church on your right until you reach the road called London Wall, you’ll still be above it but the Highwalk will follow it. Along the way you’ll see remains of the old Roman wall. Your destination is the rotunda that houses the Museum of London. Please find time to visit, it is an incredible repository concerning all aspects of London’s history and culture and it’s free. (The museum is proposing to move in 2024-25, so if you’re reading this after that date it won’t be there, and will have relocated to West Smithfield). The route back to Barbican underground is to your north and well signed, but should you wish to get your feet back onto lower ground exit the rotunda onto Aldersgate Street and continue along it until you reach the station.

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