14th March 2015
After a great talk from a blue badge guide at last month’s WI meeting, our great secretary sent out 2 London walks to follow up with. The talk was about famous women through history through the statues of London, a great mix of impressive women, famous for a variety of reasons.
Our walk started near St Thomas’ Hospital where we saw the bust of Violette Szabo, a spy during the war. She lived in Stockwell, married after a whirlwind romance and had a child. When her husband was killed in the war, she signed up to get her revenge. She was captured during her second mission but was known for keeping up morale in the concentration camp before her death by firing squad.
Across the river into Victoria Tower Gardens, we saw Emiline Pankhurt, the famous suffragette. The shocking thing was that she kicked her daughter out and sent her abroad when she left the women’s movement. Very harsh! Just round the corner of Parliament is Boudica on her chariot. Back when we were living in tribes, she was queen of the Iceni tribe. Her husband died and left his land to her and her daughters but the Romans ignored this and took it. Boudica fought back and led 100,000 into war. It is estimated that 70-80,000 Romans and British were killed by her followers.
We took the bus, as trying to be step free with the buggy, to Tottenham Court Road where we tried to see a caryatid in the British Museum. A Greek female architectural support, but unfortunately the room was closed. Handy toilet and baby changing spot though.
Out of the back exit we continued to Tavistock Square where we found a frightening bust of Virginia Woolf, the author of Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. She sadly commited suicide by filling her pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse. In the same square is a bust of Dr Dame Louisa Blake, the first woman to get a surgical degree and become a surgical registrar.
Another quick bus trip down to Holborn for our lunch stop and another bus along to the Old Bailey. On top of the Chambers are the Scales of Justice. Usually depicted as a woman with scales in one hand and a sword in the other. Clearly women are better as determining what is right 😉
Round the corner to St Paul’s to see the statue of Queen Anne. A replica of the original, she is here as she was on the throne when St Paul’s was built.
On the walk towards the Bank of England, we spotted numerous Mercer’s Maidens. These are the symbol of the Mercer’s company, which acted as a trade association for the wool and fine fabrics trades.
Finally, we saw the statue of Commerce on the Royal Exchange, and didn’t see the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, what with her being a ghost… She apparently haunted the bank in life as well as death, calling there to ask about her lost brother daily for years.
We had a great few hours walking, seeing the sights and learning a bit about the famous women of the past. Almost completely step free too!
Baby friendly info:
Almost all of the walk is step free, if you take the bus routes on the map.
The British Museum has lifts to all floors and exits. It also has changing facilities.
Tavistock Square has a few stairs at the entrance.