London History Day activities 31 May

London History Day horizontal

On Wednesday 31 May the first ever London History Day will be held. Coordinated by Historic England, the day celebrates the capital’s extraordinary history and heritage.

We are showcasing some of the City of London’s hidden treasures housed in the Guildhall Library, Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London Police Museum, Tower Bridge and London Metropolitan Archives.

Find out more below about the objects on display and activities on offer during the day.

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Hand-drawn copy of the Bayeux Tapestry

The London Metropolitan Archives is offering an exciting day of activities, crafts and archive discoveries, and will feature a display of the 22 metre hand drawn copy of the Bayeux Tapestry. Produced around 1816 for the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, this remarkable object is the longest item in the archive’s collection.

  • When: 10am-4pm
  • Admission: FREE
  • Where: London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road EC1R 0HB

Tower Bridge interactive model

Find out about John Gass, the very first Bridge Master of Tower Bridge. Have a go at raising the bridge yourself on an interactive model and make your own Bridge Master hat to take home.

  • When: 10.30am-4pm
  • Admission: £9.80, concs £6.80, children £4.20 (event free with general admission)
  • Where: Tower Bridge Road SE1 2UP
  • Find out more about the interactive model

Reward of merit

Guildhall Library is displaying two miniature books bound in one volume: The history of Whittington and his Cat and The history of Goody Two Shoes. Dating from 1824, the book belonged to Londoner Lettia Elley, and was donated to the Library by Whittington collector Ellery Yale Wood. The rags to riches story of Dick was inspired by Mayor of London Richard Whittington, who was a major contributor to the founding of Guildhall Library in the 1420s.

  • When: 9.30am-7.30pm
  • Admission: FREE
  • Where: Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury EC2V 7HH

The Houndsditch Model

View evidence used in the Old Bailey trial of the Houndsditch Murders – the deadliest day in the City of London Police Force’s history, when gun-toting anarchists fired on City Police officers, who were armed only with truncheons.

  • When: 9.30am-7.30pm
  • Admission: FREE
  • Where: City of London Police Museum, Aldermanbury EC2V 7HH

Learn more about the murders from former Inspector Peter Clarke and visit where the stand-off took place on walking tour Bobbies, Bombs and Blaggers: Policing London’s Square Mile.


London’s Roman Amphitheatre

Join a free tour of the London’s oldest sporting venue with the resident archaeologist and explore what really went on in the arena.

  • When: 12.00noon, 1.00pm & 2.00pm
  • Admission: FREE
  • Where: Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard EC2V 5AE

London’s history in art

Guildhall Art Gallery is displaying two paintings that recount contrasting moments from London’s history. Paton and Wheatley’s 18th-century The Lord Mayor’s Procession by Water to Westminster is a serious depiction of a traditional City of London ceremony whilst Workman’s Chaos on London Bridge is a more tongue-in-cheek vision of traffic congestion on Old London Bridge – an issue still familiar to many Londoners. As part of the day, families will be able to take part in free activities.

  • When: 10am-5pm
  • Admission: FREE
  • Where: Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard EC2V 5AE

Barbican Centre

Follow a Barbican guide on a 90-minute walking tour as you explore the Barbican and discover the fascinating history behind the building of the Barbican Centre and the surrounding estate.

Walking along the Barbican highwalks, you’ll learn more about the construction, design and influence of the estate, along with surprising and rarely seen sights and discoveries plus little known insights into this unique architectural endeavour.

  • When: 6pm
  • Cost: £12.50
  • Where: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS

Celebrate London History Day

Find out about the Tudors and heraldry before making your own Coat of Arms and dressing up in Tudor costume.

  • When: 11am – 12noon
  • Cost: Free, but booking is essential
  • Where: Barbican Library, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS

A talk on the medieval precinct of St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Medieval predecessor was very different. It stood within a gated walled precinct, in a world of it’s own, unlike the Cathedral today which is surrounded by shops, offices and restaurants.

City Guide Jill Finch’s talk aims to recreate that precinct, a Cathedral surrounded by buildings, a churchyard and even a prison.

