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Family days exploring London for free!

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The Step Outside Blog

As anyone who looks at our books will be aware, we love London and are passionate about helping other people to enjoy our city, through cost-free family days out.


A good few people have suggested that we write a blog about London things that have caught our attention, captured our hearts or made us think - or all of the above - so here it is.

We hope you enjoy it!

By Francesca Fenn, Aug 13 2015 02:04PM

We are aware that everyone who uses any Step Outside Guide appreciates the brilliant quality of the production of our books. This is entirely due to Margie's expertise in this area, learned through an illustrious career in publishing. Here are some great stories about her early days in the field:

By Margie Skinner

I started my career in publishing working for Macdonald & Co publishers based in London, EC1. Unfortunately the company name led to the common misapprehension that my job was serving burgers! In reality I was a secretary in the production department. I won’t tell you quite how long ago this was, but here are some clues……

Maxwell House was not only the eponymous name of the building I worked in (more of that in a minute), but also the coffee of choice. A ‘cappuccino’ was an exotic name bandied about by those recently back from Italy. There were no computers, but I felt chuffed that I had an electric typewriter! I also worked for a lady who had, it seemed, OCD when it came to letter presentation; I did a lot of re-typing! Fax was new, so much communication was by telex. This involved tedious hours queuing to feed a metal monster with a carefully nursed long paper strip peppered with holes.

And talking of monsters, the company was owned by a shy and retiring chap called Robert Maxwell. We would see him often, standing by his lift waiting to be whisked up to his penthouse office. There was one other lift in the building which served the hundreds of other staff! Maxwell anecdotes are legendary, but I was close to the source. One morning he sacked everyone in the company for threatening strike action – a decision delivered by letter onto our desks. But after a (presumably good) lunch there was another letter re-instating us! He accosted someone who had the audacity to smoke outside his office, asking him how much he earned a month and on hearing the reply whisked out a chequebook, writing the man a cheque for said amount and sending him off with ‘I never want to see you here again’. I don’t know if anyone ever told him that the man was not in fact an employee, but was a visiting printing rep who pocketed the cheque and was quite happy to never be seen there again!

Maxwell House was a short walk from Liverpool St Station, on the corner of Worship Street and Apold Street. To reach it from the station I would walk down a narrow dark alley, long since swallowed up by the new station design called, ironically, ‘Sun Street Passage’. The area has now changed beyond all recognition – and some might say that I have too – but I have fond memories of my time there. It was an interesting start to my journey in publishing; and instilled in me a resolution that I would never become a megalomaniac publishing magnate. So you are safe!

By Francesca Fenn, Jul 3 2015 07:53AM

As I write about memories of museums in London, I realise how significant it was that I went to them over and over again. To become familiar with such fantastic places was a huge privilege which I have always taken for granted, and it is only now that I am pondering on the whole experience, that I appreciate how lucky I was. Thanks Mum and Dad!

So, my last blog about museums is about the fabulous Science Museum. I loved going to the Science Museum! I loved the great hall with its huge engines and machines, and I especially loved watching the machines which were operating . I still love Victorian industrial machinery; the elegance in the design and pleasure in making working objects beautiful is something we have largely lost, and we are the poorer for it.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the Museum. Once we’d admired these magnificent beasts, we’d set off to explore. There were aeroplanes suspended high in the roof, space rockets and even a piece of moon rock. This was not in the least colourful or dramatic, but the knowledge it had been collected from the moon and brought back to earth made it awe- inspiring. There was floor after floor displaying everything scientific, from an old farm milking machine (complete with dummies working it) to models of ships through the ages – floor after floor of models, machines and demonstrations. There was a Foucault Pendulum suspended from the roof to the bottom of the central stairwell, which demonstrated the rotation of the earth. (I never really understood it, but I was impressed!). Once a day there was a high voltage demonstration, emitting a great flash and crash. Of course we never wanted to miss that.

My two top favourite galleries were the Children’s Gallery and the Coal Mine. The coal mine was in the basement, and was a mock-up of a real mine. The details have fuzzed with time, but the coal trucks, the rails and the safety door are still vivid, and the whole sense of adventure in entering the dark ‘mine’, and following the passage, has stayed with me. In reality, the coal mine probably wasn’t very large, but it seemed so at the time, and was always a highlight of our visit.

