Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

Another slightly tardy Charnoblog, but that's because I've been getting educational recently. Prof Brendan Hogan of New York University was good enough to engage me a second time to give his undergraduates a tour of medieval London. We tuned in to the echoes of Plantagenet and Tudor London which resonate in today's City. Sometimes it's just where something was, but there's much of the medieval in today's City.

Then on Saturday and Monday I took a group of Italian students to explore two significant aspects of Victorian London. On Saturday we got Dickensian in the oldest parts of London: the Borough and the Cornhill area of the City. On Monday evening we hit the Ripper trail, not just hearing about the infamous murders, but also considering their social context, and how the press kept the atmosphere of fear simmering in the popular mind. That's a big 'thank you' to Graziella Elia by the way, whose students I guided last year, for engaging me.

Guiding has an important part to play in education. I've been privileged to guide primary and secondary school groups, as well as higher education groups. There is much to be said for getting learners of whatever age onto the streets to understand that history is not about dates and details, but about people and what they did, and how that relates to what we do. But then, I've written about this elsewhere:

It's the last of my Bethnal Green Sundays this coming Sunday. Yes, I know it's Mother's Day - so why not bring Mum on a celebration of Bethnal Green through the words of a variety of authors, with readings from works dating from 1896 to 2003? It's not a bad tour at all, if I do say so myself, and we finish with no less a person than George Orwell, hearing why he ended up in the cells of the local police station.

If I've whetted your appetite, you can book via this link:

Next month will be 'Page and Stage' Sundays, with two tours featuring readings exploring the London of Dickens and how City trade was used as material by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and two theatrical tours, getting to know Shakespeare the Londoner and discovering what Theatreland has done for performance in Britain.

You can get an idea of what 'Much Ado About Trading' is all about in my Footprints of London blog item here:
You can also get the background to one of the stops on 'Behind the Magic Curtain' in another Footprints item here:

Well, that's a fairly full round-up of what's been and what's to be. Of course you can get the fuller story from the schedule on my website, including another chance this Saturday to experience nearly 2,000 years' worth of unrest in the City:

Please consider following this blog: that way you won't need to be prompted by a social network post to come and take a look! Also it'll show me how much you appreciate my humble efforts to bring you the stories behind this multi-layered city which I'm pleased to call my hometown.

Hoping to see you on the streets soon.


Dave Charnowalks

Charnopicture of Playhouse Yard courtesy of Fay Bennett (2016)

Monday, 6 March 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

Welcome back to my Charnoblog. We finished City Sundays at the end of February with a comfy half-dozen coming with me on 'Engineering Change' to explore how engineering shaped the City of London. Tunnels, bridges and telecommunications have all played their part in the development of the City. You can read more about the tour here:

The underside of London Bridge
March sees my Bethnal Green Sundays tours underway. A small but thoroughly engaged audience attended this week's tour, 'The Battle for Bethnal Green'. The tour looks at what happened when the parish was absorbed by the growing metropolis of London. Once a semi-rural hamlet, the nineteenth century brought a number of issues through the new urban dimension. These issues were addressed at first by philanthropists, until the authorities took up the reins. You can get more details about the tour itself here:

Bethnal Green Road 1794

Next week we move from heroes to villains with 'The Dark Side of the Green', a tour which uncovers crimes and wrongdoings from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Once again we meet outside St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch High Street and cross the boundary into Bethnal Green. The tour forms the nucleus of my study 'The Dark Side of East London', which was published last September by Pen and Sword. You can book for the tour via this link:

Incidentally, the book is available at a competitive price from the Wordery via this link!

Talking of books and literary matters, Saturday 11 March sees the reduced-price preview of my new Charles Dickens tour. It's a tour with readings which give an insight into how Dickens used the City for material. As I explained last time, the reduced-price preview is an idea I've taken from the theatre. As the first professional outing of a new tour isn't usually as slick as subsequent outings, this is why I charge only £5 a head, flat fee.

Why not join my mailing list to get the benefit of previews and other specials, as well as the tours I do through Footprints of London? Just e-mail me on to be added. If you want to come on the Dickens preview, e-mail me to let me know and meet us outside Borough Underground Station for a 2:30 start.

It's just over a month to go before Walkie Talkie, the adult education introduction to guiding, is scheduled to start. We begin on 26 April for a ten-week course which gives you a thorough grounding in the discipline of tour guiding. It's an ideal way to prepare for a qualification course, as well as teaching you valuable research and presentation skills.

The course outline can be found through this link:

Enrolment details can be found through this link:

Well, I think I've detained you long enough. There are other plans in the offing, but I'll update you when more concrete information becomes available. Until then, look after yourselves; I hope to see you on the streets soon.


