Nick Balmer's 
2001 Tour Guide of London and surrounding areas.

This informative tour guide was given to a USA Baber as a guide of the things to see about Baber History and the ways of getting around to see them.  It was originally written as an e-mail to a couple planning a wedding trip to London.  It only covers areas of which Nick has great personal knowledge.  Many other Baber historical sites exist.  If you are planning a trip to England please understand that this will not include all you need to know.  Further information is welcomed from anyone that lives in England or has traveled there and wishes to help new visitors.  Special thanks to Nick to take the time to prepare this information.


I donít know if you intend taking a car or not. If you are spending most of your time in London I would suggest that you do not rent a car, but use the tube. (Sub-way). It will take about 40 minutes by tube to central London. It is a fraction of the cost of a cab and quicker except at night. I drive in London a lot on business and its no fun, and I really know my way about. Parking in central London is very difficult indeed. I have driven last year in America, and it never even in Boston approaches the horror of London. Our roads are far faster outside London except at rush hour, and we are far less courteous as drivers.

If you intend traveling to the countryside which I would highly recommend. See London by tube and foot, then go back to Heathrow Airport and hire a car to go to the country.

Heathrow Airport is at the western edge of London. It has good fast tube routes into central London. If you wanted to go to the old Baber country then the M4 Motorway (Freeway) passes the exit to Heathrow and will get you out west to Somerset very quickly.

In London in any good book store get a paperback London A to Z. Its not expensive but will help you follow the following.

Baber Bridge is just South East of Heathrow Airport. It is on the A315 Staines Road in East Bedfont. It is a little confusing because the area is also called Hounslow Heath, and North Feltham. The bridge crosses the River Crane. (Page 98 Y 58)

Before the M4 was built this A315 was the Roman and later main road to London from Bath. Chaucers Widow of Bath would have been familiar with the road as would your forebears.

In olden times Hounslow Heath was a very dangerous place used to train armies, and full of Highwaymen. My Grandfather Hancock was a vet in the area at the beginning of the last century, and his father before him, when there were no house, only villages on the heath. We still have his lead covered cosh which he used to carry at night to fight of footpads.

Itís not so bad now, itís just 1930ís urban sprawl.

By tube you should go to Hatton Cross which is the first stop east of Heathrow on the Jubilee Line. This is on the A30. You will have to walk or get a cab. Cross over the A30 and walk down ether Faggs Road or Dick Turpin (A famous Highwayman, and an English equivalent of Jesse James) road into Faggs Road. This goes through housing and shops to the south before joining the A312. Walk down this to the junction with the A315 Staines Road. At the crossroads turn left towards Hounslow. Walk about half a mile along the road and you will pass a road called River Gardens on your left. Almost immediately afterwards you will see a wooded public area. You can go into the wood, which conceals the remains of a 17th & 18th Century gunpowder mill. Just past the entrance to the wood, and you are on the Baber Bridge. You will need shoes suitable to mud in the woods. These run in a narrow strip along the river and are full on humps and bumps from the old 18th Century Blast walls around the works. A lot of the powder from here went to keep down those revolting colonists in the Virginias! Not to mention the French and Spanish.

The stream was once an extremely important industrial site. Just upstream of the bridge is the junction of the River Crane and the Duke of Northumberlandís River. This D of Nís River was an artificial cut dug in about 1600 to increase the waterpower to the dozens of mills. These were used variously to make swords in the 1640ís and gunpowder and copper wire.

Nearby is Syon Park. In the park was a house that my Baber ancestor lived in. Its gone but Syon house ids a home for the Duke of Northumberland nowadays. Itís only accessible by car really. Nearby is Hampton Court which is a huge palace built in King Henry the Eights reign and open to the public and with lovely gardens. The same ancestor went here often and in about 1679 gave away one of King Charles II many bastards in marriage to the daughter of one of his many mistresses there. Geoffrey Kneller painted a portrait of another of my GÖ.. Great Grannies to hang on the wall here with all the other ladies of the court. Itís gone but others remain there.

If you come by car, basically follow signs to towards Heathrow. Get on the A315, which runs from Hounslow out to Staines. The best place to park is in Mill Way off River Road.

Perhaps your fiancťe knows what to expect and is already resigned to being married to a Baber, and understands the genetic predisposition to tracing ones family history. But in London there are several places you can take him to which have family connections, which he can visit without his being dragged off to far.

The following places have national significance and are well worth seeing. If you go to them you might be interested to know of their Baber connections. I apologise that they are mainly from my branch, and I am sure that there are many other places with Baber associations in London but these are the ones of which I am aware.

1. The Houses of Parliament. Sergeant Edward Baber was Member of Parliament for Bath here in about 1570. My ancestor John Baber was MP for Wells here in 1627 and again in the famous short Parliament (He would have seen Oliver Cromwell, Pym etc.) in 1641.(Page 82 Nb 48)

Edward Baber was present here in the 1780ís giving evidence at the trial of Warren Hastings. In 1829 Thomas Hervey Baber gave evidence to the committee for India in Parliament on slavery in South West India.

