Thursday, 18 May 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

Yes, I'm aware that it's been a month since the last blog. As I mentioned in the last entry, the exam period at UCL has come upon us and I've been working very long days in the special needs venues. Still, I've been squeezing in a few things, beginning with 'Reaching into the Abyss', my tour exploring Victorian philanthropy in Whitechapel and Spitalfields.

The usual reduced-price preview happened on 29 April, and it makes for an interesting contrast to 'The Battle for Bethnal Green', an older tour which happens to the north of Whitechapel. The following day I had a small but appreciative audience for 'Behind the Magic Curtain', my exploration of the contribution Theatreland has made to performance in Britain.

Thanks to the good offices of my friend Conti Moll, who teaches at a local school, I was able again to take the two Year Two classes from the Gatehouse School on a Great Fire of London tour in May.

They are lovely kids, and being just six and seven they have no problem asking questions and discussing stuff. The questions they were asking showed definitely that they were thinking of the subject, and both classes were particularly impressed to know that Samuel Pepys brought his Admiralty papers and his Diary to Bethnal Green to prevent them being destroyed. (Gatehouse is a Bethnal Green school, you see.)

Big news is that Walkie Talkie Part Three got underway at last - after all that waiting and agonising, Tower Hamlets agreed to let the course go ahead with only eight, and then another person enrolled. So, with a dedicated complement of nine we're sailing into unexplored waters which will lead to the group getting out on the streets at last.

So far we've learned about Old Ford and Bow, the focal area for the group's tasks, we've considered risk assessment and liability, we've taken in architecture (specifically Decorated Gothic and Georgian), and yesterday evening's session considered the museums of Tower Hamlets. Next Thursday gives the group the chance to do their first task: a four-minute presentation each based on a hypothetical tour with four potential stops. They don't do the tour as a tour; they just report back on their hypothetical plans.

That'll have to be all for now. Apologies if this seems a bit haphazard, but I've forced myself to put fingers to keyboard to give you the salient points and remind you that this blog is still active!

Anyway, I'm going to close now because I need to get to bed at my earliest to be ready for tomorrow's onslaught - the last day of the working week!

Goodnight one and all!


Dave Charnowalks

Action photos (2017) by Alan Tucker (Whitechapel Baths frontage) and Conti Moll (Leadenhall Market)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

I'm sure you've been wondering where my fortnightly blog entry has been this week - well, here we are at last!

The pressure is mounting to get as much done as I can before the exam period starts at UCL next Thursday - I supervise exam halls there. As such, I'm working flat out on my new Whitechapel tour, immersing myself in the Victorian initiatives that sought to engage with the problems brought by the development of London.

Stanford's Map of Central London 1897

The main man is Samuel Barnett, described as 'a shy and modest man, who looked older than his years'. Hmm - reminds me of someone ...

Anyway, this tour will be given its reduced-price preview on Saturday 29 April, and if you fancy it we're starting outside Aldgate Station (just appearing bottom centre of the map) at 2:30. It's a mere £5 a head, but do contact me on to reserve your place.

We've still got two weekends of 'Page and Stage' tours to go, and this coming weekend it's a belter. Two tours, both featuring readings. Saturday is 'Bethnal Green in So Many Words', exploring my home turf through the words of a variety of authors from Arthur Morrison to Monica Ali. Sunday sees 'Much Ado About Trading', which features readings from Shakespeare, Dekker, Middleton and others. to show how they brought the City to the stage.

I put up an item to LinkedIn recently, considering the positive benefits of site-specific readings. You can find it here - and you don't have to be registered on LinkedIn to read it:

We round off with a celebration of Theatreland - 'Behind the Magic Curtain' takes a good look at what the West End has contributed to performance in this country.

To give you a taster, you might want to take a look at my Footprints of London blog item about Peter Daubeny's pioneering work bringing World Theatre to the London stage:

Next up, in the Merry Month of May, Charnowalks brings you Crime and the Law, a series of tours exploring the darker side of the East End and the City.

I'll give you more details about them in the next blog entry, but you can always take a peek at my schedule:
In fact, why not join my mailing list and get all the hot news as it happens?

That's all until the next blog entry, by which time I'll be a year older - I'm fifty-three on the 24th!

See you on the streets soon.


Dave Charnowalks

Photos of me reading from 'King Dido' and 'Martin Chuzzlewit' by Alan Tucker and Anna Tomlinson; photo of the Agatha Christie memorial by Anna Tomlinson; photo of the site of the Bull and Mouth, St Martin's le Grand by Geoff Kaye.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

I've done it again - another late blog entry! But not without cause - it's all been in the interests of work.

