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Cybertours: Walking High Holborn, London

26 pages24 minutes


The concept behind cybertours is quite simple: a guide book text written to be used in conjunction with Google imagery. You use the Google co-ordinates I supply to drop into a London street and then the guide supplies detailed information about the area as you move your browser through it.
Think of it as reading from a guide book as you walk through an art gallery, being directed from one interesting scene to another, with all the information at your finger tips that you need to appreciate the finer details.
The great advantage is that you can be a tourist in London for a dollar without even leaving home. No rush, no fuss, and you'll get to visit parts of the city which are quite off the normal tourist tracks. But never think they're not interesting. Every major street in London has some fascinating stories to tell and now you can share them online.
The best way to show you what I'm talking about is to pick a block of text at random and let you make your own judgement:-
"But never think there's nothing left to see here. At the other end of Ely Place is St Etheldreda's Church, the oldest remaining Catholic church still in use in England and one of only two surviving buildings in London which date back to the reign of Edward I.
It's believed that the Church was built about 1250 and it certainly served as the private chapel for the Bishops of Ely. Saint Etheldreda is the patron saint of the See of Ely, dying in the year of grace 679 at Ely. Local girl makes very good. St Etheldreda’s would have been destroyed in the Great Fire of London if the wind had not changed direction at the very last moment.
The Church provided many American soldiers with a special kind of spiritual comfort during both world wars because the Catholic Chapel at West Point Military Academy is modelled on St. Etheldreda's.
As you might expect, Mr Dickens also looked in from time to time, although by then the large and beautiful gardens of the old Palace had been overbuilt by slums. It was in Saffron Hill, once part of the Ely estate, that Fagin and the Artful Dodger had their handkerchief recycling facility. It was at a house in Ely Place that David Copperfield kept an appointment to meet the girl he loved.
And yet I find myself wondering again about Dicken's creativity. I'm thinking about Mr Bumble the Beadle, the officious mean spirited jack-in-office who so cruel in his rations of gruel and went beadleistic when young Oliver Twist dared to ask for more. Was it in Ely Place that Dickens saw a beadle who inspired the character of Bumble?
The reason I ask myself the question is because Ely Place in Dickens' time was a street where you were quite likely to meet a beadle -- in fact, it still is. That small building in the middle of the road is the beadles' gatehouse and is still used by the present day beadles to close traffic for cars and bicycles through the gates after 10 o'clock at night. Beadles are also responsible for law and order in Ely Place and for parking in its precincts. The Metropolitan police force are expected to ask permission from the duty beadle before they pass the gatehouse. If a major crime is committed in Ely Place the paperwork and prosecution are dealt with by the Cambridge police."

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