2. Westminster School just around the corner. Several; Baberís went here in the 1600ís. Not much to see, but very close to Parliament.

3. Westminster Cathedral. I donít know where, but Benjamin Baber son of Benjamin Baber, Mayor of Bath, who was at Westminster School and who died as a child at Westminster School was buried in the Cathedral in about 1700.

4. When you walk up Whitehall from Parliament past Downing Street towards Trafalgar Square you follow the route of what used to be Kingís Street. Elizabeth Baber, wife of Edward Baber of Sutton Court owned property here in the 1620ís. This street was the home of many of the most powerful court figures during the reign of King James I. Her house has gone. (Page 82 Nb 46)

5. Covent Garden. (Page 82 Nb 45) Great fun, with really nice places to eat, and small but rather nice shops etc. Find the famous church at the western end of the Covent Garden square. Walk to the right hand side of the church and you are in Kings Street. There is a bookshop owned by Doring & Kinnersley about 100 yards up, by a narrow passage into the churchyard. The shop was probably the home of my ancestor Sir John Baber who was Physician and political fixer to King Charles II. In 1660 this was one of the newest and grandest addresses in London. They lived here for nearly 100 years. By 1800 the square was a centre of really wild life in London with all the biggest houses of ill repute being in the area, Several dozen at least. It was also in the centre of the Theatre district as it still is. Donít worry the ladies of the night have long since moved out. Several Baberís were buried in the church, which was built by Inigo Jones in 1630, and was the first classical church in England.

6. The British Museum, (Page 82 Nb 43) In Russell Square. This museum is built on the site of Montagu house. Montagu house was built in the mid 1600ís by the Earl of Montagu with whom we have common ancestors. Francis Baber and Edward Montagu were both married to daughters of William Whitmore who was a Lord Mayor of the City of London in the 1620ís or 30ís. Montagu house was built on the site of a 35-acre field once called Baber field. If we had not sold it, one of the Baberís would now perhaps be sitting on one of the best bits of property in London.

7. My Great Great Great Grandfather Henry Hervey Baber was the Keeper of the Printed Books at the British Museum. The current building is much altered since his time. He left in 1837 having joined the library in 1809. Stand at the main entrance under the portico facing the main iron gates, and on in front of you is a large courtyard, imagine two, two storey wings running out to the fence on ether side of you. From about 1812 until 1837, these wings were his home in one of the several flats and apartments, which stood here. Henry moved flats within the blocks over the years. On one occasion complaining that he had had to leave his flushing toilet behind. This was the height of modernity at the time. When you go into the Museum and see the Elgin Marbles etc, you should be aware that Baber ancestors were there when they arrived and probably helped cataloguing them! He spent £10,000 a year buying books for the library.

8. The famous reading room which is circular and stands within the museum which has four sides which surround the reading room was set up by Antonio Panizzi , starting in 1837, largely as a result of Baberís urging at a Parliamentary commission at which the museum was put on a proper financial footing for the first time. Baber recruited Panizzi.

9. In the last year the courtyard surrounding the circular reading room has been roofed in, and is a very pleasant place to have your lunch. Entry to the museum is free. You can get into the reading room. Marx, and just about every literary figure of note for the last 150 years worked in that room at sometime. Its rather nice, I was down in the newly roofed courtyard just after Christmas. Entry to the museum is free and it has masses and masses of things of interest.

10. The Tower of London, (Page 83 Vb 45) and Saint Paulís (Page 83 Sb 44). In 1558 the Lord Mayor of London Sir Thomas Leigh lead the new Queen Elizabeth the First from Tower up to St Paulís on the first leg of her journey to get crowned in Westminster Abbey. Sir Thomas Leigh was the father in law of Sergeant Edward Baber who is buried in Chew Magna. The Dean of St Paulís Alexander Nowelle in the 1560ís was the Great Uncle of one of my G Great Granny Baberís. He invented bottled beer. He spent 10% of his time fishing and is mentioned in the Compleate Angler written by Isaac Walton. On one occasion in St Paulís he preached to Queen Elizabeth the First that she should go and get married and have children. Perhaps not the most tactful of sermons, but no doubt kindly meant. She was so angry that she shouted him down. He was so frightened that the Bishop of London invited him to dinner the following night to assure him that he was in fact still safe to stay in the country. The only previous cleric who had been shouted at by her father had had to flee the country for the sake of his life. The cathedral has of course since been rebuilt by St Christopher Wren following the great fire of 1666. You can go up inside the dome and out onto the top of the dome. Personally I found going up inside the dome much more scary than going up the Empire State Building. You are so much more aware of the likelihood of falling down from the inside the rim of the dome with only an 18 Century rail between you and its enormous drop. Its fun.

