Saturday

The Monument

Smack dab in the centre of the City of London, on Fish Street Hill, you will find one of the world's tallest free-standing stone columns, The Monument. You can visit it any day except Christmas. Just buy yourself a ticket, then hike up 311 steps -- each one EXACTLY six inches high. When you get to the viewing platform, you will see amazing views of the City of London, the Thames River, and beyond.

And the view feels extra impressive, because you've earned it! Hiking up The Monument is not for everybody. It's a long, windy stone staircase, which gets narrower towards the top. There's only one way up and down, so while you are ascending, other tourists are walking DOWN the self-same six-inch steps as you.

Whatever you do, DON'T look down! (You're tempted now, right?)

If you do muster up the courage to look over the handrail, ALL the dizzy way down to the bottom (gulp!), you will see a red-lit chamber underneath the staircase. And THAT's where our story begins!

The Monument was designed by Robert Hooke after the Great Fire of London (1666). Robert Hooke was one of those unsung geniuses of the 17th century; some people call him 'London's Leonardo da Vinci'. We like to say, 'he was unfortunate to be an architect in the age of Wren and a scientist in the age of Newton.'

So, despite his contributions to both architecture and science, Robert Hooke was outshone by Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Isaac Newton. They must've had better PR agents!

In his role as City Surveyor, Robert Hooke designed The Monument. Officially, it was meant to be a monument to the rebuilding of the City of London after the Great Fire.

Unofficially, Robert Hooke (along with Christopher Wren) wanted the Monument to be a giant xenith telescope, which they could use to make astronomical observations. So Robert Hooke built a cellar underneath it, where he would lie and watch the sky at night.

Did it work? Yes. Did it work well? No. Unfortunately, passing traffic (carts and horses, of course, in those days) caused too many vibrations, and idea of the giant xenith telescope was abandoned. Bad news for The Monument, but GREAT news for the tourists who visit London every year and make the hike up the stairs to stare at the view.

If you prefer to WATCH the story, take a peek at our YouTube video, which will give you a tour and a bit of a history lesson.

Before you visit The Monument, be sure to download The Monument Activity Sheet. And if you're a teacher, you will LOVE my FREE Monument Teachers Kit. Both are available from my website, at www.guyfox.org.uk