St. James's Park Tube, Broadway/Westminster Abbey exit | Map
Guided by Hilary
From Abbey to Cathedral...
You ready? Braced? You better be because we're heading into a historical heart of darkness. Into the Tiajuana of the Westminster of the great and the good. Some history. Hundreds of years ago this area earned the epithet "that terrible place." That's just the foundation. If you can call marshland a foundation. It was Dickens who described this part of London as the "devil's acre." How bad was it? Well, slums built on marshland, what do you think? Yeah, slums – the mot juste. This was the poster-child for that kind of thing – indeed "the devil's acre" pioneered – garnered, racked up, "earned" – the first ever use of the word slum. Hollingshed had this to say about one of its "better" streets: "threepenny homes for travellers abound on both sides – yellow, sickly, unwholesome places; a fiddler was playing a dancing tune to a mixed assembly of thieves and prostitutes. So, yes, a neighbourhood of pickpockets, prostitutes, sharpers, thieves, innkeepers... Oh, it all went down here. It did a spell as an Irish rookery. Fast forwarding to the 19th century, its main street was an exercise in slum clearance. Similarly, the Peabody buildings dotted throughout the "devil's acre" bear telling witness to "what went before."
And on the other hand, it's also a neighbourhood of elegant squares, of one stunning church, of the most perfect early Georgian street in London.
And for spice – well, more spice – scandals and politicians, an elegant dining room, a byzantine extravaganza, gaslights, and a charity school that'll stop you in your tracks. Though the stop-you-in-your-tracks factor goes for pretty much everything Hilary shows you and tells you on this walk.
The Devil's Acre walk takes place at 2.30 pm on Sunday, August 11. Meet Hilary OBE just outside the Broadway/Westminster Abbey exit of St. James's ParkTube Stop.
"by far the most impressive series of walks that I have ever encountered are those offered by London Walks" Travel and Enjoy
"Even jaded Londoners find these London Walks a source of astonishing gems of information about the city in which they live." Daily Mail, Top London Treats
If you can't make the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, public Devil's Acre Walk do think about booking one as a private tour. If you go private you can have the Devil's Acre Walk – or any other London Walk – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We'll tailor it to your requirements. Ring Fiona or Noel or Mary on 020 7624 3978 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll set it up and make it happen for you. A private London Walk – they're good value for an individual or couple and sensational value for a group – makes an ideal group or educational or birthday party or office (team-building) or club outing. Or indeed a fab present – be it a birthday or anniversary or get-to-know-your-new neighbourhood gift or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that's special. Memories make us rich.
Don't just take it from us or The New York Times