London’s Historical Gems

The chances are if you’re on this website, you probably like KCL and history (how’d I guess that?). So here are some of the historical places we feel might appeal to you across London. This will be updated regularly, so check back for the latest places to visit.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar_Square,_London_2_-_Jun_2009Now one of the busiest attractions in London and home to The National Gallery, host to countless tourists, political protests and cultural festivals, Trafalgar Square humbly began as the King’s Mews as early as 1377 at which the royal hawks were kept! It then became the Charing Cross area, to be redeveloped as Trafalgar Square from the 1820s to 1845 upon the orders of George IV. Trafalgar Square, of course, commemorates the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar of the Napoleonic Wars, which took place off the coast of Cape Trafalgar in Spain, although it was originally meant to be ‘King William the Fourth’s Square’! Right in the centre of Trafalgar Square, you’ll find Nelson’s Column in memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson,whose legend lives on in battle stories of his missing arm and one-eyed sight!

Covent Garden

img_4802 A stone’s throw away from our Strand Campus, Covent Garden bears astounding history dating all the way back to 600 AD when it was the centre of an Anglo-Saxon trading town called Lundenwic! Around 1200, Covent Garden was referred to as a walled garden for the Benedictine monks of Westminster, and is in fact named after the convent from its Anglo-French term ‘Covent’! Covent Garden’s lands were later seized by Henry VIII in 1540, and were granted to the Earl of Bedford in 1552, which remained with the Duke of Bedford until 1918! The years in between have seen Covent Garden grow from a fruit and vegetable market to its current popular shopping and tourist site, the founding of the Drury Lane theatres in 1663 and its immortalization in the works of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (later popularized by My Fair Lady).

The Maughan Library
Maughan Library Feature

Sometimes a place we historians know all too well, the Maughan Library is but of course King’s College London‘s main research library. Formerly the home to the Public Record Office‘s headquarters (known as the ‘strong-box of the Empire’), the Maughan is now the largest new university library in the United Kingdom since World War II! Named after Sir Deryck Maughan, a 1969 King’s College graduate, businessman and philanthropist, the Maughan Library also featured in filming for The Da Vinci Code and Johnny English. We’d like to believe the rumours that the Round Room was used for Dumbledore’s Office, however much the King’s Library newsletter protests! It was also the sight for Prince William’s speech at King’sin 2015 on the issue of illegal wildlife products in China. As you can see there is more to the Maughan than just books.

The Strand Underground Station

Strand-station.-David-Hughes-Roar-News1

Literally inside the Strand Campus is the closed Strand/Aldwych Underground, which you will have walked past everyday at King’s. Aside from being annoyed at how it is no longer open, did you know it was a used as a key bomb shelter for much of London’s population during World War Two, as well as providing cover for vast amounts of London’s art collection. In the modern world it is most recognisable as a filming location for programmes such as Sherlock and Mr Selfridge, alongside its role as the setting for parts of The Prodigy’s iconic ‘Firestarter‘ video. Every so often it opens for an event to the public, so keep an eye out for that.

The Roman Bath

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Much like the Underground station, this is built on the site of the Strand Campus, so you have no excuse to not look at it once during your time at King’s. Whilst it is debatable whether it is actually Roman, it provides an interesting look at what London looked like in the past.

Fleet Street

fleet streetHome of the British national press since the 1500s until the 1980s and absolutely filled with history from every age, Fleet Street is just a 3 minute walk from our very own Strand campus! As early as the 13th century (and known as Fleet Bridge Street at the time), Fleet Street served as the link between the commercial City of London and the political hub of Westminster. Since then, it has seen senior clergymen of the High Middle Ages in their London Fleet Street palaces, the creation of the legal quarter known as the Temple (formerly the property of the Knights Templar), and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Local residents included Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson and Sweeney Todd, the urban legend and Demon Barber of Fleet Street, while Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers was set in Fleet Street.

The Royal Society of ArtsRSA Photograph by Neha Ravail Khaliq

Tucked away on John Adam Street off Strand, The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) was founded as the Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce in 1754. Since then the RSA has welcomed members including Charles Dickens, Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, Stephen Hawking and Robert Baden-Powell, with their mission to ’embolden enterprise, enlarge science, refine art’ amongst other endeavours expressed in the founding charter!

Photograph by Neha Ravail Khaliq
 

Royal Courts of JusticeRoyal Courts of Justice

Surrounded by the four Inns of Court, King’s College London and the London School of Economics, this gorgeous court building is home to the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Before being opened by Queen Victoria in 1882, construction of the Courts was halted by a serious masons strike and much of the remaining work was completed by German workmen! The Royal Courts also happen to feature in the lovely little walk from the KCL Strand Campus to Maughan Library!

Somerset House

Somerset_HouseOriginally the site of a Tudor palace, Somerset House was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1776! Once used as a government department under Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, Somerset House is now home to London Fashion Week, the Tiffany’s Winter Ice Rink, Film4 Summer Screen and happens to be part of our very own King’s College London!

The British Museum

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Established in 1753, the British Museum was initially based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. Dedicated to human history and culture, the British Museum presents its permanent collection of some 8 million works (among the largest in the world) telling the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present! And don’t forget you can join us on our trip to the British Museum during induction week!

The Savoy

SAVOYBuilt as the Savoy Palace in 1246, once home to the Duke of Lancaster, burned to the ground during the Peasant Revolt of 1381, and that’s just the beginning! Read more of The Savoy’s history here

 

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