Talks

guided walks around the City of London

Here are the talks being offered which uncover and discover the history of the City of London, its culture and tradition but also looking at what the future might hold.

Every talk by DAVID WILLIAMS is supported by a visual PowerPoint presentation.  He will bring everything required… a screen and projector, set it all up and then switch on to the magic of London….and it can be in a village hall or a fully-equipped lecture theatre.  He covers a number of London themes and topics involving well-known people, places and historical events.

David’s speaking fee is £60 plus travelling expenses.

Recently Added Talks

THE CITY FACES MORE GREEN CHALLENGES

A new presentation has been added to my list of talks for 2019…

THE GREENING OF LONDON, supported by a visually interesting Powerpoint presentation, was premiered in January at a meeting of the Benfleet Historical Society.

The talk highlights the progress made over the last 300 years to design and create some of the parks, gardens and squares that have made London a City that has earned world-wide respect for its green credentials. Most people including visitors from abroad are aware of the eight Royal Parks and the elegant Squares that can be seen all over the Capital. Few, however, realise that the aptly named ‘pocket’ parks, the tiny green lungs between the concrete and steel buildings, the restored churchyards and the Victorian cemeteries that have become havens for wild life are an essential part of the ‘green’ story.

The challenges that the authorities now face to control air pollution from increased traffic show that the efforts to maintain London’s green reputation as just as important as they were when the Victorians, individuals as well as preservation societies and organisations, worked tirelessly to make sure that the crowded 19th century City was able to offer people a healthier life-style.

The refurbishment of derelict dockland areas, the protection of Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches and the bold vision to turn the industrial landscape of Newham into showcase area for the 2012 Olympics and now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park are stories worth telling.

They are just as integral to THE GREENING OF LONDON.

Existing Talks

DARK TOURISM

This talk examines the way a popular form of tourism has developed since Thomas Cook led his first group of travellers to the Battle of Waterloo site and later the American Civil War battlefields. This was an early form of Dark Tourism. It raises questions about ethics and attitudes when tourists feel compelled to visit Ground Zero in New York, World War One battlefields, the Museum of Skulls in Cambodia and Auschwitz. A thought-provoking subject.

FLYING THE FLAG FOR WOMEN

Until the 19th century, women were expected to stay at home, raise a family and look after their menfolk. But that attitude was questioned when feminism emerged and the demand for women’s rights began to gain support in a male-dominated society. Hear about the struggles of those pioneering women like Angela Burdett-Coutts, Octavia Hill, Annie Besant and Josephine Butler who used their wealth, status and determination to change history.

MIND THE GAP

London Underground celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013 so how did this remarkable transport system come about in 1863 when the city was expanding fast and choked by carts and horse-drawn carriages. From steam to electrification, engineering triumphs and wartime tragedies this story is about how London was transformed by ‘the tube’.

POUNDS, SHILLINGS AND POVERTY

The 19th century was an age of invention, mechanisation, railway building, a vast empire and dramatic urbanisation. Fortunes were made – and lost. Squalid living conditions added to the misery of those who also struggled against disease and rising crime. But there were also those who devoted their lives to improving the working and social conditions.

SLAVERY AND THE CITY

Liverpool, Bristol and London made huge profits from the slave trade between the 16th and early 19th century. Individual fortunes were made and companies expanded rapidly as Britain became one of the world’s great trading nations. People owned slaves as an ‘investment’ and London merchants were actively involved in shipping goods to Africa, transporting slaves to the Caribbean and bringing sugar and rum back to the Britain. We look back on a shameful period on London’s 2,000 year history and identify merchants, politicians and aristocrats who were involved. Coming to terms with this period of London’s history can be painful.

SPITALFIELDS

This area close to Liverpool Street Station was better known for crime, poverty and slum housing. Now the crumbling houses have been refurbished and sell for well over £1m and there are a growing number of thriving fashion, media and technology companies in the area. Spitalfields has been home to thousands of Huguenots fleeing from Continental persecution; so too were the Jews and today there is thriving Bangladeshi population who contribute to the cultural mix which makes this such a fascinating part of the City.

THE BETHNAL GREEN TUBE STATION DISASTER

On 3rd March 1943, 173 men, women and children lost their lives in what was the worst civilian disaster of World War Two. What happened that night and the reasons behind this tragedy remained largely hidden for over 60 years. You will hear why the authorities chose to cover up the real truth and how the efforts of people affected by what happened eventually led to the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Memorial Trust being established.

THE CHANGING SKYLINE OF LONDON

Since the Romans arrived and established a trading base which they called Londinium, the city has gone through many periods of change and upheaval. Today, 2,000 years later, we see some remarkable buildings dominating the London skyline although not everyone is enthusiastic about some of the shapes and designs being created by the world’s best architects. See for yourself whether you approve – or disapprove – at what is happening.  This talk takes a look at the city architects of today and compares the challenges they face with those of Christopher Wren, Inigo Jones, Horace Jones and others from past centuries.

THE CHURCHES OF SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN

He was one of the great Englishmen of his age – and probably all time. Wren’s remarkable legacy remains the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral which took over 40 years to complete. Yet around the City streets are other smaller, beautiful churches that are a testimony to his remarkable design and engineering talent and many are featured in this presentation.

THE CITY LIVERY COMPANIES

There are 110 of City Livery companies thriving as educational and charitable organisations. They are an integral part of London’s heritage yet their influence and power dominated the medieval City. Much of today’s commercial and financial activity has origins well over 600 years ago when the Royal charters given to Livery Companies set the pattern for a growth in trade that continues to have a significant role in the 21st century.

THE FLOW OF HISTORY

We take a look at the River Thames and its importance and influence in the growth and development of London from Roman times to the present day. The river has been the lifeblood of the City for over 2,000 years but this is also a story of death and destruction, wealth and poverty, triumph and tragedy. The Thames cannot be taken for granted.

THE GREAT FIRE OF 1666

Fires were often a destructive and uncontrollable force in Medieval times. Yet after one of the most devastating events in London’s history, the City recovered to become the most influential commercial and financial trading centre in the world. This story plots the events before, during and after those tragic days of September 1666.

Planned Talks – coming soon…

LONDON SQUARES

Some of finest squares and open spaces of any world capital are here in London.  There over 400, large and small, and their history stretches back to the Great Fire of London.  The open spaces  in Bloomsbury, Belgravia and along the Embankment are a credit to designers and planners who saw the value of introducing squares and gardens and saved more inner-city land from becoming space for housing and new office blocks.