by Carmen Allan-Petale
Ever wanted to know what London will be like in the future? Well I know. I know exactly what it’ll be like in the year 2121. How do I know? Professor Quantum on the London Time Tour bus told me.
In the year 2121 there’s been a lot of technical advancement – we can fly our vehicles if we’re stuck in a traffic jam, for example – although much of London’s monuments are still the same. English Heritage has kept them preserved. And if Professor Quantum says it, it must be true!
The Time Tour takes place on a converted double-decker London bus, painted black and featuring vintage-looking lamps that wouldn’t be out of place in a burlesque bar.
Professor Quantum is dressed as a mad scientist and he welcomes you on board before taking you through London, divulging interesting snippets of history as we go. He may be from the future but he takes us back to the past on the tour.
I know quite a bit about London from tours I’ve been on previously, like the London Duck Tours and the RIB Voyages tour, but even I discovered some new facts on this tour. For example, did you know that the infamous Strand near Charing Cross was named after ‘strongway’ in 1002, which is old English for ‘shore’? It was because the shoreline of the River Thames actually reached this point before the construction of the Victoria Embankment.
And just down the road from there did you know that someone tried to shoot King George III in the Drury Lane Theatre in 1800? George was pretty unfazed by it all though – he reportedly fell asleep during the interval after it had happened!
From here the bus heads east to the place where London had its last public execution. Michael Barrett was hanged outside the Newgate Prison near the Old Bailey in 1868. Barrett had been arrested for a bombing in Clerkenwell in which 12 bystanders were killed.
On the tour, we also learnt about how the Great Fire in 1666 started – in a bakery of Thomas Farriner on Pudding Lane, shortly after midnight. From then on, no buildings were allowed to have thatched roofs in London, as they were deemed a fire hazard, and to this day this law still stands. The only exception is the Globe Theatre, which is the replica of the theatre Shakespeare’s plays were performed in back in the day.
Speaking of Shakespeare, Professor Quantum video calls famous people from the past like Shakespeare, to get a firsthand account of what’s happening during different periods in time. He did this as London was burning during the Great Fire and we received an account from a maid about what it was like at this time.
He also communicates with the bus driver – who is a robot – and they carry out comedy sketches based around the lonely life of the bus driver.
At the end of the tour, Professor Quantum asks us to close all the bus’ curtains and we’re plunged into darkness. The bus shakes as we’re transported back to the present day and smoke rises from our seats. It was a magical end to the tour.
What you need to know:
Cost – An adult ticket for the tour, which lasts just over an hour, is £20 and a child’s ticket is £14.
When to go – The London Time Tour Bus runs every Saturday and Sunday at either 14:45 or 13:30, depending on the time of year.
How to get there – The bus leaves from Northumberland Avenue outside of The Grand Hotel, which is close to Charing Cross tube station. It’s right near Trafalgar Square and so many buses also frequent the area.
Time Tour provided us with two complimentary tickets, but as always our views and work are our own.