YOUR HARRY POTTER TOUR OF LONDON CONTINUES
HARRY POTTER DIRECTIONS
Continue ahead, passing to the left of Australia House and cross over Melbourne Place. Go left and over the two traffic light crossings on the other side of which bear left. Go first right into Surrey Street. You pass the former Aldwych Station on your right.
THE GHOST LINE
Aldwych Station opened on 30th November 1907 and for the next 87 years a shuttle service ran back and forth between it and Holborn Underground Station. The last train carrying the general public departed from the station on the evening of 30th September 1994, and today Aldwych is maintained by London Underground, mainly as a museum piece and film set, whilst the ticket hall is frequently rented out for art exhibitions, book launches and other private parties.
It is without doubt the most used of the disused stations on the Underground and numerous films and television programmes have been shot in its cavernous depths.
It stands on the site of the Royal Strand Theatre, which was demolished in 1905. This may account for the ghostly actress who is often seen strolling along the tracks at night.
Indeed, the ‘fluffers’ – those whose job it was to clean the tunnels and stations on the underground at night - often used to encounter her melancholic shade and several of them were, reportedly, absolutely terrified by the experience.
TO THE NEXT LOCATION
A little further along go right through the Brick Arch into Surrey Steps. Go down the steps, turn tight along Strand Lane and pause on the right outside the:
ROMAN BATH - STRAND LANE
Although no one is sure exactly how old this ‘antiquity’ actually is, many writers, Dickens included, have referred to it as Roman. Dickens is said to have taken many a cold plunge in its icy waters, and sent David Copperfield to do likewise.
The bath itself can be viewed through the window, and what is known of its history can be read on a board outside.
If you have a group you can arrange to have the Bath opened for you and explore the interior. To do so phone 020 7641-5264
Backtrack to Strand, go left along it. In the centre of the road you can see:
THE CHURCH OF ST MARY LE STRAND
THE SITE OF THE MAY-POLE
Work began on the current church in 1715 when it was built as one of the Queen Anne Churches, a Commission established by an Act of Parliament in 1711 to build 50 new churches across London.
It was at the church of St Mary le Strand that the parents of Charles Dickens were married.
The church stands on the site of the old May-pole where the May-day festivals were held in medieval times.
But in 1517, on what became known as "Evil May-day," rioting broke out around the May-pole on Strand, and the London Apprentices went on the rampage to protest at the ever increasing number of foreigners that were settling in London.
It took three weeks for order to be restored and thereafter the May-day celebrations began to lose their lustre until they were ended altogether by Cromwell's Commonwealth and the May-pole was taken down.
However, with the Restoration of the Monarchy and the return of Charles 11 in 1660, a new May-pole was set up much to the delight of Charles and his brother, James, Duke of York.
We are told that "little children did much rejoice, and ancient people did clap their hands, saying that golden days began to appear..."
The May-pole stood for the next 50 years until it had become dangerous, its height much reduced by wind and rain.
Although a new one was rebuilt nearby in 1713, work on the church had already begun and this May-pole, the third on the site, only stood for five years before being taken down.
Continue along Strand and, just past the bus stops, go left through the arch in to the courtyard of Somerset House.
There are often special events taking place in the courtyard of Somerset House. For example in December an ice rink is erected here and you can test balance and enjoy a little ice skating before continuing your Harry Potter Tour. Full details of events and of the history of the buildings can be seen on the Somerset House website.
LONDON TREASURE HUNT CLUE FOUR
Can you find these figures on one of the buildings?
As you enter the courtyard pass to the right of the statue that greets you and you will find them on the wall of the Inland Revenue to the right.
HARRY POTTER TOURS DIRECTIONS
Backtrack to Strand, go left and when you get to the next traffic lights, cross the road and head for the Lyceum Theatre, which can be seen to the left. Pause in the portico.
THE LYCEUM THEATRE
A Ghost Story
In the late 19th century the rafters of this theatre - now restored to its original opulent splendour by Lord Lloyd Webber - echoed to the thunderous applause of audiences that had come to marvel at the lavish Shakespearean productions staged here by Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.
One couple, however, got an added bonus with their ticket in the 1880’s when, during an interval, they happened to look over the balcony, and saw the severed head of a man leering up at them from a lady’s lap in the stalls below! Their curiosity aroused, they rose from their seats to investigate, but were forced to sit back down when the play resumed.
During the second half they kept looking over to railings, but the lady had a shawl over her lap.
When the curtain came down they raced down stairs and observed the lady leaving the theatre. Unfortunately, such was the press of the crowd that they lost her, and were left to ponder on the grisly enigma that they had witnessed.
Some years later, the husband happened to visit a house in Yorkshire where, to his surprise, he saw a portrait of the man whose face was identical to that which he and his wife had seen in the lady’s lap at the Lyceum. When he asked the owner of the house who the man was, he was told that it was a distant ancestor who had been beheaded for treason, and whose family once owned the land on which the Lyceum stands.
