One of the wonderful things about blogging is the people that you meet. Katie Wignall not only blogs at Look Up London she also  guides walks around London. She has come up with a new route,  Alternative Christmas Shopping and last week she asked me to be a guinea pig. We met in Soho Square and straight away the facts began. That Tudor building in the middle of the square, it was built in 1925 to hide an electricity substation, now it is just used to house gardening equipment.

Alternative Christmas Shopping Walk

Not everything that you look up to see is old. As we left Soho Square we could see a large sculpture of an Angel adorning a building.  Turns out that the Angel is in fact Selene, the Greek Goddess of the moon.  The Nadler Hotel, for that is the building on which she stands, wanted a representation of sleep. Hew Locke came up with this star strewn goddess.

Alternative Christmas Shopping walk

When I used to work in Portland Place, the black art deco Marks and Spencers on Oxford Street was my local Marks.  I have always assumed the architecture and the name of building to be left over from when it was a cinema.  Wrong!  The Pantheon, refers to an exclusive members club that used to stand on the site in the eighteenth century that was built to resemble the Pantheon in Rome.  Fire claimed the original building many years ago and M&S bought the site in 1925 and had the current store built.

Alternative Christmas Shopping walk

Katie calls her tours Look Up London and we spent lots of time looking up, seeing all sorts of incredible things.  Most beautiful of all was on another Art Deco building, this time opposite Liberty on Great Marlborough Street.  It was built for the American Radiator Company and is a scaled down version of their New York headquarters.  The radiators are long gone but the impressive mosaics remain, quite a fancy building for a pasta restaurant.

Alternative Christmas shopping walk

When we stood on the traffic island in the middle of Regent Street I thought that it was probably all the better to admire the magnificent Angel Christmas lights, turns out that what looks like a sawn off lamp post was the focus of our attention.  It is in fact a stench pipe, built to let the noxious gases escape from the Victorian sewers below.

Alternative Christmas Shopping walk

This is a part of London that I have lived in and worked in for over thirty years and I came away with several new facts.  What’s more, when the tour finished I was ideally placed for a spot of Christmas shopping.   The Alternative Christmas Shopping walk is £12 (£8 children).  If you fancy going on one of Katie’s tours click here





  1. November 23, 2016 / 9:57 am

    Great post! I didn’t realise there was a “Look Up London” but OBVIOUSLY there needs to be one 🙂 I studied at UCL and made weekly trips down Wigmore St to the Courtauld Institute. The architecture and sculpture down that street is amazing.

  2. November 23, 2016 / 5:21 pm

    What a fabulous idea. I love the angel/goddess too. I think most cities could do with one of these tours.

    • Catherine
      November 23, 2016 / 5:33 pm

      My Mother is a blue badge guide for Norwich and she used to try her new routes out on us!

  3. November 24, 2016 / 1:40 pm

    cool walk! #farawayfiles

  4. November 24, 2016 / 2:52 pm

    I love Katie’s concept of looking up. A post of hers on Instagram helped me learn more about our area. Great that she does walking tours too – sounds very interesting. I was just down at St James’ yesterday. The angel decorations are amazing! Thanks for joining us on #FarawayFiles

  5. November 24, 2016 / 10:51 pm

    Thanks for this, I would really love to try it. I’ll contact her now. So cool! 🙂

    • Catherine
      November 24, 2016 / 11:05 pm

      You will have a fantastic time!

  6. Clare Thomson
    November 25, 2016 / 9:01 pm

    Such a fantastic idea for a walking tour! I think that we all too often spend our time looking at our feet or at the windows of the buildings and shops we pass and we forget to look up at the incredible detail on our streets. Thanks for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles

  7. November 26, 2016 / 8:03 pm

    I love the look up nature – great post #farawayfiles

  8. November 28, 2016 / 1:11 pm

    Love this idea as well! And learning fun little tidbits about things that you walk by all the time! Cheers and thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

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