Spectres of Fleet Street
An immersive walk through 600 years of bribery, gossip and booze on Fleet Street led by London historian Dr Matthew Green with broadside ballad singers, drunken hacks and psychopathic media tycoons hidden along the way. As recommended by the Guardian.
- Read the Guardian‘s review of the tour here.
In 1495, an eccentric octopus-loving Walloon called Wynkyn de Worde set up a cranky printing press at the sign of the creaking sun in St Bride’s Churchyard. 250 years later, Fleet Street had blossomed into the nerve-centre of the world’s biggest and most influential mass media, churning out hundreds of newspapers each week. By the 20th century, every major UK newspaper had its headquarters on Fleet Street. And its ancient taverns were packed with impoverished hack writers and inkies.
Fleet Street came to be associated with knowledge, enlightenment, and democracy. It has been hailed as the “Palladium of English Liberty”.
But today, Fleet Street is a ghost of its former self. Not a single newspaper operates from the vicinity any longer. The thumping, hammering and squelching of printing presses has been replaced by the sound of urban ennui. But you can relive it all, just for a day.
Beginning at Stationers’ Hall, the medieval centre of printing, and finishing with a pint in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, this musical, dramatised tour will take you through 600 years of bribery, gossip, and booze on the Street of Ink. You’ll meet the ghosts of Fleet Street denizens including Samuel Johnson, Hodge the Cat, Daniel Defoe, Kitty Fisher, the Rhinoceros of Ludgate Hill and perhaps even Rebekah Brooke being tried at the Old Bailey. Sweeney Todd will not be appearing in this tour.
- Read Dr Green’s Telegraph article on the dark history of Fleet Street here.
Dr Matthew Green
In 2009, Dr Matthew Green completed a PhD in the history of the mass media at Oxford University. Unmoved by the prospect of a cloistered academic life he turned to popular history and now writes for the Guardian and Telegraph, appears on BBC TV and radio, teaches a wide range of historical subjects, and gives sell-out talks at the Idler Academy, 5x15, Port Eliot and elsewhere. He is currently writing a book on 17th and 18th-century coffeehouses.