The project that has been dominating the last week or two has been a tour of the King's Cross regeneration, at the heart of the new Knowledge Quarter. The good people at the Oxford International Educational Group commissioned Footprints of London to provide a tour for school groups. The students are interested in business and regeneration, so we're giving them a tour around King's Cross.

The Proposed Knowledge Quarter

The tour is adapted from that given by my fellow Footprinter Rob Smith, and it explores many aspects of regeneration. We did two shifts yesterday - morning and afternoon - and there are two more tomorrow, so I'll fill you in on the next blog entry.

Talking of tour development, my friend and guiding colleague Alan Tucker (who took the photos for 'The Dark Side of East London') had a tryout for his new tour two evenings ago. 'The Social and Industrial History of Hackney Wick' does exactly that - it brings you the inside story of a major industrial area in East London which provided many innovations, including petrol and dry cleaning, as well as considering the impact on the local community.

Alan on Hackney Wick in 2015

Having created two new tours in the City, I'm now going back to the East End, as I had proposed to do earlier this year. I did mean to create a Whitechapel tour, but as is the way of such things the route snapped in the middle and curled up. It's become a tour from Aldgate to Bishopsgate via Whitechapel, and takes in a number of instances of Victorian philanthropy.

Women's Entrance -
Providence Row Shelter

It would be easy to do a general philanthropy tour - and indeed what will now be a Whitechapel and Mile End tour will do something similar - but I've decided to focus purely on Victorian philanthropy. This will give focus, and also explore issues which beset the East End in its earliest development.

Talking of the East End, this is the last call for 'Walkie Talkie: An Introduction to Guiding in Tower Hamlets'. It's scheduled to start on Wednesday 26 April. So far we're a bit short on numbers, which means that it may not go ahead. This would be a great shame, because the course will give its learners not only an insight into the story of the borough, but also the chance to experience guiding first-hand on the streets of Bow and Old Ford.

So, if you're intending to dip your toe into the magical world of guiding, you need to enrol quickly!

The Arms of LB Tower Hamlets

Enrolment details are here:

You can find the course outline as a .pdf here:

This Sunday sees the second of the Charnowalks 'Page and Stage Sundays'. 'A Dickens of a City' is a tour with readings, allowing you to experience how the London of Charles Dickens was changing from the Georgian to the Victorian periods.

Frontispiece from Little Dorrit 1857

Booking and other details are available here:

There are no Charnowalks at the Easter weekend, but on the following weekend there'll be not one but two tours with readings. More details will be on the next blog, but you can get more information from my schedule, including May's 'Crime and the Law Sundays':

On the subject of writing, you might want to take a look at two posts I put up to LinkedIn on the subject of guiding. One considers the usefulness of guided tours for language experience, the other the benefits of tours featuring site-specific readings:

Well, I think I've inflicted more than enough on you this fortnight. I will aim to be considerably more prompt in a fortnight's time!

Oh, by the way: have you subscribed to this blog yet? Why not? It takes just a moment ...

See you on the streets!


Dave Charnowalks

Photo of Alan Tucker by Andrew Parnell, and of the Providence Row Shelter by Fay Bennett, both from 2015.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

Another slightly tardy Charnoblog, but that's because I've been getting educational recently. Prof Brendan Hogan of New York University was good enough to engage me a second time to give his undergraduates a tour of medieval London. We tuned in to the echoes of Plantagenet and Tudor London which resonate in today's City. Sometimes it's just where something was, but there's much of the medieval in today's City.

Then on Saturday and Monday I took a group of Italian students to explore two significant aspects of Victorian London. On Saturday we got Dickensian in the oldest parts of London: the Borough and the Cornhill area of the City. On Monday evening we hit the Ripper trail, not just hearing about the infamous murders, but also considering their social context, and how the press kept the atmosphere of fear simmering in the popular mind. That's a big 'thank you' to Graziella Elia by the way, whose students I guided last year, for engaging me.

Guiding has an important part to play in education. I've been privileged to guide primary and secondary school groups, as well as higher education groups. There is much to be said for getting learners of whatever age onto the streets to understand that history is not about dates and details, but about people and what they did, and how that relates to what we do. But then, I've written about this elsewhere:

It's the last of my Bethnal Green Sundays this coming Sunday. Yes, I know it's Mother's Day - so why not bring Mum on a celebration of Bethnal Green through the words of a variety of authors, with readings from works dating from 1896 to 2003? It's not a bad tour at all, if I do say so myself, and we finish with no less a person than George Orwell, hearing why he ended up in the cells of the local police station.

