London History Day logo on a white tshirt
Celebrate London History Day with us! © Historic England
Celebrate London History Day with us! © Historic England

Celebrate London History Day 2018

  • London History Day, organised by Historic England, is back on 31 May 2018
  • Mayor of London Sadiq Khan calls on Londoners to get involved in day of celebration next month
  • For one day only experience free walks, tours, special displays and exclusive events across the capital
  • From Romans and river Gods to Mo Farah via Handel and Hendrix, there’s something to suit all tastes as London’s leading institutions come together
  • Full programme of London History Day events launched

On Thursday 31 May 2018 more than 70 of London’s museums, galleries and cultural spaces will open their doors to reveal special behind-the-scenes tours, rarely-seen exhibits and one-off events, celebrating the capital’s unique identity.

London History Day is an annual celebration of the capital’s vibrant culture and heritage, organised by Historic England.

The theme for London History Day 2018 is Courage. In the 100th anniversary year of the first women gaining the right to vote, many special events will touch on the pioneering spirit, heroism, initiative and audacity layered in our history. Later this month the Mayor of London will unveil the statue in Parliament Square of Millicent Fawcett holding a sign reading 'Courage calls to courage everywhere'.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London said:

“I’m especially proud to be supporting London History Day this year as we celebrate the courageous Londoners who played a key role in women’s suffrage. This year is an important moment to inspire and empower the next generation of young Londoners in the fight for gender equality.

“As Mayor I want our city to be a trailblazer in the fight for gender equality, and at City Hall we are working hard to remove any barriers preventing the next generation of women and girls in London from reaching their potential. That is why this year and beyond, through my #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, I pledge to redouble my efforts to fight for gender equality.”

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Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said:

“London History Day is a fantastic chance to discover, celebrate and take pride in the rich culture and heritage around us. London is a city steeped in history ready to be explored, so I encourage everyone to make the most of all the special events and displays on offer from our wonderful partners and experience some of the extraordinary range of people, places and histories tied up in the capital’s past.

“This is a great year to explore the courage and fighting spirit that London has embodied for centuries. Whether it’s a lunchtime tour or half term activity, London History Day promises to be an unmissable day with something on offer for everyone.”

Something for everyone

London History Day is teeming with events to suit all ages, interests and schedules:

Take a free guided walk down the Strand with King’s College London Archives, which will highlight the rich history of women’s suffrage in the area, whilst also taking in Romans, river gods, actresses, sea captains, educational pioneers and more.

Hear the fascinating stories of Chelsea Pensioners past and present at Royal Hospital Chelsea; discover the life of Mary Anne Talbot - a young woman who fought in battles on land and at sea for Britain disguised as a man - in Bee Midtown’s free guided walk around Holborn, or join a behind-the-scenes tour of The Old Vic and encounter 200 years of theatrical history in London.

A cooking workshop at the Garden Museum will uncover the suffrage movements’ interest in vegetarianism, live Baroque music will be played throughout the day at Handel & Hendrix and a mobile cinema van will be screening films from London's Screen Archives and London Metropolitan Archives at Guildhall Yard.

Kids can get hands-on with scientific objects at The Francis Crick Institute in a special 'Meet a Scientist' session; make paper protest tea cups and plates at LSE library based on those used in the suffragette's café, the Tea Cup Inn, enjoy story-telling sessions and dressing up at the London Fire Brigade pop-up museum, or make a bus model at Tower Bridge while learning about Albert Gunter, the courageous bus driver, who jumped Tower Bridge!

After-hours, discuss hidden histories in a pub with the Association for Art History, explore Dr Johnson’s House during a special late opening, or learn about London's more recently riotous past at the Bishopsgate Institute’s evening event exploring the history of protest through photography.

London History Schools Day – Friday 25 May 2018

On Friday 25 May, the last school day before half term, children and teachers in schools across London will bring characters from the capital’s past and present to life with a dress-up day and activities.

London History Schools Day is an opportunity for young Londoners to learn more about the city’s cultural heritage and its communities and have fun dressing up as their favourite, inspirational Londoner at school. We look forward to seeing mini Millicent Fawcetts and Mo Farahs turn up in classrooms across the capital!

A teacher’s guide by the London Curriculum and Museum of London will be available for all primary school teachers with suggestions on how to make the most of London History Schools Day so that as many pupils can take part as possible.

The history of London History Day

London History Day is part of Historic England’s wider 'Keep it London' campaign to get the public to notice, celebrate and speak up for the heritage in their city.

The first London History Day was held in 2017 on the anniversary of the day when Big Ben started keeping time, 31 May 1859. This date was chosen from a Historic England poll of Londoners about when they thought would be the best date to celebrate the capital’s heritage and history.