3/4/89

Shifting House

We got up at about 9:00 & packed up all our gear then wandered up the road in the biting wind to cash a Travellers cheque and get some cream scones for morning tea.  We said goodbye to Sue and caught a taxi up to the station. A couple of people gave us a return ticket to Paddington that they didn’t need and that enabled us to get all the way to Liverpool Street.  It was hard work lugging our gear in and out of the tube stations especially for me with my cold clogging up my lungs, and if it had been rush hour we probably couldn’t have done it. We caught the train out to Broxbourne¹ and Ray² picked us up at the station and took us to The Woodman³ .  We spent the rest of the day unpacking and getting settled in.

¹ Broxbourne is a town on the north-east outskirts of London in the county of Hertfordshire.
² Ray and Joan Reeve were the managers of the pub where whe would be working.
³ The Woodman is a 17th century coaching inn located in the village of Wormley West-end, a few miles west of Broxbourne.

28/03/89

Linda has a cold so I left her to her own devices for the day and set off into The City¹ to find out a bit about my relations. My first stop after getting off the tube at Blackfriars was the College of Arms² to see James Woodcock, the man who researched the title. It turned out that he was away in India. Next stop, after a couple of photos, was Mansion House³, closed for Easter, then the Bank of England on Threadneedle St. I looked round the museum there , then went in search of the Guildhall. I found it quite by accident and went inside. The hall itself, where the Corporation of London holds banquets, is a huge cavern of a place with stained glass windows at each end and lovely, ornate wood carved panelling around the walls. On the bottom right-hand of the window at the far end of the hall is the name BLAKISTON and the date 1760. The names of every Lord Mayor for the last 800 years are inscribed on the windows.

I left the Hall and caught a bus round to Whitehall where I spent an hour on a fruitless search for information on James Gillingham.⁴ Not having had a very successful day with my reli-hunting, I caught a tube back to Paddington & went round to the London Walkabout Club⁵ & got some brochures on African safaris then went home.

¹London’s central business district, which is also the oldest part of town, is known as The City.

²The College of Arms is the office where titles and lineage are maintained. In 1977, after the death of my father, Norman Blakiston, it was a person from the College of Arms, James Woodcock, who had proven my right to succeed as the 9th Baronet.

³Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.

⁴My mother’s brother who was killed in Italy in 1993.

⁵A long-standing travel agency specializing in providing travel services for Australians and New Zealanders.

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Letter home from Linda to her family written in Slough.

27/03/89

EASTER MONDAY We got the train into Paddington Station then the tube to Monument Station. We went up the Monument, 202 feet high, the distance from the base to the place in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started in 1666, then walked along the Thames to the Tower of London which was yet again under siege – this time by thousands of tourists. So we decided not to go in there and went up into the pillars of Tower Bridge instead. After ½ an hour exploring the workings of the bridge we walked down to the London Dungeon¹ where graphic wax models told the grisly story of hanging, torture, boiling alive & various other forms of gruesome death.

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London.

 

From there we wandered around until we found a double-decker to take us to the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral. We explored there for an hour or so but there is so much to see there that we will have to go back. Stunning is the only way to describe the place. We finished our day in the city with burgers & fries at the Hard Rock Café. We queued for an hour to get in but it was worth the wait for the cheap food and atmosphere complete with many gold discs and instruments from famous bands. We tubed and trained home again.

25/03/89

We caught the 8:46 train from Slough to Paddington then the Bakerloo Line to Charing Cross. We emerged from the station to the most wonderous sight. There before us in the bright English sun, was Trafalgar Square! The statue of Lord Nelson, flanked by 4 lions, rose directly in front of us, grey stone buildings surrounding us on all sides, Whitehall, The Strand and Pall Mall, leading off to our left, right, and ahead. Pigeons were everywhere, perched on walls, monuments and small children who screeched with delight every time a pigeon landed on its shoulder.

The church of St-Martin’s-in-the-Fields, standing on the South West corner of the square, was our first stop. It is a smallish church, the size of Chch Cathedral¹, with Roman pillars at the front. Inside, I asked about where Matthew Blakiston² was buried but all graves had been removed and the Crypt had been turned into a restaurant. We had a hot chocolate down there then went back out into the sunlight.

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St-Martin’s-in-the-Fields, Elizabeth Tower and Horse Guards.

We decided to walk down Whitehall and about 1/2 way down we happened to see the changing of Her Majesty’s Life Guards. Two fierce-looking guards dressed in red and balck with shining helmets were mounted on horses outside the gates of the barracks where, at precisely 11:00 AM, the new shift of guards rode out and exchanged places with them. We jostled for position with the hoarde of tourists & the whole thing was

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Horse Guards.

fascinating.

We continued on down Whitehall past Downing Street, guarded by two Bobbies³, until we came to wonderful scene of the Houses of Parliament. Big Ben rose above us on the left of Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey, parts of which are [sic] cloaked with scaffolding, stood across the grassd area of the square. It was almost too much to take in at once. Everywhere we looked we saw buildings and places we had only dreamed about. We walked along past

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A Bobby at Horse Guards.

the Houses of Parliament, climbed the 13th century jewel Tower, pushed and shoved our way into Westminster Abbey along with a thousand others then wandered through the medieval cloisters at the rear of the Abbey where the 10th century monks who died of the Black Death lie alongside of a grassy quad where several boys from the Abbey school were playing cricket.

 

We had lunch at a street café then caught a river cruise down to the Thames Barrier† and back. The history of London flowed over us like the cold, dirty water of Old Father Thames flowed over the piles & steps of the London docks: Tower Bridge, Executioner’s Dock, Waterman’s Steps, hundreds of old, old riverside warehouses decaying amidst the new docklands developments of flats, pubs and houses.

When we got back to Westminster Peir it had gotten quite cold so we wandered back up to Picadilly Circus and caught the tube back to Paddington then home to Slough.

¹The Anglican cathedral in the city of Christchurch back home in New Zealand.
²My ancestor, Sir Matthew Blakiston, Bt. was Lord Mayor of London in 1760. He was created a Baronet in 1763 and I succeeded him as the 9th Baronet in 1977. When he died, Sir Matthew was buried in the crypt of St.-Martin’s-in-the-Fields. See the post The House of Blakiston for more information.
³ British police are known as Bobbies after Sir Robert Peel who introduced the world’s first organized police force in London in 1829.
† The Thames Barrier is a flood control dam built across the lower reaches of the River Thames.
 

 

 

24/03/89

We had intended to go into the city today but as the buses and trains were running on some unknown Sunday timetable, we decided to only go for a wander round on the main street of Slough.¹ The weather was very cold & showery and we wandered around looking at the large selection of shops. Linda bought a pair of jeans & I bought a track-suit and we had a “1/2 of ale” at a corner pub. We went back to the flat & did nothing.

¹The town of Slough (pronounced to rhyme with “now”) is on the western outskirts of London. Our Australian friends Bernie and Sue Farquhar lived in Slough so we went and stayed with them for the first few days we were in England.