Stories of London - A Day of Talks

Talk Special Event
  • Venue


  • Time

    10:00 AM

  • Price

    £20.00 plus booking fee

  • Book Tickets

The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie has witnessed over 1000 years of London history


The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie (meaning over the river) which has witnessed over 1000 years of London history, stands at the oldest crossing-point of the River Thames, at what was for many centuries the only entrance to the City of London. 

Join us for this day of talks on London history and discover how the capital has struggled to supply its citizens with reliable, clean water with Nick Higham. David Cannell will take us on a colourful history of the Hackney carriage. Journey into the deep city with poet and mudlark Tom Chivers find out the individuals who were at the heart of the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire in 1666 with acclaimed historian Leo Hollis. Railway expert Christian Wolmar will also be joining us to discuss the history of London railways and underground stations.

Love London history? If so, do join us on the day our second Stories of London event for 2023!

Christian Wolmar - How the London Underground Was Built & Cathedrals of Steam

Since the Victorian era, London's Underground has had played a vital role in the daily life of generations of Londoners. Christian Wolmar celebrates the vision and determination of the nineteenth-century pioneers who made the world's first, and still the largest, underground passenger railway: one of the most impressive engineering achievements in history. Christian will also be tracing the development of some of London's most magnificent Railway Stations. Providing unique insights into their history, with many entertaining anecdotes, and celebrates the recent transformation of several of these stations into wonderful blends of the old and the new.

Acknowledged as one of the UK's leading commentators on transport matters, Christian Wolmar is an award-winning writer and broadcaster specializing in transport, and the author of a series of books on railway history. He is a frequent speaker at conferences, regularly appears on TV and radio, and writes for a wide variety of publications including The Times, The Guardian, The Oldie, and Public Finance. His books include The Great British Railway Disaster (1997), Stagecoach (1999), Down the Tube (2002), The Subterranean Railway (2004), Broken Rails (2001, updated 2005), On the Wrong Line (2005), Fire and Steam (2009), Blood, Iron and Gold (2009), Engines of War (2010), The Great Railway Revolution (2013), and Railways and The Raj (2017). He has been described as "our most eminent transport journalist" by The Spectator and "the greatest expert on British trains" by The Guardian.


Nick Higham - The Mercenary River: Private Greed, Public Good: A History of London's Water

No city can survive without water, and lots of it. Today we take the stuff for granted: turn a tap and it gushes out. But it wasn't always so. For centuries London, one of the largest and richest cities in the world, struggled to supply its citizens with reliable, clean water. The Mercenary River tells the story of that struggle from the middle ages to the present day.

Based on new research, it tells a tale of remarkable technological, scientific and organisational breakthroughs; but also a story of greed and complacency, high finance and low politics. Among the breakthroughs was the picturesque New River, neither new nor a river but a state of the art aqueduct completed in 1613 and still part of London's water supply: the company that built it was one of the very first modern business corporations, and also one of the most profitable. London water companies were early adopters of steam power for their pumps. And Chelsea Waterworks was the first in the world to filter the water it supplied its customers: the same technique is still used to purify two-thirds of London's drinking water. But for much of London's history water had to be rationed, and the book also chronicles our changing relationship with water and the way we use it.

Amongst many stories, Nick Higham's page-turning narrative uncovers the murky tale of how the most powerful steam engine in the world was first brought to London; the extraordinary story of how one Victorian London water company deliberately cut off 2,000 households, even though it knew they had no alternative source of supply; the details of a financial scandal which brought two of the water companies close to collapse in the 1870s; and finally asks whether today's 21st century water companies are an improvement on their Victorian predecessors.

Nick Higham hails from London and is a journalist who has spent 30 years at the BBC: fifteen as their arts and media correspondent and also hosting 'Meet the Author' on the BBC News Channel. His interest in London's water began with the New River, which originally ran to New River Head on the borders of Islington and Clerkenwell, within sight of the building housing the London Metropolitan Archives where much of his book was researched.


Tom Chivers - London Clay: Journeys in the Deep City

What secrets lie beneath a city?

Tom Chivers follows hidden pathways, explores lost islands and uncovers the geological mysteries that burst up through the pavement and bubble to the surface of our streets. From Roman ruins to a submerged playhouse, from an abandoned Tube station to underground rivers, Chivers leads us on a journey into the depths of the city he loves.

A lyrical interrogation of a capital city, a landscape and our connection to place, London Clay celebrates urban edgelands: in-between spaces where the natural world and the metropolis collide. Through a combination of historical research, vivid reportage and personal memoir, it will transform how you see London, and cities everywhere.

Tom Chivers is a writer, publisher and arts producer. He was born in 1983 in south London. He has released two pamphlets and two collections of poetry, the latest being Dark Islands (Test Centre, 2015). His poems have been anthologized in Dear World & Everything In It and London: A History in Verse. He was shortlisted for the Michael Marks and Edwin Morgan Poetry Awards and received an Eric Gregory Award in 2011.

Tom has made perambulatory, site-specific and audio work for organisations including LIFT, Cape Farewell, Humber Mouth and Southbank Centre. He was writer in residence at Bishopsgate Institute and associate artist of the National Centre of Writing. In 2009 he presented a documentary for BBC Radio 4 about the poet Barry MacSweeney. In 2011 an animated film of his poem 'The Event' was broadcast by Channel 4's Random Acts.


David Cannell - A Brief History of the Hackney Carriage

Discover the history of the Hackney Carriage, the trade and The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers.

Dave Cannell completed 'the knowledge' in 2001 and has been a London taxi driver for over 20 years. Dave is a City of London guide, guiding instructor for the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers and secretary of the education committee. He also holds various other guiding qualifacations. Continuing to study London’s history in his spare time. Dave is also a volunteer driver for the Magical Taxi Tour when a convoy of licensed London taxis take over 200 children, suffering from a range of chronic debilitating illnesses and life limiting conditions, on a three-day trip of a lifetime to Disney® Paris.


Leo Hollis - The Phoenix : St. Paul's Cathedral And The Men Who Made Modern London

Opening in the 1640s, as the city was gripped in tumult leading up to the English Civil War, this talk by acclaimed historian Leo Hollis will chart the lives and works of five extraordinary men, who would grow up in the chaos of a world turned upside down: the architect, Sir Christopher Wren; gardener and virtuosi, John Evelyn; the scientist, Robert Hooke; the radical philosopher, John Locke and the builder, Nicholas Barbon. At the heart of the story is the rebuilding of London's iconic cathedral, St Paul's. Interweaving science, architecture, history and philosophy, THE PHOENIX tells the story of the formation of the first modern city.

Leo Hollis is the author of three London history books: The Phoenix: The Men Who Made Modern London, The Stones of London, and Inheritance: the Tragedy of Mary Davies and the international bestseller, Cities are Good for You. He has written for the New Statesman, Guardian, and the Financial Times.


A ticket for the day allows entry to each talk and this event will take place in the Cathedral library. Books for each talk will be available to purchase from either library or Cathedral shop and your ticket entitles you to 10% off in the Cathedral Shop.  

The event will start at 10am and doors will open at 9.45am.