Dave Charnowalks

Charnopicture courtesy of Hazel Screen (London Bridge 2014)

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

Thank you for joining me for this fortnight's round-up of Charnowalks events. The dominant event of the fortnight was of course the first outing for 'The Unquiet City', an exploration of nearly two millennia of unrest in the City of London. The earliest story is Boudica's uprising in 61; the most recent is the Occupy London occupation of St Paul's Churchyard, from October 2011 to February 2012.

As usual with the first outing of a new Charnowalk, this was a reduced-price preview at a flat rate of £5 a head. I always find that the first outing will suffer from teething troubles, hence the special low rate. It's an idea that I lifted wholesale from the theatrical world, where there are preview performances at reduced prices so that the company can get the feel of the venue.

The tour is one of the Footprints of London miniseries of Revolutionary London tours, which are underway NOW! Do take a look at the Footprints site and keep your eyes open for the hammer-and-sickle logo:

Footprints have various festivals during the course of the year, including the annual RiverFest and LitFest. The two annual festivals feature the inflation-busting offer of a season ticket which allows unlimited access to all of the festival's tours. So far the record is twenty-seven separate tours taken in one month by a season ticket-holder.

I had hoped to concentrate on the East End this year and to rein back the City stuff, but as you can see I've started the year with a new City tour. In connection with a commission, I will be bringing to light another tour which is, strictly speaking, a City tour, although the earlier stages will be in the Borough, an area which was part of the City until it was transferred to the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark in the 1920s.

The new tour has the working title 'A Dickens of a City': I know, I know, but what are you going to do? It's a Dickens tour in the City! I've been meaning to do one for some time, but it's quite an undertaking. The aim is that it is to be a tour with readings, my third such tour after 'Much Ado About Trading' and 'Bethnal Green in So Many Words', both of which appeared last year.

The problem about Dickens is that though what he wrote was excellent stuff and makes for great reading, he actually wrote a huge number of reflections on London in so many moods. To create a tour based on insights about London's story gained through Dickens' works, even if you limit it to a specific area, requires a deal of arbitrary selection. So I shall do what seems to work, and we'll see where we go from there!

So far we're talking Little Dorrit, The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Martin Chuzzlewit and Our Mutual Friend. I suppose once the first one's done, I can progress to sort out more material and then perhaps split it - with one north of the River and one on the south. It'll take time.

To round up, February is steaming through 'City Sundays', with the final tour this coming Sunday. 'Engineering Change' explores the relationship between engineering and the City, and how mechanical, electrical and civil engineering changed and shaped the City. Next month features Bethnal Green Sundays, which celebrate my very own manor. I've lived here all of my life, and so I'm giving all four of my local tours.

We begin with seeing how the Hamlet of Bethnal Green coped with being absorbed into the metropolis of London. Then we lift a few stones to uncover stories of crime and wrongdoing in the area in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The following week sees the impact World War Two had on the area. We finish with a tour featuring site-specific readings which explore Bethnal Green through the writings of authors including Iain Sinclair and George Orwell. It also features a fight scene from King Dido at the very footbridge where it occurred.

Talking about literature, I'm planning April's Sundays to have a distinctly literary theme. Stage and Page Sundays are coming! Well, it's my birthday on 24 April and literature's my thing, so watch this space!

Please keep up to date with my various doings by subscribing to this blog. Also you can join my monthly mailing list by e-mailing me on and I'll add you. This'll give you a monthly listing, plus notifications of extra goodies as and when they happen!

That'll do for the moment - more details about things to come will be in the next instalment! I hope to see you on the streets some time soon.


Dave Charnowalks

Charnopictures courtesy of Ana Figueiredo (Old Bailey 2015) and Alan Tucker (Fleet Street Hill Footbridge 2016)

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

The past fortnight has seen some interesting action. After East End Sundays, Charnowalks moved into February with City Sundays. The first was 'A Settlement Called Londinium', which explores the earliest stages of London's story. Beginning as a small settlement beside the Thames with no status, it became the capital of Roman Britannia within sixty years. The tour is illustrated with scans I took from the Museum of London's archaeological map. After all, we rely on archaeology for Londinium's story. There's very little written information.

City Sundays continue with 'Before the Make-Over', which tunes into echoes of Plantagenet and Tudor London in today's City, 'A Most Horrid Flame', an exploration of the Great Fire's causes and aftermath, and 'Engineering Change', a celebration of how engineering ventures have shaped today's City. You can find details here:

Later this month Footprints of London has a miniseries of tours exploring 'Revolutionary London', which runs into early March. This has been inspired by the centenary this year of the Russian Revolution. Many of London's associations with civil unrest will be explored. My contribution is 'The Unquiet City', a tour which explores nearly 2,000 years of uprisings aimed at the City of London.

