How I Feel the History of London Every Day

Annika Mikkelson is a student at Colorado State University and a current ISA Featured Blogger.  She is currently studying abroad with ISA in London, England. 

When living somewhere like London, an urban epicenter to the rest of the world, it can be easy to forget just how much history lives here as well. But the city doesn’t let you forget for long; especially if you know where to look. Throughout the city, echoes and traces of times long since past linger and serve as a reminder of what once was. Oxford street, a road I walk down several times a week, was itself originally a Roman road in the Middle Ages.

Oxford Circus at midday, where the meeting of Oxford Street and Regent Street becomes a hub of activity.

To get to class I travel on a train through a tunnel that was built 154 years ago. The campus at University of Westminster where I attend classes is even older, and after walking through hundred-year-old spinning wooden doors, it only takes a glance at the lobby walls to truly gauge the amount of history that lives within. A memorial commemorating the alumni of the Royal Polytechnic Institution (which University of Westminster once was) that died on the battlefields of World War I is spread across the wall just next to the stairs. The university was a recruitment center for young men during the war.  I imagine them lined up on the steps that I climb bright and early every Monday morning, recalling how they were facing an uncertain and frightening future during a time where no one was guaranteed to make it back home.

The historic entrance to the University of Westminster.

One of my favorite things I’ve discovered living in London is the lovely Holland Park, located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Smaller and more subdued that Hyde’s Park or Regent’s Park; it is still just as popular and charming, Holland Park is a piece of history in itself. Within the park lives the Holland House, now the fragmented remnants of what used to be a massive and luxurious estate before it was devastatingly damaged by German firebombs during the Blitz attacks on London in 1940.

The remains of Holland House; what used to be a massive manor that was destroyed during the air raids of WWII.

You can never truly escape the echoes of history when living in London. All the people that lived there before you, everything that has happened here, they linger almost everywhere you look. Sometimes that vastness – the sheer amount of everything that has been here and still is – can be daunting, even a little lonely. But it also has helped me to gain a perspective I’ve never had before. Whenever I face uncertainty or apprehension about being in such a vastly important city, I can just look around me and I’m soon reminded that the path I’m walking is one that has been walked by many before me. History is all of what makes a place what it is now, and there’s a clarity in appreciating it. Especially in a city as bountiful with history as London.

The world awaits…discover it.

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