17 February, 2013

A helping hand in the city

Every year the City of London trains a new batch of the guides who lead the walks round the city, for the benefit of tourists and others. All of them must practice leading groups of people round the sites and yesterday it was my privilege and delight to be one of the guinea pigs for a walk by the charming and knowledgeable David Charnick [link to be updated].  Entitled 'A Helping Hand' the walk showed us the human side of the city through its charitable institutions, dating from the medieval period until the present.

We began our walk at the old priory of St Mary Without Spitalfields which is hidden away underground in a very inconspicuous location near Spitalfields Market. Then we came right up to date with the Spitalfields Crypt Trust which was founded in 1965 as a drop in centre for people in difficulties. The church is, of course, by Hawksmoor, a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, and as everybody knows a member of the illuminati and the priory of Sion. [What are your sources for this nonsense? Ed] We then came back to the 19th Century with the Bishopsgate Institute, with their recently restored buildings and their archive of radical thought including the G J Holyoake papers and London Co-operative Society picture archive. No tour of London charitable institutions would be complete without showcasing some of the livery companies who maintain almshouses and do other charitable work connected with education. We looked at all kinds of places and charities including one for paralysed priests, not sure how that came about, and the conclusion of the walk was perhaps one of the finest points where one could conclude a walk about a helping hand. I'm not going to give it away so you'll have to go on David's walk when he qualifies and find out. The walk was most informative with a few touches of humour. I think that when David qualifies as a city guide we will be in for some real treats.

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