Sunday, 29 September 2013

In Shardlake's Shoes...

It's Sunday again (where does the time go?) and I've been out and about today enjoying the lovely Autumn weather and indulging my passion for history and books in one fell swoop.

The City of London proved itself an excellent stage for Shardlake's City, a walking tour based on the novels of C.J. Sansom and his protagonist, Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer living in Tudor London. Blue Badge guide Paula met us this morning at the glorious Royal Courts of Justice and took us on a 2 hour odyssey back into 16th century London...

The Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street London
We visited Shardlake's 'home' at 124 Chancery Lane, the Inns of Courts where he plied his trade, the public houses frequented by his able assistant Barak and a whole range of locations pertinent to the five novels in the Shardlake series so far. Here are just a few pics...

Shardlake's offices were located at Lincoln's Inn in Chancery Lane, just a short walk from his front door....

...but he also petitioned at Gray's Inn and Clifford's Inn. The Prudential building actually housed one of the 'feeder' inns for London's legal profession.

The Old Mitre is representative of the back alley pubs where Barak, Shardlake's assistant, would have visited.

Shardlake's investigations took him all over the City of London, from Cromwell's corridors to the seedier parts of the city...

Clockwise from top left: Smithfields Market, site of public executions in the 16th century; getting our bearings coming out of St Bartholomew's; peering over the 'back fence' at St Bartholomew's Monastery and Chapel

Clockwise from top left: St Bartholomew's Hospital (with Henry VIII over the door), the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, the site of the infamous Newgate Prison (demolished in 1777) opposite the Old Bailey (right)

Near the end of the two hours, we approached one of our final stops on the tour, the Guildhall, to find that rather than a quiet square, the Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival was in full swing...


As the tour drew to a close in Poultry (which ended at the site of...ahem...Grope C*nt Lane - did what it says on the tin really) it was time for a well-earned coffee and chinwag. The conversation started with giving our guide Paula a bit of a grilling about the whys and wherefores of being a guide before weaving through subjects like architecture, book clubs and history just to name a few. It was a very pleasant way to cap off our shared walk through Shardlake's City together.

Finally, I headed for home, foot-sore and mind buzzing with all of the interesting tidbits that I'd learned about London over the course of the tour. As I sat on the tube going back to Finchley, I flicked through all of the photos I'd taken, reliving a fantastic three hours (including the post-tour coffee). And I marvelled at how a little girl from the other side of the world grew up to live in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

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If you like the sound of this tour, check out crossingthecity.co.uk and find out when the next Shardlake City tour - or any of the other tours in Paula's repertoire for that matter - is scheduled. You might just fall a little bit more in love with London yourself.

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