If you have young fans of gruesome history, then there is no other place quite like London where you can bring these gory tales to life! The Romans built London over 2000 years ago but then the queen of a Celtic tribe, Boudicca, burnt it to the ground! Meanwhile, medieval London had its fair share of death – and poo! Did you know that the inhabitants of the capital’s excrement could fill over six double-decker buses a day! From public deaths to beheadings, murderous plots, serial killers, famous inventors and historical figures, as well as a great fire and the plague, London’s horrible history can be found in a number of streets, buildings and famous landmarks – you just need to know where to look.
Unusual historical sites in London
So next time you fancy a trip to London, instead of the usual attractions and museums, you could go on a horrible history tour around the city and discover some of the more unusual historical sites in London.
There are several Victorian cemeteries spread across London including Kensal Rise and Highgate – both of which are worth a visit. However, Brompton Cemetery not only is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries (as is Highgate) but is also classed as a Royal Park. Its beautiful gardens, an abundance of wildlife and the fascinating stories of the remarkable people buried there, makes it a fantastic place for a day out with kids. Not only can you visit the catacombs, but you can also search out notable gravesites of historical figures including suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and Sir William Crookes, who invented sunglasses! Be on the lookout too for the spooky ghost of racing driver Percy Lamber – the first person to drive at 100mph– who died in car crash in Brooklands in 1913. His gravestone, funnily enough, resembles a tyre.
Okay, so while pubs aren’t really the first choice to take inquisitive children, parents can at least kill two birds with one stone by giving a history lesson over a pint. There are so many famous – and indeed haunted – pubs in London to visit, and all with a story to tell. Some of our favourites include The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping, which was once a pirate and smugglers hangout, complete with replica gallows outside, which pays homage to the fearsome ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffreys, who was a patron of the place. One of London’s oldest pubs is in Hamstead Heath –The Spaniards Inn has been around since 1585. It was the favourite drinking spot of highwayman Dick Turpin, as well as literary greats such as Byron, Keats and Dickens. Meanwhile, there has been plenty of paranormal whisperings at The Ten Bells in Spitalfields, which was killer Jack the Ripper’s drinking hole.
Old Operating Theatre
Back in 1822, the operating theatre attached to St Thomas’ Hospital saw its fair share of gruesome surgeries. Medical students would have to watch operations performed on patients without any anaesthetic…The majority of cases were for amputations and for people who could ill afford the best surgeons – so they would, to their distress, put up with the audience. There are several events held at the oldest surgical theatre in Europe, including a unique after-hours mock Victorian surgical demonstration.
Blink and you’ll miss it. This 16-metre stone structure located at the Southwark end of London Bridge stands on the spot where for over 400 years, traitor’s heads were erected onto wooden pikes and seen by all those travelling into the city via the stone gate – which guarded the bridge entry in medieval times. Heads including rebel William Braveheart Wallace back in 1305 and Guy Fawkes, who was hung, drawn and quartered in 1606, were parboiled and dipped in tar as a warning to all.
Aldwych Underground Station
Underneath London lies a subterranean underground that has been in place since 1863 and while millions of journeys happen every day – there are some railway stations that have been abandoned. You can explore London’s eerie past and discover the myths and memories of times gone by in Aldwych. Closed in 1994, the station has not only provided shelter during the Blitz but has been used for film shoots including Darkest Hour (2017) and Sherlock (2014). Hidden London run tours throughout the year, but be quick, as they sell out quickly!
*This post was written in collaboration with SunLife