The Children’s Gallery was also in the basement and was an area devoted to introducing scientific concepts to children. Less ergonomic and colourful than the Launchpad of today, it still provided loads of fun with things to pull, push, press and generally fiddle with. It was very pleasing to be able to lift a ton – albeit very slowly – through the gift of gearing! There was sound frequency booth where we could test our audible frequency range – and where, more importantly, we could also make ‘alien’ sounds.

The Science Museum has changed considerably, as have both scientific progress and museum presentation. It is more colourful, more ‘user-friendly’ and more crowded. But it is still a fantastic experience, it is still free and it is still a wonderful place for children – and adults - to encounter all sorts of science in all sorts of ways.

And of course, for children - and adults - to encounter all sorts of London in all sorts of ways, you need a set of Step Outside Guides!

By Francesca Fenn, Jun 17 2015 10:59AM

I wonder whether any of you who are reading this went to the South Ken museums when you were children (apart from my sister – hello Cathy!) If you did, we’d love to hear any of your special memories. The Natural History Museum was definitely one of the top two days out for us. I’ll tell you about the other one next week, but today, it’s all about the NHM. It is strange how much and so little has changed there, so my tenses may flow between past and present – please excuse!

We visited the museum regularly, (see last week's blog for more about that) and although we’d often explore new galleries, there was a nucleus of rooms we always wanted to drop in on. There was, and is, the vast and beautiful Central Hall, with the huge diplodocus skeleton at its centre. I remember following the tail with my eyes, wondering if it ever really quite ended.

My favourite place of all was the hall with the full sized model of a blue whale. I thought it was real,

(though stuffed, of course…) and never tired of seeing it. It was mind-bogglingly immense, and dwarfed the elephants and giraffes around it. Being told this creature lived on tiny animals that it filtered out of the water seemed unbelievable - how could there be anything left after a creature this size had eaten all she needed?.

Another special object was a large glass case containing a tree branch inhabited with hundreds of tiny stuffed birds. I thought it was so beautiful, and loved looking at the hundreds of jewel-coloured birds. On a recent visit I was delighted to see that it’s still on display, in the same traditional case.

The next obligatory stop-off was the immense cross-section of a sequoia tree trunk, with historical events marked on its rings. The tree was 1,300 years old when it was felled, so there were many world events signed, stretching back way past 1066! That trunk is still there too.

Apart from the dramatic main staircase at one end, there seemed to be an infinite number of corridors and rooms leading off the Central Hall, taking us to more dinosaurs, insects, stuffed animals and birds of every kind, including a dodo. I sensed the tragedy of this endearing bird’s extinction from my first encounter with him (or her) and harboured a deep hope that more would be found somewhere. There were plant and mineral galleries too, though they never had quite the same allure for us as the animals.

Today many of the rooms and halls have been revamped and there are newer extensions too, including the spectacular Darwin Centre. The outside of the museum was cleaned and repaired some time ago, and all the years of soot and grime were removed, revealing the lovely stonework and ornamentation. It is a beautiful building. But as I said earlier, much is still the same. Most importantly, the museum is still absolutely bursting at the seams with exhibits and specimens. The Diplodocus is still in the Central Hall, the blue whale still dominates his great room, and the museum is a fascinating mixture of cutting-edge science, historical perspective and old-fashioned museum cases. It is still a world centre of research and authority for natural history, and it is still a fantastic place to spend a day.

The only note of caution I can give about a visit here is that today the museum is almost a victim of its own success. Queueing to get in is almost inevitable, particularly in the school holidays, and if you want to see the dinosaurs (and most people do) be prepared to get there early, or to queue for a long time. However, there are far more facilities for eating and shopping, and more loos and cloakrooms than in my youth. And, wonderfully, it is still free to visit. So this summer, why don’t you go and meet the dinosaurs, and see some of the museum’s 20 million other specimens?

Monkeys climbing columns in the Central Hall
Monkeys climbing columns in the Central Hall
The Main Entrance - without a queue!
The Main Entrance - without a queue!
The Central Hall
The Central Hall
A detail from the beautiful exterior
A detail from the beautiful exterior

By Francesca Fenn, Jun 10 2015 09:00AM

In my recent blog for mykidsy.com I mentioned that my love of London was probably engendered by our day trips there in the school holidays. This has set me a-thinking about those days out, and the special and particular memories that I have of them. Some things are just the same as they were then, and some are very different. Over our next blogs, I’m going to share some of those memories with you!

