5 must-see American historical sites in London

The fountain of Trafalgar Square and the church of St Martin's in the Fields

Here are five must-see American historical sites that you can visit in London today.  They are not in any order or category, but having said that, we should start from where the Mayflower set sail in the first place.

1 The Mayflower Pub

Back in 1620, the Mayflower started its journey from here to the New World.   The Mayflower left Rotherhithe under the command of Captain Christopher Jones and around 30 passengers.  It went to Southampton for supplies and more passengers, including William Bradford.    On 6th September, 1620, Captain Jones, along with 102 passengers and approximately 30 crew members, finally set sail from Plymouth – on a ‘a prosperous wind’ in the words of Bradford.  All were intent on escaping England and its blended form of Protestantism, that wasn’t sufficiently pure in the opinion of the Puritans!   After nearly two months, land was first sighted off Cape Cod.  Strong winter seas forced anchorage at Plymouth Rock – further north than the original destination of Virginia.   The Pilgrim Fathers had arrived in America.   This smart and charming pub is is just the place to soak up the history, read about the local lore, have a few pints – and sign the ‘descendants book’, leaving your permanent mark in history too.


2 All Hallows by the Tower

Not only is this is the oldest church in the City of London. It was founded by the Abbey of Barking in 675 AD (yes that’s 300 years before the Tower of London was built!) but, it’s where William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was baptised – and educated in the old schoolroom!  Convinced you need to visit?  Well, for good measure – it’s also where John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the USA, was married in 1797 (see the entry in the Marriage Register).   Some topicality, John Quincy Adams’, British-born wife Louisa, was the only foreign-born First Lady in history – until Melania Trump!


3 Benjamin Franklin’s House

Near Trafalgar Square is Craven Street and here you can immerse yourself (literally) in the years (1757 to 1775) up to Franklin leaving London for America.  Franklin was a lead mediator between Britain and the colonies in the period before the War of Independence – ultimately failing to sort out an acceptable tax regime between Britain and its American colonies.  This is the world’s only remaining Franklin home.  The dramatic (i.e. acted) ‘Historical Experience’, where you can be absorbed by the scientist, diplomat, philosopher, inventor and Founding Father of the United States is pure ‘gold’ – a must see whilst you’re in the capital.


4 St Paul’s Cathedral

Chances are you have family connections to World War II.  St Paul’s, the second largest domed cathedral in the world is not only London’s oldest site of religious worship (the Roman Temple of Diana), but it’s also the location of the American Memorial Chapel.  This is a touching and emotional area at the east end of the Cathedral, dedicated to U.S. servicemen who died while stationed in the United Kingdom during World War II.  Stained-glass windows feature symbols of the American states and a leather-bound book displays a roll of honour with 28,000 handwritten names – relatives can request the help of cathedral staff to locate names of family members.


5 George Washington statue

We mention this, because it’s not easily spotted in Trafalgar Square – and whatever happens you’ll find yourself in the Square during your visit.  Plus you can truly feel at home near it – please read on!  The statue on the northern grassy area gets much less attention than the stand out column and statue for which Square was created!  The statue was a gift from the people of Virginia – a plaque on the plinth states ‘Presented to the people of Great Britain and Ireland by the Commonwealth of Virginia 1924’.  It’s a tribute to the good relations between Great Britain and the United States.  One small blip on that one though…  As the Commander-In-Chief during the War of Independence, George Washington reputedly said ‘I will never set foot in London again’.  One needs to honour the wishes of the illustrious departed – so the statue stands on half a tonne of Virginian soil beneath the plinth.

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