Laurence's Walks in London
Laurence's Walks in London

Individual Private and Tailor Made London Walking Tours and Lectures

Photos: Peter Forsyth

ALL my tours and lectures are inspired by great stories of science and invention. Many don't have a single theme except perhaps a wonder at what the Georgians, Victorians, or Wartime Boffins achieved. Tours without a named theme you can therefore enjoy as a scientific mystery tour. London's stories are amazingly diverse and its characters often wonderfully eccentric so, if you love the unusual and the pleasantly unpredictable you will enjoy these walks and talks.

 

It will be assumed that you have read and accepted the general terms and conditions before making use of the tours.

 

You can find an indicative list of my walking tours below. It's a long list because this has been my speciality for some years. I am always looking for something new. I don't do the same tour every day or every week.

 

If it's technological, historical and Londony, I can probably talk about it! I give lectures on such subjects as:

  • The Story of London's Sewage,
  • Balloons, Boilers & Beefsteaks: A Canter Through Georgian Science,
  • The Wire: Tales of the Electric Telegraph.

 

Too few women have featured in the history of science, invention and medicine but I celebrate 'geeky ladies' wherever I can.

Table Under Construction          
London Tours Content* Science & Invention Social History Medicine Geeky Ladies Indoors
Royal Society Unofficial Yes Yes Yes    
Westminster War Walk Yes        
Woolwich Royal Arsenal Yes Yes      
Boffins in Coffins Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Bloomsbury Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Regent's Park Yes Yes Yes    
Fitzrovia & Marylebone Yes Yes Yes    
Kensington & Paddington Yes Yes   Yes  
South Kensington Yes Yes      
Spy Yes        
Science Museum Unofficial Yes       Yes
Royal Institution Unofficial Yes Yes     Yes

*Routes and content are constantly reviewed so future walks can differ in detail. Tours may be adapted, with notice. To avoid disappointment please state any particular interests when booking a private tour.

Royal Society Tour (Unofficial!)

First in the Mind of the Science Tourist in London

Foundation of the Royal Society in 1660 was a milestone in making the modern world. Its distinguished fellows have included Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Humphry Davy, Charles Babbage and Charles Darwin. This tour takes in some former homes of the RS. But it is an unofficial tour. So rather than focus on big names this tour covers some interesting but lesser known characters. And even illustrious societies have bits of their past they might prefer to forget.

 

A 2 hour (approx) tour is enough for most people, but for 'completists' it is possible to extend it at a little extra cost for a fuller picture.

 

All my tours have at their core the history of science, invention and medicine in London, and that's world history. So, read on to see what else is on offer...

London War Walk (Science in War)

9 Boffins

Heroic and curious experiments, odd ideas, scientific intelligence, cunning deception and pacifism. The walk unexpectedly embraces a wide range of topics including patent medicine and the circus. The emphasis is on seeing homes, haunts and work places, not statues and war memorials.

 

There are two 'Nine Boffins' Westminster War Walks.

 

  • A variety of figures from World Wars 1 & 2
  • A special tour covering World War 1 only
  • A new war walk from Oxford Circus.

London Spy Tours

Real stories of espionage with the accent on codes, gadgets, sabotage and cunning deception

A London tour following its secret agents. 3 tours:

 

  1. Green Park north to Marylebone.
  2. Green Park south to Waterloo Bridge.
  3. Kensington, Holland Park, Notting Hill.

Woolwich Royal Arsenal Tour

Easy to get to, but attractive and definitely off the usual tourist trail, explore the remains of a monster factory as the Victorians once did.

Here are stories of industry, invention and discovery in the well preserved military heritage site, now at the centre of new development. For a while it was so secret that it was blanked on the map. Dickensian, but once a technical marvel, there is a Woolwich Royal Arsenal tour in which we are assisted by a Victorian guide book. Or there is a double-length Royal Arsenal, Common and old Dockyard tour available which brings us into the nuclear age. The longer tour supplements walking with some public transport and thus it is only suitable for smaller groups.) Absolutely NO football!

London Cemetery Tours

Boffins in Coffins

Brompton is a particularly attractive cemetery, often used as a film location, with an interesting set of scientifically inclined but colourful Victorians who have made this their last resting place. Medicine, natural history, engineering and invention.

 

I know Kensal Green Cemetery too.

Science Museum Tour (Unofficial)

Apart from a few iconic objects it can be difficult to engage with all the treasures in the Science Museum without the back story. The museum's own tours are very short and tend to focus on the famous. My tour for very small groups aims to highlight some of the neglected wonders you might pass by, and helps both scientists and non-scientists to enjoy the museum - explaining context, connecting the familiar and unfamiliar, answering questions, and adding a human story.

 

A 1.5 hour tour focuses on the mechanical revolution and objects on the ground floor, with a London bias. I am also developing a tour concentrating on electricity, computing and communication, mostly on the second floor, probably of the same length.

 

'This was an ideal way of learning more about the Industrial Revolution and its links to London. Very useful for me'

 

'Laurence introduces some unsung heroes of the Industrial Revolution and the ingeneous instruments, gadgets and machines they invented, without which Britain and indeed the world would not be the same today. Inspiring.'