  • When: 12.30 – 1.30pm
  • Cost: Free, no need to book, just turn up.
  • Where: Barbican Library, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS

London after dark – 1920s to today

Explore night life in the capital from the 1920s through original archive materials and a series of talks in Bishopsgate’s atmospheric library. Find out about London’s queer scene between the wars; discover 1960s counterculture through zines, posters and flyers; be dazzled by materials from the 1980s and 1990s; and hear contemporary experiences of the London club scene.

  • When: 7pm
  • Cost: £11 (adults), £7 (concessions) book your ticket
  • Where: Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate EC2M 4QH

Station explorers family day

Discover The Charterhouse’s connection to the lost underground station of Aldersgate and celebrate all things transport related. Take part in craft activities, design your own tube poster and enjoy family friendly tours. Suitable for ages 6+.

  • When: 11am – 3pm
  • Cost: £3.50 per person, just drop in
  • Where: The Charterhouse, Charterhouse Square EC1M 6AN

Historic Huguenots of Spitalfields walk

Spitalfields is one of the most historic, vibrant and diverse areas in London. Join Charlie de Wet to hear about the Huguenots (French Protestants and the first refugees) and subsequent waves of Jewish, Irish and Bengali immigrants who escaped persecution and settled in Spitalfields to practice their faith. You’ll hear about the building of Christ Church by Nicholas Hawksmoor and the Charnel House hidden well below the pavements of Spitalfields Market.

  • When: 11am and 2pm (walk lasts 90 minutes)
  • Cost: £10 donation to the Huguenots of Spitalfields educational fund. Email bookings@huguenotsofspitalfields.org to book
  • Where: Meet at Christ Church Spitalfields, Commercial Street E1 6LY

Dr Johnson’s House after hours

A rare opportunity to explore Dr Johnson’s 18th-century townhouse, at twilight. All four floors of the house will remain open for visitors to view our current displays and you’ll have the chance to listen to the curators tell you more about Johnson, his contemporaries, and literary London.

Head to the top of the house for a chance to view items from the collection not normally on display, or leaf through the facsimile dictionaries in our library.

  • When: open until 8.30pm
  • Cost: £6 admission fee, includes complimentary glass of wine. No booking required, just drop in.
  • Where: Dr Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square EC4A 3DE

Home sweet home

What did a Saxon home look like? How did Londoners live 1,000 years ago? At this art workshop, make a model Saxon home, discover where these early Londoners came from and how they lived. Then go and visit our recreated Saxon home in the Medieval gallery. Suggested ages: 5+

  • When: 12.30-2pm and 2.30-4pm, just drop in
  • Cost: Free
  • Where: Museum of London, 150 London Wall EC2Y 5HN

Anglo-Saxon songs and sounds

Meet a ‘scop’ – an Anglo-Saxon storyteller – and be captivated by a musical version of ‘Beowulf’, a famous story told around fires in London more than 1,000 years ago. Then play around with Anglo-Saxon language, before finishing the session with a song set to some Old English. Each performance is 30 minutes long. Suggested ages: 5+

  • When: 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Where: Museum of London, 150 London Wall EC2Y 5HN

Great Fire of London family walk

Was the baker of Pudding Lane to blame? What did Samuel Pepys bury in his garden? How did they put out the fire? Join us on this 45-minute interactive family walk to find all the answers and more as you visit the sights affected by the fire. Visit the sites struck by the Great Fire of 1666 and take part in mini-challenges as a family during this fun and interactive walk. Suggested ages: 5+

  • When: 11-11.45am
  • Cost: £5 children, £7 adults, booking required
  • Where: Museum of London, 150 London Wall EC2Y 5HN

The Jubilee Cope

The Jubilee Cope is a masterpiece of English ecclesiastical embroidery, decorated with the spires of seventy-three London Churches and St Paul’s Cathedral. It is forty years old this year having been made for the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 1977.

The display will be accompanied by drop-in family craft activities; embroidery demonstrations by the cathedral embroiderers and a lunchtime talk, which will provide background on the designer of the cope, Beryl Dean, and the Jubilee Cope itself.

  • When: Activities and demonstrations – 10.45am – 12.15pm, and 2pm – 3.30pm in the nave
    Lunchtime talk – 1-1.45pm in the crypt
  • Cost: Included in the cost of admission free but booking is essential for the lunchtime talk
  • Where: St Paul’s Cathedral EC4M 8AD