Uncovering Roman London – Archaeologist Kevin Sifts Through the Evidence

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

This… is London.

Story time. History time.


Point. Counterpoint. Right across London we’re all being swept along by the Christmas rip tide. So here’s something a little different. No, a lot different. A well and truly get away from it all London Walk. And if you want to get that eyepiece into the sharpest possible focus, you’d call it a Londinium Walk. Kevin, the emeritus, the distinguished Museum of London archaeologist will be rolling out his Roman London – A Literary and Archaeological Walk this coming Saturday, December 16th. And he’ll be doing it again in January. Full particulars on www.walks.com. Anyway, that’ll be a look at London – sorry, Londinium – about three centuries before Christianity pitched up. The walk’s a potent combination. What’s not to like about looking at primal London – the oldest bits of it – and having a Museum of London archaeologist and museum curator, open it up to view, get it into focus for us. Make us see it properly. I’d sup full on that every time. The archaeology cake is rich repast all by itself. But it’s a cake with icing. Because Kevin tops it up with matters literary. Letters, poems, documents, etc. It’s frisson-making stuff, standing there, on the spot, being privy to Rufus’s matter-of-fact letter about being in good health and enjoining the recipient to make sure he turns that girl into cash. You know, stone the crows, if those aren’t the very stones. Flinty old Roman London and a flinty old letter. Make sure you turn the girl into cash. Look up from the Roman ruins and no question about it, London’s commercial today. It has its winners and losers. Look back at those ruins – turning Rufus’s letter over in your mind – London was commercial 2,000 years ago. And had its winners and losers. Wonder what happened to Rufus and his correspondent? And the girl. Well, Kevin goes some way toward answering that question. Sheds some light on what it was like to live and love and play and do business and die in London 2,000 years ago. That’s where our archaeologist and cultural historian takes us. But that’s enough from me. Let’s hear from Kevin himself.


[Kevin’s remarks about his Roman London walk follow]


You’ve been listening to This… is London, the London Walks podcast. Emanating from www.walks.com –

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 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, archaeologists, historians,

university professors,

criminal defence lawyers,

Royal Shakespeare Company 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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