The oldest urban walking tour company in the world prides itself upon the seventy world-class guides that lead their tours in a kind of ‘guides’ co-operative’ under the name of London Walks. We joined ‘Richard III’ (the third Richard to join the co-op) for ‘Ghosts, Gaslight and Guinness’.
We met ‘writer, actor, director and stand-up comic’ Richard in Holborn where he immediately set the tone for the evening. An sinister in-character welcome was followed by a dramatic drift around the corner, 20 ‘walkers’ shuffling behind him.
Introducing London as the most haunted city on earth ‘unutterably old and built over a fen of undisclosed horrors’ Richard explained that the evening would be part ghost walk, part architecture tour, part local history. We were to take in a host of historic sites to understand their significance before Richard would give us the inside story on the spirits that had been encountered there.
‘We will go to a place where time past and time present can fuse – especially as the daylight bleeds away’ (cue eerie silence). ‘We’ll also go to the pub for a swift drink’ (cue cheers from the back).
We walked from spot to spot through Lincoln’s Inn Fields and out towards The Strand, Richard keeping us entertained throughout. He told his tales well, leaving just the right amount of detail to our imaginations and the misty London streets as he spun a web of creepiness that grew as the tour went on.
We did pause for some Guinness, aptly, in ‘one of the oldest pubs in Covent Garden’ the Nell of Old Drury. The mood lightened here with less spooky tales of Charles II and the mistress who became the pub’s namesake. ‘When the King visited the theatre opposite this pub, the performance was rarely the reason for his smiling face as the curtain came down, all thanks to to the underground tunnel that connected the two buildings’.
After a couple of stops through Covent Garden it was time to wrap up. We stopped at the Lamb & Flag on Rose Street ‘one of the finest Georgian pubs still in London’. Time for one last ghost story (and indeed another Guinness).