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Keep out of the graveyard
With a quick look over his shoulder Richard announces that we're about to enter our first graveyard. Here, in the courtyard of St Michael's Upon Cornhill he tells us the story of the Rev Sebastian Kraw, whose son Hugo had the unusual advantage of reaching adulthood with a full set of teeth (the rich usually lost theirs though a combination of a sugary diet and lack of cleaning, and the poor through poor nutrition). Unfortunately Hugo didn't survive the cholera epidemic of 1815 and was buried in the crypt of St Michael's. On the night of Hugo's burial the Rev Sebastian was awoken by the sight of his son at the foot of his bed with blood pouring from his mouth. 'Father come quick, for how they hurt me,' cried Hugo. Sure enough, when the Rev got to the crypt his son's grave had been turned over and Hugo's jaw had been ripped apart and every tooth was missing. Someone somewhere was about to get a fine set of false teeth.
All exercising our jaws we soon found ourselves in the deliciously dark and gloomy Ball Court. This Victorian throwback is home to Simpson's In The City, the famous chop house, where the city boys used to go for their pork chops and beer (and some of them still do). Apparently things haven't changed that much and waiters in the 18th century used to be a surly bunch, which is why a bucket was placed outside the door for loose change with a sign which read: 'to improve promptitude of service' or TIPS for short. More than one visitor to Simpson's has complained to the management that their food hasn't arrived. When they describe the old gentleman in the white apron who took their order, the manager just smiles and explains that they have been waited on by the resident ghost. Spooky.
We cross over Cornhill and with a swish of his cape Richard ducks down the first of our alleys, Pope's Head Alley, which was changed from King's Head Alley in the 18th century to appease a Catholic Priest who would otherwise place a curse on the surrounding buildings. It is now the only alley in London that has a Catholic name, after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. Richard explains that these alleyways behind the massive financial institutions were designed as a security measure for the messengers who ran between banks all day with highly important documents and who wouldn't chance negotiating the rabble in the main streets. Next we wander up St Michael's Alley, which seems as is it hasn't changed since Charles Dickens used it as a setting for Ebeneezer Scrooge's counting house. In the windows of the Jamaica Wine House you can still see ledgers with records of long-ago transactions.