As usual I shall be offering a reduced-priced preview for the tour's first outing, at £5 a head: please e-mail me at if you'd like to come. For full Footprints listings, including the 'Revolutionary London' tours, please see the website:

This focus on the City doesn't of course mean that I'm putting the East End stuff aside. In fact, currently I'm working on the new Walkie Talkie course, which is scheduled to start in April. It's Part Three, a development of the initial two courses, and while Parts One and Two are five weeks long each, Part Three will be ten weeks long. Also it will involve learners getting out onto the street, rather than the other two classroom-based courses.

It's envisaged that Part One will run annually in September, Part Two in November, and Part Three in April. This will give twenty weeks of tuition. Currently this won't lead to a qualification, but it will give the learner a thorough familiarity with the discipline of guiding, and with the Tower Hamlets. Enrolment is live for Part Three, and as it's the first outing it's being made available to those who haven't followed Parts One and Two. Please e-mail me for further details at this address:

Enrolment details are here:
The course outline is here:

Well, that's enough to be getting along with for now, so I'll sign off with all good wishes.


Dave Charnowalks

Charnopicture courtesy of Ana Figueiredo (Old Bailey 2015)

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Dear Charnowalkers,

Oops - a bit of a delay for this fortnight's blog. Apologies for that; it's been a busy start to the week. Still, I'm here now.

First, the written word. I've been privileged to have another item accepted for the prestigious Footprints of London blog. The blog features items written by members of the Footprints of London guiding co-operative, and thus gives a wealth of insight into a wide variety of London-related topics. You can find the blog here:

My item is 'All the World's a Stage', and is an appreciation of the work of theatrical impresario Peter Daubeny in bringing World Theatre to the public attention. From 1945 until his death from a brain tumour thirty years later, Daubeny was a major figure behind the British stage. You can see how his career began to grow in Stage by Stage, his book of recollections published in 1952. His World Theatre Seasons at the Aldwych Theatre feature on my theatreland tour 'Behind the Magic Curtain', which is next up on Thursday 2 February:

This month I've been featuring East End Sundays. We've explored the maritime trade that brought two centuries' worth of vivid life to the riverside East End ('Tidemarks from the Pool'), taken a balanced view of the Ripper murders ('The Ripper Enigma') and seen the impact on Bethnal Green of the Second World War ('Just You Wait and See'). One more to come: an exploration of the borderland between the City and the East End which is Aldgate ('In and Out of the Aldgate'). That's on Sunday 29 January, and places are available! Details here:

Next month sees City Sundays, with four tours exploring important aspects of the City of London's story. We begin with where London's story really starts ('A Settlement Called Londinium'), we tune in to the echoes of Medieval London in today's City ('Before the Make-Over'), follow the destruction caused by the Great Fire ('A Most Horrid Flame') and round off with an appreciation of how engineering has shaped the City we have today ('Engineering Change').

February promises to be an interesting month, with a new tour on the stocks to be previewed on 18 February. This will be my presentation of riots and rebellions in the City. It will feature more recent activism like the Stop the City and Occupy London movements (the latter I'm moving from my tour 'Law and Order EC') as well as older activity, going back to Roman times.

The idea of the reduced-price preview is something I’ve taken from the theatre. As the first professional outing for a new tour will involve an element of feeling your way, I offer these first outings as previews, charging only a £5 flat fee. After all, it’s as much a tryout for me as it is a performance for the audience. You can't book for these, but you can reserve your place by e-mailing me on or by texting 07982 132231: don't forget to give your name in your text!.
There are some other interesting projects brewing, but I can’t say anything yet – just watch this space!
In the spirit of trying to keep it reasonably snappy, that's all for now. Laters!
Dave Charnowalks
Pictures courtesy of Ann Flowers ('Sanctuary' 2016) and Hazel Screen (London Bridge 2014)

Monday, 9 January 2017

Greetings, Charnowalkers!

Welcome to the first blog entry for 2017, which promises to be an interesting and inspiring year for Charnowalks. Media guru Hilary Kruger has been subjecting me to an overhaul, which is still ongoing, so look out for marked improvements in the service.

A new plan for Charnowalks is themed Sundays. I have decided to offer Sunday afternoon tours which share a connection. For someone working to develop a structured guiding culture in Tower Hamlets, the decision for January was obvious - East End Sundays. Each Sunday tour in January covers an important part of the East End's story.

The first Sunday was 'Tidemarks from the Pool', my exploration of the maritime trade that brought a vibrant life to the East End for some two centuries before the closure of the docks and the dismantling of the Port of London. I had an engaged and enthusiastic audience who were very interested in getting to grips with the richness of life in the riverside Tower Hamlets between the 1770s and the 1970s. This we explored as it was revealed by a wealth of heritage that has been left behind. Tower Hamlets has much to offer the visitor, but until we get a properly organised guiding base it won't be promoted anything like it should.

