Amazing Art And Astounding Architecture

| 03 November 2004
Shows a painting of Blackfriars bridge. In the foreground is a boat rowing down the Thames. In the background you can see the top of St Paul's Cathedral.

Blackfriars Bridge & St Paul's (William Marlow, 1762). Courtesy of the Corporation of London

The ten Discover London Trails were developed by London’s Smaller Museums and Galleries Group with support from ALM London. Covering different regions of the capital, they link smaller museums and galleries with other attractions of interest in half and full day trails.

Trail summary

Take the underground to Old Street and walk down City Road, to Wesley’s Chapel for an insight into the history of Methodism. In the surrounding area, there are also other Wesley sites should you wish to visit them such as Charterhouse, a square containing the remnants of a medieval monastery, and the school where John Wesley studied.

Shows a photograph of a brick building with lots of arched windows. There is a statue outside the entrance and a tree on either side.

Wesley's Chapel. Courtesy of John Wesley's House and The Museum of Methodism

En route to the City, visit the Barbican Art Gallery, one of London’s largest art galleries for major touring exhibitions.

On the edge of the Barbican is the Museum of London, the largest city museum in the world, illustrating over 2000 years of London’s fascinating history. Walking down Aldersgate Street, you pass St Botolph’s Church on your way to the Guildhall Library and the Guildhall Art Gallery with its displays of Pre-Raphaelite and 19th century paintings.

Shows a photograph of a column at St Paul's Cathedral looking up to an intricately decorated, domed ceiling.

© Sampson Lloyd/St Paul's Cathedral

Visit the Crypt and Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral – designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666 – before walking along Fleet Street. The trail finishes in Gough Street at Dr Johnson’s House, home of the compiler of the first definitive English Dictionary, Samuel Johnson.

Shows a photograph of brick building with three rectangular windows on each floor. The top of the picture is framed by a tree branch.

Wesley's House. Courtesy of John Wesley's House and The Museum of Methodism

Trail in detail

Starting at Old Street underground station, walk down City Road to Wesley’s Chapel and the Museum of Methodism. In front of the Chapel, built in 1778, stands a statue of John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism; his grave is behind.

Wesley preached here until his death and his pulpit still remains. The Chapel was initially adorned in a simple style in accordance with Wesley’s modest tastes and religious principles. In the 19th century the columns made from ship’s masts were replaced with marble column and ornate stained glass added. The Chapel remains a thriving centre for Methodists.

Shows a photograph of a study.

Wesley's study. Courtesy of John Wesley's House and The Museum of Methodism

Beneath the Chapel is a small museum exploring the history of the Methodist Church. The house where Wesley lived from 1779 until his death is next door. Some of his furniture, books and other possessions are on display here.

The famous Cemetery of the Nonconformists is opposite the Chapel in Bunhill Fields. Disused since 1852, you will find the graves of John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe and William Blake among others.

photograph of the entrance to a modern building. The roof is made from glass. There are two black cabs parked outside.

The Barbican Centre is one of London's largest galleries for major touring exhibitions. Courtesy of the Barbican Centre

From Bunhill Row, turn into Chiswell Street and, continuing along, you see the start lines of the Barbican Centre, built in the 1960s and 1970s. This large residential/arts complex holds theatres, a concert hall, cinema, restaurant, café and a lovely conservatory.

In addition, it has one of London’s largest art galleries. The Barbican Art Gallery houses the City of London’s outstanding collection of paintings shown at regular intervals, interspersed with the changing exhibition of modern artists.

Shows a photograph of a gallery at the Museum of London. There are several glass cases. The one in the foreground has a large bust on display.

The London Before London Gallery at the Museum of London. Courtesy of the Museum of London

Opened in 1976 on the edge of the Barbican above street level, the Museum of London provides a lively account of London life from prehistoric times to the present day.

Reconstructed interiors and street scenes are alternated with displays of original domestic artefacts and items found at the Museum’s archaeological digs. Look out for the working model of the Great Fire of 1666.

Shows a photograph of three skulls.

The Walbrook Skulls on show in the Roman Gallery at the Museum of London are thought to be the heads of Londoners massacred during Boudicca's revolt. Courtesy of the Museum of London

The chronological arrangement of the galleries creates an easy route, taking approximately 90 minutes. The World City Galleries give an excellent insight into life in London during the vastly changing period from the French Revolution to the outbreak of the First World War.

