Craig recommends… Here’s my latest Monument review. You might like to read my review of Pudding Lane as well. If you enjoy climbing The Monument then there are plenty more observation platforms in town. Try the view from the Sky Garden nearby, and the roof of One New Change. Or you can cross over the river and climb to the top of The Shard.
The Monument is No.7 in our list of most historic attractions.
The Monument to the Great Fire of London was built to commemorate the devastating fire in 1666. It was designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, and its height is 203-feet from top to bottom – the exact distance from its base to the baker’s in Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London broke out.
The inscription on the north face describes how the Great Fire of London started, and the the south face shows Charles II taking action to douse the flames. The words on the east face describe how The Monument was built by Christopher Wren. The remaining side describes the destruction wrought by the Great Fire.
An extra message was chiselled on in 1681 to try and blame the fire on the Catholics, but this was removed in 1831 when Catholics were given equal rights.
This review originally appeared in his London blog
If you’ve got three quid in your pocket, half hour to spare, and don’t mind giving yourself a heart attack then try climbing up The Monument. You have to go through the little door at the front where a little old lady is wedged into a cubby hole about the size of a shoebox. Then she points you to the stairs and that is when you start regretting it.
The little leaflet says there’s only 311 steps but I think they must have miscounted because it seemed like a bazillion to me. The little stone steps wind tightly up the column for a million miles and it just goes on forever and ever. I thought I was going to come out onto the surface of the moon, that is how long it took me to climb it.
There are a few little window ledges dotted around that you can sit on to get your breath back, but if you are unlucky enough to get a bunch of tourists coming down you have to dice with death and hug the wall while they squeeze past.
When I got to the top I had a pair of jelly legs that no longer worked, and I felt like I’d just run the London Marathon. I guess I must be pretty unfit. Apparently suicidal people used to come up here and hurl themselves off the top, but I reckon a few of them must have died on the way up.
When I got to the top it was a bit disappointing, to be honest. The whole viewing platform is enclosed in a tight wire mesh, so you can’t even get a decent picture.
They’ve got a few coin operated telescopes in the corners so you can view the edge of the earth, but there’s not many landmarks in range. Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast are quite close, but the Tower of London is pretty much blocked off by offices.
You can see the Gherkin and a few skyscrapers in The City, but the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral is about the size of a 5p piece. As for anything further than Blackfriars bridge, forget it. The Monument is in the heart of The City so it’s just office blocks all round.
The climb back down is a lot easier, thank God, especially if you just roll all the way down. And the little old lady gives you a nice little certificate to prove to the world that you were daft enough to climb ten miles to the top.
Pudding Lane is the kind of street that people pass through on the way to somewhere else. Half of the people who walk down here probably don’t even realise its significance because there’s nothing around to tell them (apart from The Monument next-door, of course). It’s just a quiet side street between a load of concrete office blocks – it hasn’t even got any shop fronts in it.
There’s a clanky old metal shutter into an underground car park… a few postie vans parked up whilst the delivery men deliver their parcels… a bicycle rack… two women on a fag break… two pigeons swanning about like they own the place… some litter… a lamppost… and me.
I’ve just had a great idea… let’s burn it down again! Let’s get that baker bloke back and ask him to start a new inferno. Once we’ve levelled it flat again we can build a big museum about the Great Fire of London, right next door to Christopher Wren’s Monument – and turn Pudding Lane into the tourist attraction that it’s supposed to be.
> Craig’s review of Monument – “I climbed up The Monument yesterday -- never again. I'm done with stairs. I'm not climbing up any stairs ever again. I don't know exactly how many there are up to the top of the column, but I'm guessing it's about a million. After two minutes my heart was pounding loud enough to make a sound -- it was the drumming percussion to my shuffling huffs and puffs. My chest w… continued”
If you enjoy this then try: One New Change (walk it in 12 mins or catch a train from Monument to One New Change); The Shard (you can walk it in 7 mins) and Sky Garden (you can walk it in less than 3 mins).
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