This excursion will be back soon. In the meantime we’d be happy to organise a private tour for you. Please contact us on 020 7624 3978 | privatewalks@walks.com to make a booking.

Invitation to a Secret Ceremony

St. Paul's underground station, London (exit 2)

Guided by Karen

Short version: Like seeing something other people don’t get to see? Like pageantry? A centuries-old rite?

Long version: Robes. Regalia. A boar’s head on a stretcher. A procession. The Lord Mayor. The Mansion House. The Butcher’s Hall.

Yes, that’s right. We’re heading far (enough) from the madding crowd. Maybe 30 visitors – out of the 30 million who visit London annually – will see the ceremony we’re going to see. See the ceremony, the ceremonial procession Karen’s going to guide. (If you’re with us that makes you one in a million – that’s bragging rights; that’s seeing something 29,999,970 people don’t get to see.) And that’s by way of saying, this one emphatically isn’t a ceremony for tourists* – it’s a ceremony for the ancient body that carries it out. It’s about them and their “custom of immemorial usage in the City” – it’s not about tourists. It’s a procession and a guard of honour and robes and furred gowns and gold chains and badges of office and, above all, a boar’s head on a stretcher. It’s intimate and strange and rivetting. And – into the bargain – it’s a whole lot more than a “mere” spectacle. Because if you don’t understand London Livery Companies and ancient London offices and time-honoured ways of doing things you don’t understand London. And that’s the world – its own world – that Karen will open up for you – that you’ll have a grasp of, will understand come walk’s end on November 29, 2016. That’s the payoff, the return.** That’s what comes of Karen’s prepping you for the procession itself. Last word: really really special two hours, this. “The world’s greatest guide” – in Travel and Leisure’s estimation – taking you through the intricacies of a centuries-old London ceremony. Taking you to a ringside seat. Does it get any better than that?

And as long as we’re at it, let’s hear it from the world’s greatest guide: “Here’s a thrilling alternative to the switching on of the Oxford street lights (yawn): the quaint and whimsical Boar’s Head ceremony that is still performed annually by one of the oldest Livery Companies in the City of London. Resplendent in fur-trimmed robes, members of the Butcher’s Company solemnly process to Mansion House, the Lord Mayor’s official home. They come bearing gifts. Well, one very special Yuletide gift. In pride of place in the procession: the Boar’s Head, which will subsequently be at the head of the table – the place of honour – at their festive feast. A feast that can be traced back to 1343. Now that’s what I call a real tradition…”

No guarantees but we’ve had some lightening strikes on these Special Ceremony Walks. This, for example. (As you’ll see from the piece, on September 29, 2016 lightning struck twice on the same walk.) And I can guarantee you it happened because it was Karen guiding it. Her poise, her mastery, her being smartly attired – that’s why the former Lord Mayor stopped, listened, joined in, offered to escort our group to the hall and invited us inside, seated us in fine leather chairs in the holy of holies – Guildhall – to watch one of the most ancient rituals in the City. Ringside seats indeed. And no, it wasn’t a one-off. Another ceremony, another Lord Mayor (in full regalia), guide and group posed with him on the steps of Mansion Hall, photograph to prove it… Well, you get the idea.

*In marked contrast to the Changing of the Guard, that quintessence of touristy London. The Ch of the G’s the vin ordinaire of London tourist fare. The hordes are welcome to it. Today at any rate. We won’t be there, er, swilling that (in). We’re uncorking Chateau Lafite.

**That and the photographs you’ll get – so whatever you do DON’T leave your camera behind and DO make sure the battery’s charged and you’ve got a spare.

PRACTICALS

The Invitation to a Secret Ceremony walk takes place on Tuesday, December 13 at 2 pm. Meet Karen outside St. Paul’s Tube Stop, exit 2.

Ok, and, yes, if you’ve been folowing this page – the ceremony was originally scheduled to take place at 2 pm on Tuesday, November 29. The Butchers Company have just announced that they’re postponing the ceremony by a fortnight – instead of November 29 it’ll go on Tuesday, December 13. (This technology sure comes in handy sometimes.) Anyway, what that means is that Karen will, on the original date – November 29 – do a general Livery Companies of London walk. Same time (2 pm) same station (St. Paul’s Tube, exit 2). And then she’ll back there at St. Paul’s Tube at 2 pm on Tuesday, December 13 to do the Livery Company (singular, not plural) walk that focuses in on the Butchers Company and their rescheduled Boar’s Head Ceremony – the Invitation to a Secret Ceremony Walk.

LONDON WALKS PRIVATE WALKS

If you can’t make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, public Mountain Building & Meteorites in the City of London walks it can always be booked as a private tour. If you go private you can have the Invitation to a Secret Ceremony 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 privatewalks@walks.com 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.

GIVE THE GIFT OF LONDON WALKS

A private London Walk makes a fab gift – be it a birthday or anniversary or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that’s special. Memories make us rich.

LONDON WALKS – STREETS AHEAD!

Don’t just take it from us.

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