Hatchards Piccadilly with Iain Sinclair

John Rogers and Iain Sinclair at Hatchards Piccadilly
photo by Johanne Adams https://www.instagram.com/johanneadams/

What an amazing night at Hatchards Bookshop on Piccadilly with the great Iain Sinclair talking about my book, Welcome to New London and getting a preview of Iain’s forthcoming publication, Pariah Genius.

John Rogers and Iain Sinclair at Hatchards Piccadilly
John Rogers and Iain Sinclair at Hatchards Piccadilly
John Rogers and Iain Sinclair at Hatchards Piccadilly
John Rogers at Hatchards Piccadilly
Welcome to New London and This Other London at Hathcards Piccadilly

After the talk and book signing, I wandered with a friend up to the Old Coffee House in Soho to remind myself of the glory of Brodie’s Beer (brewed in Leyton), sinking a couple of pints of Piccadilly Pale. It seemed the most appropriate place to delve into Iain’s ‘fictionalised biography of the afterlife of the photographer John Deakin‘.
The Buxton reference in the Truman’s mirror nicely echoed the discussion with Iain over the influence of the Buxton family in East London and their mention in Welcome to New London. Iain also recalled his time working at Truman’s with the sculptor and author Brian Catling in the 1970s.

The Old Coffee House Soho
Pariah Genius by Iain Sinclair on the bar of a Soho pub

The Other Side of Soho – Carnaby Street, Broadwick Street, Golden Sq

This video picks up the trail that I started in my previous Soho walking tour in Berwick Street. We walk down Broadwick Street where Dr John Snow made his breakthrough discovery linking infected water to cholera infections. We also visit the site of the birthplace of William Blake before continuing our stroll along Carnaby Street. In Kingly Street we admire the pubs and then turn into Beak Street where the Italian painter Canaletto lived for a period of time. Our walking tour takes us then into Golden Square, first laid out in the 1670’s with ‘such houses as might accommodate Gentry’, and we admire the fine architecture. We stop by the Piccadilly Theatre and then follow Brewer Street into Great Windmill Street with its famous Theatre.

Soho Stories – a stroll around London’s entertainment district

Our stroll through the history of Soho starts at Manette Street, named after a character in Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities. We then pass The Pillars of Hercules pub in Greek Street and make our way into Soho Square, which was developed in the 1680s on the site of Soho Fields. We look at some of the fine 17th and 18th Century architecture around Soho Square.
From Soho Square, we go back along Greek Street, past the house where Thomas De Quincey lived and wrote, Jazz After Dark where Amy Winehouse performed, Josiah Wedgewood’s pottery showrooms, and L’Escargot Restaurant. We walk along Old Compton Street and also visit The Coach and Horses pub, Kettner’s, Maison Bertaux, The French House, Cafe Boheme and numerous other significant locations around Old Compton Street. Our walking tour then goes up Frith Street, past Bar Italia and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club and then into Dean Street past the Soho Theatre and Quo Vadis restaurant. Dean Street was originally the heart of the French community in Soho, and in the 1700s French was so widely spoken in the area that people said you could imagine you were in France.

Maison Bertaux, Soho London - Soho walking tour
Dog and Duck pub Soho London - Soho walking tour

From Dean Street we pass back along Old Compton Street and then up Wardour Street, past the location of the famous Marquee Club and the Intrepid Fox pub. No walk around Soho would be complete without taking in Berwick Street with its historic street market and fantastic record shops. The final section of our walk goes through Walker’s Court to the Raymond Revuebar. We finish this wonderful Soho stroll in Rupert Street.

Watch Part 2 of my walking tour of Soho here

And this walk around Soho with Tim Arnold from Save Soho in 2015 is well worth a watch as well (this features in my forthcoming book – Welcome to New London).

Sunday stroll through Central London

A walk through Bloomsbury and Soho to Piccadilly Circus

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been in Central London this year – certainly not since the lockdown. So I glided up the escaltor at Holborn Underground with a sense of excitement tinged with trepidation. My old Sunday stroll path was to head along Kingsway and up Southampton Row, have a mooch in Book Warehouse then wander through Bloomsbury. That was the route I followed. Book Warehouse closed a couple of years ago. There was a notable absence of tourists and Sunday strollers around Russell Square. The University of London grounds were deserted – IoT, SOAS and Birkbeck were ghost towns. Senate House was again cast in a sci fi movie.