Other galleries cover the Roman, Dark Ages, Medieval, Tudor and Early Stuart, Late Stuart, 18th century and finally 20th century London periods. The atmosphere of 19th century London is recreated by several authentic shop interiors.

Shows a black and white photograph of what looks like a church. There is a large, decorated arched window in the centre and two ornate towers on either side.

Interior view of the Guildhall Library c.1895. Photo: JT Sandell. Courtesy of Guildhall Library © Corporation of London

Walk down Aldersgate Street, past St Botolph’s Church with its well-preserved interior, featuring finely decorated ceiling, wooden organ case and galleries and an oak pulpit at the top of a carved palm tree. Continue along Gresham Street to Guildhall, the administrative centre of the City for over 800 years.

Shows a photograph of an historic building, mainly white, with lots of arched windows. There is a union flag flying on the roof.

The Guildhall Library's home since the 1970s. Courtesy of the Corporation of London

Guildhall Library in Aldermanbury, originally founded in the 1420s, is a major public reference library specialising in the history of London and especially the City. It also has other significant collections. In the North office block of Guildhall Yard, the Corporation of London has its Records Office (CLRO) with official archives of the Corporation of London that document the government of the City across 11 centuries.

Shows a photograph of people reading manuscripts.

A reader in the Manuscripts Deptartment at the Guildhall Library. Courtesy Guildhall Library © Corporation of London

Guildhall Art Gallery was built in 1865 as the home of the Corporation of London’s art collection. There are many famous pictures on display with over 200 works of art from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries including works by Constable, Landseer, Rosetti, Tissot and Millais. There is a programme of temporary exhibitions exploring different themes.

Shows a painting of a battle scene. There are redcoats on the left, the one at the front is riding a white horse.

Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar; Copley, John Singleton (1738-1815), Guildhall Art Gallery. Courtesy of the Corporation of London

From Gresham Street, turn left into King Street, right on to Cheapside and left for St Paul’s Cathedral. There have been churches here since AD604. The current Cathedral – the fourth to occupy this site – was designed by the court architect Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1710, after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.

St Paul’s is where people and events of overwhelming importance to the country have been celebrated (including the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer), mourned and commemorated since the first service took place in 1697. Tombs of famous figures can be seen in the Crypt. It is well worth climbing the staircase to the Whispering Gallery, decorated with statues of Early Church Fathers and painted scenes from the life of St Paul.

Shows a panoramic shot of the Thames looking towards St Paul's Cathedral. There are boats in the foreground.

© Sampson Lloyd/St Paul's Cathedral

Walk along Ludgate Hill and continuing along Fleet Street, you pass St Bride’s, with its wedding cake-like spire. This is one of Wren’s best-loved churches, known as the 'printers’ church'. The fascinating crypt contains remnants of earlier churches on the site and a section of Roman pavement.

Close to the church is Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, one of London’s most famous pubs. It has retained the 18th century arrangement of small rooms with fireplaces, tables and benches.

Shows a photograph of an austere looking brown brick built house with lots of white-framed windows.

Flat 2, 35A Hyde Vale, Greenwich London SE10 8QQ © Ian Cook. Courtesy of Dr Johnson's House Trust

In Fleet Street, there are directional signs for Dr Johnson’s House. This opened as a museum in 1914 in Gough Street, with its courtyards and passages that are a reminder of historic London.

The house is one of the few residential houses of its age still surviving in the City of London. Built in 1700, it was the home and workplace for Samuel Johnson from 1748-1759. It was here that he compiled the first comprehensive English Dictionary. Now restored to its original condition, the house contains panelled rooms, a pine staircase, and a collection of period furniture, prints and portraits.

Shows a portrait of a man wearing what looks like a judges wig, and a black shirt and jacket.

Dr Johnson, credited for putting together the first English Dictionary. Courtesy of Dr Johnson's House Trust

On your way to Chancery Lane underground station where the trail ends, you pass the interesting Law Society building, the headquarters of the solicitors’ professional body; with its gold lions on the railings. It is one of the most interesting buildings in the legal quarter.

The Discover London Trails were created by the Campaign for Museums and supported by ALM London.

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