18th April 2015
After a successful London walk visiting famous women through their statues a few weeks ago, we continued our education with a second walk. This time a new set of women so more research for each of our walkers.
We began at the Women of World War II memorial on Whitehall. A relatively simple design, but quite powerful showing all of the roles women played through their uniforms and clothing. It is a relatively new memorial, sculpted by John W Mills and unveiled in 2005.
We continued up Whitehall across Horse Guards’ Parade and up the stairs to Lower Regent Street where the Crimean War Memorials are, our target for the walk being Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp. Nightingale was from an upper class background but rebelled against the standards of the time and pursued a career in nursing instead of marriage and being a respectable lady. She is most famous for her work during the Crimean war where she altered the conditions that the sick and injured were living in, making them more hygienic and therefore saving many times. A lesser known fact, often good for pub quizzes, is that she invented the pie chart.
Walking along Pall Mall we reached Charing Cross Station and the Eleanor Cross. There were originally 12 crosses, each marking the overnight stays of the procession of Eleanor’s body, Queen to King Edward I, on her journey from her death place in Lincoln to her burial place in Westminster Abbey. There are only three crosses, or parts of remaining, Charing Cross not being one of them. This is a replica, built in 1865 due to the original being destroyed during the civil war, and is more ornate than the original. Quite a romantic story about the love Edward had for Eleanor, especially in the times when adultery by kings was an accepted practice.
Just round the corner, opposite the National Portrait Gallery, is Edith Cavell. A famous, British, war time nurse. She saved the lives of soldiers on either side without discrimination and helped many escape German occupied Belgium. Sadly she was caught and shot by firing squad. Another amazing woman!
Here we stopped for refreshment in the Cafe in the Crypt, under St Martin in the Fields. There is a lift down to the cafe and it is very spacious so a great spot even if you have a large group or many pushchairs. There are highchairs and changing facilities.
Just a little way up St Martin’s Lane, near Leicester Square tube station is the Agatha Christie statue, world famous author. She barely needs any explanation as I have never met anyone who doesn’t know the Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot mysteries. She holds the world record for best selling novelist of all time. The statue is quite clever as it has Christie’s bust as the centre of a book cover, then many of her famous titles decorating the edge in the wide variety of languages in which they have been published. The reverse has some classic Christie themes, an Orient Express, the Pyramids, a typewriter and more.
We took a walk though St Paul’s church yard, a great picnic lunch spot. We were visiting the plaques inside the church. It is commonly known as the Actor’s church through its links to the Theatre Royal. It also had the first recorded Punch and Judy show and it now has its own theatre company and has many productions.
We took a short cut through the piazza and Royal Opera House to find the ballerina statue on Broad Court. A bronze statue sculpted by Enzo Plazzotta and erected in 1988.Here we took a lunch break in the appropriately named Italian, Ballerina. Good lunch special and highchair. No changing facilities though.
The last stop was quite a distance so we took the bus from Aldwych to the Museum of London. Postman’s Park is a small garden area just off of Little Britain. It houses the Watt’s Memorial to heroic self sacrifice, a series of tiled plaques detailing everyday people who died saving others. The initial tiles were made by an independent ceramics specialist but the work was continued by Royal Doulton. Mary Watts who managed the memorial after William’s death was not satisfied with their standards so the whole process was abandoned and only 58 of the planned 120 tiles were completed. Some have been created in 2009, but there are still many empty spots. There is an app to give some background to each heroic person but I couldn’t get it to work.
This was a great day out, with culture, knowledge of powerful women and a bit of exercise to boot!
Baby friendly info:
There are a few stairs on my mapped walk, but you can avoid these with a few tweaks.
The Crypt has a lift, changing facilities and highchairs so is a good stopping point.
The Ballerina restaurant has highchairs but no changing facilities, it is a little cramped changing a baby on their toilet floor.