When I was in infant and junior school, at some point every school holiday my mum would pack up a picnic (all tupperward and plastic bags, the dreaded wet flannel in another plastic bag) and with her four children would set off for the station. Tickets from Seven Kings to South Kensington were 5/- (25p) for adults and 2/6d (12 1/2p) for children between 3 and 14 years. We had to buy tickets to a particular station – there were no travel zones or travel cards – and as you can see, children were charged half fare. Still, a day out for 12/6d was not bad value!

At South Kensington Station, the first delight was The Tunnel, complete with echoes, posters and buskers. The Tunnel is a Victorian subway which connects the station directly to the museums, with exits at various stages along it, depending which museum you are visiting. These days I much prefer walking above ground, but then we wouldn’t hear of it!

There are three main museums at South Kensington, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert museum (the V&A), all glorious Victorian buildings. Today they are shown at their very best, but in my childhood they were black and grimy – I had no idea that the Natural History Museum is such a beautiful building! But back to my memories. There were always vans parked at the entrances to the museums, selling both icecreams and hotdogs at outrageous prices – we were never allowed anything from them, despite our pleading and nagging.

My parents always encouraged research and learning, and occasionally we would take objects or curiosities to the museums with us, and go to the information desk. We’d be seen by an expert in the relevant field and we were unfailingly given polite and patient explanations from curators, researchers or whoever was on hand.

When we got to a certain age – I think about nine – we were allowed to go off on our own, or with a sibling, within the museum, meeting up at a set place and time. I can’t imagine many parents would be comfortable doing that now, but we loved it.

I’ll be musing on what we saw, did and enjoyed in each museum in another blog, but lunch was always the same. In fine weather our picnic was eaten either in the grounds of the Natural History Museum, or in the quadrangle of the Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A) across the road. This featured a huge Buddah, now removed, where, fascinatingly for us, Buddhists would occasionally come to meditate while we chomped on our sandwiches. I don’t remember much about the V&A, other than the quadrangle. (This is rather odd, as today I think this is my favourite museum!) I seem to remember the museums had ‘school rooms’ where we could eat our sandwiches in winter – they were underground, windowless and smelled of old packed lunches and I didn’t like them at all!

The great museums of London were, and still are, are a rich resource and a wonderful asset. I think we are so privileged to have such ready access to these world-class institutions.. We don’t take our Step Outside Guides into the South Kensington museums for two reasons. First, the museums are each a day out in themselves, and second, they all have excellent family information, guides and activities. Perhaps one day we’ll write a Step Inside guide for each of them! In the meantime, whether you are stepping outside with one of our guides, or stepping inside a museum or gallery, make sure you enjoy London and all the amazing things it has to offer!

By Francesca Fenn, Jun 4 2015 01:18PM

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to write a blog about visiting London for an excellent website, mykidsy.com, which has loads of information on kids activities and on family issues. I gave a bit of background about why I love London, and worked out some top tips for successful days out in the capital with kids. You can read the whole article on MyKidsy's website but for just the tips, read on.

Here are our top tips for exploring London with your family without breaking the bank:

• If possible,travel in the cheap day return slot on public transport. If you are outside Zone Six, include a one day Travelcard on your ticket - this will pay off if you want to travel around within London. Children aged 11 and under travel free on TfL services.

• This seems obvious, but do check opening days, times and other details before you go to a particular venue. A disappointed tribe on your hands will not enhance the day. Extra tip: smaller museums and galleries are often closed on a Monday.

• If you aren’t familiar with the environment, plan your route in advance! London is big and busy and can be intimidating. Retracing steps because of wrong turnings, or going off in the wrong direction, is surprisingly tiring.

• Keep looking up – and down- as well as around you. It’s amazing how many interesting details you’ll spot, and can be a great focus for using cameras.

• It’s fun for everyone if you engage the kids as much as possible. Let them consult maps and lead, or encourage them to work out which bus numbers you need from the information at the bus stop.

• If you’re in a picture gallery or museum, hang back a bit. Let the kids go ahead and look at whatever interests them. I remember the day we took our children to the Tate for the first time. Our daughter was a room ahead of us and came back squeaking with laughter because there was a picture of bird poo in the next room. It was a work by Jackson Pollock - Summertime Number 9A 1948 to be precise.

