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07 December 2022

Students explore stories of the Strand-Aldwych

In the lead up to the pedestrianisation of the Strand-Aldwych, launched this week, students at King’s have contributed to a project, delving into the history of the space.

Stories of the strand

Students from the Departments of History, Digital Humanities and Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and from The Courtauld institute of Art have taken part in a student engagement and outreach project; ‘Stories of the Strand-Aldwych’ with support from King's Archives and King's Culture. 

The project that started in March saw undergraduate and postgraduate students investigate and creatively present accounts of the history of the Strand, highlighting the stretch bordered north and south by King’s. They looked into topics such as clock-making, crime, female traders, artistic responses and LGBTQ+ histories, and spotlighted such individuals as Thomas Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park (Stella and Fanny), George Yonge and E.J. Dent, the ‘London Burkers’ John Bishop, Thomas Williams and James May, the ‘demon dentist’ Paul Baron, and the seedswoman Arabella Morris.

The project has been co-directed by Dr Geoff Browell, Head of Archives Services and Professor Michael Trapp, Professor of Greek Literature & Thought, Department of Classics.

Participants have benefited from special information-training sessions on archival research (within King’s Archives), public outreach in the context of the Strand pedestrianisation and public display design (led by Ian Chilvers of Atelier Works) and digital placemaking (led by King’s Cultures Visiting Fellow and games designer Rob Morgan).

Students have been closely involved in the design and preparation of the final project outputs for the public, including an online exhibition hosted on King’s Archives, a street-facing public display in the windows of the 171 Strand shop (formally the site of the King’s Student Union shop), which will remain in place until the New Year and an input into Rob Morgan’s prototype app. The app provides a location-based digital retelling of the story of Stella and Fanny, dramatically centred on the very spot on which they were arrested on 28 April 1870 (a few paces downhill from the 171 Strand shop).

The project has also recently been publicised at the conference-workshop in October, jointly organised by King’s Archives, Rob Morgan and Playlines, and Tam McDonald’s Fleet Street focused ‘Cradle of English’. Here, the student participants had the opportunity to discuss the project with delegates (inter alios the Head of Learning and Interpretation for English Heritage and Westminster CC’s Urban Design Co-ordinator).


Student feedback on the experience of participating in the project has been warm:

an opportunity not only to enrich my own PhD thesis, through the finding of valuable primary sources, but also to work closely with PGR and UG students across the Faculty and grow personally and professionally - especially, learning new interpersonal and communication skills, something truly valuable for an International student

Sandra Araya Rojas (PG co-ordinator)

Simply working with archival materials is always a joy, and especially so in these circumstances where we were allowed great freedom to pursue what we thought was interesting on the Strand. Reading old postal books, looking at old painting and photographs, and hearing the many introductory stories of the Strand-Aldwych brought that history around me alive in ways I had never considered before.

Spencer Drake (UG participant)

While researching I was constantly searching for some kind of narrative about the area, which was quite a new experience. Generally, what I will take away from the experience most is the task of building a connection between time and a very particular place. Without this project, I wouldn't have been able to engage with history in such a creative and free way outside of the constraints of an analytical dissertation. I generally wish I had been able to participate much earlier in my degree because it would have helped me build a much closer connection to King's and its history it was an excellent way to round off my time at King's and left me feeling even more appreciative of its past. Having to think about the public facing project and learning about Ian and Atelier Work's completely new (to me) way of approaching presentation was really valuable for me now going into Heritage Studies.

Charlotte Wood (UG participant)

Find out more about King’s celebration of the development of the Strand here.

In this story

Michael Trapp

Emeritus Professor of Greek Literature & Thought