On a bright, clear Saturday morning in October, 20 Marketors and guests joined our City guide, Herb Danner, who led us on a fascinating walk down – and around – Fleet Street.
We traced the history of communications, starting at Paul’s Cross, a preaching cross and open-air pulpit in the grounds of Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, where news was proclaimed by criers. At Stationers’ Hall we learned all about the spread of written communications, when scribes would offer their services from fixed locations “stationarius”, followed by the invention of printing, which opened up “mass” communications opportunities.
As we reached approached Fleet Street itself, we learned that the first British daily newspaper was produced by a woman, Elizabeth Mallet, at her premises next to the King’s Arms tavern at Fleet Bridge, in March 1702. The Daily Courant consisted of a single page, with advertisements on the reverse side.
Another detour off Fleet Street took us past the St Bride Foundation. Originally set up to serve the growing print and publishing industry of Fleet Street, it still holds the largest collection of typography in the world.
Stories about the history of newspapers in Fleet Street combined with others about the pubs journalists frequented. Traditional buildings were followed by Art Deco ones and the iconic Modernist former Daily Express building, strikingly stunning with its curved lines and black panelling.
Back and forth we went, following guide Herb down alleys and courts, past the home of Dr Samuel Johnson, the compiler of the first usable dictionary, and the monument to his cat Hodge.
Past El Vino’s, the bar famously patronised by journalists and members of the legal profession, we reached Temple Bar Memorial, set in the middle of the road where the Strand takes over from Fleet Street, also the boundary between the City and Westminster.
Our tour finished at the Old Bank of England pub, where we all enjoyed a well earned lunch.