• Take regular rest-and-refresh breaks. They needn’t be long, but blood sugars are your ally in keeping the kids sweet – literally!

• Unless it’s a special occasion, I always opt for a picnic over a meal out. It can take a lot of time, money and frayed tempers to find somewhere to eat, choose your food and wait for it to be cooked and served. You can eat a picnic when and where you like, you know everyone will like the food, and it’s cheap! The kids could each carry their own lunch in a backpack (though it may be gone by lunchtime…).

• When you’re travelling within the centre of London, buses are much easier, and more interesting than the Tube. You are sure to pass some major ‘sights’, and sitting gazing out from the top of a double decker is a great way to take a break.

• If you find a whole day’s exploring a bit too much, retire to one of the magnificent Royal Parks for a couple of hours. They are great places to watch the world go by, and the kids can make as much noise as they want.

For days out that are a real day off, then Step Outside Guides are, of course, the books for you. But you know that!

We hope you enjoy your summer days out!

By Francesca Fenn, May 27 2015 07:42AM

By Margie Skinner

Last Wednesday I went with my daughter to see Peter Pan at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. I hadn’t been to this theatre for years and it was nice to be back in such a magical place, to see a magical play!

Although the day had been chilly a cheerful evening sun tickled us with warmth as we left Baker street tube and walked past (in my opinion) a rather tacky looking Madame Tussauds towards Regent’s Park. It really was a beautiful evening as we entered the park’s Inner circle and we strolled companionably, marvelling at how London can change from chaotic to peaceful in just a 5 minute walk.

On arrival at the theatre we partook of a delicious Regents park burger meal and I had my first Pimms of the summer, whilst sitting in the sun people-watching, and anticipating the evening ahead.

This theatre was founded in 1932, by Sydney Carroll and Robert Atkins, initially as a temporary structure for the showing of a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It was such a success that the following year a full season of theatre was launched, and the life of Britain’s oldest professional permanent outdoor theatre had begun. Now a registered charity, the theatre attracts over 140,000 people for each year’s 16 week season. There is just something enchanting about being around a stage in the middle of the park, completely uncovered (save for the tiered auditorium with its very long theatre bar).

This production sets the story in a WWI Field hospital, which cleverly morphs into the Darling’s nursery as the military nurse becomes Wendy. As Neverland transforms into no man’s land there are clever parallels between Peter Pan and The Lost Boys, and those men, and many boys who were lost in the Great War.

Peter Pan, and indeed his creator J M Barrie are fascinating characters. In our book 'STEP OUTSIDE Kensington Gardens and Beyond' we visit Peter's statue in another of London’s wonderful green spaces. So if you are thinking of visiting open air theatre in London this year then I would recommend this production, and if you precede it with a visit to Kensington with our book, then you could have an absolutely Peter Pan-tastic day!!



Peter Pan 2015 The opening set
Peter Pan 2015 The opening set
Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens
Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens

By Francesca Fenn, May 20 2015 02:04PM

By Margie Skinner

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of doing an Urban Curiosity Walkshop with Clare Barry

We met at London Bridge station in appallingly British weather; rain, cold, more rain, more cold, and so on. That didn’t dampen our spirits as our small group marched defiantly around, with plenty of stops to focus and observe, stretch our imaginations a little and look for the extraordinary, tucked in amongst the ordinary. With little pointers and encouragements the treats of the area unfolded before our eyes (and minds).

We saw the lovely Pocket Park at Greenwood Theatre, and the funky colouring of the Bermondsey Fashion and Textile Museum . I really liked the elegant grandeur of the Guinness Trust Building in Snowsfield and Arthur’s Mission, funded by The Ragged School, which still stands opposite. These, I discovered, date from 1897 and the former is amongst other Trust built tenement blocks erected as part of the Victorian philanthropist effort to provide housing for those with meagre means, who had moved into the area.

The area is rich with history; we went to the site of the old leather market and wool exchange, and spent a little time imagining what the sights sounds and smells would once have been.

Bermondsey Leather Market.—This great leather, or rather hide market, lies in Weston-street, ten minutes’ walk from the Surrey side of London-bridge. The neighbourhood in which it stands is devoted entirely to thinners and tanners, and the air reeks with evil smells. The population is peculiar, and it is a sight at twelve o’clock to see the men pouring out from all the works. Their clothes are marked with many stains; their trousers are dis-coloured by tan; some have apron and gaiters of raw hide; an about them all seems to hang a scent of blood.’

