Precis: The centrepiece of the walk is, as per the title, Tudor Whitehall – The Forbidden City. But the drilling down – and through and out the far side – is no less riveting. Perhaps summed up in Colin Brown’s chapter titles: The Seabird Shore, The Cardinal’s Court, Henry VIII’s Palace of White Hall, Queen Elizabeth I’s Whitehall, Blood at the Banqueting House, Pepys’s Whitehall, Downing Street, Nelson and the Admiralty, Dover House – the Most Notorious Address in London, Wellington and Horse Guards, Pam’s Palace – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The War Office – from Haig to Hoon, The Cabinet Office and the Treasury, Scotland Yard, Winston and Whitehall.
The ghost in the machine. The perfect metaphor for this walk. The machine is of course today’s Whitehall. Which is a satisfying, exciting discovery* in its own right. Whitehall is, after all, the most important street in this country. It’s government street – decisions taken there affect the lives of every man, woman and child in the United Kingdom. And indeed of quite a few m, w and c elsewhere in the world, as events frequently demonstrate. So much for the machine. The ghost in the machine is what was here. The forbidden city, the Tudor palace, Tudor Whitehall. And the fab thing is quite a lot of trace evidence has survived. I mean, for heaven’s sakes, Henry VIII’s wine cellar is still in use! But you have to know where to look. And how to look. But the import of all that trace evidence means we’re not just seeing with the mind’s eye.
Another way of putting it, the walk’s a three-dimensional version of one of those superimpositions. A transparency – that would be what’s there today – superimposed on an artist’s highly accurate reconstruction of what was there. Fascinating.
Only thing to add is that the walk is guided by London’s most decorated guide: Fiona. She’s won every award going. Most recently Visit London’s big one: Guide of the Year.
*Discovery is the mot juste. Fiona dis-covers – uncovers – what’s there. And what was there.
TUDOR WHITEHALL, THE FORBIDDEN CITY – THE PRACTICALS
The Tudor Whitehall walk takes place at 2:30pm on Saturday March 4th. The meeting point is just outside the Villiers Street exit of EmbankmentTube.