London History Bulletin – February 4

Hard times on this day – February 4th – 193 years ago. Here’s Colonel Dyott’s diary entry for February 4th, 1830. The stuff of the London History Bulletin for February 4th, 2023.


London calling.

London Walks connecting.

London Walks here with your daily London fix.

Story time. History time.

Yesterday we had General Haig’s funeral. Let’s do some more soldiering today. More soldiering after a fashion. I thought we’d take a long-distance phone call from Colonel DyOtt. Colonel Dy0tt speaking to us from February 4th, 1830. It’s his diary entry. 

And the remarkable thing about it is the way it chimes, nearly 200 years later, with the mood of our times. The early February 2023 airwaves – news channels and podcasts and Twitter and youtube feeds full of depressing stuff about the state the country’s in. The UK economy taking a drubbing. The IMF assigning us to the doghouse – the only leading economy likely to contract this year. Trailing even Russia in that regard. And all the rest that goes with it – from mortgage payments through the roof and runaway inflation and food banks running out of food to an ageing population and worker shortages. It’s a tale of woes. And then the long-distance call comes in from Colonel Dyott – well nearly two centuries of long-distance – and what do you know, what was going in 1830 doesn’t seem all that different from the economic storms that are battering us nearly 200 years later.

And before we take his call, who was Colonel Dyott? He was well-connected. Moved in royal circles. 

Prince William – the future William IV – became a personal friend. |They played practical jokes and drank together. He also had good political connections. William Pitt was a neighbour and friend. His military career took him to the West Indies and Egypt and Spain. He had marriage problems. She accused him of marrying her for financial advantage. He divorced her by Act of Parliament. And then cashed in on the divorce – used it to deprive her of the property assigned to her under the marriage settlement.

Eleanor, that was his wife’s name, died in 1841 and was one of the first people to be buried in the new Highgate Cemetery. 

As for Colonel Dyott’s bookends, he was born in 1761, died in 1847. He’s buried in Lichfield, Dr Johnson’s home town. 

Last analysis, he was a Tory of the old school. If it was progressive, he was against it. He opposed Roman Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform and slave emancipation and corn-law repeal and even railways, at least initially.  So there’s our man. Here’s what he has to say about merrie old England on February 4th, 1830. 

And bears repeating, if some of it sounds familiar, so it should do.

You’ve been listening to the London History Bulletin for February 4th. Emanating from – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.

And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative. 

That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.

It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for. 

Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.

It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”

And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.

And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. See ya tomorrow.

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