Royal Institution Tour (Unofficial)

The RI in Mayfair was founded in 1799 to disseminate and apply scientific knowledge 'for the common purposes of life'. Monday to Friday (subject to RI business beyond my control) it may be possible to visit various parts of the building such as the Faraday Museum and the famous lecture theatre, and hear about of its leading scientists (Michael Faraday, Sir Humphry Davy and others). If the building is closed, we can tour Mayfair/St James's, the area roundabout.

Not suitable for large groups.

Geeky Ladies Tour

Ladies With an Enthusiasm for Electricity, Trousers and Uncute Pets

Photo: LL

An appreciation of 'Geeky Ladies' from the last 200 years. But the much lauded figure of Ada Lovelace is NOT part of this tour because there are plenty of other interesting, determined, creative and engagingly eccentric women to celebrate. This is a longer tour in Paddington and Kensington.

Double-Take Tour

In London But Not Interested in Royalty, Churches and Shopping?

You may still like to see the famous sights - from Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey to Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. But instead of hearing about the usual stuff you can hear stories appropriate to these sights but about medicine, science, social history, technology and natural history. On this tour you may hear of geology, bomb-disposal or drones.

Local Heroes of Science & Invention

Local Heroes, and Maybe the Odd Villain, from Science, Invention and Medicine

In London, most of London's neighbourhoods have had more than their fair share of inhabitants who helped shape our technological world in anything from sanitation to radio astronomy - sometimes world famous names, sometimes unaccountably forgotten. Intriguing, important, amusing and delightfully random!

  • Fitzrovia Tour
  • Bloomsbury Tour
  • Belgravia Tour
  • Wimbledon Tour
  • Mayfair & St James's
  • Blackheath & Greenwich Tour
  • Battersea & Chelsea Tour
  • Kensington Gardens & Paddington Tour

South Kensington & Knightsbridge

Eccentric Scientists and Espionage

More local heroes. There's too much to talk about round here to fit into a single tour. One variant of this tour emphasises some of the war stories associated with the area ranging from cookery to sabotage. A couple of very eccentric scientists lived here, and one even managed to entangle sex with a sextant. Another variation of the tour was for students of Imperial College and features the Great Exhibition of 1851 and some scientific stories from the early days of their institution.

Richmond Park Tour

More of a Ramble Than a City Tour

Photo: Prabha Thapa
Beautiful views, especially in spring and autumn, and the unlikely setting for a number of wartime battles of wits and science. Golf, dinosaurs and more. This is a longer walk, and therefore there's a break for tea (cost not included).


Variation: a War Walk, starting at one of the car parks. In this case there are few relics to see, but there are surprising stories to hear, and who does not enjoy a walk in the park?

Vauxhall Tour

Visit an area whose current attractions are somewhat neglected

In the old days of soap boiling and manure making it was generally said of Lambeth that 'The skies ain't blue and the grass ain't green.' We still pass the old gas works but now this is an area with greenery (partly thanks to the Blitz), interesting relics and remarkable stories including intelligence matters spanning 300 years.

Regent's Canal 200 Years

Every Inch of the Canal

The first stretch of the canal opened to Camden in 1816 on the Prince Regent's Birthday. 200 years later, on that date, this day long tour (8 hours) explored every inch of the canal and the life around it over 200 years. That was about 9 miles but with a couple of pauses in pubs to refresh.

The whole canal opened in 1820. To be repeated in 2020?

Regent's Park Tour

This tour includes the stories of engineers and inventors, of an ancestor of Meccano, and of how the Victorians created virtual reality. This is a relaxed walking tour taking in the ornamental gardens of Regent's Park and John Nash's Regency architecture around the margins.

 

 

Famous Londoners Featured

These are the names the scientific tourist may know, to give you an idea of the territory. My speciality is the interesting ones you don't know.

 

Charles Babbage, Joseph Banks, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Darwin, Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday, Alexander Fleming, Benjamin Franklin, John Hunter, James Clerk Maxwell, Isaac Newton, Alan Turing and Barnes Wallis

 

Historic Locations Featured

This is a list of places and institutions which have mostly vanished from the map London map (if they were ever on it) but which are covered among Laurence's different walks.

 

Camp 020, Blackett's Circus, Royal Army Medical College, MI5 London Reception Centre, Royal College of Science, Special Operations Executive, Ministry of Food, 2LO, Willis's Rooms, Board of Agriculture, Mass Observation HQ, Grosvenor Gallery, Great Wheel, Fortune of War, Bedlam, Adelaide Gallery, London and Blackwall Railway, Air Ministry, Kirkaldy Testing & Experimenting Works, War Office, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development, Royal Doulton, Combined Operations Headquarters, Foreign and India Office, 54 Broadway, Petroleum Warfare Office, Royal Arsenal, Pelican House, Admiralty Board of Invention & Research.

Private Tours

Please contact me.

Next Public Tours

Please check transport before travel especially at weekends.

Last Minute Changes

to public tours appear here.

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