There are still three East End Sundays to come. Next Sunday (15th) is 'The Ripper Enigma', a grown-up look at the notorious murders of 1888 and their context. This is followed on the 22nd by 'Just You Wait and See', a tour which assesses the impact of World War Two on Bethnal Green, and then on the 29th comes 'In and Out of the Aldgate', an exploration of the borderland which is at once in the City and the East End.

Details are to be found on my website:

February will see City Sundays; at the moment I'm pondering what March will be - watch this space. Or better still, join my mailing list! Just an e-mail to will get you on the list for monthly updates.

In the midst of all this preparation I've been doing some background reading to enrich my theatrical tour 'Behind the Magic Curtain'. I've read an excellent biography of Joseph Grimaldi by Andrew McConnell Stott which sheds a good deal of light on the state of the stage in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Now I'm reading the reminiscences of Peter Daubeny, the man responsible for giving world theatre a serious platform in London, particularly with his World Theatre Seasons at the Aldwych Theatre.

Well, that's the state of play at the moment. There are other plans bubbling away which will need a little more simmering before I make them public. I shall return in a fortnight and reveal more ...

Until then, take good care of yourselves. I hope you've been able to avoid the colds doing the rounds, or that you've had one and it's now a thing of the past.


Dave Charnowalks

Photos courtesy of Alan Tucker, Ana Figueiredo and Nika Garrett


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Dear Aficionados,

Herewith is the second part of my catching-up blog entry. Two weeks ago I gave a summary of my touring experiences this year. Today, I'll be reflecting on my writing experiences in 2016. Of course, the starting point has to be my latest book, The Dark Side of East London.

Based on my tour 'The Dark Side of the Green', The Dark Side of East London was published by Pen and Sword on 23 September 2016. It was in the autumn of 2014 that I was approached by journalist Kate Bohdanowicz to propose a book; in early 2015 the proposal was accepted and the contract was signed. The book explores the areas east of the City of London in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, essentially before the concept of the East End came into being.

Through stories of crime and other wrongdoing, the book evokes what life was like east of the City in the days when most of the area was still semi-rural, and how it changed when it was absorbed by the growing metropolis of London in the nineteenth century. Crime stories, like ghost stories, are valuable because they are anecdotal, giving you details of day-to-day life at moments of crisis. In this way it is hoped that the flavour of 'ordinary' lives and conditions come through in this book.

This is the only commercial work I've produced this year, but I have been putting it about a bit elsewhere. I've started using LinkedIn a lot more now; it's like Facebook for grown-ups. I've put up some posts which reflect on aspects of guiding. 'New York Medieval Times' considers the application of guiding as an adjunct to education, as I explained in the last blog entry. 'Gateway to the City' points out the natural relationship between hotels and tour guides.

I have put up other posts, such as a reflection on the unwarranted destruction by King's College London of the unique timber-framed entrance of the former Spur Inn on Borough High Street. We aren't so rich in such structures in Central London that we can afford to let them get destroyed in the interests of short-term development. The LinkedIn post is a good way of developing ideas in a way that's accessible to the reader. Plus, as far as I see you don't have to be registered with LinkedIn to read them.

Another area in which I've been extending myself is the blog for Footprints of London, where I've had items published which look at the portrayal of the goldsmith in Jacobethan City comedies ('All that Glisters is not Gold'), George Orwell's experiences in the cells at Bethnal Green Police Station and Old Street Police Court ('Orwell in the Clink') and the hop factors W.H. and H. Le May and their prominence in the Borough ('At the Heart of the Hop Trade').

These posts are born of tours I have created this year, and the Footprints blog is a good way to explore aspects of London's story through the eyes of guides. The entries are usually produced from material garnered in the planning of tours and thus give more scope for the guide to expand on the topic than is given by a few minutes out on the street. I would recommend you get to know it:

Guiding has of necessity taken a priority over writing, but I hope that more items will be forthcoming in the New Year, including a proposal for another book for Pen and Sword. I've got the germ of an idea fermenting away in the back of my mind, but there's a deal of reading to do first to ensure it's got legs. I'll let you know in due course.

This concludes my review of what I've been doing (professionally at least) in 2016. Future posts will be far less exhaustive than what you've had to date! I hope to bring you news of triumphs and achievements, but what they shall be time will unfold.

I hope that the festive season is bringing you fun, as well as time to reflect. Please accept my best wishes for health and happiness in 2017.


Dave Charnowalks

Cover picture for The Dark Side of East London courtesy of Pen and Sword; photo of Playhouse Yard courtesy of Fay Bennett; photo of Dark Side launch courtesy of Alan Tucker.