There was more life around the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street but dwarfed by the enormous Soho Place development that’s wiped out the end of Charing Cross Road – including the much loved Astoria Theatre.

Soho Place development - site of Astoria Theatre

Soho Place development – site of Astoria Theatre


Old Compton Street, Soho

Old Compton Street hummed with life – the road blocked off, tables lining the centre of the street from Charing Cross Road to Wardour Street. There was a queue outside Ronnie Scott’s in Frith Street. It was a heartening sight. Let this be the new normal.

The walk ended at Piccadilly Circus, the sun setting over the statue of Eros with lovers huddled around on the steps as they’ve always done.


London walk 28th December

Old Red Lion pub

It’s become a tradition of mine of over the last 15 years or more to head into Central London late in the afternoon one day between Christmas and New Year to wander the streets around Holborn and Bloomsbury. I started at Chancery Lane and was drawn along Red Lion Street, not noticing before the many times I’d passed this way, that the Old Red Lion pub was the place where the exhumed body of Oliver Cromwell had been stored before his rotting corpse was executed at Tyburn 2 years after his actual death. I can imagine business at the pub was slow during the period that his cadaver would have stunk the place out.

Old Red Lion Cromwell

Orde Hall Street WC1

Orde Hall Street WC1

I turned off Lamb’s Conduit Street into Dombey Street and then followed the curvature of Orde Hall Street. According to UCL’s Bloomsbury Project this parcel of land had originally belonged to Rugby School since the 16th Century and had gradually been developed over the ensuing centuries.

“It was built in 1882 and replaced the former slums of Little Ormond Yard, purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works to improve housing in the area
It was named after John Orde Hall, member of the Holborn District Board of the Metropolitan Board of Works
It was designed for respectable working people.”

Orde Hall Street

Orde Hall Street Camden Council Estate

Queen Square

Queen Square


Queen Square

Queen Square always makes me think of Geoffrey Fletcher who I’m sure drew the gas lamp above although I can’t find the reference right now. The square was built in the early 18th Century and is notable for the various medical institutions that surround it, the most interesting to me being the elaborate Italian Hospital which closed in 1990.

Queen Square

Queen Square


The British Museum

I wanted to visit the British Museum to look at the Romano-British burial urns and grave goods for a video I was in the process of editing. The extra security checks now mean that the queues to enter stretch back along Great Russell Street.

Anglo Saxon jewelry

Anglo Saxon jewelry

Despite my focus on the Roman Britain rooms I can’t help being drawn in by the Anglo Saxon artefacts. We visited Sutton Hoo at exactly this time 3 years ago and the impression has never left me. The intricacy and beauty of even everyday objects seems so at odds with the Victorian image of the Anglo-Saxon era as dark and barbaric.

Supreme Store Soho

Supreme Store Soho

I passed through Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia and crossed into Soho. The spectacle of the queues outside the Supreme Store have become one of the tourist sights of London gauging by the twenty or so people stood opposite taking pictures.


I then traversed Leicester Square and crossed Charing Cross Road to Cecil Court where the shops were all shut, which is just as well as I may have been tempted to part with too much money for this lovely copy of Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho, a story of London’s Beat Generation.

Brydges Place

Brydges Place

I couldn’t resist being drawn along Brydges Place despite the foul stench of urine, accumulated over centuries. It delivered me to the rear of The Harp, one of central London’s finest real ale pubs, where the drinkers gathered in the alley and out the front. It was the perfect end to this winter wander.



Rocking on the rooftops to Save London

Here’s my latest Drift Report – a rooftop protest gig by The Bermondsey Joyriders on top of the old Foyles Building in Charing Cross Road (the same one that had a big display for This Other London in the window) organised by Henry Scott-Irvine of the Save Tin Pan Alley Campaign.

Sign the petition to Save Tin Pan Alley here