London History Day launches

On Wednesday 31 May (the date Big Ben first started keeping time) England’s capital will celebrate the first ever London History Day, recognising the extraordinary history and heritage of this great city

Houses of Parliament c1900. Credit: Parliamentary Archives

Houses of Parliament c1900. Credit: Parliamentary Archives

London History Day, an initiative by Historic England to celebrate 1000 years of history in the capital, will launch on 31 May with a selection of celebrations and events around the city based on the theme ‘1,000 years of history…where history is still being written’.

As a part of the campaign, Londoner’s took part in a YouGov poll, nominating the place that sums up the capital, selecting a date based on key moments in the city’s history and choosing their favourite historic London hero. The Houses of Parliament were the resounding winner over Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace as the building that best sums up London and the date set as 31 May as this is when Big Ben first started keeping time in 1859 – other contenders being the day when the Great Fire of London broke out and when the Metropolitan Railway opened the world’s first underground railway.

HM the Queen was chosen as London’s historic hero for the moment that she left Buckingham Palace to secretly join the crowds celebrating VE day. Other heroes in the running were Samuel Pepys, who documented the Great Fire in his famous diaries, and the fire watchers of WWII, the brave volunteers who protected St Paul’s cathedral during the Blitz.

To celebrate, UK Parliament are offering visitors the chance to attend a special free talk on the Elizabeth Tower by one of the clockmakers, one-off London history-themed guided tours for families, and a behind-the-scenes look at rarely seen objects from Parliament’s Heritage Collections including the ceremonial silver trowel used to lay the first stone of the Elizabeth Tower and photographs of the damage the Houses of Parliament incurred during the Blitz.

For those unable to visit Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, a new virtual 360° tour available online allows you to explore the famous rooms of Parliament without needing to leave your house.

Other London History Day events will also be taking place around the city as over 40 museums and galleries stage special events and rare displays for one day only. To help you get along. Historic England has created this special interactive map to show you what’s happening around town.

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Written by Heidi Finnane // 10th May 2017

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