Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Walk in the Footsteps of Kings and Queens ; JUSTIN CONNOLLY Takes a Fascinating Tour around a London District Bursting with History

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Walk in the Footsteps of Kings and Queens ; JUSTIN CONNOLLY Takes a Fascinating Tour around a London District Bursting with History

Article excerpt

ISTORY lurks around every corner in London.

HWalk any street and you will walk in footsteps laid down over hundreds of years, see things that have been around for centuries and have witnessed history in the making.

Sometimes it's obvious - we've all seen the tourist hotspots. But often this history is obscured, tucked away down secret passageways and in hidden squares. To me, that makes it all the more fascinating.

Join the British Heritage Tour guided walk from Dukes Hotel and you'll quickly discover why.

Dukes lies at the heart of London's 'royal village' of St James's, bounded by Piccadilly and St James's Park to the north and south, and Green Park and Haymarket to the east and west, the area has such a remarkable concentration of historic spots, it's actually quite hard to cover them all in the two hours our blue badge guide Sandy Rhodes of Hobnob Tours has to tell us all about them.

St James's Palace is the focus, of course. Built by Henry VIII in the 1530s, the Palace eventually became the monarch's official residence. It remains a working palace today.

And it's hard not to feel something as Sandy vividly describes how Elizabeth I spent the night here in 1588 prior to her journey to address the troops in Tilbury awaiting the Spanish Armada.

But the tour is not just about the monarchy - although the palace's presence here clearly spawned much of what grew in the surrounding area.

Many of the shops here boast royal warrants and have been established for hundreds of years - like Berry Bros. & Rudd wine merchants, which first opened on St James's Street in 1698. Sandy's stories about its history give the place a new and vivid colour.

We've walked these streets many times before, but the places she takes us to, and the stories she tells, turn them into a lively and vibrant living museum we see in an altogether different light.

After two amazing hours in which we learned all about not just the area's royal connections, but how Pall Mall gained its status as the prime location for London's famous Gentlemen's clubs, and how Henry Jermyn developed the area for commerce in the 1600s, we headed back to the hotel for some afternoon tea. …

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