Trafalgar Square Redux 14 – Famous People Who Lived in Trafalgar Square (plus Dawn Chorus & Karl Marx)

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

This… is London.

This is London Walks.

Streets ahead.

Story time. History time.


Good morning, London. It’s May 4th, 2024. Today’s pin is what I’ve just learned about tomorrow morning. It’s all over Radio 4 this morning. Tomorrow morning, Sunday, May 5th is International Dawn Chorus Day. It’s apparently a worldwide celebration of nature’s greatest symphony. Takes place on the first Sunday in May. We have it on the good authority of the Wildlife Trust that all across the world people rise early to revel in the sweet sound of birdsong, from rattling wrens in Rotherham to crooning cowbirds in the Caribbean. And what do you know, Dawn Chorus Day had urban beginnings. It got started in Birmingham in the 1980s. And it took off. Today it’s a global annual celebration, enjoyed in over 80 countries. The Wildlife Trust website goes on to list various and sundry dawn choir events around the country. Alas, none in London, though. But don’t despair. Stay with me. Anyway, running my eye down the list of nationwide Dawn Chorus events, I particularly liked the sound of the one in Oakham, Rutland. It’s billed as a Dawn Chorus Walk for later risers. And cut from the same cloth, the Not-quite dawn chorus on Village Farm in Cambridgeshire. Britain. What’s not to like about this place. And here’s where London – and indeed London Walks – gets in on the act, comes to the rescue. We’re not on the Wildlife Trust’s list of Dawn Chorus venues but we could be. Under the category Dawn Chorus Walk for Later Risers. Yes, I’m unashamedly talking about my Sunday morning Hampstead Walk. We do three different, three wonderful chunks of Hampstead Heath on that walk. And we always hear birdsong. That walk – my favourite of the 59 London Walks in my personal repertory – has manifold joys and delights. And hearing that birdsong as we step into that green paradise is certainly one of them.


Moving on, today’s Random. Before we lose sight of it in the rearview mirror, a final word about May Day. It of course marks the beginning of spring. And it’s International Workers Day. Cue Richard III, who rolls out his annual Karl Marx in London – Walkers of the World Unite! tour to mark the occasion. One of my favourite historians is Ian Mortimer. One of his many wonderful books is Centuries of Change – Which Century Saw the Most Change and Why It Matters to Us. It turns out it’s a personal favourite of the author himself. About it Dr Mortimer says, “This is the book I feel I was born to write.” Anyway, I found it of no little interest that in the great historian’s estimation, “Karl Marx was the principal agent of change of the nineteenth century.”

And that brings us to today’s Ongoing. And what do you know, we’re going to revisit Trafalgar Square. Yes, another Trafalgar Square redux. I thought it would be interesting to put – and answer – the question: did any famous people live in Trafalgar Square. You’d probably guess no. But you’d be wrong. The next time you’re in the southwestern corner, down where it links with the Mall and that great panoramic on down to Buckingham Palace, take a good look at the Admiralty Arch. It’s very pleasing to the eye so it’s not as though that’s a particularly onerous assignment. In the North Wing of the arch is a lavish apartment. A lavish apartment that’s had, yes, famous residents. All of them naval. Appropriate that, isn’t it, given that Trafalgar Square’s main act is honouring this country’s greatest naval hero of all, Admiral Nelson. Anyway, roll call time. The first occupant of said lavish apartment was Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson. And he was followed by other sea lords: Lord Fisher, Earl Jellicoe, Earl Beatty and Earl Mountbatten. For the record, Beatty and Jellicoe are honoured with busts on the north wall of Trafalgar Square, just down from the National Gallery. And as long as we’re at it, a certain First Lord of the Admiralty (the civilian head of the Royal Navy) worked in the Admiralty Arch building. In the words of the great American journalist Edward R Murrow, Winston Churchill mobilised the English language and sent it into battle. Well, you’re looking at the Admiralty Arch you’re looking at the place where some of those great speeches were written. And speaking of the written word, Ian Fleming, James Bond’s creator, worked in the Admiralty Arch. Yes, in a naval capacity. 007’s creator was personal assistant to the director of the Naval Intelligence Division.

Final thought. Admiralty Arch. It’s well-named, wouldn’t you say. You wouldn’t come amiss if you deemed it Trafalgar Square’s flagship building.

Head to today’s Ongoing


You’ve been listening to This… is London, the London Walks podcast. 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:

By way of example, Stewart Purvis, the former Editor

(and subsequently CEO) of Independent Television News.

And Lisa Honan, who had a distinguished career as a diplomat (Lisa was the Governor of St Helena, the island where Napoleon breathed his last and, some say, had his penis amputated –

Napoleon didn’t feel a thing – if thing’s the mot juste – he was dead.)

Stewart and Lisa –

both of them CBEs –

are just a couple of our headline acts.

Or take our Ripper Walk. It’s the creation of the world’s leading expert on Jack the Ripper, Donald Rumbelow, the author of the definitive book on the subject.  Britain’s most distinguished crime historian, Donald is, in the words of The Jack the Ripper A to Z,“internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper.” Donald’s emeritus now but he’s still the guiding light on our Ripper Walk. He curates the walk. He trains up and mentors our Ripper Walk guides. Fields any and all questions they throw at him.

The London Walks Aristocracy of Talent – its All-Star team of guides – includes a former London Mayor. It includes the former Chief Music Critic for the Evening Standard. It includes the Chair of the Association of Professional Tour Guides. And the former chair of the Guild of Guides.

It includes barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, a former Museum of London archaeologist, historians,

university professors (one of them a distinguished Cambridge University paleontologist); it includes

criminal defence lawyers,

Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre actors,

a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the big one, 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.

And that’s by way of saying, Good walking and Good Londoning

one and all. See ya next time.

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