Take an Unusual London Walking Tour


 

I am a Specialist London Science Guide

For Scheduled and Private Tours Featuring the Curious History of Discovery, Invention & Intelligence

Bored by kings and queens? Don't follow the herd. Discover London's unsuspected history. Hear about a head hunter at Holland Park, a strange pet at Belgravia, a soldier who studied the surface of Mars at Mayfair, or an expert on dinosaur dung at Westminster Abbey.

My walking tours for small groups visit the homes and haunts of remarkable characters from history. But rather than the artists, nobles and politicians I bring you the ingenious, enlightened and eccentric - typically scientists, inventors, engineers and spies.

Aimed at the lay person these walking tours in central London or in one of London's "villages" feature attractive architecture and quiet and pleasant stretches in back streets, parks or along the water.  They cover social history and the often surprising evolution of London's infrastructure.  Apart from those with a general interest, or looking for entertainment, I also cater for older school students and university students.

Enjoy an offbeat London guided walk, for example Nine Boffins - an original Westminster war walk, also Making the Earth Move in Woolwich, or a London Spy Walk.  Other walks feature Local Heroes (and a few villains) in Mayfair, Kensington, Lambeth, Chelsea, Belgravia, Notting Hill, Bayswater, Holland Park, Richmond, Blackheath, Smithfield, Marylebone, Wimbledon and West Brompton.

Scientific Tourism in London

Local Heroes

London is home to world famous institutions like the Royal Society (founded 1660), the Royal Institution (founded 1799), the Science Museum (1857) and the Natural History Museum (1881). Many world famous scientists* and inventors have also lived here including Charles Babbage, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Alexander Fleming, Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, Alan Turing and James Clerk Maxwell.

Literally hundreds of others with extraordinary stories of their own have largely been forgotten. Outside my walking tours few of these stories are enjoyably accessible to the visitor, even via the English Heritage blue plaques, because that takes research. Apart from scientists and inventors I also cover others with science or enlightenment in their story: explorers, pathologists, code breakers, surveyors, cooks, camoufleurs, manufacturers etc.

'There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know.' - Ambrose Bierce

Geeky Ladies

Rosalind Franklin and Ada Lovelace are two ladies who may come to mind when thinking of notable women in science.  A new walk in my repertoire (featuring neither of these women) focuses on a number of lesser known but colourful and geeky ladies from the last 150 years.

London Curriculum & London Knowledge Quiz

Don't leave all the fun to the children.  Have some fun yourself and discover something new about London.

Here are typical topics from my walking tours arranged in a historical timeline.
  • 1784 Air rage, in West Brompton
  • 1786 Performing surgery at 10 Downing Street in Westminster
  • 1797 Weighing the world in Clapham
  • 1799 Sending high speed data through Southwark
  • 1852 Measuring beauty with a sextant, in Knightsbridge
  • 1892 Decorating the home with electricity, in Bayswater
  • 1915 Protecting against chemical weapons, in Pimlico
  • 1940 Surviving the battle of the beams over Richmond
  • 1965 Sniffing out spies, in Lambeth
 



This is not the history of science textbook-style, but colourful stories of invention, experiment, discovery and adventure told in appropriate locations in a great city.

Seen some interesting science on BBC4? Leave the armchair and take a London Science Walk.

Secrets and Spies

In two world wars, and the cold war, science and ingenuity has played a major part.  I have found it natural, in addition to the progress of science that probes nature to delve into the science and technology of secrets.  You can still see sites in London connected with scientific intelligence, the day to day commerce of secrets, the conduct of elaborate deceptions and the development of bizarre secret weapons.

The Tours

These unusual London walking tours, mostly within zones 1-4 of the Travelcard area, generally last 2-3 hours, but there are some longer walks which involve a rest stop.  Click here for a tour menu.  For mobility aspects see General Information.

Intended Audience

  • You like walking or exploring around town,
  • You have perhaps visited London's famous sites before and want something more unusual,
  • You are interested in social history and intrigue, or science & technology,
  • OR, like many of my customers, you don't know much about science but you like to see and hear something new and interesting.

You could hear about magnetic mines at one street corner, and false teeth or plant hunting at the next.

Get a quick impression of the guided walks from my Word Cloud below.

 
Photo: Mike Gould

Strange Pets

Science trivia.  It turns out that you cannot research remarkable people for long without finding that a number of them had very odd or very talented pets.  You can be sure to hear about them.

Wombats

*The term "scientist" dates from 1834 and describes those who use the scientific method.  Prior to that it is usual to use the term "natural philosopher" to describe those who sought to describe nature (space and matter) by any means available.

        Visitors

(c) Laurence Scales 2014