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Walk History - Explore London's Historic Places

Ever wondered what makes a house Georgian? Or what it would look like if you mixed Brutalism with the Baroque? Perhaps you're more interested in social history and never knew Soho has been Queer for more than 130 years.

As part of Historic England’s Keep it London campaign, we wanted to bring the history of London's neighbourhoods alive with our new walking app. Using photos, archive images and the occasional video, we'll help you identify architectural periods and understand what makes them different.

This app release explores Brixton, Whitechapel, Soho, The City and Ealing.

Brixton

Brixton's Black History: 1948 to Now

On 22 June 1948 the ship Empire Windrush, carrying 490 men and two women from the West Indies, docked at the Port of Tilbury on the River Thames. We know that black people have appeared in British history as early as the Roman times, but the ship's arrival has become an important landmark in the history of Britain. The image of West Indians filing off its gangplank marks the start of a post-war immigration boom which has come to symbolise the beginning of modern British multicultural society.

On this walk we look at why many of the first West Indians, sometimes referred to the Windrush Generation, settled in Brixton, and how this London district was not the end of their journey but only the start of a long and difficult struggle to be recognised and included in British society.

Black and white photo taken on Electric Lane, Brixton of a brick wall with a door on the left and a framed photo of a crouching man with afro hair in the centre of the wall.
Artwork by Rotimi Fani-Kayode on the wall in Electric Lane, Brixton © Historic England

Whitechapel

The Battle of Cable Street - a stand against fascism

In 1936, Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists wanted to stir up anti-Jewish hatred among London's working class, and Mosley announced that his forces would march through the East End. More than 100,000 people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, united and took to the streets to block the fascists and the police protecting the route in what became known as the Battle of Cable Street.

This is a shortened version of a  walk by educator, writer and tour guide David Rosenberg, who specialises in telling the stories of protest and struggle in London from the early 19th to the mid-20th century.

Crowd stanging behind a barricade on Cable Street, Sunday 4 October 1936.
Barricade on Cable Street, Sunday 4 October 1936 © Copyright Bishopsgate Institute

Soho

130 Years of Queer Soho (or thereabouts)

Old Compton Street has been the recognisable hub of London's LGBTQ scene for more than a couple of decades, but through our Pride of Place project we've now managed to find more than 130 years of uninterrupted alternative lifestyles existing within Soho's historic walls. On this walk we will visit those hidden and sometimes forgotten places that have kept Soho queer, from the late Victorian era to the present day.

York Minster, now the French House, on Dean Street, Soho. 1890s
York Minster, now the French House, on Dean Street, Soho. 1890s © Historic England AL2384/030/01

Spotter’s Guide: The Early Georgian Townhouse

Soho has some of the best examples of houses from the Early Georgian period in the whole of London. By the end of this short tour you'll be able to point out key architectural features that make a house Early Georgian as well as learn some architectural terms which you will be able to apply to other buildings from different eras. If this sounds too academic for you, don't worry, this tour is aimed at the novice up.

Each stop has a very short glossary for any tricky words as well as pictures which highlight particular features.

1-7 Meard Street, Soho are Georgian terraced houses dating from 1732
1-7 Meard Street, Soho are Georgian terraced houses dating from 1732 © Historic England BL21828

The City

Spotter’s Guide: Post-War Architecture

Visit some of the most stunning examples of post-war architecture that the City of London has to offer. We’ll see how modern architects adapted to radical changes in how we live, learn and work. New buildings for a new era which had to meet commercial demands for open-plan offices and provide attractive spaces with ingenuity and a deep understanding of human needs.

The post-war period saw an array of architectural movements and by the end of this tour you will be familiar with some of the different styles.

Lloyds of London, 1 Lime Street, City of London. Exterior view from north.
North elevation of the Lloyds building, 1 Lime Street, City of London. © Historic England DP131010

Ealing

Ealing, Queen of the Suburbs – Part I & II

A wonderful guided walk of Ealing's built heritage first compiled by John Foster White in 1970, updated by him in 1986 and again in 2016 by Ealing Civic Society.
This latest version includes images and archive photos for some of the buildings along the way, along with links to extra reading and resources for those who want to find out more.
The original was a long walk so we’ve split into two parts, both of which start near to Ealing Broadway tube station.

Haven Green, with horse drawn carriages in the foreground. 1895 – 1910
Haven Green, with horse drawn carriages in the foreground. 1895 – 1910 © Historic England PC10572
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