Retracing Olden Steps

Living in London means getting used to being surrounded with antiquity. Here “old” doesn’t mean a few decades, but rather hundreds if not thousands of years. Even relatively mundane buildings can be hiding a rich history that should be remembered and respected.

Let’s look at one of our favorite pubs, Ye Olde Watling, where we spent a couple of hours  on Friday evening. It is believed to date back to the 17th century and built from timbers from old ships, and claims to have been built by Sir Christopher Wren himself after the Great Fire of London. But more interesting is the street from which the pub took its name, Watling Street, which was paved by Romans. Which means that when having a beer outside, we’re standing exactly where Romans stood. In fact, we were very disappointed when the pub changed its sign.

The old sign

The old sign

Just this weekend we walked into the courtyard of The Priory of St Bartholomew the Great which was built in 1123 and which escaped the Great Fire and is as such in much of its original stage.

Great St Barts

Great St Barts

And while the existing London Bridge was only opened to traffic in the 1970s, the name refers to a number of crossings that have spanned the Thames, with the oldest dating back to Roman times.

We enjoy learning about the history of the city we live in and on Saturday morning decided to visit the Museum of London. Actually, we can thank Google for our visit. We were looking at Google Maps to decide on a destination when the museum popped up right in front of us. We had passed by on numerous occasions and decided to pay a visit. It was well worth the trip. The museum looks at the history of London before the city was even conceived, dating back to 450,000 BC — and no, that’s not a typo. It explores Roman and medieval times, the plague and fire that destroyed so much of the city, the impact of wars, and how London became the city we know today.

And we learned some new things. For example, early Londoners were very keen on grooming:


From inside the museum you can catch a good glimpse of the remains of the London wall:


The best part about living in London is that history is not only found in museums. It’s everywhere around us. And we love discovering it.

5 thoughts on “Retracing Olden Steps

    • Agreed. We didn’t go inside the church since there was a service at the time and we didn’t want to disrupt, but plan to go back to take a look. The courtyard is nice and it’s amazing to encounter something so old hidden in the middle of the city.


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