Benjamin Disraeli. City of London. Guildhall. Gog and Magog. London Walking Tour.
Take the next turning left into Old Jewry and first left into Frederick’s Place.
This hidden gem of bygone London is surrounded by a huddle of elegant terraced houses that were built by the Adams brothers – John, Robert and James – in 1776. Benjamin Disraeli (1804–81) worked for a firm of solicitors at No 6 in 1821. Destined to become one of the most colourful characters ever to lead a British political party, the young Disraeli’s flamboyant style of dress set him apart from the firm’s other clerks. ‘You have too much genius for Frederick’s Place,’ he was told by one acquaintance, ‘It will never do.’ Leaving his employment here, he sought fame as a writer. But by the time his first novel Vivian Grey was published in 1826, he had run up huge debts, which would dog him until he was elected to Parliament as MP for Folkestone. His finances were further improved in 1839 when he married Mary-Ann Lewis, the wealthy widow of a former colleague. He served as Conservative Prime Minister in 1868 and also from 1874–80.
Exit Frederick’s Place, go left along Old Jewry, left into St Olave’s Court, left again onto Ironmonger Lane, and swing immediately right through the white-tiled Prudent Passage. Turn right onto King Street and keep ahead over Gresham Street to enter the courtyard of the City of London’s Guildhall.
The magnificent frontage that greets you dates from the 18th Century. To its right is the Guildhall Art Gallery, opened in 1999 to display the Corporation of London’s extensive art collection. On show are works by John Everett Millais (1829–1926), Daniel Maclise (1806–70), Lord Leighton (1830–96) and Sir Edwin Landseer (1802–73), to name but a few. Also on display is John Singleton Copley’s Defeat of the Floating Batteries and Gibraltar one of Britain’s largest oil paintings. The collections do rotate, so it is worth phoning ahead if you want to be sure of viewing the works of the aforementioned artists. Be sure to pay a visit to the remains of the Roman Ampitheatre before you leave.
From the Guildhall Art Gallery, go straight across the courtyard, where you will have to clear security checks, before you enter the Guildhall.
Guildhall is the City of London’s City Hall and is the seat of the Lord Mayor and the Court of Aldermen. The present building dates in parts back to 1439, although it was severely damaged in both the Great Fire and World War 11.
Once inside look back above the entrance to gaze up at the two ferocious looking giants that glower down at you from the balcony. In his essay ‘Gone Astray’, Dickens mentions how as a small boy he had made up his ‘little mind’ to seek his fortune. ‘My plans… were first to go and see the Giants in Guildhall… I found it a long journey… and a slow one… Being very tired I got into the corner under Magog, to be out of the way of his eye, and fell asleep.’ Sadly, bombing in World War II destroyed the previous giants, to which Dickens referred. The giants are Gog (on the right) and Magog (on the left). According to legend the two giants depict warriors in the conflict between the ancient inhabitants of Britain - a race of giants - and Trojan invaders. The invading army proved victorious and marked their victory by building New Troy on the site now occupied by London.