This is a slide-show simulacrum of my Blake walk which I did for BBC London:

William Blake was born in Soho in 1757. Here he is alongside other Soho legends inc. John Logie Baird, William Hogarth, William Hazlitt and even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

He was born in 28 Broad Street which no longer goes by that name. This photo is an optical illusion permitting time-travel. Needless to say, Dylan Thomas, Brendan Behan, and Jeffrey Bernard were not present at Blake’s birth (like some kind of latter-day Three Wise Men.)

He was born into a four storey Georgian House which stood on this corner. The ever-bungling, ever-ignorant, ever-acquisitive Westminster Council demolished it in the early 1960s, a disaster.

The one consolation prize was a commissioned sculpture by John W. Mills. It is a masterpiece – the single greatest Blake tribute in London – but one which few know about.

John W. Mills Blake

Blake’s ‘tyger mother’ educated him at home. No one was forcing him to be a child genius, however. He was recognised as such, but also as not mixing well with other children. These days he tends to get labelled as ‘autistic’, ‘aspergic’ or ‘bipolar’. For his first ten years he drew and wrote, and studied fine art and literature. In the local print shops he was known as ‘the little connoisseur.’

At ten, he studied drawing at Henry Par’s school for four years.

At fourteen he studied engraving for seven years, apprenticed to James Basire. He lived with Basire in Covent Garden…

The William Blake Walk is a national institution and was listed as Number 1 in ‘The Great British Walks.’ It is the definitive guide to all the Central London sites where Blake lived, worked, studied. For group bookings call 07722163823.

Photos: Max Reeves

About Niall McDevitt

Niall McDevitt > poet > author of b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010) and Porterloo (International Times, 2012) > urban explorer > radical pedestrian who leads Shakespeare/Blake/Rimbaud /Yeats walks, among others.
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