Walking the lost churches of the City of London

The latest episode of my series walking the churches of the City of London, sees me go in search of the remains and sites of some of the lost churches of the City of London. Featuring: St Mildred’s, St Mary Cole, St Olave Jewry, The Great Synagogue, St Benet Sherehog, St Stephen Walbrook, and St Martin Orgar.
The route goes from Poultry near Bank Station then in a loop round Old Jewry, St Olave’s Court, and Ironmonger Lane. Then Pancras Lane, St Stephen’s Row, St Swithin’s Lane, Cannon Street, Laurence Pountney Hill, Upper Thames Street, Allhallows Lane, Hanseatic Walk, Arthur Street and Martin Lane.

Allhallows Lane, EC4 - lost churches of the City of London walk
Allhallows Lane
Site of Laurence Pountney Church - lost churches of the City of London walk
St Martin Orgar, Martin Lane - lost churches of the city of London
St Martin Orgar, Martin Lane

Many of the sites of the lost churches only survive as a blue plaque on a wall. Some as tranquil gardens and churchyards popular as lunchtime haunts. Others live on as towers embedded in the streetscape. I’m endlessly fascinated by the City of London. Each step in the City feels like a step through time, and if we listen closely, we can hear the whispers of those who walked before us, the echoes of the choirsong, the vibrations of the organs.

You can watch the whole series here

Walking the Churches of the City of London

The City of London once had 108 churches – today only 39 of them remain. In 2021, I embarked on a YouTube series to walk between these remaining churches and pick up traces of the numerous lost churches of the City of London, and the few that exist as partial ruins or churchyards. It’s been a magical experience.

Some of the churches date back to the Middle Ages, others contain much older secrets in their foundations and crypts. They link us back into the deep history of London. They link us from the earliest Christian communities in the City through the Anglo-Saxon period, the Norman Conquest to the Great Fire of London when a number of Churches were destroyed. However from the ashes arose the majestic architecture of Sir Christopher Wren who wrote his name across the City.

the spire of St Botolph Bishopsgate - City of London Churches walk
Tower of St Dunstan in the East - City of London Churches walk

My most recent episode in the series picked up the trail at St Margaret Pattens (first documented in 1067) with its magnificent Wren spire. Close by we encounter St Mary at Hill ‘London’s best kept secret’ before walking a cobbled lane to the serene garden in the shell of St Dunstan in the East, destroyed in the 1941 during the Blitz. Our walk then takes us past the Monument to the Great Fire which points the way to our final church, St Magnus the Martyr which once occupied one of the most prominent positions in medieval London, aligned with the old London Bridge, linking Southwark to the City.

St Dunstan in the East - City of London Churches walk

I’ve now walked 37 of the 39 churches of the City but my church crawling won’t end here. I’ll continue haunting the sites of those lost churches and the indelible mark they’ve left on the streets of the Square Mile.

You can watch the whole series here

Watch my walk along the City of London’s lost river Walbrook.

Walking the Secret Alignments of London

A walk linking together Bunhill Fields, Bunhill Row, Old Street, St Luke’s, and City Road. Taking in the burial places of William Blake, Daniel Defoe and Hawksmoor’s obelisk on St Luke’s Church.

Why do I always end up around the edge of the city in December and January? I associate this area with being freezing cold and it being a kind of gloomy cloudy day like the day I shot this video just before Christmas 2021. It was the perfect weather for this particular walk linking together series of really intriguing locations with great stories to tell. This is really the best type of walk in many ways. Obviously I love my river walks, I love all walks really, but there’s something about unlocking the secrets of the city which is just magical. There’s something about the city fringe, the nature of it, the stories it contains which is really potent and really resonant because of the things that were pushed outside the city walls. I headed north of Liverpool Street into once what would have been fenland and marshland where the River Walbrook rises, a place of dissenters and outlaws and outcasts, a place of pleasure and play. These are all things encountered on the walk.

psychogeographic alignments of London map from Lud Heat by Iain Sinclair
psychogeographic alignments of London from Lud Heat by Iain Sinclair
Grave of William Blake in Bunhill Fields, London
Bunhill Fields

The Route:
This walk starts near Liverpool Street on the edge of the City of London and heads along Worship Street to Finsbury Barracks, home of the Honourable Artillery Company. Next to the Barracks we find Bunhill Fields an old burial ground were numerous religious dissenters were buried including Daniel Defoe and William Blake. We walk along Bunhill Row where John Milton lived and wrote both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.The secret alignments of the City lead us to Old Street believed to have been a Roman road between Silchester and Colchester built along an even older trackway. Here we find St Luke’s Church designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
Our route takes us past Ironmonger Row Baths to Peerless Street once the site of a notorious pool that became a Ducking Pond and later a bath house with a library. We then emerge on City Road and our walk ends at The Eagle pub in Shepherdess Walk which is mentioned in the nursery rhyme, Pop Goes the Weasel.

