Stephen Humphrey

Stephen Humphrey, who was for many years archivist in the London Borough of Southwark, has died.

As a local historian and ambassador for Southwark’s many textured history, Stephen had no rival. He was immensely knowledgeable, immensely generous with that knowledge, and always a fascinating conversationalist.

I met Stephen some thirty years ago when one of my aunts wanted to research the family tree. Our path very quickly took us to the Local Studies Library in Borough High Street, where Stephen offered advice and showed us how to search the archives.

When I became a Blue Badge Tourist Guide our paths continued to cross, and I came to know him better. I appreciated more his understated style and enjoyed his seemingly endless stock of stories. He continued to give me the benefit of his professional advice, as he did so many others.

The hole he leaves in Southwark’s fabric is enormous. He was a gentleman and a scholar; an unassuming figure who supported and helped many many individuals and groups in the area.

I am very proud to have known Stephen. I shall miss both his erudition and his gentle humour. My life was richer for knowing him.

A book of condolence is available to sign at the John Harvard Library in Borough High Street should you wish to leave a message.

The Walworth Walk

I’ll be leading the Walworth Old and New walk Saturday 3rd December, meeting outside Kennington tube station at 10.45am.

From the Saxons to the present day, Walworth has had many incarnations.



Famous as the birthplace of Charlie Chaplin, Walworth has belonged to a court jester, temporarily housed St Thomas’ Hospital, seen the first giraffes in a public collection in the United Kingdom, been the force behind achieving age related pensions, and has been mentioned in literature from Charles Dickens to Muriel Spark. Continue reading

Don’t Miss This – A Midsummer Night’s Dream Live -Streamed!

Were you lucky enough, as I was, to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the New Globe Theatre on Bankside this year? the Bollywood influenced one?

Oh man, it was fabulous. I don’t want to make you jealous, but if you didn’t get to see it you missed out bg time. Tomorrow night it has its last performance, but the great news is that the BBC is going to be live streaming the production. Which means that wherever you are you can see it. Cool or what? and the answer isn’t ‘what’. Continue reading

Fire! London’s Burning!

It’s three hundred and fifty years since the City of London was devasted by a terrible fire, and there are any number of events commemorating the dreadful conflagration we know as the Great Fire of London.

You may already have been to the exhibition at the Museum of London. If not, make a date in your diary. It is well worth the visit. Continue reading

The Week Ahead

Tomorrow I am to spend the day in Harwich in the company of the very wonderful Stephen Humphrey, who knows more about Southwark than anyone else alive, and is pretty damn hot on other places too. It’s the annual outing of the Southwark and Lambeth Archaeological Society, SLAS, of which I am not a member though I do occasionally attend their talks.

Last year we went to Winchester, the year before, Ramsgate. Stephen evidently believes a well fed audience is a happy audience, so there’ll be tea or coffee and cake when we arrive. At Ramsgate our morning refreshments were so extensive few of us had room for lunch. The weather forecast is mixed but the company should be good, and Stephen makes sure the coach in which we travel is a comfortable one.

Memorial Bench Winchester Castle

Memorial Bench Winchester Castle

The outing will mark the end of my few days break. Continue reading

Walworth Walk, Weather and Open Studios

On Saturday I am leading my bi-annual walk around Walworth, finishing at the Artists Open Studios at Pullens’ Yards.

Walworth Walk

Walworth Walk

Just in case you can’t read the details on the picture, The walk starts outside Kennington tube station at 10.45am, and costs £10, or £8 for over 65s and full-time card-carrying students.

I’ll have some leaflets about the Open Studios with me too. There’s lots going on.

Open Studios June 2016

Open Studios June 2016

The week’s weather forecast shows an up and down graph; some sunny basking days; some summer storms; some cloud; humidity.

Today we’ve had all of the above already, and it’s not yet three in the afternoon. Continue reading

Oh to be in England

Spring has sprung and April is well and truly established.  It’s a month where the weather is as changeable as the days. Showers, wind and sunshine chase each other through the hours. Trees get greener, more blossom laden by the minute.

It’s a time of hope, of new life, and London stirs like a great beast and stretches towards summer.

Tomorrow, Sunday 17th April, I am leading a walk around Denmark Hill and Camberwell. It’s an area close to the centre of London, but greener and leafier than you might expect. In the past it was called South London’s answer to Belgravia. It was also the home to many German families who had migrated to London, including some of my own family. Indeed my grandparents were married there, and it is where my father was born.

So it has a special meaning for me.

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The William Booth Memorial College, Denmark Hill

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March Winds and Photogenic Days

Spring is blowing in on the winds of March. Today, like so many days recently, the air is crisp and cold, the skies blue, the sun bright. The days are gradually lengthening. Perfect times for walking and photography. And even grey skies can make for dramatic pictures.

I usually carry a little camera with me when I am working, and sometimes take a few photos between tours. Even when I am not walking for a living, I enjoy getting out and about, and then I’ll often have my *proper* camera and a change of lens.

Here are a few pictures I have taken recently.

Brockwell Park

Brockwell Park

The William Booth Memorial College

The William Booth Memorial College

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A Spring in Your Step

I have a sudden run of public repertory walks coming up over the next few weekends. So if you are itching to get out and about, exploring corners of London and enjoying the signs of spring, do join me.

There’s no need to book, just turn up at the appointed hour at the appointed place, pay me your £10.00 and off we’ll go. Walks last around two hours, and happen no matter what the weather.

This coming Saturday, 27th February, I am resolutely local with a walk around Kennington. You’ll learn about parallel universes, political movements, a paedriatric hospital that is now a block of flats, and finish within easy reach of a number of pubs, cafés and restaurants where you can enjoy lunch.

Meet me outside Kennington tube station for 10.45.

Kennington tube

Kennington tube

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The Jolly Season

Wherever you turn in London there are Christmas trees and fairy lights. I have posting quite a few pictures of them on Instagram whwere you can follow me @londonbyguide.

It’s the jolly season. The time of year when you meet up with friends and colleagues and eat out in restaurants.

Thanks to the visit to this side of the pond by some jolly people who forsake the warmth of California for the winds of London, winds that are I understand courtesy of Desmond, I had the chance to eat in great company in two places that have been recommended to me but which I have hitherto never tried.

Both can be enjoyed at the end of two of my walks this week.

First Greenwich tomorrow morning. Afterwards you could eat at the Plume of Faethers where last Monday I enjoyed an excellent Thai green curry. I opted for the vegetarian option as did another of my dining companions. There was fish and chips, chicken, burgers, veggie and meat and all was lovely.
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