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

As London patterns are a theme with Step Outside Guides at the moment (don’t forget our competition!) I noticed them everywhere I looked. By the time we reached St Thomas’ hospital we were all rather soggy, but still able to appreciate the beauty of the architecture and green courtyards.

There were many more prize snippets, including a great ghost sign for Thomson Brothers Ltd in Bermondsey Street, (I can feel a ghost signs blog coming on) but I don’t want to reveal all for those of you who may do the walk. Talking about her walkshops our guide says ‘Did you know that inspirare means to inhale in Latin? Think about it.’

I can’t wait to re-walk the area – ideally in the sunshine, inhaling London as I go!

Photographs courtesy of Clare Barry.

‘Clare writes about creativity and human connection in a digital world and London in the real one. She leads Urban Curiosity Walkshops in her native city which she designed to help urbanites reframe their digital life and get more creative in their real life. ‘

Funky colouring at the Bermondsey Fashion and Textile Museum
Funky colouring at the Bermondsey Fashion and Textile Museum
Snake Tanneries sign
Snake Tanneries sign
The Thompson Paper ghost sign
The Thompson Paper ghost sign

By Francesca Fenn, May 14 2015 02:04PM

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed a glass and wood and metal sausage making its appearance in front of the HSBC and Barclays Towers near Canary Wharf in the heart of London's Docklands. It is large, intriguing and clearly visible across the water from the Poplar – Canary Wharf stretch of the DLR. Only recently did I find out that it is the Canary Wharf Crossrail station that has been taking shape before our very eyes.

I was delighted to learn that it is now open to the public, (though the trains won’t run until 2018) and since I was nearby for a meeting last week, I decided to take a detour to have a look inside the shiny sausage. As an investigator of free things in London for families, I couldn’t wait to have a nose round.

Entry to the station is very space-age, through a tunnelled bridge over West India dock. Once inside there are several floors of shops and restaurants, which aren’t all open yet, and way down on Floor -3, deep under the dock itself, are the Crossrail platforms. But the star of the show is at the top, not the bottom of the building. An escalator or lift from the tunnel bridge entrance takes you to the roof garden. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I stepped off the top of the escalator into the garden. Well, I was blown away! The garden is much bigger than I expected – almost a park - and attractively laid out with windy paths, trees and lots of planting, including tomatoes and beans. I was pleased to see how many of the plants there are growing in my own garden! The struts holding the glass roof are wooden, and perhaps because it is new, the smell of fresh wood was very noticeable as I arrived. Lovely! The central part of the garden has no roof, so there is a good circulation of air.

The garden isn’t crowded, and seems very laid back. Although there are a few security people around, there is none of the advance booking and airport style security required by the Walkie Talkie to visit their Sky Garden. My only criticism is that there aren’t many seats, so it may not work for workers or visitors wanting to relax and eat their sandwiches, but it is well worth a visit and I’d recommend anyone to go and have a walk through if they find themselves in Docklands. It’s a bit of a bonus that the garden has opened up for us to enjoy so far in advance of the station starting operations.

If you do visit there, or anywhere else in London, in the next couple of weeks, you will also have the opportunity to see and take photos of patterns that catch your eye. Send them in to our London Pattern photo competition for the chance to win a box of Step Outside goodies, including Guides a back pack and more. So get snapping, and get sending; we're looking forward to hearing from you!

The space-age tunnel entrance to the station
The space-age tunnel entrance to the station

By Francesca Fenn, Apr 29 2015 09:00AM

You may have noticed that we have been posting photos of ‘London Patterns’ on both Facebook and Twitter. I have had a lot of fun trawling through the acres of London photos I’ve taken with my trusty camera over the last few years, picking out patterns to share with you all.

And now it’s your chance!

Have you spotted any London patterns as you’ve been out and about? Or perhaps you haven’t noticed them before. Well, now is your chance!

We are holding a COMPETITION! From now until the end of May, send us your favourite photos of ‘London Patterns’. You can tweet them to @StepOutsideLDN, send them to our Facebook page, Step Outside Guides, to our website using the contact page, or email us at info@stepoutsideguides.com.


