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Thursday , 18 January 2018
                 
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Take a Tour of Victorian London

London owes much of its beautiful buildings and landmarks to Victorian times, when Great Britain ruled sovereign over most of the world. It truly was the golden era of British rule and was aptly summed up in the quote “The Empire on which the Sun never sets”.

If you are an ardent admirer of London and are interested in getting to know St. Pancras International and other important Victorian Landmarks, then include the following in your travel itinerary. If you do plan to spend this summer in the city then select a central location to stay to have easy access to all the main tourist attractions in London. A good place to stay would be at any of the M by Montcalm Shoreditch rooms, which is a luxury hotel with top notch amenities at a very affordable cost. Some of the most interesting areas to visit to know more about Victorian landmarks are…

Image Courtesy : Mike Peel

Shoreditch & Whitechapel: In 1801 the city of London was home to more than a million inhabitants, which made it the most populated city in Europe. With the city burgeoning, overcrowding became a critical issue, as a consequence of which slums came up in entire neighbourhoods. These dark and dingy cubicles would serve as a home for an entire family with filth, vermin, fleas, contaminated water and disease being rife. It was not pleasant times to live in, a far cry from what London is today! The biggest and filthiest slums were situated in Bermondsey, Clerkenwell, Notting Hill, St. Giles and East London, from where we begin out trip to Victorian London. Nowadays Shoreditch is known to be out of London’s most fashionable areas trendy bars, hep nightclubs and classy restaurants. Redchurch Street its focal point has some of the finest designer outlets and galleries. Just parallel is Old Nichol Street, which once was a hellhole of slums that today have attractive flats. Neighbouring Whitechapel was where in 1888 Jack the Ripper struck terror by murdering five prostitutes in the area, in the most horrific and gruesome manner, by disembowelling them. For the brave at heart, who wish to retrace the steps of the Ripper there are numerous Jack the Ripper tours to join or drop in at the Ten Bells pub on Commercial Street, which was a watering hole for the victims.

Move from Commercial Street to Brushfield Street and you will see Old Spitalfields Market, which was formerly a vegetable and fruit market, which now sells vintage clothes and jewellery. Its trademark glass and iron roof was built in 1875 to shelter sellers and buyers from the elements.  Move further down and you will get to Liverpool Street station, opened in 1874 and which was constructed on the infamous site known as Bedlam, a psychiatric hospital were visitors would mock the inmates.

Clerkenwell & Holborn: Get on the Circle, Metropolitan or Hammersmith & City line at Liverpool Street and get off at Farringdon. Move down Farringdon Road and you will see Smithfield Market, which was a wholesale meat market that was opened in 1868.  With the advent of the railways transporting meat across the country became possible and as a consequence a large warehouse was built which you can see as a grand building made stone, iron and glass.

You can walk down a bit and see the principal court of England and Wales, Old Bailey just a short distance from Newgate Street.  The area was well known for its infamous Newgate prison that once existed here with some of the most dangerous criminals being inmates held here. At that time public executions were popular with numerous hangings and even burnings having taken place here. The place was in 1902. Stroll up Farringdon Road and you will be in the area immortalised by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, especially Saffron Hill. In Victorian times it was out of the poorest neighbourhoods in London and was the haunt of thieves, beggars and prostitutes with streets having dubious names like Pissing Alley now known as Passing Alley, just off St. John Street.  Now you will find trendy bars and eateries in the area.

Move back towards Holborn and you will be at Dickens’ former home close to Chancery Lane, which now is a museum. Even though he stayed here briefly for two years there is an excellent collection of memorabilia to be seen. Move down Chancery Lane and you will reach the Strand, home to the Royal Courts of Justice. It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1882, and is a magnificent example of neo-gothic architecture open to the public. Besides its court trials its over a thousand rooms are also a venue for weddings and fashion shows.

The Strand and Westminster: The Strand is a stone’s throw away from the Victoria Embankment, which was expressly built to assist the flow of the Thames. It was built dues to the infamous Great Stink of 1858, when an unusual combination of summer heat and polluted water from the Thames caused such a horrific stench that the Houses of Parliament had to be vacated. Although it was originally a medieval building, the Houses of Parliament were majorly damaged by fire in 1834, and as a result rebuilt three years later in the gothic style of the era. It is also a UNESCO Heritage site and its neighbour is the iconic Big Ben.

King’s Cross: Move over to King’s Cross well known for its awe-inspiring Kings Cross St. Pancras station one of the finest examples of neo-gothic architecture. Sir Gilbert Scott designed it in 1865 and is regarded as his masterpiece. Another landmark next door is the Great Northern Hotel designed by Lewis Cubitt. Both have undergone extensive multimillion renovations. The Grain Store, a warehouse from 1851 is now home to Saint Martin’s University and two classy restaurants.

West End:  We end our tour of Victorian era London in the West End, which became London’s entertainment centre in the 19th century, with Soho becoming a hub for prostitution, after the sex industry moved here from Bankside. With most of Soho having shed its shady past with restaurants, bars, production houses and shops, there still is small Red Light district at Walker’s Court. Move up Charing Cross Road and take a turn right and you will be at Sutton Row with Soho Square in front of you. You will find Regent Street close by with its famous Café Royal a favourite with Oscar Wilde. Move further down Leicester Square and you can hop into Rules restaurant open since 1798. You could also visit the White Hart pub on Drury Lane opened in the 1800s for an authentic pub experience.

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