These unusual London walking tours have arisen out of my own interests, enthusiasm and personality. I devised and researched them myself using resources including the British Library, Science Museum Library, Royal Institution, Post Office Archive and Zoological Society of London as well as local museums.
You can find heritage blue plaques on buildings for yourself here. But the locations of very many fascinating stories are not marked with plaques. Nor are the plaques, and associated guidebooks, particularly good at turning plain facts into stories.
Most of my subjects are unsung heroes, but a few are villains. I had never heard of the vast majority of the improbable characters featured in my walks until I started researching. So don't expect to hear just about the well known names. That means there's still an unexplored world out there for you, full of pleasant surprises.
My London walks benefit from the random connections of geography. In one square, for example, I can talk about camouflage, medicine, tanks and computing. I feel that this makes them more varied and individual. The common thread, and also the result, is great stories of ingenuity, eccentricity and intelligence.
I also give talks or lectures. I recently lectured the City of London Guides on Georgian Science. I have also lectured about London's Sewage.
I trained at university as an engineer and have worked in responsible positions in different technological industries.
I have visited 51 countries, read widely, listened to BBC Radio 4 and attended lectures and talks at such places as the Royal Society, Royal Institution, Royal College of Surgeons, London Transport Museum, National Archives, Imperial College, Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum, Gresham College, University College, King's College, Geological Society, various cemeteries, the Warburg Institute and even the London School of Economics.
I am a volunteer at the Royal Institution (founded 1799) for which I have developed blogs and some walks. The RI is a delight for someone like me interested in the history of science. I often get to handle things like Michael Faraday's shoe brushes or the world's oldest vacuum flask, and see written records left by some of the people I get to talk about on my walks.
(I am proud to have this association with the Royal Institution but note that I do not speak for it, nor offer services on this web site on its behalf.)
I also volunteer at the archives of the Royal Society of Arts (founded 1754) which, despite the name, has also been a force in the advancement
of technology ('practical arts').
I am also a guide for the London Canal Museum's summer towpath walks, and I have been engaged by Imperial College to provide tours to students and staff.
Through such activities I have attended training sessions by the Museum of London including Customer Care, Disability Awareness, Creating & Delivering Tours and Developing Family Friendly Tours.
I have researched my father's service in the Intelligence Corps in World War 2.
My clients have included, apart from individuals, Imperial College London, Ove Arup & Associates, and King's College London.
Sometimes I have been approached for my expertise by researchers working on film and TV productions.
My knowledge of science trivia also came in useful to the British Library which engaged me to contribute a few rounds of questions for their annual Talk Science Christmas Quiz in 2013 and 2015. In
2015 I contributed a guest blog post for British Library (Science) and London Knowledge Quarter, and I have been interviewed by Robert Elms on BBC Radio London.
I am a member of London Historians which brings together a mix of the knowledgeable and enthusiastic who want to talk about history (or anything else) in an informal and sociable atmosphere.
I'm on Trip Advisor but here is a selection of comments supplied by other means.
"An exceptional contribution to local heritage" - NM 2017
"It sounds a bit excessive, but I really do feel that the experiences I had and the new things I learned during our 'Unofficial Royal Society Tour' and the Royal Institution Tour were a true high point in my life." - CG 2017
"Wonderfully researched quirky stuff amusingly delivered. Laurence engaged and enthused all of us. Five stars!" - HR 2016 (Time-Bombs, Trivia & Tibet)
"Pleasant occasional conversation, companionable silences, the gorgeous Canal Museum en route and glimpses of life on narrowboats - one with a bookshop and a ukelele player. Laurence Scales is the perfect guide; this was leisurely, but informative and purposeful. We wound up with his home-made delicious Mango Cake in a park at the end; all round satisfaction." - SW 2016 (Regent's Canal 200)
"Thank you very much indeed for a fantastic tour. It was pitched exactly right for me." - SB 2016 (RI Tour)
"Feedback from the group has been so good that we would like to find out more information about some of the walks or places you could guide us." - AY after towpath tour 2016.
"I shall come again"- AS 2016
"Exactly what I wanted" - Mr A from Finland 2015 (Private Tour)
"What a wonderful afternoon. It could not have been more interesting. What an adventure!" - LL 2014 (Geeky Ladies Tour)
"A. and I really enjoyed ourselves (even though we are not engineers or scientists) and the students on the way back told me they had found it very interesting too. It was certainly fascinating to find out more about the places so local to us." - SC 2014 (South Kensington Tour)
"Thank you so much Laurence for the lovely walk Saturday afternoon. Really enjoyed it." - SB 2014
"Quintessentially English" - NR 2014
"Superb... Fabulous." - DW 2014 (RI Tour)
"The most treasurable experience of my 3 years in London." - HS 2013 (Vauxhall Tour)
"I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for leading Saturdays walk. It was truly fascinating and gave me a great insight into some of the hidden gems around London." - BM 2013
"It's all about how we got from 'there' to 'here' and also about some of the dead ends" / "I enjoyed hearing some stories which I had forgotten, and new stories" - Comments from a Fellow of the Royal Society and his wife, 2012.
"Thanks very much for the walk on Friday... and I was very impressed with your amazing storytelling and preparation. Fantastic! Looking forward to the next one." - CP
"Really enjoyed it." - TR
"Splendid - good memories of a lovely afternoon. And what excellent chickens!" - AR
"We were both amazed at how many little quiet places there are... literally just off the beaten track." - RR
"As always, interest and humour nicely balanced" - RC
"Loved the information... I never cease to be amazed at how much of our history remains intact." - RR
"I shall never look at a Belisha beacon the same way again." - MH
"I never thought an article about manholes would be interesting but it was!" - Comment to Londonist 2015
I get a mention in the American Chemical Society publication: Science History: A Traveler’s Guide.
Please contact me.
Please check transport before travel especially at weekends.
to public tours appear here.
<<Saturday 20 Jan 2018. It looks like we may start in some light rain. Please dress warmly!>>
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