LONDON TREASURE HUNT CLUE FIVE
What is the connection between the Lyceum and Dracula?
Bram Stoker wrote Dracula whilst working at the Lyceum.
The answer is on a grey plaque on the theatre wall to the left just before the booking office.
DIRECTIONS TO THE NEXT LOCATION
Keep ahead along Wellington Street and go second left along Tavistock Street. Continue past Charles Fox, theatrical make up suppliers, then cross to the right side of the street. Turn right into Tavistock Court (there are toilets on the left should they be required.
As you go into Covent Garden you might wish to pay a visit to the London Transport Museum. the entrance to which is located to your right.
Otherwise continue ahead and immediately after Just Falafs Good Mood Food, go left in to the main Covent Garden Piazza.
LONDON TREASURE HUNT CLUE SIX
What did he signify that a shop sold?
The answer is on the information board by the old snuff shop that you pass on the left.
Keep ahead through the Piazza and on its other side go right, passing on your left the Church of St Paul's Covent Garden.
This is one of the locations in Covent Garden where you can take a break and enjoy the streets performers. Jugglers, escapologists and magicians frequently put on lively shows here.
Turn left along King Street at the end of which go over Bedford Street via the Zebra Crossing, keep ahead in to New Row and go first left into Bedfordbury.
A little way along on the right go through the passageway between 23 and 24 and enter Goodwin's Court.
This tucked away little alley, with its glorious Georgian facades, has a genuine aura of magical secrecy about it. At night the alleyway is even lit by the flickering glow of gas lamps.
LONDON TREASURE HUNT CLUE SEVEN
What did Goodwin's Court used to be called?
The answer is located on a small board that gives a history of Goodwin's Court, which is located on the wall about half way along on the right
Continue to the other end of Goodwin's Court and cautiously cross over St. Martin's Lane, the traffic will be coming from your right on this one way street.
Veer left on its other side and go first right into Cecil Court.
CECIL COURT THE REAL DIAGON ALLEY.
Cecil Court being "just off Charing Cross Road" and with its curious mix of bookshops and antique shops, is widely believed to be the real Diagon Alley, or at least the thoroughfare on which Diagon Alley was based.
There is certainly a mysterious air about this delightful little thoroughfare, and the first shop on your right is even called The Witch Ball!
Although the window displays change, several of the shops display curious antique books (such as the one shown above) in their windows and some of the shop signs themselves are very colourful, not to say magical, in their own rights.
DAVID DRUMMOND THEATRICAL BOOKSELLER
A particularly colourful one is David Drummond located a little way along on the left, whilst Watkins Books at number 19 on the left (www.watkinsbooks.com) claims to be the oldest occultist and mystical bookshop in the world.
A FAMOUS 20TH CENTURY MURDER.
In 1961 number 23 Cecil Court was the scene of a murder that led to a major advancement in criminal detection.
At midday on Friday 3rd March 1961 the body of part time shop assistant Mrs. Elsie May Batten was found in the curtained off rear of an antique shop at number 23. An eighteen-inch antique dagger was protruding from her chest.
The shops owner, Louis Meier, remembered a young man who had shown an interest in a particular dress sword and some daggers in his shop the previous day. The sword was now missing.
It turned up in a gun shop on the opposite side of the court, where the son of the owner told police that a man had brought it into his shop that morning. Using these witness’s descriptions the police complied England’s first Identikit picture and released it to the media.
On 8th March 1961 PC Cole, who was on duty in Old Compton Street, recognized 21 year old Edwin Bush as being the face on the picture and arrested him. Bush was subsequently hanged for Elsie Batten’s murder.
HARRY POTTER TOURS DIRECTIONS
Continue to the end of Cecil Court and go right along Charing Cross Road.
WHICH PUB COULD BE THE LEAKY CAULDRON?
It is through the Leaky Cauldron that the wizard community access Diagon Alley. The leaky Cauldron is a small shabby-looking inn on Charing Cross Road that is sandwiched between a record store and a large book shop. There are several pubs along Charing Cross Road, none of which exactly fit the description, so why not play a little game and decide for yourselves which one you think could be the Leaky Cauldron?
HARRY POTTER TOURS DIRECTIONS
Keep ahead past the Donmar Theatre and over Cranbourne Street.
FOLLOW THAT DEATH EATER!
You are now following the route taken by the Death Eaters in the opening sequence of Harry Potter and the Half Blood prince as they fly away from Trafalgar Square leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Keep going and pause outside Leicester Square Underground Station on the right. This entrance to the station is passed by the Death Eaters in the opening sequence of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Backtrack along Charing Cross Road, passing Cecil Court and pause alongside the Garrick Arms Pub by the pedestrian crossing.
