Fleet Street starts at The Strand and carries on up to Ludgate Hill.
It takes its name from the Fleet River, which used to run where Farringdon Road does today. It soon became a major thoroughfare, and attracted senior figures from the Catholic Church. Many major residences were built along its length, which in turn attracted the learned booksellers.
The first printer to set up shop in Fleet Street was way back in the 15th-century, when Wynkyn de Worde arrived from Westminster. Hundreds of books and pamphlets were pasted up, and fifty years later the area had become well-known as the printer’s paddock.
On the 11th March 1702, Britain’s first newspaper – the Daily Courant – began publishing from its premises in Fleet Street.
By the mid-twentieth century, Fleet Street boasted the headquarters of virtually every major English daily. The street was buzzing with the journo’s trade by day, and hummed to the sound of the printing press by night. But the magnificent old buildings struggled to keep pace with the technological demands. The age of computerisation, coupled with choked deliveries clogging the inner-city streets, meant that a move was always on the cards.
The eighties saw most of the papers relocate. Rupert Murdoch led the charge by moving The Times and The Sun to Wapping. The Guardian went to the Isle of Dogs, and the rest went to London’s Docklands.
St. Bride’s church – the parish church of the nation’s papers – is on the right-hand side as you walk past the Temple. There are several memorials to journalists killed-in-action – most recently during the Gulf War of 2003. There is also a memorial tree for Reuter’s photographer Dan Eldon, whose diaries formed the cult book The Journey Is The Destination.
Archaeologists believe that the original building, burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, may have occupied the same spot as London’s first-ever church – built by St. Bridget in the sixth century AD. The crypt now contains a small museum with the rich history of printing, and relics of these previous buildings.
St. Dunstan’s is just 180 years old, but an earlier version dates from at least the 12th-century. It survived everything that history could throw at it but had become so dilapidated by the 1820s that it was demolished during the widening of Fleet Street.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is the name of a 17th-century pub that still stands today. It is famous for the literary boozers that once propped up the bar – Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson are all said to have drank here at one time or another.
Other writers to supp from the pumps include Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Thackeray and James Boswell.
If you enjoy this then try: The City (walk it in 18 mins or catch a train from Temple to The City); Royal Courts of Justice (you can walk it in 6 mins); St. Dunstan-in-the-West (you can walk it in less than 2 mins); Temple Bar (you can walk it in 4 mins) and Temple Church (you can walk it in less than 2 mins).
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