Anyone who was anyone in pre-independence America would come to London which was seen as the capital of the American colonies. Birchin Lane in the City of London is the site of the Carolina Coffee House where traders would discuss the latest prices in indigo, rice and slaves. And if you want to visit All Hallows, the oldest church in London(founded in 675AD) and literally steeped in history, seek out the plaque to Davison and Newman, the grocers who supplied the tea for the Boston Tea Party.
Times were politically tense and in 1775 one American merchant and London resident, Stephen Sayre, was the first American to be thrown into the Tower of London accused of plotting to kidnap King George III. Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin could see how the land lay and transferred to Paris as an ambassador to successfully persuade the French to side with the American rebels.
If we take you to a church in Battersea, you will discover a different story. Buried in a local crypt is the American revolutionary major-general Benedict Arnold, who became known for his daring leadership but who then became disillusioned with Congress’s decision to go for all-out independence and switched sides, narrowly escaping capture by George Washington’s forces and settling in London.
We’ll show you how Washington ended up in London too but against his wishes. And if you are feeling really patriotic, we can show you where to spot some tell-tale signs in the brickwork of the magnificent steeple of Christ Church, south London, built to mark the first centenary of US independence.
Take time out to visit the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which cast the original Liberty bell that still hangs in Philadelphia and is said to have been rung to mark the first public reading of the American Declaration of Independence (the foundry also cast Westminster’s Big Ben).
And don’t forget to see the original building that housed the Texan Embassy in London’s St James Street. Yes, Texas was once an independent country after it had wrested itself from Mexico’s control and declared independence in 1836 before eventually being admitted to the United States in 1845.
During the American Civil War (1861-67), British shipbuilders, particularly in Liverpool, built ships for the Confederates, making that city a place of intrigue. Both sides set up spy networks and a number of establishment figures favoured the Confederate cause for trading reasons. London also boasts England’s oldest civil war reenactment society, the Southern Skirmish Association, and you can book up walking tours with the American Civil War Experience (www.acwlondon.org/tours) to find out how close London was to the action in America.