Bunhill Fields

Read – Secrets of the City with Iain Sinclair

Walking London’s Roman Wall

London Wall Walk following the route of the Wall around Roman Londinium

The wall around the Roman city of London, Londinium, was built in around the year 200AD using Kentish ragstone quaried near Maidstone and most likely transported by boat along the Medway. It ran for 2 miles at 20 feet high from Tower Hill in the East to Moorgate in the North and then close to the River Fleet in the West where there was a gate leading to the river. It’s not known why the wall was built. One theory posits it could have been as a response to the threat of civil war between Clodius Albinus, governor of Britain who claimed the role of Emperor, and Septimus Severus who was proclaimed Emperor. London stayed within these walls for over a thousand years and didn’t expand until the Tudor period. To this day it still largely defines the City of London.

Our walk starts at Tower Hill near the Tower of London with one of the most impressive and imposing sections of the Roman Wall. The bottom four metres of this wall is still the original Roman structure with the higher levels added in the middle ages. We then go along Coopers Row where we can see the next section of Roman stone work before heading along Vine Street and Jewry Street to Aldgate.

London Roman Wall

London’s Roman Wall at Tower Hill

From here we progress along Houndsditch and Bevis Marks to Bishopsgate, one of the Gates into the Roman City. At Bishopsgate we follow London Wall and see fragments in the old churchyard of St Alphege before passing through the site of Cripplegate into the Barbican. Here we find another section of the Roman wall near St Giles Cripplegate with a medieval tower. We then pass through the Museum of London and see our last fragment of the wall in Noble Street (you can also pick up a great map of Roman London from the Museum shop).

London Wall Walk

Our route takes us down Kind Edward Street to Newgate then along Warwick Lane, which was a mistake as we should have gone to the corner of Newgate and Old Bailey and walked South from here. The London Wall Walk then crosses Ludgate Hill and worked its way down the old lanes to Queen Victoria street not far from where the North bank of the Thames would have been in Roman London.


This walk was filmed on 5th December 2020

Secrets of the City with Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair walk – Austin Friars to Mile End Road

This was a mystery walk, and a walk of secrets revealed. It seemed to come out of the blue. I thanked the great writer Iain Sinclair for the directions he’d provided for the Austerlitz walk I did with Bob and Roberta Smith and sent him a link to the video. He replied saying that he’d show me the house in Alderney Road where he believed the fictional character in Sebald’s book had lived. In addition, he said, we could add to the Van Gogh walk we’d done at the back end of 2018, and loop in two of Iain’s recent projects – his journey to Peru following the footsteps of his great-grandfather, and a piece he’d written for the Swedenborg Review.

Iain Sinclair John Rogers

John Rogers and Iain Sinclair at Austin Friars

I met Iain outside WH Smith at Liverpool Street Station, once part of the opulent Great Eastern Hotel. Among Iain’s many casual jobs in the past, he’d worked night shifts at the Station (from memory as a baggage handler?) in the days when it was a dark and dingy terminus, as described in Austerlitz. We moved on quickly through the City, heading south down Old Broad Street, breeching London Wall, then diving into Austin Friars Passage off Great Winchester Street. Iain touches the ‘pregnant’ wall in the alleyway, “you actually can put your hand on it, avoiding the chewing gum, and you take the temperature of another era of London,” Iain says. ‘Taking the temperature’ of London is a good description of Iain Sinclair’s work. He’s had an amazing knack of finding the territory that contains the story of London at that particular time, the Thatcher era in Downriver, the mid-90′ end of Tory rule in Lights Out for the Territory, the early bravado Blair years at the turn of the millenium with London Orbital, through to the new city being spun out of the Overground railway with London Overground. Today we’d be slicing across these timelines ending back with one of Iain’s earliest works, Lud Heat, where he accidentally gave birth to a particular Anglo-Celtic variation of psychogeography while working as a gardener in the churchyards of the East End.


Iain Sinclair John Rogers

Plantation Lane

The church at Austin Friars was home to London’s Dutch community in the 19th Century and was visited by Vincent Van Gogh. His sketch of Austin Friars Church is one of the few artworks he produced during his time in England. We follow this leg of the Van Gogh trail into Gracechurch Street, where the commercial gallery he worked for had a branch.

A coffee shop triggers the next chain of assocations on our walk, which now diverts its theme to Iain’s recent travels to Peru tracing the journey of his great grandfather, who had been sent there in the late 1800’s by the Peruvian Corporation of London. His mission had been to travel deep into the upper Amazon to see what crops could be grown there. The conclusion that the land would be suitable for the cultivation of coffee has its legacy in coffee shops and supermarket shelves the world over. You pick up references to this notable ancestor in various Sinclair works, particularly in Dining on Stones. This Peru expedition will be the subject of Iain’s next book, and you can read his blog posts of the trip here. There’s  a podcast in post-production and a film, The Gold Machine directed by Grant Gee, is due in the autumn.

Thames Wapping


We inevitably find ourside by the Thames, passing through the tourists laying seige to the Tower of London, talking of the legend of Bran the Blessed and the alignments linked by myth laid out in E.O. Gordon’s book, Prehistoric London, its mounds and circles (1904). From the start of this walk I’ve had no idea of the route, just following Iain through the City, knowing only that we will at some point arrive at Alderney Road in Stepney. We retrace some of our steps through Wapping from one of the walks for our London Overground film, passing the Thomas Rainsborough memorial and Turner’s Old Star.