If I've whetted your appetite, you can book via this link:

Next month will be 'Page and Stage' Sundays, with two tours featuring readings exploring the London of Dickens and how City trade was used as material by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and two theatrical tours, getting to know Shakespeare the Londoner and discovering what Theatreland has done for performance in Britain.

You can get an idea of what 'Much Ado About Trading' is all about in my Footprints of London blog item here:
You can also get the background to one of the stops on 'Behind the Magic Curtain' in another Footprints item here:

Well, that's a fairly full round-up of what's been and what's to be. Of course you can get the fuller story from the schedule on my website, including another chance this Saturday to experience nearly 2,000 years' worth of unrest in the City:

Please consider following this blog: that way you won't need to be prompted by a social network post to come and take a look! Also it'll show me how much you appreciate my humble efforts to bring you the stories behind this multi-layered city which I'm pleased to call my hometown.

Hoping to see you on the streets soon.


Dave Charnowalks

Charnopicture of Playhouse Yard courtesy of Fay Bennett (2016)

Monday, 6 March 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

Welcome back to my Charnoblog. We finished City Sundays at the end of February with a comfy half-dozen coming with me on 'Engineering Change' to explore how engineering shaped the City of London. Tunnels, bridges and telecommunications have all played their part in the development of the City. You can read more about the tour here:

The underside of London Bridge
March sees my Bethnal Green Sundays tours underway. A small but thoroughly engaged audience attended this week's tour, 'The Battle for Bethnal Green'. The tour looks at what happened when the parish was absorbed by the growing metropolis of London. Once a semi-rural hamlet, the nineteenth century brought a number of issues through the new urban dimension. These issues were addressed at first by philanthropists, until the authorities took up the reins. You can get more details about the tour itself here:

Bethnal Green Road 1794

Next week we move from heroes to villains with 'The Dark Side of the Green', a tour which uncovers crimes and wrongdoings from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Once again we meet outside St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch High Street and cross the boundary into Bethnal Green. The tour forms the nucleus of my study 'The Dark Side of East London', which was published last September by Pen and Sword. You can book for the tour via this link:

Incidentally, the book is available at a competitive price from the Wordery via this link!

Talking of books and literary matters, Saturday 11 March sees the reduced-price preview of my new Charles Dickens tour. It's a tour with readings which give an insight into how Dickens used the City for material. As I explained last time, the reduced-price preview is an idea I've taken from the theatre. As the first professional outing of a new tour isn't usually as slick as subsequent outings, this is why I charge only £5 a head, flat fee.

Why not join my mailing list to get the benefit of previews and other specials, as well as the tours I do through Footprints of London? Just e-mail me on to be added. If you want to come on the Dickens preview, e-mail me to let me know and meet us outside Borough Underground Station for a 2:30 start.

It's just over a month to go before Walkie Talkie, the adult education introduction to guiding, is scheduled to start. We begin on 26 April for a ten-week course which gives you a thorough grounding in the discipline of tour guiding. It's an ideal way to prepare for a qualification course, as well as teaching you valuable research and presentation skills.

The course outline can be found through this link:

Enrolment details can be found through this link:

Well, I think I've detained you long enough. There are other plans in the offing, but I'll update you when more concrete information becomes available. Until then, look after yourselves; I hope to see you on the streets soon.


Dave Charnowalks

Charnopicture courtesy of Hazel Screen (London Bridge 2014)

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

Thank you for joining me for this fortnight's round-up of Charnowalks events. The dominant event of the fortnight was of course the first outing for 'The Unquiet City', an exploration of nearly two millennia of unrest in the City of London. The earliest story is Boudica's uprising in 61; the most recent is the Occupy London occupation of St Paul's Churchyard, from October 2011 to February 2012.

As usual with the first outing of a new Charnowalk, this was a reduced-price preview at a flat rate of £5 a head. I always find that the first outing will suffer from teething troubles, hence the special low rate. It's an idea that I lifted wholesale from the theatrical world, where there are preview performances at reduced prices so that the company can get the feel of the venue.

The tour is one of the Footprints of London miniseries of Revolutionary London tours, which are underway NOW! Do take a look at the Footprints site and keep your eyes open for the hammer-and-sickle logo:

Footprints have various festivals during the course of the year, including the annual RiverFest and LitFest. The two annual festivals feature the inflation-busting offer of a season ticket which allows unlimited access to all of the festival's tours. So far the record is twenty-seven separate tours taken in one month by a season ticket-holder.

I had hoped to concentrate on the East End this year and to rein back the City stuff, but as you can see I've started the year with a new City tour. In connection with a commission, I will be bringing to light another tour which is, strictly speaking, a City tour, although the earlier stages will be in the Borough, an area which was part of the City until it was transferred to the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark in the 1920s.