On 1st June we will pick two winners and send each of them a box of Step Outside goodies. One prize is for anyone, and the other is for children under 12. So get exploring, get snapping and send your London Patterns to us.

Here are a few things you could look for. There are all different sorts of patterns, for example –

1) Large scale design, like the South Bank tables – there is something satisfying about the regular repetition of a unit – windows in a large building, even the pattern of bog standard bricks.

2) The orderliness of perspective! The vanishing point of an image is a touch magical, and there are many great photos and paintings that employ this effect. My more modest example here is the photo of Boris Bikes.

3) Things that are intrinsically decorative, like the roof Margie started the whole thing off with, or the Buxton Memorial. London is awash with a huge variety of decorative effects on its buildings and they delight the eye on any walkabout in the capital.

4) The juxtaposition of colours. Many of London’s buildings are either grey or glass, and areas of bright colour light up their surroundings in a wonderful way, like the pictures below the subway at Tower Hill.

5) The transformational effect of sunlight adds a whole new dimension to a scene – Green dock comes alive with bright sunlight and deep shadows contrasting each other.

Our rules are;

The photos must be taken by you. Please don’t take any from the Internet, as this can lead to all sorts of trouble!

In sending in the photos, you grant us permission to use them on our social media channels.

If you are a professional photographer, please let us know.

Good luck and enjoy!

Tables laid out on the terrace of the South Bank Centre
Tables laid out on the terrace of the South Bank Centre
Boris Bikes!
Boris Bikes!
The Buxton Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens
The Buxton Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens
Painting that livens up the subway at Tower Hill
Painting that livens up the subway at Tower Hill
Green Dock, in Thames Barrier Park
Green Dock, in Thames Barrier Park

By Francesca Fenn, Apr 22 2015 09:00AM

By Margie Skinner

Does anyone else play the tube station name game when they travel into London as a group? It is a family tradition for us; no journey into the big smoke is complete without taking it in turns to give clues. ‘Animal, make of car, show’ donates Oxford Circus, ‘midlands town, shape’ is of course Leicester Square, and so on, with increasing degrees of obtuseness as the game goes on.

For those like me who used to do a daily commute (or indeed still do) these names become familiar and engrained, and each takes on a different image/mood in the mind. But the real reasons behind the names, and the stories associated with them are both diverse and fascinating.

Charing Cross is mentioned in our book ‘IF STATUES COULD TALK’. The small village of Charing was situated here, the word deriving from old English meaning ‘a bend’ – as it was on a bend in the Thames. And the cross? As we explain in our book ‘Way back in 1290, Kind Edward 1’s beloved wife Eleanor died in Lincolnshire. The king marked each nightly resting place along the route to London with a cross. This was the final one….’

It is strange to think that Moorgate was so named because there was a gate cut into the city wall, as long ago as the 15th century, leading to the moorland outside the City Walls. Many other stations are named after gates, or bridges, or terms connected with the river or woodland: Highgate – self-evident, Holborn – a ‘born’ being a river through a hollow valley, Knightsbridge – literally a bridge controlled by knights. It amuses me that at Clapham Common there was once a wood known as ‘Cloppaham’, derived from ‘clap’ meaning hill, and ‘ham’ meaning home. And Common, meaning….Common.. . Neasden is from old English ‘naess’ – nose , and ‘dun’ – hill; basically because of a hill in the area shaped like a nose! Now not a lot of people know that. Or should I say ‘Nose’ that.

Some stations are named after people who lived there: Gloucester Road was near the home of the Duchess of Gloucester, even in 1858 it was still known as ‘Hog Moore Lane’; not as appealing somehow. And Holland Park was named after the Earl of Holland who lived nearby.

Lancaster Gate was so named because a young lady called the Duchess of Lancaster lived there. She later became someone rather important….Queen Victoria no less!

And Piccadilly Circus? From the street Piccadilly which is named after a frilled collar or ‘piccadil’! Roger Baker was a local tailor who made his fortune by making these highly fashionable accessories in the 17th century and he worked in this area.

Station names are an extensive subject, so I will leave it there for now; something to think about next time you are confronted with an Underground map! And if you are interested in learning more, I’d recommend the following books.

What’s in a Name?: Origins of Station Names on the London Underground by Cyril M Harris

London By Tube: A History of Underground Station Names by David Revill

Charing Cross, just outside the station
Charing Cross, just outside the station
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