Cybertours: Walking Baker Street, London
As a Londoner I’d like to show you around one of my favourite parts of London using Google Earth.
Today we’re going down Baker Street, famous of course for 221b Baker Street, the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes. But you'll be surprised how much more there is to Baker Street.
Britain's most notorious bank robbery, one of Churchill's greatest war time secrets, the disappearing Duke . . . More
The concept behind cybertours is quite simple: a guide book text written to be used in conjunction with Google imagery. You use the Google co-ordinates I supply to drop into a London street and then the guide supplies detailed information about the area as you move your browser through it.
Think of it as reading from a guide book as you walk through an art gallery, being directed from one interesting scene to another, with all the information at your finger tips that you need to appreciate the finer details.
The great advantage is that you can be a tourist in London for a dollar without even leaving home. No rush, no fuss, and you'll get to visit parts of the city which are quite off the normal tourist tracks. But never think they're not interesting. Every major street in London has some fascinating stories to tell and now you can share them online.
The best way to show you what I'm talking about is to pick a block of text at random and let you make your own judgement:-
"Position yourself in the middle of the intersection and look down Paddington Street. On your left, on the corner of Baker and Paddington, is a very unobtrusive little white and blue office building which is labelled as ‘Reed’ by google. The sort of building you could walk by a thousand times and never notice -- and yet this place has had its moment of psychedelic glory. It’s even got another of those ubiquitous blue plaques as proof.
You don’t need to strain your eyes to read it, I’ll do that for you.
94 Baker Street John Lennon
1940 -1980 Musician and songwriter
John Lennon? What did he ever have to do with this little building?
Not a lot as far as present day bricks and mortar are concerned. It was the building which used to be on this site which housed the Beatles’ Apple Boutique in 1967. In fact it was supposed to be the lead shop in a planned nation wide chain of Apple Boutiques. Unfortunately the boutique turned out to be a financial disaster because of poor management and eventually the entire stock was given away to the public, though even that went wrong because of a near riot by eager non paying customers.
After it had closed its doors the boutique still managed to be a source of embarrassment. Paul McCartney advertised the Beatles first Apple Records single by scraping ‘Hey, Jude’ in the white wash on the windows. This was claimed to be anti-semitic graffiti, ‘Jude’ being German for ‘Jew’ and the windows had to have another coat of white wash applied to them. The Beatles would probably have been happy to white wash the whole venture out of their minds.
Never mind, they got better with their investments, especially George Harrison, who bankrolled probably the funniest movie ever made, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”.
OK, everybody finished here? Then we can take a quick hike through cyberspace. Down to the next intersection, Dorset Street and Baker Street. When you’ve arrived there look South down Baker Street and you’ll see a small tree by the side of the pavement and a larger tree a little further on. Try to position yourselves between them and look left. I’m hoping you’ll see a place called the Lighting Shop at 62-64 Baker Street.
Found it? Wondering what could possibly be interesting to a tourist is such an humdrum everyday kind of shop? Well, look again. This is where the Central Intelligence Agency was born.
How can I possibly say that? Because it was inside this building that the Headquarters of the Special Operation Executive were established in 1940. Churchill ordered it to ‘set Europe ablaze’ with sabotage and espionage in countries occupied by the Germans. SOE was often referred to as ‘the Baker Street’ irregulars, after the gang of Street urchins who helped Sherlock Holmes in several of his cases.
SOE was also responsible for organising and arming the Auxiliary Units, a British resistance movement which was to go into action if the Germans invaded Britain."