11. Lincolnís Inn. (Page 82 Pb 44) This area near Holborn was on the outskirts of London in 1550. It is still the centre of the legal district. Itís fun to visit on a weekday lunchtime. You will find very old courtyards and churches mixed with 19th century offices full of lawyers. From 1550 until at least 1680 Baberís were trained there to be lawyers. Sergeant Edward Baber was there for much of every year from 150íish until 1570. My ancestor John Baber, Recorder of Wells was nearly thrown out for a sword fight in the main dining hall in the early 1600ís. Only string pulling behind the scenes saved his career. At the meeting to discuss his suspension, the next item on the agenda was the decision as to whether to appoint Inigo Jones as the architect for rebuilding the church, which you can still see. During Oliver Cromwells rule plays were forbidden. The only place that plays were performed was in Lincolnís Inn, indeed for many years before the Inn had been a centre for plays, payed for by the lawyers with Ben Jonson and others working there. After King Charles II came back the plays moved to Convent Garden and Drury Lane. (The Drurys are relatives of ours).

12. If you go to the reconstructed Globe Theatre on the South Bank in Southwark, (Page 83 Sb 46) which is well worth seeing, remember that Frances Baber in 1635 had to sue Thomas Bankes an actor to his £30 back. Bankes was an important actor in Prince Charles company of actors and who would have known Shakespeare and who probably acted in the Globe or nearby Rose Theatre.

13. In Cheapside (Page 83 Sb 44)just at the eastern end of St Paulís cathedral if you walk towards the Bank, the street called Cheapside changes name to Poultry Street. This is because it was the main Tudor meat market. At the point where Cheapside ends and Poultry begins you will find a street called Queen Street, which goes south down to the river. This street was built after the 1666 Great Fire. On your left as you go down Queen Street, about 30 yards down from Cheapside, turn left into Pancras Lane. This lane runs between modern high rise offices now. About 50 yards into St Pancras lane on the uphill side of the street you will find a plaque marking the site of a church, which was burnt down in the Great Fire. This was Edward Baberís family church in the 1610ís. I think this Edward was the ancestor of Robert the Emigrant. Stand with your back to the church and look directly across the street (Down hill), and under the office block in front was perhaps your ancestral London home in 1611. A map of his house is on Joeís site. Edward took a £12 share in the Virginia Company. Pity it went bust.

14. Walk back up Queen Street and cross to the north of Cheapside. A hundred or so yards to the east and you will see Old Jewry, and in this street was the home of Sir Thomas Leigh on the east, and Robert Baber on the west or left-hand side. The houses have all disappeared.

I could go on but the above is probably more than enough.

If you get the chance go to Bath for a few days or Oxford for a day, do so, as London is not really representative of England. If you do I can give you a list of sites.

Obviously I have stressed the ďhistoryĒ, but Britain is not all past. Try to get a ticket for the Big Wheel or London Eye (Page 82 Pb 47) opposite Parliament. Itís good fun. The area around Convent Garden and Leicester Square is full of life at night.

You can get a very good lunch for a reasonable amount in the National Gallery Museum Restaurant. You go the Trafalgar Square, (Page 82 Mb 46) and into the museum entrance which is on the up hill side of the square under the portico. Inside go towards the right hand side as you go in and follow the signs. Arrive by 12.30 or it gets crowded. Similar restaurants exist in the Victoria and Albert Museums and Science Museum. (Page 81 Fb 48) With two children, we try to make our money stretch but to find somewhere with atmosphere

Try going to the Tower of London (Page 83 Vb 45) and find the Dock Lands Light Railway. It goes on an elevated route out through the East End, which is a bit of a rough area (but quite safe) to the Docklands, which is modern London built in the old docks. At Island Gardens Station (*Page 84 Ec 50) get off. Walk the hundred yards or so to the gardens which are at the end of a great loop in the River called the Isle of Dogs. There is a great view of Greenwich Palace. Find the red round building, and inside it you can go down and walk under the River Thames. You come up in Greenwich. (Page 107 Ec 51)Walk through the lovely Eighteen-century market (Very good at weekends, not bad in the week) to the Maritime Museum. Up behind the museum is a park, which was a royal park from the earliest times. At the top of the hill is the Royal Observatory, which stands on the Greenwich Meridian. You get a really great view of London from the top. Back at the River is the Cutty Sark, a 19th Cent Windjammer. Near there you can get a boat back to the Houses of Parliament. A really nice way to spend an afternoon, and one of my favourite places to go.

For a special tea try Fortnum and Mason at 99 Piccadilly (Page 82 Lb 45) (The Street from Hyde Park Corner to Piccadilly Circus). This is an extremely grand shop. It has a special tearoom, which is not cheap, but is great fun. It is great to see the other people there. The shop is terribly grand and one would not do ones shopping there nowadays, but for something special its fun. In the 1920ís my Granny who had been a Baber had ordered her weekly provisions from the shop, not that we have been able to afford to for many years. Try Harrods Food Hall at Knightsbridge. (Page 81 Hb 47) (Note that the English nowadays by and large boycott Harrods since its owner has upset everybody over Lady Diana. Its however full with the rest of the world, and is interesting.)

I live north of London, on the way to Cambridge, which is a really nice place to visit if you had the time.

Have a really happy Wedding. If you need anymore help donít hesitate to contact me.

Regards

Nick Balmer
nicholas.balmer1@ntlworld.com

 

 

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