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Monuments and Memorials to London's Past

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at and my theatre reviews at
Published March 29th 2013
Keep your eyes peeled for monuments and plaques in London
Nobody visiting, or wandering around, London can fail to miss the plethora of blue plaques and various other memorials commemorating the past history of our city. The Great Fire of 1666, the Blitz of 1940 and other heavy bombardments may have destroyed significant buildings and neighbourhoods, but these plaques serve to remind us of a past that can never be forgotten. After all, how can we know who we are if we don't know where we've come from?

We take running water for granted, so it might come as a surprise to be reminded that London's water was not always clean and free. Close to London Wall (the street that is located where the City's old walls once stood) is a hint that the Aldermanbury Conduit once provided Londoners with water.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past
The Aldermanbury Conduit

Remaining in the City, there is a plaque commemorating the Great Synagogue, close to a site in Old Jewry. This building stood until 1272 when Edward I revoked money lending privileges and finally issued an edict expelling all Jews from England in 1290. This order remained in place until Cromwell permitted their readmission in 1665.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past
The Great Synagogue

The infamous Newgate Prison may have been demolished in 1777, but the blue plaque on the wall of the Old Bailey, which is also depicted vividly in many novels including Moll Flanders, proudly reminds us of its existence.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past
Newgate Prison

Remaining with literature, any Charles Dickens fan will be aware that he featured the Marshalsea Prison in some of his novels, not least because his father spent time in that institution for debt. One wall of the Marshalsea still stands in Southwark, and this paving stone reminds us of John Dickens's incarceration.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past
John Dickens

Every schoolboy and girl knows that Caxton brought the first printing press to this country, but not many people know that his pupil Wynken de Worde set up a printing press near Shoe Lane in 1500. The memorial can be seen on the wall of Stationers' Hall. De Worde is now regarded as the father of Fleet Street. Although the newspapers have all moved to other locations, nearby St Bride's Church is still regarded as the Journalists' Church.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past
Wynken de Worde

The world's first post marks were struck at the General Letter Office in Post House Yard in 1661. The plaque erected by the Corporation of the City of London is a gentle reminder that this was another London based invention in a building that was erected in 1653, and destroyed by the Great Fire.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past

Before the United States became unified, a legation from the Republic of Texas was appointed to the Court of St James. The Anglo-Texan Society has erected a monument commemorating the three year life span of the legation.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past
Texas Legation

You may have walked through the Burlington Arcade many times, but have you ever stopped to read the rules? In case you haven't, here is a reminder.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past
Burlington Arcade Rules

Next time you visit Trafalgar Square, look beyond the fountains, Nelson's Column (itself a monument to the famous Admiral's many naval victories) and Landseer's lions, and make a point of taking in the statue to King Charles I. (We famously executed our king, then invited his son back to rule as we were more comfortable with a monarchy than a republic.) The inscription below the statue tells you all about it.

Monuments and Memorials to London's Past
King Charles I

London is full of clues to its past history. Why not spend some time discovering a few over this Easter weekend, or whenever you have a spare day or half day?
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Your Comment
Fabulous article, Sandra - thanks - so interesting!
by Julie Mundy (score: 3|1744) 3401 days ago
Great article. I've see plaques like these around London, but have rarely stopped to read them. I might do that from now on.
by Bastion Harrison (score: 4|12626) 3420 days ago
Great reminder of one of the reasons I love London
by Lucy Graham (score: 2|283) 3422 days ago
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