Black London walking tours

What is it?

For the past five years the black historian and writer S I Martin has been guiding walking tours through London pointing out the haunts of forgotten black British radicals, soldiers and artists who lived in the capital. Among these characters from the city's hidden past, Martin highlights the 18th-century writer and composer Ignatius Sancho who lived in Charles Steet (where the Foreign & Commonwealth Office now stands), Mary Seacole, the Crimea's black Florence Nightingale, who lived in Tavistock Street, and Olaudah Equiano, a former slave who became an eloquent abolitionist and was a devout worshipper at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Tours last around an hour - depending on how fast you walk.

Where is it?

Martin meets his groups outside Westminster Tube station (look for the man with the dreadlocks, holding up Black London brochures outside exit four, just opposite Big Ben). All the walks end at Covent Garden's Piazza.

Something for the children?

The walks have been specially tailored for groups of school pupils in the past. Martin adapts the way he relates the tales to suit the age of his audience - as well as pacing the walk a little more slowly for shorter legs, of course.

Something for the adults?

Paul Robeson fans will be interested to know that the singer played Othello at The Savoy Theatre during the 1930s, when he was searching for better roles outside the US. But did you know that he wasn't the first black Othello to tread the British boards? In the 19th century Ira Aldridge, the first black actor ever to perform on the UK stage, played the Moor at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

I'm hungry

At the end of the walk in Covent Garden, a quick stroll round the corner to King Street will bring you to the Calabash Restaurant, in the Africa Centre, which serves African food. Alternatively, reasonably priced pub food can be ordered in the upstairs bar at the Essex Serpent, also in King Street.

Can we buy a souvenir?

African artefacts of all kinds - books, CDs, cloth and carvings can all be bought at the Africa Centre on King Street. The centre also sells books that relate specifically to the Black London experience over the past three centuries.

How do we get there?

Westminster Underground station is on the Jubilee and District lines. The number 53 and 12 buses stop outside the Tube station.

Will there be queues?

No, because you have to pre-book the tour by phone.

Admission: £6 per person (no concessions) booked through Black London tours, 7/136 Coldharbour Lane London SE5 9PZ (020-7326 4429; email

Hours: 10am-6pm daily, or by prior arrangement.

Disabled access: not suitable for people with limited mobility because there are lots of steps to negotiate.