The new tour has the working title 'A Dickens of a City': I know, I know, but what are you going to do? It's a Dickens tour in the City! I've been meaning to do one for some time, but it's quite an undertaking. The aim is that it is to be a tour with readings, my third such tour after 'Much Ado About Trading' and 'Bethnal Green in So Many Words', both of which appeared last year.

The problem about Dickens is that though what he wrote was excellent stuff and makes for great reading, he actually wrote a huge number of reflections on London in so many moods. To create a tour based on insights about London's story gained through Dickens' works, even if you limit it to a specific area, requires a deal of arbitrary selection. So I shall do what seems to work, and we'll see where we go from there!

So far we're talking Little Dorrit, The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Martin Chuzzlewit and Our Mutual Friend. I suppose once the first one's done, I can progress to sort out more material and then perhaps split it - with one north of the River and one on the south. It'll take time.

To round up, February is steaming through 'City Sundays', with the final tour this coming Sunday. 'Engineering Change' explores the relationship between engineering and the City, and how mechanical, electrical and civil engineering changed and shaped the City. Next month features Bethnal Green Sundays, which celebrate my very own manor. I've lived here all of my life, and so I'm giving all four of my local tours.

We begin with seeing how the Hamlet of Bethnal Green coped with being absorbed into the metropolis of London. Then we lift a few stones to uncover stories of crime and wrongdoing in the area in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The following week sees the impact World War Two had on the area. We finish with a tour featuring site-specific readings which explore Bethnal Green through the writings of authors including Iain Sinclair and George Orwell. It also features a fight scene from King Dido at the very footbridge where it occurred.

Talking about literature, I'm planning April's Sundays to have a distinctly literary theme. Stage and Page Sundays are coming! Well, it's my birthday on 24 April and literature's my thing, so watch this space!

Please keep up to date with my various doings by subscribing to this blog. Also you can join my monthly mailing list by e-mailing me on and I'll add you. This'll give you a monthly listing, plus notifications of extra goodies as and when they happen!

That'll do for the moment - more details about things to come will be in the next instalment! I hope to see you on the streets some time soon.


Dave Charnowalks

Charnopictures courtesy of Ana Figueiredo (Old Bailey 2015) and Alan Tucker (Fleet Street Hill Footbridge 2016)

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

The past fortnight has seen some interesting action. After East End Sundays, Charnowalks moved into February with City Sundays. The first was 'A Settlement Called Londinium', which explores the earliest stages of London's story. Beginning as a small settlement beside the Thames with no status, it became the capital of Roman Britannia within sixty years. The tour is illustrated with scans I took from the Museum of London's archaeological map. After all, we rely on archaeology for Londinium's story. There's very little written information.

City Sundays continue with 'Before the Make-Over', which tunes into echoes of Plantagenet and Tudor London in today's City, 'A Most Horrid Flame', an exploration of the Great Fire's causes and aftermath, and 'Engineering Change', a celebration of how engineering ventures have shaped today's City. You can find details here:

Later this month Footprints of London has a miniseries of tours exploring 'Revolutionary London', which runs into early March. This has been inspired by the centenary this year of the Russian Revolution. Many of London's associations with civil unrest will be explored. My contribution is 'The Unquiet City', a tour which explores nearly 2,000 years of uprisings aimed at the City of London.

As usual I shall be offering a reduced-priced preview for the tour's first outing, at £5 a head: please e-mail me at if you'd like to come. For full Footprints listings, including the 'Revolutionary London' tours, please see the website:

This focus on the City doesn't of course mean that I'm putting the East End stuff aside. In fact, currently I'm working on the new Walkie Talkie course, which is scheduled to start in April. It's Part Three, a development of the initial two courses, and while Parts One and Two are five weeks long each, Part Three will be ten weeks long. Also it will involve learners getting out onto the street, rather than the other two classroom-based courses.

It's envisaged that Part One will run annually in September, Part Two in November, and Part Three in April. This will give twenty weeks of tuition. Currently this won't lead to a qualification, but it will give the learner a thorough familiarity with the discipline of guiding, and with the Tower Hamlets. Enrolment is live for Part Three, and as it's the first outing it's being made available to those who haven't followed Parts One and Two. Please e-mail me for further details at this address:

Enrolment details are here:
The course outline is here:

Well, that's enough to be getting along with for now, so I'll sign off with all good wishes.


Dave Charnowalks

Charnopicture courtesy of Ana Figueiredo (Old Bailey 2015)