Iain Sinclair walk

Chigwell Hill

We cross The Highway, the spire of St. George in the East lancing the East End sky. Designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and tagged as a nodal point in the psychogeography of London, largely thanks to Iain Sinclair’s early writings, you’d assume that St. George was where we were heading. But it turns out to be a site with possibly more tangible esoteric resonances.

Dodging into a small park beside the throbbing road, I find Iain stood looking at a London plane tree on a raised oblong of graveled ground. Swedenborg Gardens marks the spot where the Swedish philosopher and mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg was buried, in a churchyard since destroyed. It links to the Sebald story via Rabbi Chayim Samuel Jacob Falk, who was also said to be a kabbalist and alchemist. Falk, a friend and neighbour of Swedenborg’s in nearby Wellclose Square was buried in the Alderney Road Jewish Cemetery where Jacques Austerlitz lived in an a house overlooking the burial ground. “Both of these celebrated aliens, seekers and scholars, were buried in the ground of the territory: Falk at Alderney Road and Swedenborg beside the Highway,” wrote Iain Sinclair in the Swedenborg Review.

Iain Sinclair walk

Iain Sinclair in Swedenborg Gardens

From Swedenborg Gardens we pass along storied Cable Street and up through Watney Market as the traders are packing away for the day. The dangling lights from the metal stall frames sway like lanterns in the late afternoon darkness. Sidney Street is yet another location on this schlepp with a tale to tell, Seige House feels like an odd tribute to the events of 1911 that took place down here.

Across Mile End Road and we home in on the end of the walk at Alderney Road, still calm and peaceful as described by W.G Sebald in Austerlitz. Iain guides me to the house where he believes the fictional Jacques Austerlitz would have lived given what can be extracted from the book. By now it’s pitch black and I ask Iain to stand under a street light for the camera. He willingly poses in the shower of lamplight, the occasional passing car casting additional illumination – the perfect end to an incredible walk.

Iain Sinclair walk

Walk along the Walbrook – the City of London’s Lost River

I first did a version of this walk along the Walbrook back in November 2011, but was keen to return starting nearer to one of the supposed sources and also visit the recently opened London Mithraeum that sits upon the banks for this ancient stream. The route I followed in early December, drew from two principle sources – Nicholas Barton’s classic book, The Lost Rivers of London, and a sketch map of London Under Henry II by Marjourie B. Honeybourne from Norman London – An Essay by Professor F.M Stenton (pub. 1934). Stenton’s essay and the map is informed by a contemporary Norman description of London by William Fitz Stephen.

London Mithraeum

The route starts at St. Leonard’s Church Shoreditch, and goes past the Shoreditch Holy Well in Bateman’s Row. From here it follows the course of the river down Curtain Road to Blomfield Street where it was partially excavated during Crossrail works. Then we cross London Wall and go through Angel Court where another part of the river was uncovered in the 1970’s. We go behind the Bank of England at Lothbury then follow the buried river down Walbrook to the Temple of Mithras. From here we go down Dowgate Hill to where the Walbrook makes it’s confluence with the Thames near Canon Street Station.


Click here to see my video of another walk along one of the ‘Lost rivers of London’ – the Tyburn


Picturing Forgotten London at the London Metropolitan Archives

Islington Spa engraving

Met the brilliant Dave Binns the other week for a look at the Picturing Forgotten London exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives. The mood was perfectly set by the walk up through the winding backstreets of Clerkenwell to the LMA by Spa Green Fields. After signing in at reception, then being directed to deposit our bags in a locker, we were free to go up to the exhibition with the instruction that all notes were to be made solely with a pencil and that our notebooks should be carried in a large transparent plastic bag (which was provided).

The exhibition starts on the staircase to the gallery – an ante-room to the main archive. The first image to grab my attention was an aerial photograph of Caledonian Market on Copenhagen Fields taken in 1930, a site I’ve been interested in for a number of years. It captures the full extent of the market grounds, some of which is now preserved as parkland along with the majestic clocktower.

In the gallery I was drawn to the glass display case dedicated to artist and writer Geoffrey Fletcher, presented as if containing holy relics. There was a photo of Fletcher sat on the ground sketching the Roman Temple of Mithras (recently relocated) along with a fine hardback edition of London Overlooked and a penguin paperback of The London Nobody Knows. A banner printed with a large photo of the Skylon at the 1951 Festival of Britain hangs nearby.

A collection of images show ‘The Devil’s Acre’, an area of poor housing just to the south of Westminster Abbey that was described by Charles Dickens in his magazine Household Words. A section on Housing includes an engraving from 1775 of The Norman Baynard’s Castle on a corner by the confluence of the Fleet and the Thames near a photo of a prefab on the back of a truck in 1962, and wooden cottages in East India Dock Road in 1860.

Layers upon layers of London are hanging on the walls at the Metropolitan Archives, whole other worlds within worlds. The exhibition runs until 31st October 2018 and is highly recommended.