Katie Wignall, author of Look Up London, selects 10 treasures hidden in plain sight to look up for, as you walk around central London.
1. A martyred archbishop, Cheapside
Along the historic thoroughfare of Cheapside, the City's Medieval shopping street, there's a little figure staring down at you. This is Thomas Becket, born here around 1120. Son of a Mercer (whose Livery Hall is found around the corner), he rose through the ranks to become Archbishop of Canterbury, only to be brutally martyred in his own cathedral in 1170.
2. A lamppost that's not a lamppost, Tower Bridge
Passed by thousands every day, most people don't notice that one lamppost along Tower Bridge looks a little different from the rest. The reason: it's a chimney hiding in plain sight. Once connected to a guard room beneath the bridge, the Clean Air Act of 1956 banned coal fires, leaving it redundant.
3. The first gas-powered light, Pall Mall...
...Well, a plaque to it, anyway. St James's gets its name from an obscure lawn game — like croquet — popular with the Stuart court; "Paille Maile". Less well known is the fact that this street bore witness to the world's first demonstration of gas-powered street lighting. Unfortunately, the light itself isn't still in situ, but there's a green plaque recording the occasion.
4. Home of the inventor of the fire extinguisher, Covent Garden
Another plaque remembering a peculiar first can be found on Southampton Street. Ambrose Godfrey, an 18th century chemist lived and worked on this site. He's credited with inventing the fire extinguisher in the 1720s. Incredibly, the design involved a chamber of gunpowder.
5. A beautiful tower with a lifesaving purpose, Marylebone
Speaking of fires... atop the celebrity dining hotspot Chiltern Firehouse is a brilliant feature of the original Victorian Fire Station; a watchtower from which firefighters would scan London for fires. It's so ornate, it looks more like a castle.
6. The first world war memorial you walk through without realising, Waterloo
Outside the main entrance of Waterloo Station, look up! The whole entrance is in fact a massive first world war memorial with huge sculptures by Charles Whiffen. There are two groups, one depicting the skeletal Goddess of War surrounded by misery, while the other is a happier scene of peace and prosperity.
7. A pioneering African, Whitehall
Between two mighty government buildings — The Treasury and the Foreign Office — is Charles II Street where you can find a surprising plaque. It remembers Ignatius Sancho, who escaped slavery in Greenwich and became a self-made business man, as well as the first known person of African descent to vote in a British election, in 1774.
8. Reliefs that celebrate gin, Clerkenwell
Today Britton Street in Clerkenwell is lined with smart offices, but in the 19th century it was dominated by Booth's gin distillery, one of the largest in London. Although demolished in 1978 you can still look up to see carvings celebrating gin production, created by Frederick W Pomeroy in 1903. One gin maker who features on the reliefs is possibly turning his nose up at the fumes!
9. A Jewish newspaper logo, Whitechapel
Along Aldgate High Street there's a reminder that this area of Whitechapel was once the epicentre of Jewish London. Look up beside Gunthorpe Street to see the ornate symbol of the Jewish Daily Post, est.1926 and based here until 1935.
10. A moooving reminder of a rural past, Chelsea
Around the King's Road you will find a surprising reminder of Chelsea's rural past — cow's heads looking down at you! They once promoted Wrights Dairy which, from the late 1700s, had around 50 grazing cows providing milk for Londoners. Find the heads on the old dairy HQ and former shop on Old Church Street.
Look Up London by Katie Wignall, published by Greenfinch, RRP £12.99.
Katie Wignall is a City of London and Blue Badge Tourist guide whose popular blog has been sharing a weekly piece of London's more unusual history since 2015.