LONDON TREASURE HUNT CLUE EIGHT
Who will be the first to spot this?
There are in fact two of these faces. You will find them on the left, just after you've passed the phone box.
They are on the first floor above Euro Food and Wine by Garrick Mansions at number 12 Charing Cross Road.
TO THE NEXT TOUR STOP
Cross over Charing Cross Road via the pedestrian crossing. Turn left on its other side and keep ahead and go right into Trafalgar Square. Veer left and pause at the top of the steps.
A MONUMENT TO A NATIONAL HERO.
The Square was laid out in the early 1830's and, at first, nobody was at all sure what it was to be used for! Some wanted it to be London's answer to the Piazza San Marco in Venice, whilst others argued it should be a rival to the great Places that graced Paris.
There was a proposal to turn it into a monument to the then monarch William 1V. Another enticing suggestion was that the Square should be filled with a pyramid that would be equal in height to St Paul's Cathedral (twice the height of Nelson's Column) in memory of those who had been killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The arguments continued until 1837 when a suggestion that a monument to Nelson should be erected in the square received universal support. Again their was a great deal of debate and discussion as to what would be a fitting memorial to Horatio Nelson, who was killed by a sniper's bullet at his moment of victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
It was suggested that Nelson's ship the Victory should be rebuilt in stone, at twice its actual height with every member of the crew depicted in the exact position they were in at the moment Nelson was shot.
Finally the idea of a column surmounted by a statue of Nelson was decided upon and thus Nelson now stands atop his 170 foot column high above the square.
LOOK OUT HERE COME THE DEATH EATERS!
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince begins with the Death Eaters launching a destructive attack on London from the air. Part of that opening sequence shows them swooping down onto Trafalgar Square.
WALK THIS WAY
Backtrack and cross the road via the crossing towards the church with the tall spire and the clock. This is:-
THE CHURCH OF ST MARTIN IN THE FIELDS.
Having swooped down onto Trafalgar Square the Death Eaters shoot past this church and along Charing Cross Road as mentioned earlier.
The church was designed in 1724 by the architect James Gibbs to replace the old church that Henry V111 had constructed for the people who lived hereabouts when the area was literally in the fields.
The church has recently undergone a major and expensive refurbishment and is well worth a visit.
Spectacular as this church is after its recent makeover it is difficult to imagine that, when it was first built it caused an absolute sensation.
Gibbs built the church with the steeple over its west end, rather than, as was the normal practice, over its east end. In addition he placed the steeple over a portico of tall columns. Its radical style caused great excitement and architects all over the country were soon adopting its design.
Three of Gibb's assistants then moved to New England and introduced 'the new English style' of church building into America. The fact that a church in this design was easy to build, and could be just as easily constructed from timber as from stone and brick, meant that, as the settlers headed west across America they took this design with them. The result is that today there are thousands of churches across the United States built in this style, all of them based on St Martin in the Fields.
Go left in front of St Martin in the Fields and keep ahead. Pass to the right of the Edith Cavell Brussels Dawn monument. Go over St. Martin's Place via the crossing, veer right and ahead into St. Martin's Lane. Cross to the Chandos Pub and go left in front of it, passing Spaghetti House.
Just before the London Coliseum, turn right to squeeze into the very narrow Brydges Place.
LONDON TREASURE HUNT CLUE NINE
Look carefully and see who will be the first to find this?
It is located on the stain-glass window that you pass about half way along on the left.
HARRY POTTER TOURS DIRECTIONS
At the end of Brydges Place turn right onto Bedfordbury, go right again along Chandos Place and cross to its left side. Keep ahead over William 1V Street, veering left on its other side and a little way along on the right go down the steps into the Subway Shopping area. When you arrive at the foot of the steps on the right is:-
DAVENPORTS MAGIC SHOP
CHARING CROSS UNDER PASS
Davenports is the oldest family-run magic business in the world. From the moment the dull thud of a loud bell announces your arrival, you find yourself confronted by a veritable cornucopia of all things magical and mysterious.
Ferocious-looking arm choppers, complete with severed arms, glimmer behind glass display cases.
There are ESP and Tarot cards for initiation into the secretive world of magicians, mediums and psychics.
You can even purchase a copy of the first book ever published on the subject of magic, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, written in 1584, at a time when the shop’s assistants would probably have been burnt at the stake for the demonstrations of sleight-of-hand that they perform for visitors.
Davenports location, tucked away as it is in this twilight, underground, almost secret part of London, is just a stones throw from Charing Cross Road, indeed its location could easily be described as being "just off Charing Cross Road.
Diagon Alley, "London's finest source for a wizard's every need," is described as being "just off Charing Cross Road." One can't help wondering if this hidden away shop, with its magic theme, didn't provide some of the inspiration for Diagon Alley.